The Nike Hyperdunk was a rather big deal. Designed by Eric Avar, headlined by Kobe Bryant and worn in Beijing as the US captured Gold for the first time in eight years, the moon, stars and even stripes pretty much all aligned just at the right time for last year's most touted sneaker.
As it had an innovative look all its own, a heralded designer behind it, memorable marketing campaign and an endless amount of special edition colorways and releases, most of all, it was a great basketball shoe, worn by everyone from the 6-foot tall NBA All-Star-when-his-whole-conference-is-injured Mo Williams on up to 7-footer Pau Gasol and the biggest of big men. It worked for a variety of colleges and players of all sizes in between, and ultimately, it marked a pretty impactful year for a single sneaker that also debuted Nike's new lightweight containment element in Flywire. As Leo Chang, Senior Designer at Nike Basketball, would soon find out, following up the Hyperdunk was one of the biggest challenges he'd face during his seven and a half years at Nike. Sole Collector recently caught up with Leo to hear all about the process of designing the Nike Hyperize... [To read the full Nike Hyperize article, be sure to check out Sole Collector's upcoming Issue 29.] Nick DePaula: How'd you get pegged for the project? Leo Chang: I guess Eric Avar was busy. [laughs] I like doing stuff that's super lightweight and pushing the boundaries of that stuff, so for me, I think the category knows that and thought I'd be right for the project. So, the other guys like doing clunky stuff? Exactly. [laughs] But I've worked with Avar before on Free stuff when I was in Running, and for this project I consulted with him here and there. When you started out, there was a first version and you ended up re-designing it altogether, how far along did that change come? On this first version, it was testing out pretty well, and we were getting good fit and the weight was coming in great at around 12.5 ounces, but there was just a lot of pressure to follow up the Hyperdunk. Everything from the function of it to how iconic the design was, and so when we really sat back and looked at this first design, we just said, 'You know, functionally it's there,' but in terms of iconic and design wise, it really wasn't. We can do some cool colors, but it wasn't quite there. We were doing some things that were limiting what the design could be, like integrating the Flywire into the lacing system. Originally that was the insight, to just directly pull onto the Flywire, and we decided to go with the punched hole look, and on the new version, the Flywire goes around each eyelet so you get the same benefit. I just kind of stepped back and said, 'How can I get the same function and still get a better design out of it?' I think where we ended up is a lot better. On this first version, you'll see a lot of tinkering with the design and I think it was just something that was good for me to get out of my system. [laughs] Above: Leo Chang's original rendering of the Nike Hyperize. Note the difference in Flywire alignment and the reduced outrigger. Above: The Hyperize as it evolved. Less mesh would be seen on the final version's Flywire panel, and the outsole and midsole became more sculpted as well. The Hyperdunk had two directions of crossing Flywire strands, and how does this set up with the Hyperize differ with its arrangement? For one, there's less strands, and we felt like we could take away the stuff we don't need and keep stripping it down. The pattern actually started out as something we were only going to do on the medial side, because a lot of times with our NSRL [Nike Sports Research Lab] slow motion video, you'll see the whole shoe just twist right around the arch. There's tons of these diagonal wrinkles throughout the arch, and that's normal for any basketball shoe. Your foot is going to move in that way. We wondered, what happens to Flywire and the vertical strands when your foot is in motion? Those actually go slack during that motion, and the horizontal lines lend the support. We know that basketball has so much movement and is not a linear sport, so we decided to align them differently to give more support during those movements. The Flywire also has vent holes this time around, was that a point of emphasis from the Hyperdunk? There was a lot of plastic on the Hyperdunk, and it could stiffen up at times, so we wanted to do things to make it more flexible and more breathable. We started out with a ton more mesh windows, but started to fill it in a bit based on our longterm weartesting and making sure the support was still there. The meshes were blowing out at times. There's a reduced amount in the quarter. You can also see in the way that we cut out the inner bootie, there's a window of mesh against your foot. I tried to make a conscious effort to make it more breathable, because even with the bootie there that is mesh, that's another layer and that makes it harder for the shoe to breathe. One of the subtle refinement things we did was with the mesh. The mesh is actually a finer thickness than what we used in the Hyperdunk, and it's lighter, more flexible and we also used a thinner TPU over the Flywire on the panels. The Hyperdunk has .52mm of TPU over the top and bottom of the Flywire, but here we used .52mm on the bottom and .4mm on the top. That might sound like nothing, but it actually made a significant difference in making the shoe a bit softer. Overall, we made it lighter and more flexible. What were some other key areas that you guys wanted to improve on? The traction is of course different. The traction was definitely a big one. There were mixed reviews on the Hyperdunk. Some people said they loved it and had no issues, and other people said they were slipping often. Yeah man, it just depended on if the court was clean. It was money on a clean floor, and once the court was dusty you were in trouble. Yeah, exactly, so we tried to bring in a little bit of both. We decided to bring in the tried and true herringbone, which everyone gets, and also the segmentation that we got in the Hyperdunk. I thought that was really cool, because it allowed the outsole to move and break, and we just wanted to combine those two things. I think it turned out pretty well. The other difference is in the midsole. We used a lightweight injected Phylon for the Hyperdunk, and one of the things that you notice after even one wear is that it just gets cosmetically really wrinkled. One of the things I wanted to do was figure out how to solve that, and actually we even tried to make it lighter. In this shoe, we ended up using a Phylite. Phylite is used in Free and any kind of super lightweight shoe like the Lunar Trainer. Phylite actually allows you to expose the foam onto the ground because of its rubber content. Its exposed both in the heel and the forefoot through the flex zones, so not