Sporting a nostalgic, aqua sock-like vibe, Nike's recently released summer '13 Solarsoft Moccasins have all the makings for a laid-back, Weekend At Bernie's sort of adventure. But with an ultra-comfy midsole packing their trademark Lunarlon cushioning—a foam technology inspired by the weightlessness of astronauts on the moon that's now used in their training, running and basketball shoes—these casual sneakers aren't just for bumming around either. They also feature Nike's seamless Hyperfuse construction; a production method that fuses a durable base layer with a breathable mesh upper and a protective skin that molds to your foot and all together provides greater stability. So you can feel pretty good about climbing over rocks to get to that secret cove at the beach or wearing them on all-day trek around your favorite city.
Supportive shoes boasting breezy Hawaiian print patterns, the Solarsoft Moccasins beg for good times this summer. We checked in with Nike Senior Footwear Designer Nathan VanHook—whose previous experience includes designing wetsuits for an LA surf brand and is also known as "the guy who designed the Air Yeezy 2"—to find out a little more about the design process behind what is sure to become a go-to pair this season.
As a lifestyle shoe, is there also any specific function these shoes have been designed for?
The Nike Solarsoft Moccasin, Solarsoft Rache, and Solarsoft Mule are designed to be worn barefoot. The great thing about the Solarsoft technology is the intersection of comfort and durability; the soft foam right under your foot that delivers maximum comfort is encased by a more durable foam for ground contact. The uppers are very breathable, which create a shoe that can be slipped on for use in the summer, no matter if you’re at the beach or in an urban environment. The Nike Aqua Sock 2 inspired the midsole design lines and traction pattern.
In what ways is this shoe actually modeled after a real moccasin?
The upper design lines take some cues from a traditional moccasin, as well as the fact that the woven versions were very deconstructed. The upper is actually stitched to the midsole sidewall like traditional moccasins. This allows the foot to land directly on the cushioned midsole. The key for the models is to make them as comfortable as possible, eliminating everything that’s not needed.
How do these differ from the Nike Roshe Run shoe?
The Roshe Run has a durable midsole and a removable softer density foam sockliner for comfort. The Solarsoft Moccasin differs in that the soft and durable densities of foam are dual-injected together to create one unit. This is a clean process that creates a lightweight and comfortable product.
What's your favorite element of the Solarsoft design?
I particularly like the woven upper version of the Solarsoft Moccasin Suede versions. The woven detail provides a breathable upper for your feet, while also creating a new functional aesthetic.
These have a decidedly beachy vibe, were you influenced by your previous work designing wetsuits?
Living in Southern California for a long time and working in the surf industry brings certain things to light. For example, how people may want to wear footwear in the summer, especially at the beach. It should be as minimal as possible, easy to slip in and out of, and good in dealing with sand and water.
Do you have a signature design element that ends up in all shoes you do?
I do enjoy tagging products I worked on, “Designed and tested in Beaverton, Oregon, USA.” It is a nice little callout to Nike's history. While Nike is an amazing company with talent from all over the globe, we are still in a community in a little nook in the Pacific Northwest doing our thing and trying out the products we create in the outdoors around us.
The Solarsoft Moccasins hit select Nike stores, including NYC's 21 Mercer Street, beginning 20 July 2013. Images courtesy of Nike.