Nike Air Max

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nike Air Max
InventorNike, Inc.
Inception1987; 37 years ago (1987)
ManufacturerNike, Inc.

Nike Air Max is a line of shoes produced by Nike, Inc., with the first model released in 1987. Air Max shoes are identified by their midsoles incorporating flexible urethane pouches filled with pressurized gas, visible from the exterior of the shoe and intended to provide cushioning to the underfoot. Air Max was conceptualized by Tinker Hatfield, who initially worked for Nike designing stores.[1]


Sylvia Fowles wearing Nike LeBron 15 Air Max (2018)

M. Frank Rudy, an aeronautical engineer, first brought the idea of an air-cushioned sole to Nike in 1977. In 1979, he patented a design using polyurethane sacs filled with pressurized inert gas, and Nike has been using some version of this design ever since.[2][3] As the name indicates, all Air Max shoes feature one or more translucent pouches of pressurized gas embedded in the midsole and visible from the outside of the shoe. Referred to as "Air units" or "airbags," their stated purpose is to provide superior cushioning to traditional foam while also reducing weight. The effectiveness of the technology for this purpose is disputed; nevertheless, the shoes enjoy consistent popularity, especially among sneaker enthusiasts and collectors.

The size, design, and number of air units varies within the product line; the "retro" Air Max 1 simply includes one small unit under the heel, while in the contemporary Air VaporMax, effectively the entire midsole is composed of air units with no conventional foam present.

Culture and fashion[edit]

The line of sneakers is popular amongst many subcultures, for example hip hop and gabber.[4][5] Certain Air Max models are coveted among foot, sneaker and sportswear fetishists.[6]

In the mid-1990s the line, particularly the Air Max 95, experienced such a surge of popularity in Japan that it led to a phenomenon known as "Air Max hunting". The extremely inflated prices of the shoes led to a rash of muggings in the normally-peaceful country wherein Air Max wearers were attacked and their shoes were stolen. Even used shoes were in demand, and fakes also became a problem.[7]


Nike Air Max 1
Nike Air Max III (90)
Nike Air Max 180
Nike Air Max 93
Nike Air Max 95 (1995) and Nike VaporMax 95 (2018)
Nike Air Max 97
Nike Air Max Plus TN
Nike Air Max 360
Nike VaporMax
Nike Air Max 270
Nike Air Max 720

Air Max 1[edit]

Released in 1987 as simply the Air Max, the Air Max 1 was the first shoe ever to employ Max Air technology.[8] It was marketed for running, which would continue to be the case for new Air Max designs until 2018's Air Max 270. Its upper was composed of nylon and synthetic felt, with a leather version being released in 1988. The Air Max 1 continues to enjoy significant popularity with sneaker enthusiasts, and Nike re-releases the model with original and new exterior designs ("colorways") on a regular basis.[citation needed] In 2023, the Air Max 1 '86 "Big Bubble" was introduced. This variation celebrated the model's 35th anniversary with a design inspired by early prototypes.[9]

Air Max Light[edit]

Released in 1989 as the Air Max II, the Air Max Light weighed less than the original, achieved by replacing the forefoot polyurethane midsole with one made of EVA foam. Re-released in 2007, Nike has continued to release additional colorways.[10][11]

Air Max 90[edit]

Known as the Air Max III until 2000, when it was reissued taking its name from the year of its launch. The original colourway of white/black/cool grey with infrared was chosen to exaggerate the thickness of the sole air cushion. The upper featured Duromesh, synthetic felt and synthetic leather. Nike specially designed a pair of Nike Air Max 90s for President George H. W. Bush. Images of the customized sneakers have been seen around the Department of Nike Archives, and feature AIR PRES branding along with what appears to be a unique colorway.[12]

Air Max 180[edit]

Released in 1991, the Air Max 180 featured a larger air unit visible through the outsole. The technology was later used in the Air Force 180 sneaker.[13]

Air Max 93[edit]

Released in 1993 as the Air Max 270, the Air Max 93 introduced a 270-degree air unit and colored air units to the range. Nike employed a new manufacturing processes to provide the larger and more exposed air unit greater protection. The upper featured a more sock-like fit derived from 1991's Air Huarache sneaker.[13]

Air Max2 CB 94[edit]

