Nike Cushion - History and Setups
Nike was founded in 1964 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. The company was originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports. The company began as a shoe resale company, selling Onitsuka Tiger brand shoes (currently known as Asiscs). The company was a relative success and it quickly became clear that a demand existed for these cheaper but still high-quality alternatives to the Adidas and Pumas that dominated the market.
A little over a year into the venture, Bowerman proposed a new shoe design to the Tiger shoe company. He wanted to create a shoe made specifically for runners with a cushioned inner sole, soft sponge rubber in the forefoot and top of the heel, hard sponge rubber in the middle of the heel, and a firm rubber outsole.
This design would turn out to be both a major success and a source of conflict between Blue Ribbon and its Japanese supplier. Dubbed the Tiger Cortez, the shoe dropped in 1967 and became an instant hit for its comfortable, sturdy, and stylish design.
When the two companies split in 1971, Blue Ribbon was sued by Tiger. A judge eventually decided that both companies could sell their own versions of the model. This meant that the Tiger Cortez would become the only sneaker to ever become a best-selling model for two different shoe companies as the Nike Cortez and the Tiger Corsair.
From here on Nike’s focus on performance footwear and cushion in particular would mold the sneaker market.
Nike is probably most well known for its Air cushioning system. The first Nike sneaker to feature air was the Nike Air Tailwind that released all the way back in 1978. It was, however, an encapsulated air unit and hidden from view.
The feature that would set Nike apart would come in 1987 with the debut of the Nike Air Max 1. This was the first shoe to feature a visible Air unit, which was a really big deal at the time. Nike basically busts open that sole, giving consumers a clear window into the tech that Nike was touting. This is much more commonplace nowadays, but back in ’87 this was a bold design move.
This was also a great marketing tool for Nike. Now they were able to clearly show consumers the innovations they were implementing in their products and not just rely on big blocks of copy to convey the message. Nike would continue to use this approach over the years and consistently create visually-striking sneaker technology that lent itself to visual storytelling.
Nike Shoes with Nike Air
The idea started simple enough. Place small airbags in the soles of shoes to soften impact while practicing sports. The air compresses on impact and then immediately returns to its original shape and volume, ready for the next impact.
The idea proved to be a giant performance innovation and instantly affords users an added level of impact protection. There have been several iterations of Nike Air over the years like forefoot Air, full-length Air, and Tuned Air as Nike has refined their implementation of the technology.
Nike Shoes with Nike React
Nike React is one of Nike’s newest and most effective foam-based cushioning systems. Nike claims that React is their most responsive foam to date.
Nike React is allegedly 11% softer and offers 13% more energy return than Nike’s previous softest and bounciest cushioning. It’s also more durable and more lightweight.
Nike Shoes with Nike Joyride
Nike Joyride is a newer proprietary cushioning innovation. Joyride was created with the intention to keep legs fresh by delivering a more adaptive underfoot cushioning experience with great impact absorption in a surprisingly light, energy-returning package.
The Nike Joyride cushioning system is made of thousands of TPE beads. The beads are placed within strategically placed pods along the sole, which allows the foam to expand in all directions. The system creates a dynamic footbed that forms to your foot and feels personalized to you.
The cushioning pod’s size is created keeping in mind how the foot strikes the ground when in motion. The heel pod is bigger for example to absorb impact, while those at the forefoot are prepared to facilitate a smooth transition forward. Joyride is more marketing than actual performance but it’s a fun experience nonetheless.
Nike Shoes with Nike ZoomX
Nike ZoomX is currently Nike’s lightest and bounciest foam cushioning. Nike ZoomX foam is made from Pebax. Pebax is typically implemented in its harder, plasticky form in footwear. It’s lighter than other material alternatives, is very flexible, resists impact, and returns energy. As a foam, Pebax retains all those properties.
Nike reports that the ZoomX foam weighs one-third as much as Cushlon and delivers more impact protection.
Nike Shoes with Nike Zoom
Nike Zoom technology is designed to offer greater responsiveness and quicker reaction times. This technology uses pressurized air and elastic fibers that stretch to absorb impacts, contract to accommodate faster movements, and reduce stress on muscles, joints, and tendons.
Nike Zoom technology offers ultra-fast responsiveness and reduced pronation when running. In addition, it increases contact with the ground and control in sports that are practiced on courts or playing fields; and favors faster cuts on basketball courts.
Nike Shoes with Nike Cushlon
Cushlon is the generic foam compound that Nike uses on many of its models across all sports. It offers a good amount of cushion and support and some times it can be downright comfortable. Other brands use similar foam compounds, but Cushlon is Nike’s proprietary version.
Nike Shoes with Nike Phylon
Phylon is characterized by being very lightweight, low-profile, and responsive. Phylon is created by compressing EVA foam pellets, expanding them with heat, and then cooling them in a mold shaped like a shoe’s midsole.
Compression-molded Phylon midsoles can be sculpted into a variety of designs that are identified by their fine wrinkles.
Nike Shoes with Nike Shox
Nike Shox was first released in 2000 and was incorporated in several of Nike flagship sneakers throughout that decade.
Shox cushioning system is characterized by a support system made out of an arrangement of small hollow columns in the midsole supporting the shoe’s heel, which are made primarily with polyurethane.
There are different formations of the Shox technology, but most models include four circular columns in a square formation to provide cushioning. Later variations in Shox models added one or two additional Shox, usually 25 mm high, though height did vary. Nike also made triangular and rectangular Shox marketed as providing better stability.
Nike Renew / Lunarlon
Lunarlon and Renew are basically the same thing. This is because Lunarlon was rebranded with the release of another Nike foam mentioned earlier, React. Both Lunarlon and Renew are soft, nitrile rubber-based foams encased in a slightly firmer carrier (typically Phylon or Cushlon). Shoes that only carry Lunarlon or Renew might seem basic, but these cushioning systems can be plush and very effective if implemented correctly.