Nike's 3D-printed uppers are a game changer
Last runner Eliud Kipchoge and Nike set out to break the two-hour marathon barrier.
The effort was called, naturally, "Breaking2." And though it wasn't a success, it led to the fastest marathon time ever, with Kipchoge clocking in at just two hours and 25 seconds for the 26.2 miles in Monza, Italy.
The run wasn't exactly ideal, though. It took place in 99 percent humidity and driving rain, and the shoes absorbed water. That added weight and both Nike and Kipchoge wanted to avoid that in the future. Enter Nike's new 3D-printed textile: Flyprint.
The new textile is created by a process called solid deposit modeling, in which TPU filament is unwound from a coil, melted, and laid down in layers. If you don't get that, don't worry—the thing that really matters is that the material let Nike designers fine-tune the uppers of Kipchoge's shoes to shave 11 grams off the weight and make them more breathable so any water that finds its way onto them can evaporate.
The 3D-printed textile is a first in the sneaker world. We've seen 3D-printing before—most notably on midsoles—but the way Nike tells it, the biggest upside of Flyprint is the ability to iterate. Prototyping is 16 times faster than in the past, meaning that an athlete's needs can be addressed quickly (and fully) in anticipation of a major event. One like, say, the London Marathon, which takes place on April 22.
Kipchoge will be there, wearing his new Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint. And if you're worried that this sort of innovation is only available to the near-superhumanly fast, you don't need to be. Nike will be releasing a limited run of the shoes on its app that weekend. And considering the fact that Flyprint can be used in conjunction with the already wildly popular Flyknit, we're guessing there's a lot more to come.