Nike Air Max is an instantly recognisable sneaker franchise around the globe, whether you’re a sneaker head or a sneaker snob. But who is the mastermind behind this famous Swoosh franchise? What is the point of a trainer full of air? Let us explain…
An icon was born
Nike first introduced its revolutionary Air Cushioning Technology in 1979, changing the way athletes approached their running shoes forever. By 1987, the science behind the air unit in the shoes had advanced rapidly, meaning the cushioned air unit was bigger and comfier than ever before. This is when Nike decided to make the air unit visible, creating the first Nike Air Max trainer.
From here on out, there was no going back. People wanted the air bubbles, the comfort, the style. The trainers worked for both running and fashion, making this design a game changer from day one.
Now for the geeky stuff, and it might surprise you.
Former NASA scientist M. Frank Rudy discovered that he could take gas and pump it into a bubble that could be placed into the sole of a trainer, cool right? The problem was nobody would take him on, until he knocked on the door of Nike, and as they say, the rest is history.
Whilst some of the air bubble is visible in the Air Max soles today, what you can’t see is that the bubble actually runs almost the whole length of the sole. This air pocket changed the running game instantly, with its reactive nature to the wearers bounce and stride providing both practicality and comfort.
Over the years, the air quantity and location has developed, typically providing more air, less rubber and a lighter high performance running shoe.
The Air family
The Nike Air Max 1 wasn’t alone for long, with the lesser talked about Nike Air Max Light released just two years later, boasting an even lighter sole – as the name would suggest. The sneaks were then designed, developed and released within quick succession of each other, each offering different silhouettes and colourways with the same Nike Air technology.
Three years later, it was time to raise the bar. Injecting even more Air into the sole, the Air Max 90 landed. Another Hatfield masterpiece, it built on the original Air Max 1 design, creating a pair of kicks that took the world by storm. Next, the Nike Air Max 95 took things to a whole new level, opening six more windows in the sole. Designed by Sergio Lozano in 1995, this silhouette was inspired by the human body, with the lacing system acting as the ribs, and the midsole as the spine.
Next up was the Air Max 97. Inspired by the Japanese bullet train, these sneaks took Air to the Max, stretching the units down the sides. In 2015 Nike released the one before the 1. Based on an original sketch drawn by Tinker Hatfield in 1986, the Air Max Zero looks like it belongs in the distant future.