Material Investigations

London

7 June 2017

“We are always looking to architecture, developments in space, furniture design, manufacturing, and arts to spark a small idea that can turn into a big idea,” says Nate VanHook, Nike Football’s senior footwear design director. “And designing football boots is different from designing most shoes.”

One of VanHook’s recent projects for Nike, is the brand’s Hypervenom 3 football boot, a boot specifically designed for strikers “The Hypervenom 3 was designed with two things in mind,” says VanHook. “Cut, which is changing direction, and strike – these are the critical components of goal scoring.” To facilitate these movements within the design, VanHook and his team began a process of material experimentation.

Critical to the Hypervenom 3 is poron, a foam material that is used in the footwear industry as underfoot cushioning, but which also has applications in fields such as orthopedic and prosthetic medicine, the automotive industry and portable electronics. VanHook’s insight for the Hypervenom 3 was to shift the role of poron from cushioning the foot, to cushioning the ball during striking.

“Poron has many different applications as well as in footwear, where it’s used typically to provide shock absorbance and cushioning,” says VanHook. In the Hypervenom 3, however, the boots strike zone, the part of the upper that comes into contact with the ball, is lined with Poron pods that become rigid when the ball is struck at high velocity, firming up to propel the ball further forward.

“Over a period of approximately two years of testing and learning, we were able to successfully create these rate-dependent poron pods,” says VanHook. “They provide a dampened or soft touch at low velocity contact, but rigidity when striking the ball with high velocity to create a firm launching pad for a true strike. The striker’s role is to make the most of the chances in a game – and often they don't get a lot of time on the ball. They need to be able to control the ball, create space for the shot and then shoot in a very short period of time.”

To mark the development of the use of poron within the Hypervenom 3, Disegno invited the still-life photographer Nick Rochowski to create a series of studies of the boot and its constituent materials. These images, featured in the gallery at the top of this page, are intended to provide an insight into VanHook and his team’s work on the design of the boot.

“We always start with the athlete and the insight,” says VanHook. “What problem are we solving to help give them an edge and take their performance to a new level. Then we start looking at what technologies we can bring to the table.”