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Nike Air Max

Now a staple of streetwear, Nike Air Max shoes are known for their revolutionary styles and ultra-soft cushioning. Releases still draw crowds and sell out in minutes. But this iconic midsole technology was almost never revealed to the public.

The Beginning

Though Air technology was first used in 1978 for the Nike Tailwind midsole, the technology was hidden inside foam. Nike knew that Air technology worked, but they didn’t know if the public would trust it. That’s where legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield comes in. After a trip to Paris where he visited the Centre Pompidou, Hatfield was inspired by the museum’s architecture. The building showcased all of its structural supports that were normally hidden by façades. It was new, daring, and vulnerable, and it gave Hatfield an idea for the Nike Air Max 1.

Cutting away a chunk of the foam midsole and enlarging the Air pouch, Hatfield created a window that showcased the Air technology. Though the design would eventually change running and streetwear forever, at first Nike wasn’t sure that people would view the Air pouch as reliable, despite its proven durability. But Hatfield persisted, and when the Air Max 1 was finally released in 1987 it was an instant hit.

The Evolution of Air

After the Air Max 1’s ground-breaking success, Nike continued to push the possibilities of Air technology. In 1990, the Nike Air Max 90 came out. Once again designed by Hatfield, the Air Max 90 introduced a larger Air unit, which increased comfort and made a style statement.

For the Nike Air Max 95, a new designer took over the Air Max game. In the revolutionary spirit of Air Max, Sergio Lozano designed a shoe like no one had ever seen. The unique design lines of the upper were inspired by the anatomy of the foot and paired with the first ever visible forefoot cushioning. Nike was once again pushing the limits of Air and design.

Two years later, the Nike Air Max 97 was the next Air Max shoe to shock sneaker culture. Known both for its instantly recognizable style and technological innovations, the Air Max 97 featured the first full-length Air unit along with the iconic wavy lines on the upper.

The Future of Air

Over 30 years into the Air Max legacy, Nike is still dedicated to pushing the boundaries. Shoes like the Nike VaporMax, the Air Max 270, and the Air Max 720 contain more Air than ever, putting iconic styles in a comfortable package. There’s no telling what the next Air Max iteration will be, but one thing is certain: the future is full of Air.