Nike’s HTM Flyknit Collection Runs Circles Round the Rest

Major buzz for footwear releases is typically reserved for basketball kicks and limited-edition sneakers, not serious running shoes. Then again, not every running shoe is designed with Harajuku street wear king Hiroshi Fujiwara at the helm. A collaboration between Fujiwara, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield and Nike Inc. CEO Mark Parker, the limited-edition HTM Flyknit collection hit shelves this week with crazy, cutting-edge technology to match its makers’ pedigree.

Made using eco-friendly materials and a one-piece knit upper, the HTM Trainer+ (in grey and black colorways) and HTM Racer (in US Track & Field blue, available Saturday) serve as Nike’s answer to calls from the world’s elite runners for a sock-like, formfitting shoe with virtually zero drag. We were lucky enough to get our hands on both models at Tuesday’s Olympic Innovation Summit in New York, and the light-as-a-feather construction proved surprisingly firm and supportive.

The offerings didn’t stop there, however, as Nike (with the help of nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis and current world’s fastest woman Carmelita Jeter) also unveiled at the summit its pro-level Flyknit Racer and Flyknit Trainer shoes, slated for release in July. Designed for use in this summer’s London Olympics and crafted using the same state-of-the-art upper as the HTM collection, the Flyknit Racer is a remarkable 19% lighter than Nike’s Zoom Streak 3—the shoe worn by all three medalists in the men’s marathon at the 2011 World Championships.

Whether these new innovations will lead to a gold medal haul for Nike athletes in 2012 remains to be seen, but after getting a look at the footwear firsthand this week, you can bet we’ll be watching in anticipation for the records to fall.