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Like most Nike innovation projects, development and research begins several years ahead. For Nike Shox, the work behind the innovation began decades before.

Early development for Shox began with this mechanical shoe prototype featuring the Nike Internationalist, done up in the early 1980s at one of Nike’s research and development centers in Exeter, New Hampshire. The team was inspired by a running surface that aimed to maximize speed.

“We concocted this shoe so that we could change out the steel compression springs,” explained pioneering Nike designer, Bruce Kilgore. “We put folks on a treadmill and did VO2 studies on them, and we found that if you could get the stiffness near 78 kilonewtons per meter, people were more efficient.”

For Kilgore, the Shox journey continued when he discovered a foam that was originally created for car jounce bumpers. The team would go on to create two additional prototypes in the form of the 1991 Air Trainer SC and the 1991 Air Skylon. “That was the first ‘holy cow’ moment,” Kilgore shared. “This was really springy foam.”

These unique prototypes would go on to provide us our first look at what Nike Shox technology would look like today.

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