Sampling Flyknit

Samples are an interesting topic, most might be familiar with stuff like Jordan colourways or Air Max that never got released but for me the most interesting points come when we talk about new shoes and the steps they take before hitting the shelves for mass consumption. In the development of a new model there’s several long intense years of flimsy concepts, wear-tests, paper and tape galore and generally a bunch of stuff that would be completely outrageous to sell to you or I. As things get closer to the real thing though the tweaks get smaller and the shoes are more and more wearable, this is when pairs start being produced, shown and tested by a select group of seeding athletes. For Flyknit this meant sending them out to runners to beat them as hard as they could and get the most amount of feedback possible.

When I stumbled across these particular Flyknit Trainer samples I swooped in quickly to grab them as I do remember from the initial press images that this shoe had a slightly yellow tinge to the sole unit which was notably absent from the released version. Once I had them in hand though the differences became much more apparent and wide ranging, offering a small yet intriguing glimpse into the changes a shoe like this goes through in a sampling process.

FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-2

FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-1

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Aside from the obvious sole hue, these samples also sport the use of Nike’s “Sequoia” colour, a very dark olive green used on the Volt Flyknit Racer instead of the released pair’s black. The other immediately noticeable change is the fact that the medial side isn’t a contrasting black, instead the whole shoe remains predominately Volt green. Aside from from that and a swoosh that seems to be much lighter (compared to the decidedly industrial stenciled swoosh on the release version). The weave seems a little different but pretty much the same, any difference it aesthetic would be from a change in the actual thread colours.

FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-3FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-5 FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-6 FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-7

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What I wasn’t expecting was such a drastic change in the sole construction. With a sample so close to what was released I thought for sure that the sole’s design would have been quite close but when comparing them they share a lot but differ greatly. The most obvious change is the deletion of a hit of plastic on the samples, a feature that looked nifty but obviously didn’t cut the mustard after a bit of testing. The released version’s forefoot grooves probably had something to do with flexibility although from a layman’s perspective the difference is fairly unnoticed. These days with all the featherweight wars the dropping of a touch of rubber and plastic here and there probably wasn’t a bad thing though.

As far as on-foot feel the main difference comes from a slightly more stretchy and soft upper on the samples, something that I felt the released version lacked. What it does lend itself to however is feeling a bit less supportive which becomes an issue in a athletic situation. Thankfully due to my lack of aforementioned athleticism it doesn’t become an issue.

FlyknitTrainerZoomOneSample-4

The finaly and what might just be the biggest difference is simply the name. Although the obvious aspects of the shoe are driven by science and performance, the name that a shoe gets has a huge impact on how you’re going to receive it. Had these shoes come out and been labeled “Zoom One” would they have done as well? In the running circles it’s hard to say but from a fashion standpoint (especially the GQ crowd) if you weren’t able to name drop the Flyknit codename would you be considered as dapper? Would we have even seen sneakers come back into fashion with such a vengeance? Well we’ll never know due to Nike’s unstoppable ability to market themselves better than 99% of the companies on earth.

While on the topic I should also briefly mention one of my other Flyknit samples; the London Elite. This pair was made (reportedly) for athletes competing in the 2012 games and although the person I got these from was sworn to secrecy as to whom these belonged to I am assured they definitely competed. Whilst they’re no IOA Lunar versions they’re still a fantastic piece to own and to me the ultimate implementation of Flyknit to date. I’ve been partial to the narrow Racer as it possesses a much more performance based approach but the London Elite takes things a step further with an incredibly soft and supremely airy upper that makes it impossible to wear them sock-less lest you want to show off your toes. The whole sole unit is slightly different to that used on the Racer and offers much more cushioning but the flimsy doily upper is the real impressive part. There’s no doubt that these wouldn’t last long in competition ala Mayfly but they’re the best Flyknit shoe that never was.

LondonEliteSample-2

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