Former Jordan Brand Exec Jason Mayden on Designing Shoes for Kids

Jason Mayden is on a mission. Hoping to inspire and empower young kids through physical play, the former Jordan Brand designer launched Super Heroic last year. Beyond function, the line of tactical sneakers is designed to encourage kids to head outside, get active and, most importantly, have fun. “It’s not so much about the shoes — it’s about what we hope our young heroes do with them,” Mayden said. “We are passionate about building stronger children and inspiring the next generation of leaders, thinkers and builders.”

Here, Mayden talks to Footwear News about the power of play, designing a better kids’ shoe and chasing your dreams.

FN: After more than 15 years designing adult shoes, why are you focusing on kids?
Jason Mayden: “For far too long, children have been viewed as ‘margin drivers’ by the bigger companies. They are our most precious asset, and they deserve our best. I want to encourage kids to conquer the day through play, [which] I believe is the foundation of performance. To design for children is to promote a proper base of core movements, encourage healthy emotional development and establish social behaviors that lead to future successes such as persistence, goal-setting and conflict resolution. Super Heroic is more than a brand — it’s a call to action.”

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Each pair of Super Heroic shoes comes with a super-hero cape, meant to inspire kids to get out and play.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

FN: Why is physical play so important for kids?
JM: “For more than 50 years, playtime has been in significant decline. Lack of play affects children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. In ‘How Children Succeed,’ author Paul Tough argues that children do better when faced with early instances of strife or difficulty. He draws strong correlations between early struggle and the development of grit and resilience, key traits seen in the world’s most successful people. There is compelling evidence that unstructured, imaginative play leads to the development of these traits in a safe and sustainable way.”

FN: In a sneaker business driven by takedowns, how is Super Heroic designing with kids in mind?
JM: “We start from the ground up. Our investigations of the motion patterns of climbing, jumping and tumbling drive every design decision we make. Our shoes have an outsole traction pattern that promotes proper grip on multiple surfaces. The dual-density cushioning is inspired by mountain goats’ hooves, which have two toes that spread wide to improve balance and have durable pads on the bottom for grip. We’ve also replaced restrictive laces with a midfoot strap designed to contain the foot and give kids greater dexterity in their toes.”

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Super Heroic’s new TMBLR v1 LAVA sneaker, launched in December.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

FN: Why did you decide to make your logo inconspicuous on the shoes?
JM: “Children become what they see. By forcing labels and brands on them early, we perpetuate outdated gender and societal roles. We are trying to present a new way for children to see themselves — an identity based on imagination, creativity and pure physical fun. By celebrating the child as the hero, rather than the product itself, we offer them a new narrative.”

FN: What attracted Magic Johnson to the brand as an investment partner?
JM: “Magic believes my passion for kids, love of education and constant advocacy for the preservation of [childhood] innocence can serve as a strong foundation for a purpose-driven company. Early on, I wasn’t convinced I was qualified to lead a company, let alone a movement. But that’s what drove me to start Super Heroic: to be a role model for others who feel their dreams aren’t valid. I want to provide a new path for creatives, and Magic has supported me every step of the way.”

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