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July 8, 2008

Wushu Shoe


Nike designed the shoe pictured above and below to meet the specific demands of the ancient Chinese sport of wushu, a close cousin of kung fu.

Here is Nicholas Casey's July 5, 2008 Wal Street Journal article about the project.

    Tackling a Martial Art

    Change comes slowly for the age-old Chinese martial art of wushu. But this year, it's joining forces with the swoosh.

    In an unlikely move for a U.S. footwear company, Nike is joining the small Chinese market of wushu shoemakers. The modern version of the sport, a close cousin of kung fu, emphasizes aesthetic and athletic performance over basic fighting. While it isn't an official Olympic sport, an Olympic-sanctioned tournament will take place this summer.

    That was enough for Nike to jump in. The shoes would have to survive a host of punishing moves: rapid accelerations and braking; 720-degree gymnastic-like spins; and the use of weapons including broadswords, staffs and double-edged swords (see picture below).


    In a Beijing park, a four-person Nike team sought out septuagenarian Master Wu Bin, who was teaching hundreds of students, for his help. He agreed, and work eventually shifted to Nike's Beaverton, Ore., campus, where researchers slapped scores of reflective markers onto U.S. wushu athletes and their weapons while 16 high-speed video cameras recorded data. "Reflective markers were flying," said Jeff Pisciotta, who studies athlete biomechanics in the Nike lab. Researchers from the University of Beijing and the University of Shanghai eventually pitched in.

    The final shoe, to be sold for $80 at Nike.com, uses sturdy kangaroo leather instead of the typical canvas and a lightweight gum rubber for more-precise pivoting during moves. An unexpected problem: painful shoelaces, because wushu athletes traditionally hit their shoes with their palms as part of their performance. Nike created pockets to hide shoelace tips for easier slapping.


Nike has the back story here.

The designer explains how the shoe's details came to be in an interesting video.


Steven Leckart, majordomo of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools, was the first to answer yesterday's "For what sport was this shoe created?" correctly.

Alas, his prize will not be a pair of the black iteration since clicking Nike's "Buy now" yields "Product no longer available."

If anyone has a pair and is willing to part with them, well, knowing Leckart as I do, I would bet you'd become his new best friend in a yoctosecond if you sent them his way.

Am I right, Steven, or am I right?

July 8, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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beeuuutiful shoe. Alas, "no longer available" at nike.com. So soon?

Posted by: tamra | Jul 9, 2008 3:16:41 AM

I was going to go bowling with those shoes but now I am going to do some Kung Fu Fighting http://youtube.com/watch?v=RbVebNGBcZE -Just to justify buying those shoes

Posted by: wistrade | Jul 8, 2008 6:19:17 PM

Screw wushoes...these are the only shoes I care about at the moment:


Posted by: clifyt | Jul 8, 2008 4:32:42 PM

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