Occasionally, a new advent comes along that flips the footwear industry on its head.
Credit is due to innovations like Reebok PUMP, adidas Boost, Nike Air, ASICS GEL, and others for creating a competitive industry ecosystem in which brands are constantly looking to one-up each other. In 2012, Nike arrived at the London 2012 Summer Olympics with something new that would go on to define research and development for many footwear brands in following years. This innovation was Flyknit, a textile that was subsequently and widely imitated by competitors, including adidas Primeknit, PUMA evoKNIT, Reebok Ultraknit, and many more.
"Volt"-colored Nike Flyknit footwear was effortlessly discernible on the feet of athletes like Mo Farah who donned eye-catching neon track spikes. These first Flyknit shoes that debuted at the London Olympics were created using only a few dozen flat-knitting machines purchased from a German company called Stoll. In addition to the performance track footwear, Nike Flyknit Trainer and Flyknit Racer sneakers were given to athletes to wear on the podium and during the opening ceremony. The shoes were gifted to Nike athletes, also done up in Nike's signature "Volt" colorway, featuring "USA" stitched into the tongue. In addition to standing out on television screens across the world, these new Flyknit shoes were far lighter, and offered a new set of performance qualities unparalleled by shoes with traditional leather uppers.
This set the stage for Nike Flyknit to become one of the brand's most successful proprietaries ever, and eventually the knitted tech made its way into a wide range of lifestyle and performance products like footwear and apparel.
Stoll is a 145-year-old company based outside of Stuttgart, Germany, and today is a leader in flat-knitting machine technology. While many may be most familiar with knitted textiles in the context of footwear, Stoll machinery is also used to create products for the automotive, sports, fashion, and other industries. Not only does Stoll manufacture and sell their machines to brands like Nike, they also provide training and support to any company that purchases their machines.
We visited Stoll to speak with Martin Legner, the company's Head of Technical Textile Applications, to better understand flat-knitting and knitted sneakers.
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