I took this picture on my way to work on Friday morning. The day before I had just given an Autodesk Gallery tour to a group of Nike employees. The day before that, my colleague, Director of Applied Innovation, Maurice Conti, had visited Nike. He returned with the shoes!
I have only worn them for a few days, but already I can tell that they are indeed "a snug and agile shoe that fits like a sock and is as light as a feather." The Nike web site does not lie when it says "The Nike Flyknit Lunar1+ features an innovative upper, constructed entirely of tightly woven polyester yarn that varies in density: more open in targeted areas that need greater flexibility or ventilation and tighter in areas that demand support." Maurice has a pair and says that as I wear mine, they will adjust and get even get more comfortable.
According to Business Week, Nike's computer-controlled weaving technology, which knits the entire upper part of the shoe in a single piece that’s then attached to the sole, promises to cut labor costs and production time while also increasing profit margins and opportunities for personalization. It's the equivalent of 3D printing for shoe making. Like additive manufacturing, the Flynit process yields an assembled product — well at least for the upper portion of the shoe. The process may even bring some shoe manufacturing jobs back to the United States. With a traditional process, machines cut tons of pieces that workers must then assemble. By reducing or removing that step with its single knit upper, the most labor-intensive part of the process is eliminated.
Comfort is alive in the lab.