Experiential design

As I logged off my Facebook, out the corner of my eye I glimpsed an advert for Vibram Fivefingers down the sidebar of my page. I recognised the trainers as a friend had been raving about them when I met her wearing them this summer. I tried to log on to see where they were being sold but alas, the ad had disappeared. I did a quick Facebook search and found a group set up for the love of Vibram Fivefingers. 100,560 likes. 100,560 people felt the compulsion to click the button to indicate their love for this shoe that liberates and showcases feet. That is a population bigger than some towns…and countries.

It made me think back to the last foot shaping shoe movement that I was part of. The Nike Air Rift. In my youth I was a trainer fanatic. Due to financial limitations…of working in the media, it was more in spirit than in practice. I wasn’t on the level of Bobbito Garcia. However, when a certain trainer came out  – it was a must have. For me, that trainer back in 1997 was the Nike Air Rift. It was exclusive. You could only get it in certain stores at a luxury price of £150.00. It was the shoe that started and stopped conversations. With those in the know it was ‘on trend’ and got the recognition it deserved by the specialist trainer gurus. For those who weren’t sworn into SATS (Secret Association of Trainer Style), Rift wearers were often an object of ridicule...’why are you wearing those funny goat shoes?‘ was one of the remarks, one might hear…5 years later the same people who ridiculed could be found wearing the ‘goat shoe’ with pride. (You know who you are!)


I remember saving up my money and purchasing my first Nike Air Rifts from Duffer St George in Covent Garden. It was emotional. Maybe not as emotional as a young gentleman I met recently who was perplexed because I didn’t have an iphone. He told me once you go iphone you can’t go back to an ‘ordinary mobile phone’. I remember thinking to myself, after he finished his 15 minute sonnet of appreciation and love about his iphone; if you are as passionate about the woman in your life as you are about that phone, she is one lucky lady!

Many Rifts followed after my original Black & Green Rifts. I had great times in the blue and yellows and had a blast after buying my Linen Rifts in New York.

In 2003 I bought the book Trainers by Neal Heard. A friend of mine who is the ultimate trainer fanatic was featured in there.

What I was even more excited to see on page 172 in the ‘Big Players’ section was the trainers that defined my consumer buying trainer habits in the the late 90s and early part of this decade. It was the trainer that got me interested in Japanese style, culture, Onitsuka and Asics.

After one ‘goat foot’ comment too many, my curiosity led me to read about the history behind the design of the shoe. I found out they were developed for the Kenyan running team. I was naturally a sprinter but I liked the idea of the challenge of long distance running. Fast forward from 1997 to 2005 – I ran the New York marathon in my Asics.

Thinking about it now…my Rifts could have been the original seed that germinated into the plant that grew into the thought that branched into the idea to run the marathon.

Possibly no relation between the two at all. But if nothing else it makes you think. Does design inspire a desire to explore new worlds and experience?

This is my tribute to the Nike Rift. Thanks for the experience.

It was emotional.