Under Armour is about to release a new line of gear coated in a sheath of sturdy plastic, designed to provide support while also flexing with the shape of your movement. "Clutchfit" as the new tech is called, isn't aesthetics—it's science.
Under Armour's "Clutchfit" skin has appeared on a few higher-end professional training shoes already, but it's about to get rolled out across the company's whole line of gear—from trainers to training leggings. From far away, the skin looks like a web that's been layered over the shoe but if you look closely at the web, you'll see its individual cells have an hour-glass shape. This hinged design is one of several "auxetic" structures, as they're called, that flex when stretched. When you apply force perpendicular to the hinge, it flattens out until it locks up as a rectangle.
In a lot of ways the shape is perfectly suited to building performance gear.
On the shoes, the size of the auxetic units varies across the surface and follows the directional forces that a running athlete would exert on the shoe. The goal is to build a structure that provides additional support while flexing just far enough in areas where you need some give. In part, this is a deliberate reaction to the compression trend that Under Armour helped start—the idea that athletic gear should be insanely tight. Here, Under Armour's not totally going in the other direction, but it's building a little flex into the design strategy.
Though the new design is apparently based on science and seems pretty smart, we'll have to wait and see how the gear performs before we know for sure if it's ambitious marketing or the real thing.
Photos by Nick Stango