Down to the Wire Shoe designers craft their work around an idea, not a foot. Nike’s big brainstorm, Flywire, replaces all of a shoe’s heavy structural materials with support threads that resemble the steel cables on a suspension bridge. But the Vectran filaments may also soon help replace Nike factories in China. The see- through shoe is reportedly so inexpensive to make that Nike may move some manufacturing back to the United States. The Flywire-based ZOOM VICTORY (1) middle-distance spike weighs only 93 grams, or 3.28 ounces. The HYPERDUNK (2) will help Chinese star Yi Jianlian get an even bigger vertical edge. NBA MVP Kobe Bryant will have his own version of the shoe.

Puma removed an entire midlayer in its USAN METALLIC CROC (3) to save weight, making up for what was lost structurally by wrapping the leather upper around the sole (the black X under the arch). Then it made the shoe’s sole see-through, just to be cool. Puma is sponsoring Jamaica, Morocco, and Sweden in Beijing.

Adidas made American 400-meter gold medalist—and Texan—Jeremy Wariner a racing spike called LONE STAR (4). Ironically (at least if you’re a fan of Texas politics), the spike pattern leans a runner to the left. Why? On a track oval, there are no right turns, so the shoes provide leftward propulsion. The carbon nanotube sole is 20 times stronger than steel.

Adidas made the ADISTAR ROWING shoes with internal “outriggers”—the rowing plates under the forefoot that attach the shoes to the shell and help provide direct transfer of power from the oarsman (or woman) to the boat itself. The green neoprene WINDSHIELD overshoe protects against the elements while training. And the German company’s distinctive three-stripe branding doubles as a safety feature: The three hook-and-loop straps can be quickly released if the shell capsizes.

For years, Olympic equestrians put their boots on in the morning the same way everybody else did—by struggling to jam their feet down long, stiff leather tubes. Nike created the IPPEA, with an asymmetrical zipper to make entry easier, and an adjustable, screw-in spur that can be raised or lowered depending on the horse’s mood. One big loss: about 4 pounds of steel apparatus, previously required to steady the spurs over the rider’s foot.

During a tae kwon do match, three of four judges must recognize a strike for an athlete to be awarded a point. One way to make a big impression: kick your opponent so hard the judges hear it. For its TKV boot, Nike tested 20 synthetic leathers (different coatings, hardnesses, thicknesses, composites) to determine which was loudest. “We did everything we could to get that nice smack!” says Nike’s footwear design director, Sean McDowell. “That’s the loudest leather we could come up with. But I think there are louder ones out there, waiting.”

Nike’s new bike shoe, the DUNK GYRIZO (Greek for “turn”), hides a high-tech secret: the same clipless carbon sole plate Lance Armstrong used in the Tour de France. BMX phenom Donny Robinson is expected to tear up the circuit for the United States.

7 Footwear Innovations for the Olympics

Down to the Wire Shoe designers craft their work around an idea, not a foot. Nike’s big brainstorm, Flywire, replaces all of a shoe’s heavy structural materials with support threads that resemble the steel cables on a suspension bridge. But the Vectran filaments may also soon help replace Nike factories in China. The see- through shoe is reportedly so inexpensive to make that Nike may move some manufacturing back to the United States. The Flywire-based ZOOM VICTORY (1) middle-distance spike weighs only 93 grams, or 3.28 ounces. The HYPERDUNK (2) will help Chinese star Yi Jianlian get an even bigger vertical edge. NBA MVP Kobe Bryant will have his own version of the shoe.

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