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Experimentation in young athlete footwear has existed at Nike since the 1970s. At various times, the company's designers have worked to find solutions that allow children's feet to grow and be strong in the transition from crawling to walking.
A 1980 shoe made by Tinker Hatfield served two purposes: First, the project served to familiarize the architect-by-training with cobbling practices and second, it allowed him to consider the specific needs of a baby athlete.
That shoe, made of green suede with an orange Swoosh, is the point of departure for long-time Nike collaborator Tom Sachs. His investigation of children's footwear is manifested by crib- and toddler-sized versions of the Mars Yard and Mars Yard Overshoe.
"The Sachs studio is a professional athletic team. Our sport is making sculpture. Nike makes performance products for the needs of championship athletes worldwide, and Nike makes our uniforms," says Sachs. "Bottom line, my son, Guy Louis Armstrong Sachs, is on the sculpture team now. He's an important part of the team and he's got his French work smock, his 10 bullets onesie and, now, he has his Mars Yards."
The shoes have a flexible sole and a Velcro collar. This supports young athlete movement and, important for Sachs, makes them simple to put on. "The shoe is very, very flexible and that's what you ultimately want when developing a strong new member of the team — you don't want a lot of structure," he says.