You probably don’t think about the soles of your shoes very much. But it’s the job of Nike engineers to put a spring in your step—literally.
This week, Nike announced a new cushioning system that’s made out of more than 10,000 tiny loose beads that act like little shock absorbers. Called Nike Joyride, the system has a series of four pockets spread out along the bottom of your foot, each with a different amount of beads based on how much cushion your foot needs upon impact.
As your foot hits the ground, the air between the beads escapes through the sole, which helps counteract the force of impact. The company claims that Joyride has 14% better shock absorption than the soles of its other shoes.
“One of the big ideas for Joyride is to make running feel easy, allowing runners to continue to run but give their legs a day off,” says Will Moroski, senior product line manager for Nike Running, in a promotional video for Joyride.
Because the beads move with your foot, the Joyride sole becomes personalized to you through use—kind of like how a beanbag adheres to your form when you sit down. To get this kind of beanbag effect, Nike’s engineers tried out 150 different materials before landing on a combination of plastic and rubber called TPE for the beads. The result is that you’re supposed to feel like you’re “running on bubbles,” Nike says.
Like many athletic shoe companies these days, Nike has publicized efforts to mitigate waste and use recycled materials in its shoes. The company says Joyride soles can be recycled through Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, though it’s unclear how sustainable the beads and their manufacturing process really are. TPE is a synthetic material used in everything from car parts to yoga mats.
The first shoes featuring the Joyride sole, called the Nike Joyride Run Flyknit, is available now to Nike members and will be available to the general public on August 15 for $180.