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Newton’s Third Law of Motion makes a compelling case: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, which means that an athlete’s speed is the sum of their applied force and the effect of the opposing force upon them. In the case of a runner’s pace, that contrasting agent is aerodynamic drag: the force that acts on any moving solid body in the direction of the fluid free-stream flow. Nike’s new symbiotic track and field speed system — customizable to the event and athlete — is expressly engineered to reduce that drag and maximize effort.
At the base of the system are the company’s track spikes and Nike #vapor track and field kits, which minimize weight via #nike AeroSwift technology featuring recycled polyester. The kit’s four-way stretch knit with breathable, engineered mesh also integrates #nike AeroBlades: formed nodes that channel air around the athlete, resulting in the greatest drag reduction of any #nike track and field kit to date.
As far back as 1996, scientists and aerodynamicists in the NSRL (Nike Sports Research Lab) had theorized that applying textures to a runner could drop aerodynamic drag. They debuted this exploration in Sydney in 2000 with the original #nike Swift Suit and continuously evolved the technology, leading to the introduction of nylon flocking, which appeared on the company’s sprint apparel in London 2012. The flocking was effective, but nowhere near as efficient as AeroBlades, which elevate #nike Swift technology to a new level.
In addition to incorporating AeroBlades into track and field kits, designers have created leg and arm sleeves with strategically situated AeroBlades. They also took cues from another item common to athlete bags: elastic therapeutic tape, applying AeroBlades to anatomically shaped, adhesive patches.
To identify the areas of highest wind resistance and inform the ideal placement of the AeroBlades, the designers turned to wind-tunnel testing on mannequins the same shape and size as the company’s various track and field athletes. The multi-disciplinary results were integrated into the comprehensive #nike AeroSwift Tape kit. Complete with event-specific placement instructions that aim to cut a measurable podium-making fraction of a second from sprinters’ times and multiple seconds from marathon runners’ records, it provides athletes with performance options that they can customize to their personal preference, based on respective events and conditions.
These marked aerodynamic advances, in turn, shone the spotlight on one greatly underserved kit aspect: the track and field bib. Traditionally attached with a safety pin, an invention dating back to 1849, the flopping paper bib is a physical and visual foil to Nike’s progressive, streamlined system. It creates drag and distraction — plus, modern track and field kits barely possess enough area for pinning.
Taking inspiration from the AeroSwift Tape, designers engineered a single, perforated, breathable micro-layer knit, the #nike AeroSwift Bib, that can affix directly onto the kit, forming a seamless, stretchable layer that moves with the body. It can withstand a marathon’s worth of weather and wear, but still easily peel off at the end of the race.
Nike next applied the same lens of lightweight speed and precision directly to its lenses. Conventionally worn by athletes who desire sun protection or don’t want competitors to see their eyes, on-track eyewear is more often noted for its look, than its attention to aerodynamic drag.
But #nike touts a strong no-compromise design philosophy, so it set out to create an unprecedented eyewear style that underscores its commitment to a holistic speed system while making an aesthetic impact. To inform its efforts, the company looked to its master teacher of the season: nature, taking inspiration from the lightweight, flexible strength and structure of tendons.
These lessons, combined with extensive design studies — focused on gestural lines that expressed the visual language of speed — and more wind-tunnel testing, led to the development of the #nike Wing: a single-body curved sun shield that extends the traditional lens to eliminate hinges. The disruptive glasses also incorporate fractal cuts and a peaked middle “speed crease” to enhance aerodynamic flow.
To realize the unexpected design, however, required an entirely new material mix and method of creation — because a single-body glass had never been made before and the nylon mix traditionally used for eyewear wouldn’t suffice. To meet these unique challenges, #nike turned to field experts: VSP Global’s eyewear design and innovation lab, The Shop, and optical lens specialist ZEISS.
Using rapid 3D prototyping to accelerate a potentially five-year process into approximately 20 months, the group perfected each piece of the design, including an adaptable silicone nosepiece and back band (which comes in two sizes) for a comfortable, secure, moisture-resistant fit. There is also a ventilated silicone brow-bar that allows for maximum airflow, to reduce fogging.
True to its name, the #nike Wing weighs four grams less than an average piece of eyewear and touches the face and head in fewer places. The design’s final touch comes from the lens surface, which features Nike’s Speed Tint to reduce glare while allowing all red light, which has a calming effect on the body, to enter the eye. It is finished with a silver flash — a word Nike hopes will also describe the velocity its athletes achieve with the assistance of its unprecedented speed system.
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