Years back, when Nike was just starting to feel around for its Next Big Thing, its designers asked athletes what they really wanted in a performance shoe. The answer, oddly enough, was something like a sock–form-fitting, comfortable, and unobtrusive. That insight led to the development of Flyknit, a totally new shoemaking process where basically everything but the soles and the laces exist as a single piece of fabric, knit by a computer-controlled Grandma (actually a 15-foot, yarn-munching machine). Flyknit shoes are both lighter than older models and vastly less wasteful. Nike’s crazy about them. But while Flyknit successfully transformed all those upper parts into a second skin, it didn’t do much for soles. Nike Free Hyperfeel looks to complete the job.
The Nike Free Hyperfeel is even more sock-like than its predecessor–a distillation of the running shoe to its purist, most simple form. The Air Pegasus–one of Nike’s more traditional running shoes–is made up of over 50 different parts; the new Free Hyperfeel consists of just seven. The upper remains a single-piece Flyknit affair, but the bottom is all-new. A super-thin, super-flexible outer sole is dotted with a matrix of tiny squares–”pistons” as Nike calls them–arranged according to common pressure points. The removable inner sole is a thin piece of Lunarlon foam, sliced on the bottom in both directions, allowing it to twist both lengthwise and widthwise. All of this is in the service of keeping you attuned to the surface you’re running on, instead of insulated from it.