The History of Nike’s Iconic Air Max Shoe

Amongst companies, Nike stands as one of the most powerful. Ranking 88 on the Fortune 500 list and bringing in over 32 billion dollars a year, there are very few organizations that can compete. Within the footwear empire, one of the most successful and well know subdivisions is the Air Max brand. It’s hard to go a day walking down the street without seeing somebody rocking an air bubble underneath their heel.

Since Air Max Day is not too far behind us, now is a great time to reflect on the history of the line and some of the current designs blowing through the sneaker community.

In order to talk about this history, we need to go back to the origins of Nike. Originally founded as Blue Ribbon Sports they quickly cemented themselves as a competitor in the running shoe market. Their first big success was the creation of the Waffle Racer: a shoe in which the sole was literally created from a waffle iron. Following this trend of innovative running shoes, in 1977 the engineers working with Nike had the idea to use an air bag as a method of cushioning. Thus the Nike Air Tailwind, an early precursor to the Air Max, was born.

After a decade of experimenting with the bubble technology that would appropriately become known as Nike Air, they wanted to find a way to make the tech bigger and more visible. That’s where Tinker Hatfield came in. In the decades that would follow, Tinker became one of the world’s most prolific sneaker designers. He continued to create many more iconic models including but not limited to numerous Air Jordans and Air Max silhouettes, and even the shoes worn by character Marty McFly in the cult classic Back to the Future 2.

The Air Max today has been the subject of many songs, articles, and movies. There are over 50 unique sneakers belonging to the Air Max line and innumerable collaborations with different brands, artists, and entertainers. Every year, Nike holds a large global celebration on the anniversary of the release of the original Air Max 1.

This year all the hype has been focused around the release of four distinct models. The Air Max 97, a bullet shaped streamlined shoe popularized in France, the Vapormax, which features a sole made completely o fair bubbles, the Air Max 270 which contains an air bubble measuring almost 3cm tall (the largest ever used in a sneaker), and lastly the Sean Wortherspoon Air Max 1/97 which is a corduroy clad combination of the Air Max 97 and the original Air Max 1.


Air Max 97



Air Max 270


Wortherspoon Air Max 1/97


These four models represent a bold new director for the brand, a passing of the torch to new designers, and giving way to new ideas. The very foundation of Air Max is rooted in the innovation and much like the leaves in the breeze, the future of this collection of sneakers moves unbounded upwards and onwards.

– Joshua Webb

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