At a Glance:
- Weight: Men’s 10.1 oz (size 9.0), Women’s 9.2 oz (size 8.0)
- Stack Height: 27mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot) – Drop: 9mm
- Tri-density Dynamic Support adapts to varied levels of overpronation
- New Zoom Air cushioning dissipates shock in forefoot
- Flymesh Upper provides exceptional flexibility and durability
- Competing Shoes: ASICS 2000 3, Saucony Guide 8, Brooks Ravenna 5
Gone are the days when substantial support and speed were impossible to reconcile in running shoe designs. Technology has progressed to the point where many shoes are managing to successfully correct overpronation while staying adaptive and quick. The Nike Structure 18 is an example of a shoe that’s leading the pack due to significant updates to the Dynamic Support, Zoom Air, and Flymesh upper materials. This shoe definitely warrants some attention so let’s take a deeper look.
The Pegasus series has become a favorite of many runners over the years and the legacy continues with the recent release of the Zoom Pegasus 31. (Check out RW’s first look at the Pegasus 31 from May here.) The Pegasus is traditionally known to be a neutral daily trainer suitable for long distances, but in an effort to make the shoe better, the 31st edition gets revamped with a faster road feel. To help fine-tune this “fast feel,” the Nike development team received technical suggestions from the 5000m and 10000m Olympic Gold Medalist Mo Farah resulting in a firmer ride built for performance.
Nike lowered the heel drop to 10mm, 2mm lower than its predecessor, to engineer the quicker design. The lowered drop, while not massive, can be a factor in promoting more of a mid-to-forefoot strike while running. Another significant update is seen in the addition of a slightly elevated forefoot, resulting in a smoother and quicker transition of the foot during forward propulsion. Through research, analysis, and feedback from wear testers, who logged over 16000 miles, the new quick and responsive Zoom Pegasus 31 was born.
Forefoot Zoom Air Unit
Air is to Nike what DNA is to Brooks, Gel is to Asics, Grid is to Saucony, and the Wave Plate is to Mizuno. When it was released in the 1979 (in the Tailwind), Air technology made Nike a powerhouse in running footwear. Since then, the company has introduced several updates to Air, with the goal of providing lightweight, long-lasting cushioning. The version currently used in many Nike running shoes is called Zoom Air.
So What Exactly Is Zoom Air?
Released in the late 90’s, Zoom Air went by a few names at first and some are still used as nicknames. One of these names is Tensile Air. All you engineers out there are probably scratching your collective heads over that one – how can a gas have a property associated with solids? We answered that riddle by chiseling out a Zoom Air unit from the midsole of a Nike Pegasus 29.
Cross Section of Heel Zoom Air Unit
What We Found
On the surface, a Zoom Air unit looks a lot like any other Air unit released by Nike over the years, except maybe a bit cloudier. That cloudy look actually is from a fabric piece glued inside the unit. These units are relatively lightweight for the volume they take up in the midsole. The Zoom Air unit is certainly not as pretty as its Air Max brother, which is probably one of the main reasons why Nike hides it away deep in the recesses of the midsole.
Attaching one side of the Zoom Air unit to the other is an army of thin fabric strings held in tension from the pressure inside. Like the cables on a suspension bridge, the strings appear to reinforce the exterior shell of the Air Unit. This allows the Air Unit to be pressurized to ideal levels without the worry of shape deformation over time.
The tension that holds the unit together permits the low profile that makes it possible to hide within a shoe but still offer seemingly endless cushioning. By lashing two ends of what is in essence a balloon, Nike has made Air tensile and a way to provide long lasting cushioning while remaining light. It’s actually a pretty accomplished piece of engineering.
Talk to Us: What shoe should we hack at next to see the technology inside?
Nike Structure Triax+ 14 Men's Running Shoes
Coming out December 2010, the Nike Structure Triax 14+ continues along the path of its predecessors. Using the same tooling as the Structure Triax+ 13, which means the midsole has not changed (still uses Zoom Air for added cushioning), the latest version makes minor tweaks to the upper. Since the ride quality of the 13 is well liked, maintaining the midsole/outsole configuration on the new version is a good thing. This continuity allows past users a greater chance for success with the update.
Nike is one of the few running brands that still offers four footwear introductions each year; Spring, Summer, Fall and Holiday. The biggest introductions are usually saved for Spring and Fall, with Holiday and Summer having a smaller number of updates.
For Summer 2010, Nike continues to experiment and expand models that make up two of the brand’s unique categories of shoes, the Free and Lunar family of products. Nike is known to consistently introduce new technologies to see if they find an audience and if they do find a following, the technology is expanded into its own silo of products. Air Max was one of the better examples of this. First was the Air Max, then a whole slew of Air Max products that followed. The Free concept remains popular, but the line is somewhat limited in its appeal. The Lunar product has proven wildly successful and as a result, new models are being introduced in the Lunar line while the Free line receives updates to existing models and even loses a style in the process.
For the Lunar franchise, possibly the coolest is the new LunarFly+. Take a symmetrical LunarLite midsole and throw the upper from the 2008 Hayward on top and you have one hot shoe. At $80, this is gonna prove popular.