Named Go FlyEase, the shoe builds on Nike’s FlyEase technologies, which have been used in dozens of its casual, running and basketball sneakers. But Nike calls this version the “easiest” shoe ever released.
Nike is introducing its first pair of lace-free slip-on sneakers in hopes of enjoying the same momentum rivals like Crocs and Vans experienced during the pandemic as more consumers become more comfortable, straightforward footwear.
The “Go FlyEase” shoe is marketed in such a way that no hands are required to put on and take off. The company said it was partially inspired by Asian cultures, where it is common to take off shoes before entering a home. The debut also comes at a time when people are more conscious of not touching dirty surfaces like the bottom of shoes.
“This shoe really reacts to our current situation in these Covid times,” said Sarah Reinertsen, manager of FlyEase Innovation at Nike, in an interview. “This is actually an innovation that has been around for a while in our innovation kitchen … but it came out at exactly the right time when we needed it more than ever.”
Go FlyEase is part of the Nike FlyEase line of running, soccer and basketball sneakers that are purported to be easier to wear and better fit your feet. Nike has been working on FlyEase innovations for about five years – including side-zip shoes and a pair with a drawstring at the back to tighten the shoe around the heel.
“We have been using laces for a long time,” said Reinertsen of Nike’s decision to do without them. “But often [people] try to bypass these shoelaces, they try to anchor the shoe with one foot and slip out. Shoelaces are kind of a hassle. We wanted to make shoes easier for everyone. “
These don’t look like a pair of rubber crocs if that’s what you have in mind, however. For a slip-on shoe, the Nike version is unique and complex. When not in use, the Go FlyEase sits in an open position. A separate footbed platform, detached from the base of the shoe, moves up and down thanks to a hinge built into the floor.
Nike plans to build on the design of the new Go FlyEase shoe and create more slip-on options in the future.
A band wraps around the top of the shoe and clicks into place once the foot is inside, as there are no laces to tighten. The biggest problem with slip-on shoes for many consumers is that they fit snugly around the foot.
There is also a “stand” on the heel to take the shoe off. Reinertsen said that many people already intuitively step on the back of their shoe to remove it.
According to Reinertsen, Nike’s latest shoe is not intended for endurance sports, but rather for recreational activities such as walking. She said Nike plans to build on the Go FlyEase design and create more slip-on sneakers. The additions could help Nike position itself not only as a brand for athletics, but also for everyday activities.
The new sneakers will be available to select Nike members in major markets from February 15 at a retail price of $ 120. Later the shoes are sold wider.
The phased launch gives Nike’s most loyal customers first access, with the hope that more people will join its free membership program, which also offers training classes and podcasts. By building a membership, Nike can learn more about its customers and target them with merchandise that better suits their active lifestyle.
Comfort is currently a priority for consumers. Many still work from home and are looking for a simple shoe to wear around the house or run errands. Many people also spend more time outdoors and make a point of taking breaks for physical activities such as walks in the neighborhood.
Brands selling slippers like Crocs, Athletic Propulsion Labs, Allbirds, and VF Corp.’s Vans have been more popular in recent months. Shoppers are increasingly shunning high heels and oxfords and spending their money on practical clothing and shoes.
“Everyone is looking for comfort … something easy,” said Matt Powell, senior sports industry analyst at New York-based research firm NPD Group. “Sports shoes clearly outperform fashion. … Sports films have done this very well too [past] Year.”
A tension band snaps to keep the Go FlyEase shoe closed as there are no laces to tighten.
In 2020, slip-on sneaker sales in the US were down 2% year over year. While a decline, that was still better than overall sneaker sales, which fell 6%, Powell said.
Crocs, once shunned by the fashion industry, has been an incredible beneficiary of the comfort trend. In the third quarter, Crocs’ sales rose 16% year over year to a record $ 362 million. In January, Crocs raised its outlook for the vacation quarter and expects sales to accelerate by up to 25% in 2021. Shares are up more than 78% year over year, increasing their market value to $ 4.73 billion.
While Nike was seen as a winner during the pandemic too, it is always looking for new areas of growth. During the fiscal second quarter ended November 30, sales for Nike rose 9% year over year to $ 11.24 billion. Digital sales contributed to this growth, increasing 84% as more customers stayed at home and shopped online. The company expects sales to increase in fiscal 2021 with a low teenage percentage.
Nike shares are up more than 36% in the past 12 months, increasing their market value to $ 210.6 billion.
Starting February 15, the new sneakers, which will retail for $ 120, will be available to select Nike members in North America, Japan and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. They will become more widely available in the coming months. the company said.
The NPD Group estimates that the athletic footwear and active apparel markets will grow sales this year in the low single digits, which would be above 2020 levels but still below 2019 levels. Powell believes that running and hiking will lead sales, with comfort remaining a key issue.
– CNBC’s Jess Golden contributed to this coverage.
Correction: In an earlier version, Sarah Reinertsen’s last name was misspelled.