Nike has unveiled the Vapor Carbon Elite Cleat, a brand-new shoe with 3D-printed parts specifically designed to make athletes run faster.
The announcement arrives just in time for Super Bowl XLVIII, where the 3D-printed shoe will make its official debut.
According to a video about the shoe released by Nike, the journey towards the Vapor Carbon cleat began back in 1996, in a collaboration with Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson.
“You would think that we would know all there is to know about athleticism, but we still don’t. We’re still learning how to optimise athleticism,” Johnson said to Wired. “For so long as a society, we just figured that good athletes are just good athletes. It’s easy to say, ‘Oh well, he’s fast, that’s great.’ But the real question is, can he be faster?”
The design team focused on what they called the zero step, the stance runners take before they begin their sprint.
To reduce slipping during the zero step, Nike developed what they call a “V Plate,” a nylon base inspired by a shovel and made by a 3D printer.
In February 2013, Nike released the Vapor Laser Talon, the first 3D-printed cleat to be worn by football players. It was one of the fastest cleats ever designed, with seven of the top-10 fastest athletes at the 2013 NFL Combine choosing to wear it.
The new Vapor Carbon Elite is an update on that cleat, adding the ability to make more precise movements.
Four tri-star studs were placed at the front of the shoe to improve linear propulsion, as well as on the sides and in the back for side-to-side and backwards movement.
According to Nike, design at this speed would not be possible without 3D printing.
“Using traditional prototyping methods, it might’ve taken us years to translate these learnings on to an actual cleat for the field,” Nike said in the video released with the announcement. “But with 3D printing, it could be just a matter of hours.”
Here’s the video Nike released with the cleat announcement.
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