Nike categorizes a shoe by three basic components. Upper, Midsole & Outsole. Nike also thinks the best way to think about this concept is by referencing a Car. For example- Upper = Body Of Car / Midsole = Suspension Of Car / Outsole = Tires Of Car. In this particular article though I will be writing about Outsoles only.
The Outsole is obviously the part of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground. For the most part the materials chosen to be applied as Outsole are designed to take wear & tear on any surface the shoe comes in contact with. The Outsole job is to provide many things including Traction, Durability & the 1st Level Of Cushioning. Different patterns vary of course to accommodate the foot from slipping/sliding in different sports.
So here I will break down Outsole "Materials"
BRS 1000 (BRS = Blue Ribbion Sports) AKA Carbon Rubber
Carbon Rubber is a synthetic rubber with carbon added. When combined a Pro is the blend creates a extremely durable Outsole material. A Con would be since the Carbon does not 100% bond with the rubber used it tends to leave Black Marks of surfaces like gym floors (think about that middle aged man in your gym who plays pickup games in running shoes). BRS 1000 is traditionally found in the Nike running category.
Solid Rubber is the most common of all Outsole materials in Nike kicks. It is made from mixing synthetic & natural rubber together so it will NOT mark up any surfaces unlike its brother BRS 1000. It provides great traction/durability when used on INDOOR surfaces. While you can feel free to use it outside on a outdoor court, you start to lose the Durabilty factor. This particular Material is used in the Basketball/Training category (obvious indoor places).
DRC (Durable Rubber Compond) AKA XDR (Xtremely Durable Rubber)
Before I explain this Outsole Material, I would like to inform NT that DRC has slowly & unofficially been rebranded as XDR. I'm assuming it's more playful when brought up in conversation since the X in XDR is a play on the word EXTREMELY. Anyway DRC or XDR is a combination of solid rubber with extra additives that offer extra Durabilty for ROUGH & ABRASIVE surfaces. A pro to this is, this particular blend creates Nikes most durable Outsole material which goes hand in hand with any & all outdoor surfaces but also creates the con of being a very hard, heavy, dense material. While DRC/XDR is the HEAVIEST of all Nike Outsole materials, it is the absolute most durable material they have in their stable. This material in most commonly used in the Tennis, Walking & Outdoor Basketball category.
Duralon is a Outsole material used in the Forefoot of Running shoes. It is the lightest Outsole material due to that fact I stated previously (applied primarily in the Forefoot & nowhere else). Duralon is a lightweight blown synthetic rubber compound that incorporates tiny air pockets for a super soft, smooth ride (as Nike would coin it). The obvious Pro would be the extremely soft feel it provides to the forefoot on impact & push off but the Con to that is it is not durable as other Nike Outsole materials due to it being so soft.
Gum Rubber is a mix of natural rubber & synthetic rubber. Easy to spot due to the obvious natural Tan color. A pro to Gum rubber is the excellent traction it provides and not to mention pretty soft. Con is since it's soft, it isn't durable on anything but INDOOR court activities so it's exclusively usually used for indoor court sports like Basketball & Volleyball kicks.
Nike Regrind AKA Nike Grind
This particular Outsole material is pretty genuis on Nikes part. For the past few years Nike has made a conscious effort to reduce it's global waste impact. This Nike Regrind Outsole material is created by using Recycled rubber (think of those Recycle shoe bins Nike got in its stores. They use those shoes to make fields & mats). Recycled rubber happens to be very durable & reduces environmental waste in the process. Nike Regrind first popped up in the Nike ACG Category but is now being currently used a few others.
Over the years Outsoles have taken another important job (depending who you ask). That job would be Story Telling. Nike has modified it's traction patterns to tell stories through Outsoles by doing little things like, instead of a Traditional Zig Zag Herringbone pattern for the Nike Kobe 5 it is actually Kobe's EKG results (pattern looks exactly like Kobe's heartbeat). There are many instances nowadays in sneakers that apply story telling to Outsole patterns.
Now moving on to Outsole "Patterens"
1st & Foremost Thank You Bill Bowerman. He is the actual inventor of the original Waffle pattern. This Pattern offers great traction on all surfaces due to the squares being large, deep & extending (=). These squares absorb energy when your foot strikes the ground obviously giving you that 1st level of cushioning. This pattern is commonly used in Running kicks.
