3 Questions for Jordan’s Josh Heard

This week, Jordan Brand unveiled the XX8.

The Nike-owned label tapped Tinker Hatfield — along with a team that included brand developer Josh Heard — to create the new style. The XX8 is inspired by the stealth bomber and introduces the brand’s new Flight Plate midsole and outsole technology, designed to be more responsive than any before.

In Flight Plate, Nike Zoom Air cushioning pods are placed under the forefoot, for the first time not encapsulated in EVA foam. And in the midsole, a full-length plate made of Pebax (an elastomer) that Jordan said eliminates pressure points. The new system, Heard said, allows the brand to maximize Zoom Air’s potential for the first time.

“It’s really unlocking the power of the Zoom Air itself, because Zoom Air is extremely energy efficient by itself, but when you encapsulate it in a foam, it’s rock hard,” he said. “Once you are able to break that free, it allows for that compression and deflection.”

The $250 XX8 will launch at retail on Feb. 16.

Here, Heard sounds off on working with Hatfield, evolving the line and what makes Flight Plate technology special.

1. What’s the biggest innovation in the new shoe?
Definitely the Flight Plate technology. The system itself really gives the consumer a unique feel that is almost like a spring under the foot. And we have tested this through our Nike Mechanical Research lab, so we’ve done deflection tests on several different basketball models, and we found that our model is better and more energy efficient than any other model we’ve come out with or any other model in the industry right now.

2. Will we see Flight Plate and the other technologies from the XX8 used more broadly going forward?
Absolutely. In the past, the brand has struggled with taking technology down, taking the game shoe and proliferating it out to other shoes within the line. But with this product, [we’re] taking a very close look at the entire scope of the line and [asking], “Where could we use Flight Plate? Where could we use some of this material? Where could we use carbon fiber to try to tie the whole line together?” So with the Jordan products coming out in 2013, you’re going to see more of a tie-in to the shoe, which is our concept car.

3. What was it like working with Tinker Hatfield on the shoe?
Because Tinker is the godfather of Jordan design, he dictates his own design and he doesn’t ask for a lot of input, and he doesn’t need input from marketing, which is great. It makes my job easier because I just have to follow his direction.

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