It’s been over 20 years since boxer Roy Jones Jr. made Jordan a bona fide brand in the training category by putting in roadwork in the Trunner LX. Now, with the Trunner NXT, the company is rethinking its approach to the category, and it’s being spurred on by the man who conceived of cross-training sneakers to begin with: Tinker Hatfield.
“I felt like the Jordan Brand relies on basketball a lot,” Hatfield says. “The brand itself relies a lot on re-issuing older designs or retros, but we’re also trying to do new and advanced basketball products.”
Enter the brand’s latest foray into training—well, training and running. What’s different this time around, however, is that the designers thought more about the body-type of a basketball, football, or team sports athlete. It’s also focusing more on the running part of the equation.
“You can’t just do Jordan running for no other reason than to get into running. There had to be a psychological and physical reason for why Jordan should be in running, so we just thought about the prototypical Jordan athlete,” Hatfield says while adding that running in general is the biggest category in sneakers overall. “That gave us a unique list of criteria which the design team could use to make something different from a typical Nike running shoe, which is more about running in a straight line.”
For lateral stability, Hatfield introduced the the diamond frame. Never before seen in any running shoe, It’s a very thin TPU structure specifically designed to contain a bigger, stronger, faster kind of athlete that supports making cuts. It’s also there to keep the React foam from sheering.
Another distinct characteristic of the sneaker is the elongated fins. Those are designed for taller athletes who may have a longer, extended stride and need a bit of an extra crash pad in the heel.
“The intent is all the same: to recognize what people need in order to be good in their sport,” Hatfield says. “Virtually every team sport requires running. Every athlete needs to train for speed and agility. We want to basically recognize that and recognize that’s a whole lot of athletes.”
The first weartest group on the products were team sports athletes, with feedback coming from college football players and collegiate sports trainers. The Detroit Piston’s Blake Griffin has also been working out in the shoes during the off season.
“We train so differently than any other sport. A lot of the stuff I do is balance and I want a shoe that’s going to challenge that a little bit and make my feet work a little more than a standard basketball shoe that’s heavier at the bottom,” Griffin says.
While training sneakers have long been a part of what Jordan Brand has offered, this is a conscious evolution of the line. “The earlier iterations were more biased towards lateral sports—being in the gym and being in the weightroom,” Hatfield says. “They were more like a training shoe with a little bit of running roots. This Trunner is really more about the running side with a little bit of training thrown in.”
The brand’s senior design director on the project, David Cin, came from Nike Running prior to working on the new era of Jordan Trunning. Research he found on the differences between a team sports athlete and a typical Nike runner showed the team sports athlete cared less about setting personal records, but more about getting more explosive for their sport.
“Every play you make is kind of like a mini-race. Are you going to get that dunk? Are you going to get that interception? You have to win that foot race to make that play happen,” Cin says. “That’s the athlete we’re focusing on versus that runner who’s trying to get a PR in their next 5K. It’s a different mindset.”
Although they may not be the first target for this collection, both versions of the Trunner and the React Havoc was also tested with a set of regular runners. The way Hatfield sees it, running is part of every athlete’s regimen in some form or another.
“In our effort to see what athletes need to be at their best, they sometimes have to go run. They may not want to go run, but they have to go run,” Hatfield says. “That was a big driver for this collection and this approach. We felt we were tapping into something that we weren’t paying attention to as much as we were before.”