Close your eyes and imagine you’re barefoot at the beach, about to step off a boardwalk into some sand. Your foot sinks in—the granules rising to hug your arch. It’s a feeling that’s all at once soft, supportive, and reactive. That’s the sensation Nike strived to mimic in their latest running shoe: Joyride.
To imitate the freewheeling feeling of that first step—because we all know walking in sand for more than two feet is anything but effortless—Nike spent three and a half years to create a new cushioning system that was universal to each shoe, but entirely personalized to each runner. They found that in TPE beads.
Now imagine what it’s like to sit in a bean-bag chair. The beads expand and move with your body to support your weight. But oftentimes they migrate, so you’re left with empty pockets of space in some areas and a pile-up of beads in others. Nike found that pods placed in specific zones (determined with pressure mapping) kept all the beads from migrating to the arch. Instead, they’re free to expand in all directions in the confines of their pods.
These little cavities (or snack packs, as Nike likes to call them) are spaced along the heel, midfoot, forefoot, and toes, and each has a varying number of beads. That number is determined by the size of the shoe (there are four different groups), as well as high-impact points. Areas that need greater shock absorption have more beads. For instance, the heel has a high number to provide stability, while the toes have fewer to facilitate the heel-to-toe transition.
Overall, the beads allow for 20 percent more compression than a slab of foam, says William Moroski, senior product line manager at Nike Running. The air that’s trapped between the beads escapes with compression (when your foot strikes the ground), effectively recreating that first step in sand, but making it feel good for miles.
To maximize comfort and give the kicks a fresh new look, Flyknit was used in a new way. The shoe boasts a bootie fit with plenty of stretch (just make sure you go up a size; they run a bit small), and a puffy collar and pull tab to reinforce that effortless mindset. There’s no sockliner. Your foot is right on top of the beads, so you have that sensory experience and one-to-one fit. When you first slide your feet in, the beads need a little bit of time to settle. Walk around a bit, and they’ll conform to your feet.
Who is Joyride for?
A lot of Nike’s latest innovations have been for the elite runner. And while Joyride is a great shoe for recovery days when your feet and legs are a little beat up and you just want to do a shakeout run to get the blood flowing, these are also ideal for new runners and recreationalists. (Read: You don’t need to clock a five-minute mile in order to reap the benefits and unlock all of the technology’s potential. You just need to lace up and go.)
If running has never felt easy for you, they’re pegging this shoe as an antidote—to help ease you in. Because the beads deliver soft, cushy support, it makes logging a couple miles a little more enjoyable. It’s also just a comfortable shoe for walking and kicking back in.
Keep an eye out for more seasonal colorways to come with medial color blocking. For now, the launch color is white/platinum with pops of mango and racer blue.
$180; available August at nike.com and select Nike retailers
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