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The Technology Behind Nike’s Newest Running Innovation

Nike has unveiled its latest innovation in athletic footwear technology: the Nike Joyride cushioning system.

Joyride is a new, proprietary cushioning platform, released Thursday, which Nike is positioning next to the its revolutionary Nike Air technology and its TPU foam-based Nike React collection. Nike says the new system was designed to provide the holy grail of running shoe features—powerful impact absorption combined with superior energy return—all personalized to fit an individual runner’s stride.

To do it, Nike developed specialized beads created from thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), essentially a combination of rubber and plastic that some consumers may recognize as a commonly used cover for headphone cables. In developing the technology, Nike said it trialed more than 150 different materials before landing on TPE. The beads were then arranged in specific “pods” located throughout the shoe, in order to give runners even more opportunities for customization.

“The pod scale is based on how the foot strikes the ground when in motion,” Nike said in a statement. “The heel pod, for example, is bigger to absorb impact, while those at the forefoot are prepared to facilitate a smooth transition forward.”

Nikes joyride cushioning system
Pods within the cushioning system itself prevent the TPE beads from migrating to uncomfortable areas and provide Nike designers with even more flexibility. Nike

Using a process the Nike team calls “multi-dimensional placement” the beads are arranged into the pods, attuned and directed depending on the area of the shoe that the pod is designed to support. Aside from preventing the TPE beads from contorting uncomfortably or gathering at an inconvenient area of the foot, Nike said the placement of these pods can be used to target specific performance needs via different iterations of the Joyride technology.

As an example, Nike said if a given shoe were to contain 8,000 beads, close to 50 percent would be located in the heel, while 5 percent would be deployed at the toe. The result is a kind of personalized and dynamic footbed the brand said is similar to “walking on bubbles.”

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Initially, Joyride will be available as a part of Nike’s Flyknit running shoes collection, releasing globally in August. After that, the brand has plans to release it in future silhouettes, including both a kids version, and a Joyride silhouette designed specifically for women. The future Joyride NSW Setter debuted during Matthew Williams’ SS20 show at Paris Fashion Week, and has been described as the “muscle car” of the group.

The silhouette for children, the Joyride Kids Nova, will feature fortified impact protection and a stretchy upper complete with a midfoot strap. The version specifically designed for women, the Joyride NSW Optik, takes a more “premium” approach.

“The Nike Joyride NSW Optik is designed specifically for women, and is notable for its sleek lace-less upper and premium materials,” Nike said. “The leather heel and collar melds with a molded skin on the upper for a playful mix of traditional craft and modern detailing. Additional heel height gives the Joyride platform a unique stance. “

The final silhouette revealed in the initial announcement, the Joyride NSW, is an all-around option that features a “tuned two-pod configuration” for what Nike calls 360-degree comfort.

Recently, Cowen and Co. named Nike as one of the best stocks in the athletic category as a result of its continued emphasis on supply chain investment and its plan to refresh up to 70 percent of its core product line over the next few seasons.