The modified version of Waffle Nike uses is a lower profile version. The square waffles aren't as long/ extending (=) as the original making it applicable to multiple surfaces & activities.
The Waffle Fill pattern combines BRS 1000 & a softer, stickier rubber within each square. Easiest way to picture it is Imagine a square cup made of BRS 1000, now imagine there was a softer rubber placed inside the BRS 1000 cup. That's exactly how it looks. This pattern provides a soft foot strike/ push off & great multidirectional traction on different surfaces due to the sticky rubber. The BRS 1000 actually helps the sticky rubber from bottoming out due to it's great Durabilty.
I'm pretty sure everybody is fimilar with this pattern. It is made up of parallel lines in a zigzag design. This pattern provides EXCELLENT traction for quick stops, starts & turns. Obviously mainly found in court shoes. Not much is needed to be said.
The Hybrid pattern combines a mix of a running & court design. This makes this paticular pattern great for different activities. It's easily to identify it with it's half waffle half herringbone design pattern. This pattern is usually found in Cross Training kicks.
This pattern is rare being that is only used in the ACG Category (think Nike Boots). This is probably the hardest Outsole to explain as well so just go over the explanation more then once if need be. This pattern utilizes aggressive lugs within 4 zones. These 4 zones work TOGETHER to provide exceptional traction & grip on outdoor surfaces. Zone 1- acceleration zone (forefoot). Zone 2- braking zone (heel). These two zones use dual directional lugs. The lugs in Zone 1 are angled towards the back of the shoe while the lugs in Zone 2 are angled to the front of the shoe. This placement provides traction when your moving up or down a hill. Zone 3- penetration zone (center of the forefoot). So Zone 3 has wide spaced lugs for better ground penetration. Zone 4- stability zone (perimeter of Outsole). Last but not least zone 4 has a large surface area for Durabilty & stability. Again all 4 zones work TOGETHER.
Back in the days there wasn't many advancements in the sneaker industry. Many were just gimmicks to sell shoes. Company's like Nike through the years have figured out what works & what doesn't in this thing we call sneaker innovation. While these Enhancements may seem small to you, just imagine if they didn't exist.
Now moving on to Outsole Enhancements
You probably chuckled when u read to yourself "Flex Grooves". While they might seem like something simple, they are a Enhancement you see in EVERY sneaker & EVERY sneaker company in existence uses. Flex Grooves are channels placed in the Outsole & Midsole to improve Forefoot flexibility & responsiveness. The obvious function is to allow the shoe to flex where the foot naturally flexes. Think about Nike Frees for example. Their whole function & innovation is based on Flex Grooves. Think about that next time you look past the Flex Grooves in your kicks.
W. A. R. P. Tech AKA Windlass Activation Resupination Pod Technology
The name is extremely confusing to any one including myself but it's just a fancy way of saying the softer material under the ball of the foot increases the foots natural Resupination to propel itself foward. They call this the "Windlass Effect" (where the foot converts into a rigid lever during toe off). The pod of softer materials is positioned right under the ball of the foot where the metatarsal joints naturally flex.
Outriggers are usually over looked by people as a Cosmetic Design feature. Outriggers are extensions of the Outsole that provide a wider base of support & add stability for lateral movement. They are usually found on the forefoot of a sneaker & could be found on either side.
Your heel is the first part of your foot to make contact with the ground while walking/ running (unless your in a full stride run). The Crash Pad is located in the heel to help add another level of impact protection & cushioning during foot strike. Crash Pads are found in the Running Catergory
Hope you guys enjoy the information I provided. I will eventually add pictures to this Article to help. Feel free to add any Nike Outsole (Materials, Patterns & Enhancements). If you have any further questions about this Article or any Nike Tech Info at all feel free to send me a message.
sources come from Nike & myself. I was a Store EKIN in Orlando Florida For 3 Years. I was in charge of on boarding all employees in 5 Nike Outlet stores in the area. I taught the Nike W. I. N. Program (Welcome Into Nike Onboarding Program Is Required For ALL people hires by Nike. Two days of History & Heritage are required to be learned by all hired employees).
P.S.- Please Pardon All Spelling/ Grammar Errors. I Wrote This On My iPhone (this took a long time)