Why Jordan Brand Created an Easy-Entry Shoe for Kids

Jordan Brand is kicking off 2023 with an exciting sneaker debut — but it isn’t for adults.

The 23/7 is Jordan Brand’s newest silhouette, an easy-entry shoe the company said aims to help kids “feel independent, confident and able to get after their favorite activity when they want.” The shoes were designed to allow kids to slip them on immediately and comfortable enough for all-day wear.

This kids-specific look was created by Tate Kuerbis, Jordan Brand design director for Kids Footwear. Kuerbis is a 28-year veteran of Nike Inc., and joined the Jordan Brand business in February 2013 as senior footwear designer. Prior to assuming the design director for Kids Footwear role in February 2021, Kuerbis designed several Air Jordan silhouettes, most recently the Air Jordan 36.

Speaking with FN, Kuerbis said after designing several Air Jordans that he finds the challenge of designing kids footwear exciting. 

“For so many years, we’ve been doing takedowns of the Air Jordans, which is great. Parents want to buy a product for their kids because they have a passion for Air Jordans, the legacy shoes, and they want to pass that love and passion down to their kids. They want them to match and have the same Air Jordan but in a baby size,” Kuerbis told FN. “But as we look to grow the business, that’s not a sustainable way to look at things. As a business and as a design team, it was exciting to be like, ‘Let’s start creating kids-specific product that is not tied to anything we’ve created so far.’ It was like a new beginning.”

He continued, “That really got me excited because then we could focus on flex, feel, entry — all those things that you can’t really perfect when you’re taking down an existing Air Jordan. It was like having a clean slate to almost create the game shoe for kids, but it’s not tied to an athlete.”

Jordan Brand 23/7
Jordan Brand 23/7.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jordan Brand

The highlight of the Jordan Brand 23/7 is its easy entry step-in design. This consists of a soft heel pocket and a stitched synthetic upper that help guide the foot into place, as well as large pull loops that allow for the collar to open wider. Aside from the step-in design, the shoe features a two-way stretch upper with an adjustable strap made to offer a locked-down fit, rubber wrapped around the heel and toe for durability and a midsole with forefoot flexibility that Jordan Brand said is ideal for early walkers.

Aside from functionality, Kuerbis said creating a look that was both fun for a kid and synonymous with the Jordan Brand aesthetic was a daunting, yet fulfilling task. 

“We wanted it to be really fun and playful, but still very iconic,” Kuerbis said. “I started out with bold, fun wavy blocking. I feel like soft, wavy, rounded shapes are more kid-like. I also looked at how we could add an easy strap. Then, I looked at the flex grooves, which I wanted to be almost worm-like. They go all the way down the bottom so you get a ton of flex in the rubber. It’s really soft and flexible.”

To ensure the 23/7 is authentically Jordan Brand, the label incorporated its heritage through its colorways, which serves as nods to iconic moments and figures. This includes Mars Blackmon, the brand’s black and red hues — better known as “Bred” — and more.

The Jordan Brand 23/7 will debut in the “Bloodline” colorway on Jan. 16. Following the initial launch, Jordan Brand will deliver the “Sky Fundamental” in January and the “Dunk on Mars” look in February.

Jordan Brand 23/7
Jordan Brand 23/7.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jordan Brand

Although the Jordan Brand 23/7 is an exciting new kids product, Kuerbis said this is just the start of a business unit that has seemingly unlimited potential.

“If you look at Nike, their kids businesses is giant and they’re always creating kids-specific designs. For us, as a Jordan business, we have the same opportunity,” Kuerbis said. “We have these products that have stood the test of time with game shoes and all the Air Jordans, but creating something new is exciting for these younger kids. The kids these days are so open to new ideas, new product, they’re excited about seeing something designed specifically for them with the Jumpman on it.”

Looking ahead, Kuerbis said there are several kids products in the pipeline, including another 23/7 launch, outdoor winterized product and more.

“The exciting part for me is being able to design something from scratch, and that’s where the 23/7 came in. It’s a clean canvas to start to create a new language for Jordan kids,” Kuerbis said. “We already have the Air Jordan legacy product, and we’re going to start to do a lot of remix product now.”

Kuerbis also said consumers could soon expect to see more products coming for kids from the performance footwear side of the business.

“The performance lens is an exciting part of the business that we’re growing,” Kuerbis said. “We have all these new athletes we’ve signed and we’re doing kids versions [of their shoes]. You’ll see the [Jayson] Tatum [signature shoe] coming out and we’ll have a kids Tatum, and we already have a kids Luka [Dončić shoe] and a kids Zion [Williamson shoe].”

Specifically for the upcoming Tatum signature franchise look, while sparse on details, Kuerbis said the kids version will be special.

“The Tatum is going to be one of the first shoes that we really focus on from a kid’s point of view, not just shrink it down from adults,” Kuerbis said. “There’s going to be some things that you’ll be pretty excited about if you have kids.”

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