It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a shoe! Rarely do the words “innovative” and “adorable” occupy the same space, but we just learned about something that is both: New children’s shoe line Super Heroic has arrived to save the day—or, in this case, save the play.
Five years ago, Chicagoan Jason Mayden was a global design director at Nike (and creative lead for the Jordan brand) when he realized he had a bigger mission, as he told Fast Company’s Co.Design: “I realized that my industry of health and wellness is structured to fix broken adults. I really wanted to use play as prevention to build stronger children.”
The impetus was personal; Mayden’s son was experiencing health problems, compelling him to “research the problems he saw with childhood obesity and the rise of anxiety and depression in kids and find a way to fix them,” as Co.Design reports.
His solution? To use his experience as a shoe designer to inspire kids to get out and active through imaginative play. After gaining some startup and venture capital experience, he launched Super Heroic, a line of shoes intended to bring out the hero in every kid through a unique approach, as described by Co.Design:
The shoes arrive in the mail inside a large cardboard cylinder. When you pull on one end of the cylinder, the shoes emerge as a video game-inspired sound effect plays. If you hold the cylinder under one arm, pulling the shoes out mimics the motion of unsheathing a sword from its scabbard. But the best part? The shoes come with what Mayden calls a “utility cape”: a drawstring backpack that includes a cape emblazoned with the company’s lightning bolt logo. The entire experience, even for an adult, is utterly delightful. “This is the transformative moment,” Mayden says. “We often see the child put the shoes on, pull the cape on, and then they go out and run around and play.”
After soft-launching last summer, Super Heroic launched its third iteration of its signature Galactix design on Tuesday, available for kids ages 4 to 11 through the company’s website. Designed to perform on a variety of surfaces, the shoe also features a laceless design, replacing laces with an adjustable “utility strap” to hold small feet in place, as well as a “heel bumper” to assist kids in putting them on and taking them off all by themselves.
Mayden also put plenty of research into how kids play, enabling him to design a shoe specifically to support growing feet, rather than just miniature versions of adult styles. There’s stabilization around the perimeter, and cushioning in the center of the sole.
And as for that cape? It’s coordinated to match, of course, adding a flash of color to those playground adventures. And lest you think Super Heroic is geared toward boys, Mayden’s daughter is his wear tester:
“I think about my daughter a lot with this product,” he told Co.Edition. “She’s very athletic, very sporty, and oftentimes she’s playing more aggressively than the boys. And they’ll exclude her and say you can’t play because you’re a girl. And I’ll tell her, ‘Because you’re a girl you’re stronger.’”
Mayden’s instinct about instilling inspiration into play was on point: A 2016 study points to the “Batman Effect,” in which costumes encourage kids to work and play harder and had positive outcomes on childhood development.
“They believe it’s not them, it’s Batman, so therefore they’re held to a higher standard,” said Mayden.
But the superhero motif runs throughout the Mayden family business: In addition to his kids’ involvement, his father is the company’s chief operating officer.
“We’re trying to become the real-life Incredibles,” he said. “That’s literally my goal.”