Jason Mayden wants to make sure it doesn’t die off for good. Mayden is the CEO of Super Heroic, a startup that aims to foster opportunities for kids to jump around, get dirty, and let their imaginations run wild. Its breakout unveiling: the TMBLR v1, a sneaker optimised for playtime.
“If you’re a hardcore kid who wants to jump and climb and really feel like you’re living inside a superhero training facility,” Mayden told Business Insider, “this is the perfect shoe for you.”
Mayden is a former designer in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. He’s helped create cleats and sneakers for some of the biggest names in sports, including Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan.
As a kid, Mayden suffered from a blood infection known as septicemia, and a lengthy hospital stay caused his muscles to grow weak. But he still fondly recalls the time he spent with his dad on the streets of Chicago, hanging from light poles and making the world “open-air recess.”
In light of the trend toward more passive forms of entertainment, Mayden said he felt compelled to bring his design background to the world of play. His solution is a “data-informed” sneaker that’s made specifically for kids — not a scaled-down version of a shoe made for adults.
Mayden’s research team found that kids don’t generate enough force on impact to compress a sole filled with air. So the team made their inner sole out of foam. According to Mayden, this allows for easier heel-to-toe transition (the kind of movement needed for running and quick steps), along with balance and stabilisation.
The team also surveyed teachers and parents to learn what bothered them most about their kids’ shoes. Laces, it turns out, create a lot of wasted time since kids often ask their teachers for help tying their shoes. So Mayden’s team ditched the laces and made their shoe a slip-on.
The outer sole was modelled after mountain goat hooves, which have adapted over time to function on uneven surfaces like rock faces. Mayden’s team had a similar eye toward traction when creating their sneaker, given kids’ endless desire to climb and explore.
“They will wear a basketball shoe on the playground, which has grass and gravel and dirt and rocks. And there’s a lot of variability in that, which causes destabilization,” Mayden said. “We take into account the environment, the context, and the mode of play that’s relevant to that child.”
Super Heroic bills itself as an entertainment company, which encompasses more than fashion and design. Mayden wants the company’s products to inspire kids to entertain themselves with them. In addition to the shoe, Super Heroic has launched an app for parents that helps them find local parks, design pre-planned adventures, and read relevant news articles on childhood development.
The shoes are available for pre-order until August 31 at a price of $US99. Mayden said he’s extremely focused on the details of the product design — even down to the unboxing experience. Each pair of sneakers comes with a utility bag that converts into a cape, “because every superhero needs a cape.” And the packaging unfolds with many layers, reminiscent of a superhero transforming from their alter ego.
The company plans to release a v2 model of the shoe in 2019, with a range of different colour options. Mayden credited his childhood hero — Lucius Fox, the man who designed all of Batman’s tools and gadgets — as his greatest inspiration.
“I thought that I could be like Lucius Fox and design for athletes,” he said, “but what if I could identify those heroes younger?”