Shoe: Nike Flyknit Racer (Black-White)
Release: Dec 2014
Price: $150, retail from RoadrunnerSports.com
The Nike Flyknit Racer is one of the most significant performance shoes ever created. Whether you knew it or not, the future happened in 2012. Up to then, designing ultralight marathon shoes was more clever manipulation than structural innovation. Suddenly, space-age weaving technology meant the end of design-by-subtraction and the start of something new. As Team USA athletes strode out onto the track in their neon-green racing flats, the whole athletic footwear paradigm shifted.
Designers could do more with less; athletes could move faster with more stability; environmentalists could reduce waste with more precise manufacturing. Four years of research, thousands of prototypes, and a mere 5.6 ounces per shoe: the Flyknit Racer is a marvel of sports science. Everyone from elite marathoners to weekend joggers could now run distance in a shoe as light as contemporary sprint spikes. Athletic pedigree, international fame, futuristic styling cues, and a price so high you’d think twice about beating on it. Small wonder the Flyknit Racer has since become one of the hottest fashion shoes in Nike’s portfolio.
If you’ve never worn Flyknit before, the Racer will blow your mind. I remember walking down stairs the first day and recognizing that I was kicking my legs out further because the shoe was just that light. The weight savings throughout border on obsessive. Flyknit Racers even come with ultralight ribbon laces to shave off those last few grams. This is essentially a sock with a sole.
The net effect of that fat-trimming is a comfortable, breathable, and flexible running shoe with a Zoom sole that’s not too bad either. It’s a rigid road-racing sole after all, but the Racer as a package is more than enough for a day on your feet. To be clear: if you’re expecting the pillowy sensation of an Air Max or adidas Boost shoe, the Flyknit Racer is not for you.
However, if you’re willing to sacrifice an ounce of comfort for what’s perhaps the coolest-looking runner ever made, this is your shoe. The 2014 Black-White pair features contrast paneling between the lateral and medial sides of each foot. Inverse Flywire hits add motion to the knit upper, while four different weave patterns converge at the toebox for a visual effect that’s more art than sneaker.
Plus, this specific colorway is pure monochrome: you can wear it with anything. Package that all into a streamlined, elegant low-top, make it annoying hard to buy at retail, and you have the go-to shoe for hypebeasts and sneakerheads alike. A generation’s worth of techwear inspo albums were built on the Black-White Flyknit Racer.
In the 16 months since purchase, I’ve worn my Black-White Flyknit Racers more times than I can count. I’ve run miles, commuted by bike, and walked the length of Manhattan Island, all in the same pair. I love my Racers, but they are far from “well-loved” (or, in the words of your local Facebook group, “VNDS 9.1/10 worn twice”). Like a classic sports car, truly great sneakers make you want to take care of them. That may mean frequent maintenance, but it also means weekend drives. My 2014 Flyknit Racers are the sneaker I most enjoy, in every sense of the word.