Nature-inspired design for superhuman performance

athlete running
+1 % Rio Olympics
Project type
Product Design
Make the worlds fastest athlete 1% faster
“As aspiring athletes, you should never give up on your dreams. Just believe in yourself, and everything will be possible.”― Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Nike is a global leader in the footwear and apparel industry focused on creating products with a circular mindset. On their journey toward zero carbon and zero waste, they are making sustainable material choices, focusing on recyclability, and designing for durability and disassembly.

Nike came to Mode Lab to help the world’s fastest athletes run faster. They began with three-time 100-meter World Champion and two-time gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The idea was to stiffen the plate of her track spikes, increasing the foot’s ability to drive propulsive force into the ground — the key component of speed.

nike running shoe
athlete testing
foot print

Over millions of years, natural systems have evolved to do the most with the least -- with only a very small number of materials, nature creates vast diversity, all optimized for specific environments and needs. Inspired by this, the team looked to nature to uncover the techniques and geometries that could help tune performance while minimizing the amount of material needed.

Synthesizing athlete data with cutting-edge computational tools and performative algorithms, the team was able to rapidly iterate using both digital and physical prototypes. This led to faster athlete perception and mechanical testing, giving them more inclusive input. The resulting technology delivered maximum performance while producing 60% less waste than traditional methods.

sole concept
nike running shoes
nike running shoes

With the Nike Superfly Elite spike on her feet, Fraser-Pryce was able to get down the track .013 seconds faster — potentially the difference between first and fourth place. The team then extended the Superfly Elite plate innovation across several track and field footwear for the Rio Olympics. Wearing a provocative and visually disruptive Superfly Elite spike, the athletes set several world records and won multiple gold medals.

This technology enabled both a sustainable design process and sustainable products through the development of an intelligent and adaptable computational system. With its success, this was further extended into cross-category product lines: Baseball, Football, Global Football, All Track, Golf, and Cricket.

nike sole concept
running athlete
nike running shoes
athlete running

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