Light, sleek, and sexy were all words used to describe the the Flyknit Racer. It was a purpose built shoe, one that was constructed for abuse in marathon races but then made its way into streetwear as a lifestyle sneaker. Featuring a sparsely thin knit upper, matched to a streamlined EVA midsole and a WaffleskinTM outsole, the shoe was so light that only the weight of the midsole can be felt when held. However, Flyknit technology itself wasn’t a recent introduction, as it can be traced back way long before the inception of the Racers. Here’s the Nike Flyknit Racer, Under The Microscope.
We all know the term Flyknit. We see it get thrown around on almost every shoe Nike makes. The Flyknit Trainer, Flyknit Chukka, Free Flyknit 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, Flyknit Airmax – the list goes on. Anything with Flyknit on the branding, you knew it was gonna be a light shoe. What Flyknit actually is, what Nike spent a better part of a decade to research, is a knitting technique which uses multiple different fibres in different areas to strengthen the silhouette of the shoe. The specific areas are then heated to melt the fibres, creating a fused like texture, further increasing its durability without sacrificing lightness and mobility of the shoe. The main distinction with Primeknit from Adidas is that Adidas’s version of the knit is a one-piece construction of the same material.
The Flyknit was a direct result of feedback from runners; they wanted a sock with snug-like fit and weighed virtually nothing. Apparently it was a terrible idea, since yarn had no structure or durability to it. Nike then spent 4 years researching and developing the tech that would give what the runners wanted, not break down as fast, as well as trying to achieve the lightest possible shoe mass.
Tony Bignell, VP of Nike Innovation told The Guardian that they stuck to a “nature amplified” design ethos, focusing body movement in a sports situation and also enhance the athlete’s natural ability. All of this R&D is condensed into two models: The Flyknit Racer and the Flyknit Trainer. The Racer was so light that the only physical weight you’d feel was the midsole itself, none on the upper.
Nike pretty much killed 2 birds with 1 stone with the conception of the Flyknit. Creating high performance shoes, as well as reducing material waste in production. The Racer had 35 less pieces than the Nike Air Pegasus model, so on an industrial scale, Nike saves a shit ton of material that can be used on other shoes.
It was noticeable when the Flyknit name took off – with Nike first launching the Racer in the 2012 London Olympics, and catapulting the model to great success. Coincidentally however, Adidas also planned to launch its Primeknit series on the Olympic stage as well, resulting in a legal feud that would prohibit Adidas from making and selling Primeknit shoes for the duration of the litigation. According to Nike, they were merely protecting their intellectual property and claimed that Adidas was infringing the patent by creating something similar to Flyknit. However, in Adidas’s defence, the construction technique in question (intertwined yarns for shoes) can be traced back to the early 1940s, and as a result, the court deemed Nike’s patent invalid for trying to patent a technology that was already invented before.
From the consumer’s perspective, the feud only served as a win, because then we get better products as the two giants tried to outmatch each other. The Racers were launched in Malaysia and immediately sold out, release after release, after release. Some of the more popular colourways that were in high demand were the multicolour, which featured a paddle pop-esque colour scheme, and the Oreo colourway. Both could be found on the resale market for around RM2000 during their prime. Despite the popularity however, there were no collaboration models tied to the name surprisingly, given the popularity and aesthetics of the shoe. One of the few models that were a must cop were the white Flyknit Trainers (or Ye-knit) that Kanye West was spotted wearing a while ago; Nike even going as far as to release a reissue, dubbing it the Flyknit Trainer ‘The Return.’
Nevertheless the appeal of the shoe was founded on solid brick and mortar. Soleciety’s founding members and long time sneakerheads, Julian Leong and Sam Anthony commented on what made the shoe so great. “Most shoes follow the hype. It comes and goes, but if there’s a pair that I’d still wear regardless of the trend, it’s the Racers,” says Julian. “I mean, how can you not like them? Light as fuck, comfortable also, it’s like you’re not wearing anything. First ‘atas’ sneakers I ever bought, and it’s become sort of my daily ever since,” Sam commends. Jason never bought a pair of Racers, but he gets the appeal of them. “It just looks sexy la ok, I don’t have much to say about it.”
However, the popularity of the Racers were short lived. Adidas started barging in with the Ultraboost and NMD, and the Racers faded into the background. Nike did try to freshen up the model with a few new colourways, notably a multicolour re-release, the macaroon pack, a Be True edition featuring a rainbow swoosh on the side in collaboration with the LGBT movement, and one of the hardest kicks to take care of, a triple white edition dubbed “Goddess” colourway, but it still was not enough to spark its revival, even with the next generation facelift called the Air Zoom Mariah Flyknit Racer (What a mouthful).
Regardless, the Flyknit Racer has made its imprint onto the sneaker society. If you want a pair that weighs next to nothing, looks good in gaudy colours, and is also comfortable, the Racers are your answer, and it’s better to purchase now. Since the hype surrounding it is dead, an Oreo Racer costs about retail on online stores!