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Bare Your Sole: Nike Air Max Technology

A revolution. Pressurized gas encapsulated in polyurethane. A window into your sole (or soul, for you die-hard sneakerheads). Call it what you will: One footstep with the bottled energy of Nike’s Air Max technology beneath you and you’ll be walking on air — literally.

The year is 1979, Nike releases the Air Tailwind, the first running shoe to feature Air-Sole® technology nestled within its midsole. The technology itself was invisible; its unbelievable comfort was all the proof needed to know it was truly revolutionary. Fast forward to 1987: Nike releases the Air Max 1, the first sneaker to expose the Air bag to the world, and ignites a new era in sneakers.

By doing what seemed impossible — making the invisible visible — Nike opened a new door in sneaker design. Now, instead of just feeling the lightweight, springy cushioning of the Air-Sole®, you could see it too.

Of course, brand-new technology is always greeted with some level of doubt. There were fears that the unit would puncture or deflate with time, which led to evidence of the Air bag outliving the midsole it was embedded in. Marketing departments were skeptical: Who would buy a shoe with a hole in the side of it? Those doubts were quickly discarded when the Air Max 1 became a staple within the running community and on the feet of trendsetters alike.

After a solid 27 years in the sneaker game, Air Max technology has steadily evolved into different shapes and bigger units, but hasn’t sacrificed its original intent: unparalleled cushioning and cutting-edge style. Because of this, the Air Max line has ingrained itself in pop culture, showing up early on in the iconic “Revolution” commercial featuring superstar athletes like John McEnroe, Bo Jackson, and Michael Jordan, and then adorning the feet of present-day cultural superstars like Kanye West and Beyoncé. With Nike releasing retro versions of the original Air Max sneakers, plus debuting new designs featuring the technology, Air Max is poised to remain a staple within the sneaker industry for years to come.