only does that make it more flexible, but you can get ground contact with it, so the shoe is also lighter now because you can carve out rubber. Most of all, because of the rubber content, it tends to not wrinkle and is a lot more resilient. And what kind of shank did you guys use through the midfoot? It's the same shank that's in the Hyperdunk. It's a glass fiber shank. The way I approached this shoe, was just thinking about how I could make the Hyperdunk better. That thing was pretty amazing in all rights, because everyone plays in it. I don't think you can walk onto a basketball court and not see it. It's pretty darn amazing, so I really had to pick at the little things to make it better. We also were able to lower the overall weight of the shoe actually. Last year we were anywhere from 13 to 13.5 ounces depending on the material, and here [with the Hyperize] we're a full ounce lighter. So, we tried to make it more flexible, fit better, be more breathable and there were even some irritation issues that people had that we wanted to improve on. Some were complaining about the hidden eyelet along the tongue, and the way that the webbing rubbed in there, so we decided to get rid of all of that. Also, the injection counter that we have on the heel is the only counter in the shoe. On the Hyperdunk, the external counter adds to the stability of the shoes and holds the shape of the internal counter, but that can all be done with one, so we have just the external counter now. We were able to just get rid of the things we didn't need. And in terms of cushioning, what's the size of the Zoom bag? The Lunar Foam is the same as the Hyperdunk? It's a 12mm Zoom Air bag, and it's one of the biggest bags we'll use in the heel. The Lunar Foam in the forefoot is the same exact set-up as the Hyperdunk. Did you guys talk at all about using Zoom Air in the forefoot? I can't say I'm crazy about Lunar, as you may have read. [laughs] At this point, we didn't have that discussion about it. We wanted to just stay the course and slowly evolve it. In terms of a cosmetic detail, you have the branding here at the bottom of the laces. What kind of process is that? That's just a chrome HF weld. That's actually a funny story too, cause Charles Williams and I were over in Asia working on the shoe, and he just kept looking down over his foot, like, "Ah man, we really need a dubret, like a lace dubret." I was gonna say, did you guys create a ridiculous term for it? It's just a lightweight dubret I guess. [laughs] So I was trying to think if we were really gonna add another metal or plastic part to the bottom of the u-throat. I didn't know about that, and it just looked big and is supposed to be a super lightweight shoe and I didn't really want that. So I just said, 'Why don't we just weld it right onto the lace?' He said, 'Alright, lets try it out.' So he just went and found an existing HF weld mold that he had and welded it onto the lace to see how it looked. We both liked it, and from there we just redesigned it and got the effect that we wanted. Zac Dubasik: As far as you know, have you guys ever done anything like that? Nope, this is the first time we've done it. And it's actually kinda cool, because, not that it matters so much on a basketball shoe, but if you were to re-lace the shoe, it's a cool center point where that weld is to help make lacing the shoe easier. Even having the laces as flat laces is a nice thing because they lay flat and don't cause any pressure points. The flatter you can be, the thinner your tongue mesh can be without having any pressure. People are going to see these in stores and the Hyperdunk is still going to be out on the shelves, what would be the biggest reason for that $15 increase that people could take from the shoe? Overall it's a great evolution from where the Hyperdunk is. I think it fits better, it's a lot lighter and it does everything you'd want it to do. We upgraded with an injection external counter just because that gives you better heel stability as well. Would you have made any changes or are you happy with how it turned out? I'm real happy with how it turned out, there might be a couple of little changes that I would have changed, but for the most part I'm pretty happy. I think from where it started, it definitely had a moment where there was something that was really bothering me about it. I just kept looking at this thing early on, and saying, "What the hell is wrong with this thing," and I think everyone else was feeling the same way. Nobody knew how to describe it and I didn't know how to describe it, but we all just knew it wasn't there. I just had to take a step back and look at everything and then figure out that we might still have something here. I like how everything is exaggerated from the Hyperdunk, and the window got a bit bigger. I just really wanted to make this sleeker. I see it as a good refinement and evolution of where the Hyperdunk is. Are you going to do any without the Flywire like we've seen in the Hyperdunk and Hypermax? Not initially, but that's something that might happen. We're still trying to figure out how that's going to look because it's such a big panel. To take all of that stuff out, something has to fill that void. ZD: As a designer and a size 9, how much of an advantage is it to wear test your own shoe? It's a definite bonus to be able to play in something that you're designing. That's something I've always loved ever since I came to Nike, to be able to wear a shoe that I designed during the development process. You just find out so many different things about that shoe that everyone else may not be as sensitive to. Someone in wear testing might also not articulate an issue the way that is most understandable or beneficial, so having that first hand experience with a shoe is great. For people that might not be familiar with you, what kind of stuff have you done in the past that they'd recognize? I've been at Nike for 7 � years now, and the first 5 � was in Running and then the rest of it here. Some of the stuff I worked on was the KD1 and KD2. I did this shoe and the Hypermax, and I actually did the colorway of the 2015 Hyperdunk, the Tennis Ball Hypermaxes and I'm working on the Soldier IV now. When I first came here, I did a lot of mid price point shoes. In running, I did a lot of Free shoes, so things like the 5.0 V2, the 3.0 and 7.0, and I'm kinda known for being a guy that cobbles my own shit up. I'll make my own last and patterns and on the 3.0 I made my own upper and sent it to the factory for them to reproduce. I also worked on the Zoom Hayward III, and then after Kevin Hoffer got the Lunar Trainer to a certain point, I worked on finishing that one up. Not bad at all. I rocked the hell out of the 5.0 V2's...Thanks for your time Leo! And lastly, a look at a sample version of the Hyperize, along with a sample outsole shot. Ummm....good call on the� re-design!