The Zen Origins of the Nike Roshe Run
If you’ve been anywhere near a running trail or a Tumblr blog in the past two years, chances are you’ve seen the Nike Roshe Run.
It’s been an undisputed favorite of fitness freaks and hypebeats alike for nearly three years running—an eternity in today's fashion world. But what really makes the Roshe Run so amazing is how unlikely its success is. How did a company usually known for design excess hit its mark with something so... simple?
Japanese for 'Old Master'
It turns out that the designer responsible for Nike's latest landmark shoe was fairly new to the company himself when he came up with the Roshe Run. Dylan Raasch had just come off of a stint in the skate industry when he landed his dream job at Nike. Then, in 2010 he was asked to bring ideas for a lower price point shoe to a Fall '11 brainstorm for Nike Sportswear—the arm of the company where performance and street fashion meet.
There were virtually no expectations on Raasch. In fact, he was the only shoe designer in a room full of merchandisers and sales people. All they wanted was something they could sell to kids for $70 when they didn't have enough cash for the marquee shoes that easily retail for $300.
But Raasch flipped the script. He leaned on his lifelong practice of meditation and Zen to design a running shoe that was incredibly elegant while using as little material as possible. Named after the Japanese Zen term for 'old master', the Roshe became a marquee shoe despite its intention as an afterthought.
Obsessed With Simplicity
Before the shoe could actually get manufactured, Raasch had to pass through the rings of Nike bureaucracy to demonstrate why his brainstorm deserved to be on store shelves. Along the way, he constantly refined an already minimalist design, adjusting a panel a millimeter this way or replacing metal eyelets for cloth ones.
Each iteration was an exercise in removing excess. Most running shoes have a cushioned midsole and a rubber bottom. Raasch worked to combine the two into one, resulting in a cleaner design and a greener manufacturing process.
All the while Raasch kept versatility in mind. With socks or without, on city sidewalks or running trails, he wanted the Roshe to feel just right. The end result checked all those boxes and more, and even Nike's higher ups knew Raasch had created something special.
The Roshe Run the ultimate in conscious design, taking into consideration cost, sustainable manufacturing, and user versatility to create something simple yet profound. Even the original "Iguana" colorway was carefully calculated to resemble moss growing in a Japanese rock garden.
Call it Zen or Slow Commerce or whatever you want, but there's a reason the Nike Roshe Run stands out today—more for what it's not than for what it is.