Competition this summer is at an all-time-high, and not just among athletes. Nike and adidas remain neck-and-neck in the race for active footwear innovation, both launching seamlessly knit running shoes for the 2012 Olympic Games. Born from runners' desire for a speed shoe that has the snug, second-skin comfort of a sock, this double-whammy sneaker revolution proves that digitally knit running shoes could be integrated into the future of performance kicks.
Since the 1960s, flat-knit technicians have steadily improved mechanical, electronically controlled jacquard methods, mostly for fully-fashioned knitwear and sweaters. Nike and adidas have adopted and evolved these advancements to meet the demands of elite athletes. Moving beyond traditional sport footwear construction, which requires different pieces or panels, the uppers of Nike Flyknit and adiZero Primeknit are one continuous piece: zero stitching and no scrap waste. Similar to Grandma's crochet, these completely engineered knit surfaces can vary in pattern, giving flexibility and support where necessary while eliminating the need for linings or reinforcements. Both versions have technically precise fits; they are knit tighter or looser in specific areas. In addition, state-of-the-art multifilament yarns add to the performance attributes of specific shoe sections. Incorporating its Flywire polyester yarn, Nike adds elasticity where stretch is needed, while enhancing yarn denier and strength for support areas. These super-light, Vectran-based yarns make the entire shoe lighter than a Snickers bar (with a bite taken out).
Since unveiling the Flyknit Track Spike prior to the Olympic Games, Nike continues to focus on the performance potential of this innovative fiber while adidas has only released their Primeknits in a very limited release of 2,012 pairs in London with no further mention (yet) of introducing the new tech to performance footwear. For the sake of modernization, we hope to see some competition in the knit market soon to challenge how far and fast this concept can push future athletes.