Inside the Design of the Air Jordan 34

by September 07, 2019
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Air Jordan 34

They carved out the midsole on the Air Jordan 34. The lead designer on the 34, Tate Kuerbis, and Ross Klein, Senior Creative Design Director for Nike Basketball, took a chunk out of the 34 right from the jump. 

“We thought about how can we make this one of the lightest gameshoes ever?” Kuerbis says of the midsole. They’re calling it the tunnel, that excavated part of the 34. “‘Let’s see what we don’t need.’ We do that a lot in the upper where we make pretty minimal uppers but we’ve never [done this.] It’s pretty amazing that you can actually see through the shoe and see the Zoom.”

Because in addition to removing the midsole, Kuerbis and Klein also came up with the Jordan Eclipse Plate. It gives the 34 a bridge from midfoot to forefoot and it helps make the sneaker bouncy. 

“This to me is one of the most responsive shoes I’ve had,” Blake Griffin tells SLAM about the new joints. “In terms of everything you need. Lightweight, grip, you feel like you get a bounce to it. I’ve been in a big man shoe for a while,” he says, referencing his years of wearing the Jordan Super.Fly. “This is a shoe that can crossover and hit both playing styles.”

Griffin, along with newcomers Zion Williamson and Jayson Tatum, will be some of the hoopers to headline the 34. Though Williamson and Tatum weren’t able to give feedback to Kuerbis, Griffin was. 

“I first saw this in March of 2019,” Griffin tells SLAM. “We talked about concepts earlier than that but I don’t think I saw a pair on a screen until Spring of 2019. I first held it in June. It’s crazy to see the shoe transform over time and how no detail is too small. When I first came to the Brand, I would weartest a shoe and I’d tell them my things and I’d be like, ‘Yeah, this is small.’ And they encourage you to tell every single detail.”

All the details help Klein on his never-ending journey to discovering new footwear technology. Klein, just in the past year, has worked on the 34, the Nike Adapt BB and the Freak 1

“Now what we’re doing is re-thinking that whole notion of what our next Flight Plate is,” Klein says. “To offer a little bit more lightweight, much more responsiveness and that freedom of motion.”

Enter the Eclipse Plate. 

“We took the thinking on Flight Plate and turned it to the side,” Kuerbis adds. “Now, whereas in the past we had the Flight Speed Plate over the airbag, we are taking it and turning it to the side, which allows you to do something completely different and unlock the Zoom, which we’ve never really done before.”

“The Eclipse Plate is more than just something that looks cool,” Tatum says. “It definitely gives you that extra cushioning for explosiveness.”

“These bags are meant to be inside a shoe and kind of caged up,” Klein says. But not on the 34. 

“Unlocking the Zoom is really about just letting it breathe and not contain it,” Kuerbis says. 

The forefoot Zoom can be seen underfoot, right at the top of the tunnel. The cavities that the tunnel creates is what allows the unlocked Zoom to expand. 

“I love the sleekness of the shoe,” New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse says. “I love the new design element that we have with the Eclipse Plate. That’s something that hasn’t been done before. That’s what you expect from an Air Jordan.”

The rest of the 34 is rounded out by a herringbone traction pattern, a decoupled heel unit, a netted upper and a brand new woven located underneath that netting. 

“Behind [the netting] is the magic,” Klein says. “A single layer material that is a performance woven that we’ve engineered to hold the strength.” 

There’s a callback to the Air Jordan IV that can be seen on the tongue, too. The famous FLIGHT typeface so closely associated with the IV is now on the 34. Kuerbis and Klein also went back and looked at the Air Jordan XI and the Air Jordan XX8. The full-length plate that ran through the XI helped them out in cooking up the 34. And the XX8 also had “a little bit of a gap around that bag, allowing it to deflect and move so we said we want to learn from that,” Klein says. 

“I want a shoe that is comfortable, durable, explosive and stylish,” Williamson says. “The 34 delivers on all of this.”

“All very minimal,” Klein says. “Every thought was about taking out what you don’t need.”

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