TGRR Blog: Underrated Kicks, Vol. I: Nike Flight Lite II Update

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

10/15/13 Update: Thanks to savvy reader Anastasios Thomaidis, we’ve got a few pics of a used but still gorgeous blue/silver colorway of the Flight Lite II via an auction on German eBay. It’s always awesome to get input from readers, so enjoy the new pics.

We’re testing out a new blog mini-theme here at The Gym Rat Review, called Underrated Kicks. Throughout any sneaker era there have been shoes that, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten the love they deserve. Finch and I will pepper these in whenever we have time to give these unique kicks some props. First up, the Nike Flight Lite II.

The best picture I could find was from, a wonderful website with pictures and descriptions of tons of shoes…except that it’s in a completely different language that I do not speak. (In fact besides the ads, the only thing in English on the site read “f*** nike.” Not very nice.) Leave a comment if you know how I could translate the picture below.

A Google search of “Nike Flight Lite II” yielded about three pictures of the shoe before I got sick of scrolling. Part of this is because the Flight Lite II had the misfortune of sharing a name with a handful of other “Flight Lite” models. The 1991 Flight Lite shoe was, at the time, the lightest shoe in the Nike Basketball lineup despite its bulky appearance. There’s a couple different versions of that shoe, including a Flight Lite Hi, Flight Lite II and Flight Lite Mid. There’s also a boring Flight Lite that came after the Flight Lite II that I was originally talking about.

Regardless, it’s a gorgeous, confidently designed shoe that has long been a hopeless grail in my eyes. It boasts an asymmetrical lacing system (swoon), a full-length, encapsulated Air unit, a Phylite midsole and an awesome exposed monkey paw anti-ankle inversion structure. And of course, the legendary Alpha Project dots are prominently featured on the forefoot midsole and heel. I also love the dimpling of the midsole with various dots. Even the simple sculpting of the midsole near the heel augments the rest of the design and gives it a low-profile, sleek look. The colorblocking, particularly the red toebox piece and red Swoosh against the white midsole, is clean as well.

It’s a shoe that probably doesn’t have a prayer to be retroed but nonetheless deserves respect for the ingenuity and creativity in design while incorporating and exposing elements like the asymmetrical lacing and monkey paw structure.

nikeflightliteII3 nikeflightliteII2 nike_flight_lite_II

Black/Silver images are from here

TGRR Blog: My Love Affair with the Nike Hyperflight

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


To put it simply, the Nike Hyperflight is where it all started for me; it sowed the seeds of my kicks obsession. The aesthetic and the aura that shoe had helped me appreciate the form, function and the driving concepts behind a design. As an avid Kicksology and Kicksguide reader, I saw the pictures of the original sketches of that shoe (along with the Shox Stunner and Ultraflight) on each site and I was instantly fascinated. I began researching as much sneaker design and technology information as my seventh-grade head could handle. (I also developed a nasty habit of sketching shoes the margins of my notebook paper, homework assignments and daily planner – something that I’m sure thrilled my teachers) My mom refused to buy them for me when they initially dropped in 2002, but I eventually got my hands on a deadstock black/red pair back in 2008 and it’s the only pair in my collection that I won’t wear – I consider it the jewel of my collection and can’t bring myself to rock them and crease up that sexy silhouette. My love of footwear – the total package of footwear – was born of this beautiful, daring, and ultimately flawed, work of art.


To me, the Hyperflight is the godfather of today’s Hyperdunk line and the lightweight movement in general. Back then – with Alpha Project at full strength and Nike designers being encouraged to push the limits of design, function and technology – Eric Avar was attempting to create a minimal yet functional shoe in a unique aesthetic package. The large “H” shaped structures were supposed to serve as the anti-ankle inversion support and Zoom Air cushioning gave it a low-profile midsole. The daring cut of the ankle gave it a never-before-seen silhouette and of course the shiny cobec upper gave it myriad options as far as color schemes go.


The only problem was, the shoe sucked on-court. The anti-inversion structures weren’t strong enough to withstand the pounding of an entire game, the cobec upper wasn’t a very functional material because it creased badly and was too stiff to provide a good fit, and there seems to be a complete lack of a midsole under the arch of one’s foot. With the upper being too roomy, a lack of ankle support and little cushioning underfoot, the Hyperflight was really a dangerous shoe to play in.


But at the same time, the shoe was a groundbreaker in terms of the (attempted) marriage of form and function. Avar has said that he designed the shoe as Bill Bowerman would have designed a track spike – by taking a shoe down to its core and using only the most necessary design elements in order to create a lightweight, high-performance package. While the shoe failed to hold up as a performer, it reset the boundaries to which shoes could be pushed. The minimalism of Flywire and Hyperfuse can trace its origins to the Hyperflight, which had its own origins in the designs of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. And that puts the Hyperflight at the center of one incredible and ever evolving lineage.