James Harden is all about footwork. So when Nike designer Tony Hardman set out to make the Oregon-based company’s latest basketball shoe, the Nike Hyperchase, he used Harden as his model.
Every angle and material in the Hyperchase, which launches on Feb. 12 with an inaugural colorway customized for Harden’s All-Star appearance in New York City, puts the focus on lateral and vertical movement.
The low-profile lightweight model—designed by Hardman with a sleek, modern fighter jet in mind—has gone asymmetrical for a reason. The upper uses two layers of overlayed mesh for flexibility and support while reducing the need for additional material. Flywire cables on the lateral forefoot work with the laces to loosen and tighten with the natural motion of the foot. Using the asymmetrical design, the shoes moves with the foot to provide more surface area on the lateral side for added stability during cuts.
“What excites me most about the Nike Hyperchase is it allows me to jab and cut with no distractions,” Harden says in a statement. “It gives me the support and traction tailored to my footwork.”
A partial mesh bootie inside gives the Hyperchase its fit and the Phylon midsole wraps up on the heel and lateral forefoot for both stability and a key piece of the sneaker’s aesthetic.
The rubber outsole comes in a hexagonal pattern for traction during multidirectional movement, Nike says.
A unique tilt for the Nike Swoosh was intentionally positioned, Hardman says, to read accurately when an athlete, such as Harden, moves to their toes during play.
Call it a footwork thing.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.