At a Thanksgiving dinner in 1999, a NIKE innovation leaderâ€™s seven-year-old son took the protective fruit net off an Asian pear and placed it around his bare foot. It was a playful gesture that immediately sparked the imagination of NIKEâ€™s design team, spawning the first Air Rejuven8 prototypeâ€”built from the very same netting and hot-glued to a last. What intrigued designers about the structure was the way the material worked in harmony with the footâ€™s shape, as well as its graphic look. But, at the time, the technology required to make the Air Rejuven8 was too complex for conventional shoe manufacturing. Its various prototypes ended up at the bottom of a drawer for nearly five years, out of sight, but not out of mind.
In 2003, Nike innovation designer Pam Greene was studying the comfort aspects of a shoe: important foundation work for delivering recovery benefits to the feet of weary athletes. Greene immediately saw potential in the netting design, working out a tangible plan for the shoeâ€™s construction. After six months researching materials and geometries for the net structure, Pam, a specialist in designing comfort footwear, crafted the shoe into a prototype phase that showed a unique ability to assist recovery and enable restorative running. After an additional year of testing and refinement by the Kitchen team, the Air Rejuven8 concept was ready to see the light of day.
The key innovation of the Air Rejuven8 is its injection-molded exterior cage. Made from one shot of TPU polymer, the network of diamond-shaped â€œstrutsâ€ is engineered and aligned to fit around the foot to be both supportive and non-restrictive. The spacing, orientation, and thickness of each strut adds support and flex only where it is needed, allowing the use of less material in the upper. The strength-to-flex characteristic of the diamondâ€™s geometry gives the structure its minimal, yet highly functional quality. The entire network conforms dynamically to the changing shape of the athleteâ€™s foot in motion and at rest, while the openness of the structure allows for airflow, breathability, and the movement of moisture away from skin needed in comfort footwear.