Football just got faster.
Nike unveiled its new Nike Vapor Carbon 2014 Elite Cleat on Thursday as part of the Silver Speed Collection that will be debuted for Super Bowl XLVIII hosted this year at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets. The brand’s newest football cleats are designed specifically to make football players–and the game–even faster.
The new shoe is inspired by Nike’s 40-Yard Dash project, a mission designed to create a product modified to aid acceleration and traction for pro football hopefuls looking to show off their speed in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Nike designers took insights from Olympic track and field legend Michael Johnson and his team at Michael Johnson Performance, which trains players to shave time off their 40, to create a design that focused on what Johnson called the “zero step,” the initial push off the ground before the first step is taken.
“Any kind of slippage in the shoe, any kind of slippage from the athlete, that equates to wasted movement,” said Ken Link, design director for Nike Football. “When you’re running the 40, it adds up and it’s actually a big deal for the athlete.”
The interesting part about the Elite Cleat is that Nike built it using 3D-printing technology in order to test dozens of prototypes. The plate of the cleat is made using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) allowing designers to create a fully functional product in a single day, versus the month it typically takes to complete a cleat.
“This is as easy as pushing ‘print,’ said Shane Kohatsu, director of Nike Footwear Innovation. “It really freed up our design team to take inspiration from all over the place.”
One source of inspiration for the new speed shoe: a simple shovel. The shovel-shaped cleats increase traction and allow the foot to disengage quickly from the ground. The Vapor Carbon Elite is built for the initial burst of speed with supplemental cleats along the sidewalls providing traction for lateral cuts as well as straight-ahead speed.