Called “a new shoe for people who hate running,” the Nike Joyride absorbs impact and conforms to the wearer’s foot. This support is due to thermoplastic elastomer beads (called TPE beads for short). The Joyride line includes shoes for men, women, and children, but there’s one style specifically made for women: the Joyride NSW Optik.
The website Sneaker Files describes the Optik as “a playful mix of traditional craft and modern detailing.” And, unlike the other Joyrides, this shoe is meant for casual use instead of athletic use. It addresses the need for support and style at the same time. Fashionable women’s shoes are often the most uncomfortable and least supportive (such as ballet flats, flip-flops, and high heels), so the Optik represents a refreshing change.
In the past, women have had to bear uncomfortable shoes to be considered fashionable or even to look professional. Heels have been a staple in business wear for women, though men aren’t expected to suffer the same level of discomfort. As the Atlantic reports, “More women than men suffer pain from their footwear, according to podiatric surveys, and more women than men say they’ll suffer for the sake of their shoes.” Men can look good in comfortable shoes, but women have been made to believe that they look their best in the worst kind of shoes.
However, fashion has changed with the recent athleisure and street wear trends, especially with the ever-increasing push for gender equality. The notion of what’s fashionable has become a little more gender-neutral. Women and men can both wear sneakers and look equally cool.
What has previously been termed menswear has become normal among women and vice-versa. Selfridges’ creative director Linda Hewson explains, “Function and individuality are now more important than a uniform idea of what's conventionally appropriate.”
Female celebrities and other fashion influencers wear a variety of outfits and styles paired with sneakers. They’re not simply for athletic use anymore. Women’s website and magazines like Elle, Marie Claire, Essence, and Cosmopolitan now report on the coolest sneakers for women. Just 10 years ago, the same sites might have only talked about traditionally feminine styles.
And though fashion trends come and go, comfortable footwear for women has never been so widely popular or accepted. Women even wear them to the office, a place where business-appropriate heels used to dominate.
A long-time barrier to women who wanted to wear sneakers was that many of the most popular sneaker styles are not made in women’s sizes, as Vox reports. But, in recent years, sneaker companies have started to recognize the untapped potential of the women’s sneaker market. Nike reported in 2018 that it would open a sneaker store called Unlaced that will cater only to women. The fact that the Optik is made with Nike’s newest shoe tech (TPE beads) and that it’s made only for women shows an even deeper recognition of the women’s sneaker market.
The Optik is also fairly gender-neutral. It has almost none of the signals that brands usually use to market a shoe as a “women’s” shoe. It’s not all pink or purple (traditionally feminine colors), it doesn’t have any sparkles or gems, and it’s a little chunkier at the sole, which goes against the traditional idea of women’s shoes “slimming” the foot.
Nike shoes are often at the peak of popular fashion, and the fact that their women’s shoes can look so different from traditional women’s shoes is an indicator of evolution in women’s style. The Optik is not revolutionary. It’s not the first supportive and fashionable shoe marketed to women. But it certainly won’t be the last.