Published 2 months ago.
About a 3 minute read.
Nike’s ISPA (Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, Adapt) design philosophy challenges creators to experiment, break molds and reimagine products. The ISPA Link Axis uses interlocking components, as few materials as possible and zero glue.
Nike says its latest shoe — the ISPA Link Axis
— is the new pinnacle for disassembly and embodies the circular design
principles of material choice, waste avoidance and refurbishment.
Building on the momentum of smaller-scale circular footwear models such as
ISPA (Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, Adapt)
is a Nike design philosophy that challenges creators to experiment, break molds
and reimagine products. In the case of the Link Axis, it helps move Nike closer
to its circular vision — a closed-loop system that yields no waste.
Every part of the shoe can be recycled: The design uses interlocking components,
as few materials as possible and zero glue; it has a 100 percent recycled
polyester Flyknit upper that’s engineered to fit
over the outsole; its 100 percent recycled thermoplastic polyurethane
(TPU) tooling is made from scrap airbag material, and it also has a 20
percent recycled TPU cage. Because recycling changes some material properties,
the lower recycled content in the cage balances the desire for circularity with
the need for durability and traction.
In recent years, Nike design teams have pursued solutions that continue to
deliver athletic performance with lower-impact materials (ex: Nike
Grind, Nike Air) and
recycled content (ex: Alphafly Next Nature, the Move to Zero
collections). As the
climate crisis has intensified, Nike has embraced circular design principles —
including the 10 principles outlined in its open-source Circular Design
released in 2019 — as creative accelerants.
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For the Link Axis, the ISPA team focused on the challenge of disassembly — one
of the biggest barriers to circularity in footwear design. Traditionally, glue
and other bonding elements used to achieve flexibility and durability make a
shoe nearly impossible to disassemble and recycle. Recycling shoes also usually
requires shredding — an energy-intensive process that limits how the recycled
materials can be used. Creating a shoe that can be taken apart reduces the
carbon footprint of the product and opens up new possibilities for its life
Images credit: Nike
“Designed in partnership with engineering, digital product creation and
development, these shoes are completely informed by method of make — it really
is a case of form following function,” says Darryl
Matthews, VP of Catalyst
Footwear Product Design. “Our hope is that these ideas and aesthetics become
normalized, accelerating our ability to imagine how shoes will continue to
evolve in the future.”
From a manufacturing standpoint, the Link is revolutionary in its simplicity. A
pair of Links take about eight minutes to assemble — a fraction of the average
time needed for a traditional sneaker — thanks to a custom-made manufacturing
jig and the fact that the shoe doesn’t require the time-intensive gluing process
to construct its midsole; and assembly is done without the need for
conventional, energy-intensive processes such as cooling, heating and conveyer
For new design and production models such as those behind the Link Axis to have
full impact, the innovation must be scaled. Nike says a holistic look at its
product lines and supply chains is already determining where new approaches can
be implemented to reach a wider audience and to move closer to the company’s
sustainability goals for
2025 and beyond.
True scale also requires robust cross-industry collaboration to create the
business models and infrastructure that make it possible to recycle products. To
that end, Nike is building partnerships to grow its recycling capabilities and
investing in product take-back programs across the world that will help grow its
ability to repurpose end-of-life products.
The Link Axis will be available starting September 12 on
Published Sep 11, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST