Tech Talk with Brett Holts, VP of Nike Running Footwear

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We get the low down on the Pegasus Turbo, customised shoes, and more

It’s not often you get to sit down 1 on 1 with someone on the inside at Nike and ask them anything you want, but that’s exactly what happened at the launch of the Pegasus Turbo in Tokyo.

We were lucky enough to spend 10 minutes with Brett Holts, Vice President of Nike Running Footwear, to hit him with questions around the Pegasus Turbo, the future of running shoes, and even get some inside scoops on some of your favourite models.

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Brett works closely with athletes like Shalane Flanagan during the prototype process

It has been a little over a year since the launch of the Vaporfly Elite and 4%, and in that time we’ve seen it on start lines and podiums of every marathon around the world. Is it safe to say you guys are happy with the success of the first iteration?


We’re happy with the impact of the first version of the product, but we know there's a lot more opportunity ahead in terms of some of the problems that we ran out of time trying to solve on those products.

We’re continuing to improve on those, continuing to figure out some of those problems and make those improvements in the second and third versions, and ultimately hopefully we'll add more foam and even more energy return than runners are experiencing now.

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The VaporFly Elite

Brett you mentioned during your presentation of the Pegasus Turbo that there’s actually a layer of React foam in the shoe as well. That hasn’t happened before, right?


Yes that’s right, this is the first time the two have been utilised together.


Is that something we should expect to see more of in the future?


The goal with the Pegasus Turbo was to get as much ZoomX foam underfoot as possible. The first prototype therefore had a full length ZoomX midsole, and the feedback on that from runners was that as an everyday training shoe, because of the light weight and the compression of the ZoomX foam, it actually felt unstable without the plate in there as a moderator.

So to solve for that we put a thin layer of React foam in the midsole, closest to the ground, which gives it a lot more stability and support.

It also gives it a little bit more durability. I’m not sure if you’ve seen a VaporFly that has a lot of miles on it, but the direct ground contact areas on that foam can look worn pretty quickly; there’s no performance drop off but it doesn’t look great after a while. That’s OK on a racing shoe, because we’re pushing the limits, but in a training shoe the expectation is different.


We saw before London you guys debuted a new upper on Eliud's Vaporfly Elite called Flyprint, and you were able to take this from idea to finished product super quickly, all designed and engineered around being tuned for Eliud himself.

When the technology becomes more widespread and affordable, is customised footwear in our future?


I think so. Technology like 3D printing can really help enable that, not just in terms of speed and iteration, but also in terms of how we can customise the product pixel by pixel.

I think the future and where the industry is headed is fully customised product for consumers. Someday.


Back in January we saw the release of the Epic React, which is a pretty versatile shoe and probably wipes out a few other models. Now we see the Pegasus Turbo which could take sales from a few other Nike models, how do you guys ensure that you’re not canibalising your own products?


That’s a good question, we have that conversation all day every day. We work as one team, so although specific people work on certain models, all of our work has to complement rather than compete with each other.

So when we start with a new product we want to make sure we’re targeting a competitor model. We don’t want to knock one of our models out, we want to knock a competitor out. We want to grow all of our products.

But we know that as we continue to innovate, there are going to be similarities between certain products. For instance I toggle at the moment between the Turbo and the Epic React.

The big difference between the Turbo and the Epic React is the energy return in the Turbo is more in line with the Vaporfly. The Epic React though is super soft, comfortable, and so versatile. The versatility of that shoe is crazy.

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Brett wears the Off-White Zoom Fly

Running shoes are enjoying some time in the sun right now as part of sneaker culture. We're seeing things like the Zoom Fly SP, VaporMax, Flyknit Racer, these are all accepted as part of street culture now. How do you guys feel about seeing performance products on the street in that way?


I think that’s a reflection that Nike has always pushed the edges of design and fashion and aesthetic. What we always want to start with though is solving a performance problem, and a lot of times when we do that it leads to new silhouettes, new ideas.

The Vaporfly Elite for example, I don't think anyone would have thought a shoe that thick could be fast and look fast, and actually be the fastest racing shoe in the world. But that design is led 100% by function and performance and it broke through to create a completely new look and feel.

And we know that style is equally as important as performance for consumers in today's running culture. No one wants to buy an ugly running shoe, so i think that's where we can take competitive advantage of our design talent. We’ll always lead with function, but expression has to match that as well.

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Yuta Shitara and Suguru Osako in the Pegasus Turbo

Unfortunately that's all the time we could get with Brett for the day. However we did grab a couple of other great snippets as things were wrapping up:

  • We asked Brett about the gap in the line-up of low, fast shoes now that the Lunaracer, Flyknit Racer, and Flyknit Streak are out of the market (the Streak and Streak LT are still around). Don’t be surprised to see a shoe ideally suited to 10k - ½ marathon in the future.
  • Trail - contrary to some of the messageboards, Nike are not exiting the trail shoe market. In fact, the product team are excited by some of the innovations they’re cooking at the moment, and they believe there’s a massive breakthrough opportunity there.
  • We asked about the future of the Zoom Fly, as a lot of the people training in that might now come across to the Pegasus Turbo. Rest assured, there is definitely still a place for the Zoom Fly in the line up in the future.
  • One shoe that has a lot of elite level fans (most of the elite athletes we’ve been around at TEMPO wear this shoe for at least some of their training) is the Vomero, currently on its 13th iteration. Fans of this shoe are going to love the next version, and it could win over some new admirers as well.

Check out our full breakdown of the new Pegasus Turbo here.

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