NIKE’s vapor untouchable 3D printed + carbon fibre cleat delivers dynamic speed
image courtesy of NIKE




at headquarters in beaverton, oregon NIKE announced their head-to-toe performance system to help football players be faster and more comfortable. the NIKE ‘vapor untouchable’ uniform with matching ‘vapor untouchable II’ cleat are designed to deliver re-engineered functionality and fit for lightweight speed and acceleration. nike-vapor-untouchable-football-cleats-uniform-designboom-02
the NIKE ‘vapor untouchable’ uniform
image courtesy of NIKE




the jersey and pant uniform features a chassis with minimal seams and fewer panels than traditional builds and current industry standards. the restructuring improves stretch, mobility, range of motion and durability, and creates a tight fitting, resulting in fewer grab points for the opposing team. nike-vapor-untouchable-football-cleats-uniform-designboom-03
the uniform is stitched with minimal seams and fewer panels 
image courtesy of NIKE




the 100% stretch woven material weighs 578 grams and repels water to maintain its lightweight in wet conditions. the garment wraps across the body to back, where every piece of the jersey converges. the uniform also replaces mesh with a laser-perforated, stretch-woven material in key sweat zones to help support thermo regulation through optimal ventilation. additional design enhancements include a vented neck grille for improved breathability and durability; back stretch collar for a better fit; and strategic elements to reduce moisture marks on the stomach and back. 

stretch woven material repels water to maintain its light weight in wet conditions 
image courtesy of NIKE




the cleats were developed using 3D printing and finite element analysis software that virtually tests the entire shoe and plate to color map key stress points. the restructured bottom sole gives athletes more speed and traction in a lightweight package with reduced components. taking insights from athletes at all levels of the game over the 21 month design process, nike designers constructed a carbon fiber cleat plate built for multidirectional movement that enables forward propulsion while simultaneously dispersing upward pressure throughout the fore foot to help reduce impact. the plate also features a stud configuration that trades traditional conical studs for new four sided studs. this layout offers maximum traction and helps advance acceleration and lateral movement.

the nike ‘vapor untouchable II’ cleat
image courtesy of NIKE




at the NIKE headquarters, we interviewed design director of NFL/NCAA apparel nate retzlaff and senior designer for the NIKE football footwear, jeff rasmussen, on the development of NIKE’s ‘vapor untouchable’ system and each of their specific design processes.


designboom (DB): can you tell us more about the design process behind the new jersey and its key features?


nate retzlaff (NR): we started this project about two and half years ago and we’ve really looked at what athletes need on field. we get to have a lot of partners in the industry: from pro all the way down to high school level. that kind of started us on this initiative of a minimal, reductive design approach. moving from 21 panels down to five panels on the jersey really provided this shrink-wrap lock-down fit for the lightest jersey and pant made today. therefore making the athletes faster. speed is fundamental part of today’s game.


DB: what about the cleat? 


jeff rasmussen (JR): it all started with the carbon fibre composite, which is the hearth of the vapour untouchable II plate. we engineered the carbon fibre to such an extreme that we were able to do a couple of things: we were able to remove a major component in the cleats themselves: the full length inner sole board. then we were able to go back and add an additional structure that helped make the fore foot of the cleats more proposive and more explosive. last thing, we were able to engineer the carbon fibre even further by sucking the carbon fibre into each individual cleat in the forefoot, helping to disperse the pressure for athletes, and this is a big deal together with making it more protective and significantly lighter. 

the cleats were developed using 3D printing 
image courtesy of NIKE



DB: can you tell us something about your background and on how you became designers for NIKE?


JR: I’m from detroit I studied at college for creative studies. iI studied design there. I fell in love with design there, then I moved to boston for couple years, and now I have been here at nike for 13 years.


NR: started my career at nike and worked in the team sport division. we were part of the team that launched the XXXXX uniform with the broncos. then took part in many different projects and nike divisions. I re-joined the football team 18 months ago and have kind of seen this to fruition as design team finished up the design process and got it to a place where it can be validated by our athletes.

the restructured bottom sole gives athletes more speed and traction
image courtesy of NIKE




DB: how do you keep your ideas fresh?


NR: obviously solving for the athlete’s problems. athletes are extremely inspiring when you hear their stories. but in terms of aesthetics and design challenges and solving related problems we definitely look outside our industry. fashion plays into it – automotive design furniture design – architecture can infiltrate our design process. sometimes it’s looking to the past like designers charles and ray eames and how they developed a new method of making chairs, while sometimes it’s looking to the future and technologies such as 3D printing.


DB: what is the most fascinating aspect about working at NIKE?


JR: you get access to players that are the greatest at what they do. it is a privilege to talk to athletes and get feedback on products. we get hard data from our labs that allows us to make things really well but before we get to that point it is the voice of athlete that tells us what data we need to collect.

NIKE used virtually tests on the entire shoe and plate to color map key stress points 
image courtesy of NIKE




DB: how hard is it to design a product that is both functional and good looking at the same time?


JR: I love the beauty, especially in cleats, their industrial form. I try to embrace the inherent utilitarian aspect of the cleats, I just try to integrate it into the design itself , I don’t think it is two separate things, I think they work together.


DB: what has been the most interesting project since you have worked at NIKE?


NR: since I work at NIKE? whoa! I think it was the cleveland brown’s redesign (part of the new jerseys series). I enjoyed the innovation that we are bringing on field as well as the storytelling and capturing the heart and soul of the cleveland’s browns – their fans and the history of the club. but also providing some innovation to the uniform and bringing some newness and freshness to the NFL.

NIKE ‘flyweave’ covers the top shoe
image courtesy of NIKE



DB: do you have a personal motto?


NR: stay humble, hustle hard!


JR: every time I have to take a decision in my life I ask myself what would my grandfather do.

nike ‘vapor untouchable II’ cleat detail
image courtesy of NIKE

nate retzlaff design director of NFL/NCAA apparel 
image © designboom  

jeff rasmussen senior designer for the NIKE football footwear 
image © designboom