Miguel Ablaza

Selling Sneakers


Sales Associate(UX Designer!)




Case Study

After I graduated college, I embarked on a career path within Nike. I started of as a part-time retail “athlete” and worked my way into a managerial position. My dream was to make it to a corporate design job, but I ultimately changed my path because I did not want to leave home (most Nike careers leading to Oregon). Even though I chose a different direction, Nike still had an everlasting effect on my career. This case study shows how my experience at Nike helped me take my first steps as a UX Designer.

As a consumer, there’s so many options to choose from when it comes to sneakers. There’s different categories like running, training, basketball, etc. which can be broken down even further. Sometimes consumers are left choosing a product not designed for their needs, and end up unhappy with their choice. How do you fit the best product for the particular customer?

Design Thinking.

My Role

As a an employee, it’s our purpose to find exactly what they are looking for. You are equipped with training techniques to interview customers, cross-reference different technologies, as well as be able compare product with different competitors. Each customer interaction is a project that must be completed within a short-amount of time on a daily basis.

The Challenge

Every customer had a different story. One could be looking for a running shoe to inspire them to start running again. Another could be looking for a basketball shoe that’s lightweight, but has great impact protection. Some problems we would run into were customers not knowing what they wanted, budget constraints that would eliminate 75% of our products, or customer taste just to name a few.

The Approach

I didn’t realize back then, but we were using Design Thinking sell products. The customers were coming in with their problem of finding the product, and we would solve them through the Design Thinking process. For this case study I’ll focus on running shoes.

It Starts with Empathy

A customer walks into the store and heads straight for an associate. They get to discussing the customer’s running habits. This is likened to a user interview. They currently run in the Nike Free, unaware that the shoe is built for barefoot running, low impact, low mileage. They claim that the longer they go the more their feet hurt, and the fatigue weighs down even more. With this information, we can define the problem.

We Come Up with Ideas

From the “interview,” we can infer that the customer is looking a for a running shoe that can give them more impact protection, and stand the mileage of a longer run. We generate a couple ideas to choose from Nike’s footwear technology. We think of shoes that possess these features, and come up with a prototype that can be tested by the user:

The Nike Zoom Pegasus 35 – Zoom air cushioning for a responsive(energy returning) ride. Engineered-mesh upper for a breathable, traditional fit.


We present the shoe to the customer, and have them try it on AKA usability testing. On their own, the customer would jog around the area to get a feel for the product. We make a little observations on their movement, and they remove the show. New data is gathered. They miss the feel of the Nike free because it was like an extension to their body. However, they do enjoy the cushioning.

Sometimes, the customer can be happy on the first try and walk out the door. Other times, like for this scenario, we would have to back track on the design process. We come up with another suggestion:

The Nike Epic React – React cushioning for a softer, impact-absorbing ride. A Flyknit upper for a sock-like fit.

The customer tries on this pair, and immediately falls in love. However, they may try on the other pair again(A/B testing) to get a feel for the difference. Otherwise, we have a winner and a happy owner of a new pair of Nikes.

Run It Back

The testing stage can exceed the point where the user purchases the product. They may try running in it for a few days, only to realize the cushion wore down too quickly, and exchange them for another pair(or ask for a refund). After that, we could go back through the process once again until we got it right.

This is just one of many scenarios that would happen during my time as a Nike employee, and you can see how it translates into UX. You can use UX, anywhere. You just have to look at it in a certain way to find it.


My passion with Nike is relevant to what I do today. I've done a couple of passion projects regarding footwear design. I go through scenarios of the UX process in order to design the perfect product for the right audience.