We asked Nike designer Dylan Raasch about the changes. Besides giving us exclusive insight, he coined a new word – “pillowiness”. Besides the ever so popular Nike Free, the Roshe is considered one of the most comfortable shoes out there. With the successor, the “Two”, Nike has tried to raise the bar one more time.
When you look at a shoe, what are the things that you think provide comfort?
DYLAN RAASCH: The second area is upper comfort. This may be pretty obvious, but we want to understand just how the footwear interacts with the top of your foot. And the third is the newest one that we’re looking at, that’s all-day comfort. Okay. Yes, I think there are three of those. One is underfoot comfort. That’s kind of the obvious, the insole and the outsole.
Can you break those down for us?
DYLAN RAASCH: For the underfoot comfort, insoles were initially used to cover up stitching at the bottom of the shoe. Now, they are the first layer of a cushioning system.
So, previously, the shoe — the Roshe One had just an IU or Phylon insole. But now we’re going to like more of dual-density memory foam. So you had an initial, “Wow, this is super-comfortable.” But then we want to makre sure it doesn’t pack out for all-day comfort.
After that, we explore the outsole. Obviously, this is a huge story for the shoe. It was originally built around a soft IU concept, so how do we improve on that? It’s actually thinking about making it more dynamic.
A lot of people say like Nike Free and think they are super-comfortable, but it’s actually the flexibility in the shoe that people associate with comfort. Flexibility doesn’t always equate comfort. It’s more complicated than that. We want to core out the outsole, giving each waffle its own ability for dynamic movement. Combine that with the triple-density foam, and the insole, you get maximum underfoot comfort.
And then the upper, I mean, that’s another one that’s kind of obvious. But we’ve noticed people have been very drawn to a sock-like fit. There were some iconic shoes, like the Sock Racer and the Sock Dart that already had that kind of fit. We wanted to figure out how we integrate this idea into the original Roshe One. So with Roshe Two we created a one-piece bootie that hugs your foot and is very dynamic and adapted to the shape of your foot. And then on top of that, we added the foam padding to give you like a little bit of a padded sock, so to speak. So there’s a level of “pillowiness.”
That’s a good way to put it, “pillowiness.” Yeah, okay, great. So underfoot, upper comfort. And now all-day comfort?
DYLAN RAASCH: Yeah, and then all-day comfort. That’s more of a complete package of those two things. We looked at how, when you’re on your feet all day, your feet kind of grow throughout. Pair that with the temperature changes that your feet may face as they get warmer. The result is a shoe that allowed for breathability and stretch. To work with your foot as it grows throughout the day.
Yeah, so things like the upper innovation really plays to all-day comfort, because it’s sort of providing a pillow effect around your foot no matter how much movement you have whether stationary or not?
DYLAN RAASCH: It’s supporting you, I guess as a glove would hold your hand and reduce swelling in certain sport situations. Our footwear should basically be an adaptive glove for your feet.
So how do you and your team judge comfort beyond just do the wear testing? So you’ve innovated in those three areas. Then you’re like, “Okay, how do we judge if we have succeeded?”
DYLAN RAASCH: Obviously, we do the wear testing, which is direct feedback. I mean, apart from us wearing it…we use science and engineering to map how it will react. Basically, the architecture behind the outsole, we know our learnings from the NSRL, and years of Nike footwear innovation how the foot and our innovations will react. These cored-out waffles on the outsole will act like a piston and this is going to give you greater impact resistance. So just by doing those things, and then adding an appropriate level of “softness” within, it’s basically a science.
Yeah. I guess in your career so far in creating shoes how has how you look at comfort changed?
DYLAN RAASCH: Well, I think it goes back to that idea of all-day comfort, because initially it was always like, “Wow, that shoe’s comfortable.” And then you go out and you walk around New York City for eight hours, and then you would be lik, “Oh, it’s not so comfortable anymore.” I think now it’s putting it to the test of that, you know, the idea that our consumers walk the equivalent of a marathon a week, is it going to stand up to the test of time of walking that many miles in the city? I think we look at the bigger picture.
It’s sort of a shift for basically your whole team and everyone, to sort of consider the long durability over the immediate, “Ooh, how it feels on my foot right now?
DYLAN RAASCH: Yes, because I think initially that’s how everybody — you know, you’re in the store, you put on the shoe and your first reaction is the scale for how content your feet will be. It’s not just about comfort, it’s actually more complicated than that. We work to give that perfect balance of stability, support and cushioning. If your feet feel great after a crazy day, then we have done our job.