The Best Sneaker Tech in 2019 (So Far)
Marty McFly may have foreshadowed self-lacing sneakers back in 1989 and, frankly, Back to the Future Part II’s predictions haven’t been too far off the mark. Nevertheless, we’ve now come to a point where self-lacing sneakers are pretty much yesteryear’s news.
In the ongoing war for sneaker supremacy, the big brands continue to break new ground, coming through with space-age innovations aplenty. Simply put, the modern sneakerhead isn’t after gimmicks – they want sneakers that are lighter, faster, and more comfortable than ever before and, so far, 2019 has delivered just that.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%
Created as part of the game-changing Breaking2 initiative, the Zoom Vaporfly 4% went on to dominate marathons across the globe, but Nike weren’t going to take a breather.
Looking to improve on the uber-fast runner, Beaverton gathered feedback from the world’s best runners to create the model’s next evolution: the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%.
Where the Vaporfly 4% delivered an average of 4 per cent improved running economy over Nike’s previous fastest marathon shoe, the Nike Zoom Streak 6, the NEXT% came through with an even lighter and more breathable Flyknit construction.
Responding to feedback given regarding water absorption after a very wet Boston Marathon, Nike decided to give the NEXT% a new Vaporweave upper, which absorbed significantly less sweat and rain.
‘This shoe is truly the result of our athletes, sport scientists, engineers, and designers closely collaborating throughout the entire process of design, testing and manufacturing,’ says Brett Holts, Nike VP of Running Footwear. ‘We are all so excited to see the NEXT% continue to push the limits of human performance on marathon courses around the world.’
The Swoosh certainly went NEXT-level on this one.
PUMA’s LQD CELL
PUMA’s CELL technology is iconic, gracing some of the brand’s most beloved silhouettes for the best part of three decades. Messing around with tried-and-true concepts can often fall flat, but that hasn’t stopped the Big Cat from taking a big risk, modernising the familiar hexagonal cushioning to usher it into the future with LQD CELL.
‘When we developed this LQD CELL technology, we didn’t want to be conservative or uninspired,’ says Thom Gridley, head of global footwear design.
And you have to say they’ve delivered.
While other brands opt for advancements in foam technology for sole units, PUMA have developed LQD CELL as the perfect accompaniment to their existing sole materials, most notably ProFoam. Retaining its hexagon shape, the tech provides extra stability with less movement under foot and more absorption. Upon impact, the hexagonal cells – smaller in size compared to the OG version – compress and work communally with ProFoam for more energy-return than ever before.
Hitting the market via a vibrant lineup of lifestyle/performance crossover models, you can expect LQD CELL to be fitted out in more training and performance models before the year is out.
PEAK Future Fusion
We’ve seen 3D-printed soles and uppers, but it was only a matter of time before an entire sneaker got the futuristic manufacturing process. Don’t double-take, though – this sneaker hasn’t got a Swoosh or Three Stripes on it.
Released earlier this year, Chinese label PEAK introduced the mysterious Future Fusion, and it lives up to its namesake with a 3D-printed upper, outsole, and lattice cushioning midsole.
The sole is produced using SLS and a TPU material, making use of a mostly hollow structure, similar to adidas’ 4D creations. However, the upper is 3D printed by thermoplastic filament extrusion, also using a TPU material, for a transparent texture mesh effect – we haven’t seen that before.
Pairs sold out pretty much instantly when they went live in China, and there’s even been a quirky Men in Black collaboration, so expect PEAK to continue their 3D-printing pursuits. Will other brands follow suit? We’ll have to wait and see.
As the world transitions to more sustainable manufacturing processes, the sneakersphere is also joining the renewable revolution. A number of boutique brands have spearheaded the sustainable charge, but Converse have jumped on board the bandwagon in a big way this year with their Renew initiative.
The Chuck Taylor All Star has been reinvented countless times throughout sneaker history, but Renew marks a new era for the iconic build, making use of post-consumer and post-industrial waste for the most sustainable sneaker ever produced by the brand.
Three Renew processes go into the creation of each Chuck – upcycled textiles, recycled PET, and recycled cotton canvas blends – with Renew Canvas perhaps the most revolutionary. Made from 100 per cent recycled polyester from used plastic bottles, the eco-friendly textile manages to retain the look and feel of traditional Converse canvas.
Of all of 2019’s tech innovations, the rollout for Joyride will no doubt go down as the most memorable. Sure, we may have seen similar tech before, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen visible tech presented so vibrantly.
In development for the past 10 years, Joyride makes use of thousands of candy-like plastic beads which shape around your foot for personalised cushioning and support, before responsively bouncing back to propel you forward.
And, it’s not all show either. Team Swoosh went ahead and tested the technology against its PUMA counterpart – Jamming – with the outcome resulting in plenty of Joy for the Swoosh. It’s hard to argue against 38 per cent more impact absorption, and 17 per cent more energy return.
‘The main difference is how it’s constructed, which has led to a different sensation and a different benefit,’ says Rachel Bull, Nike’s Senior Product Line Manager for Joyride, in an interview with Sole Collector. ‘In the case of the PUMA Jamming shoe, you’re not actually sitting on top of the beads. You’re more on the side of the plastic or a cemented down sockliner, so you don’t get that sensation of sitting down into the beads like you do with Joyride.’
It’s still early days for this tech, and with plenty more bead-infused goodies on the way from Beaverton, you’d best strap in for the Joyride.