The Nike Air Max2 CB 94 was released in 1994. Designed as a basketball shoe by Tracy Teague, it was inspired by professional basketball player Charles Barkley.[14][15]

Air Max 95[edit]

The visual design of the Air Max 95 was created by Sergio Lozano, who based the design on the human anatomy, with the spine of the shoe resembling the human spine and the materials intended to represent skin, ribs, and tendons.[16] The Air Max 95 was the first pair in the line to utilize two air cushions in the forefoot and used air pressure technology to fit the curvature of the wearer's forefoot.[17] The first colorway was black, neon yellow and white. Neon yellow was used to emphasize the multiple air units. The shoe also introduced a smaller Nike swoosh minimized in the rear side panel. Original releases featured a "25 PSI" air pressure reading on the rear air unit. Uppers also featured 3M Scotchlite material.[13]

The product was referenced in the hip hop song "Hate It or Love It" by The Game, which was a worldwide top 10 hit in 2005.[4] Also referenced by rappers Gucci Mane in the single "Bricks" and Waka Flocka Flame on the track "Head First" in his 2009 mixtape, "Lebron Flocka James". The rapper Eminem designed a limited-edition range of Air Maxes sold for charity.[18]

Air Max 97[edit]

The Air Max 97 was first released in 1997 as a running shoe. Designed by Christian Tresser, its look was said to be inspired by high-speed Japanese bullet trains[13] and alternatively the titanium metal frames on mountain bikes. Introduced in a metallic "Silver Bullet" colorway, it had a nearly full-length visible air unit, and the uppers featured a hidden lacing system and three lines made from Scotchlite.[19]

The Air Max 97 retailed at $150, about $10 more than its predecessor.[19] It enjoyed much popularity in Italy, where it was re-released in 2007 for its 10th anniversary.[20] In 2017, Nike marked the 20th anniversary of the Air Max 97 by releasing many colorways and collaborations.[21]

Satan Shoes[edit]

In March 2021, musician Lil Nas X collaborated with viral marketing company MSCHF to release "Satan Shoes", which were black Nike Air Max 97 shoes with satanic theming and created with "1 drop of human blood". The shoes were limited to 666 pairs, and caused controversy upon release, leading to Nike issuing a lawsuit against MSCHF.[22][23] MSCHF had previously released "Jesus Shoes", a range of white Air Max 97 shoes which contained "60cc of holy water from the River Jordan".[24]

Air Max Plus Tuned[edit]

Released in 1998, the Air Max Plus introduced Nike's Tuned Air system (TN),[13] and as such became retrospectively known as the Air Max TN, Air Max Tuned, or Air Max Tuned 1 (TN1). Designed by Sean McDowell, the Air Max Plus featured transverse waves inspired by palm trees, and a prominent arch shank inspired by a whale tail. The initial release featured a "Hyper Blue" colorway, characterized by a fading blue airbrush effect. The Nike swoosh had a slightly irregular appearance as a border was added along the inner edge, as opposed to the outer surface.[25] When talking about the design in an interview with mint. McDowell said “The Air Max Plus 1 almost never happened. The executives at Footlocker didn’t like it very much. It was too progressive and scared the 40-50 year old white men.” [26]Although the shoe only had modest success in North America,[27] in Europe they were massively popular—particularly in France, where the Plus grew to enjoy iconic status[28] among youth culture in Paris and Marseille, with the nickname Le Requin ("The Shark").[29] Australia was another major market for the Air Max Plus—the shoe became popular with the youth gang culture known locally as Eshays, and wearers have been banned from some pubs and clubs due to the Eshay subculture surrounding the shoe.[30][31]

Air Max 360[edit]

On January 21, 2006, Nike launched the Air Max 360, a new shoe design that utilized Max Air throughout the shoe's midsole. In September 2006 Nike introduced a special 'one time only pack' which fused the 360 model with three classics. The three shoes used were the Air Max 90, Air Max 95, and Air Max 97. For this special release, the design of the 360 sole was used in place of the normal sole of the three classics. The shoes were released in the three original colors: red for the Air Max 90, green/yellow for the Air Max 95, and grey/silver for the Air Max 97.

Air VaporMax[edit]

The Air VaporMax released in March 2017, and was the first Air Max shoe to use no foam or rubber in the midsole or outsole.[32] It discarded a traditional midsole/outsole design and in place used several entirely hollow air pouches, not connected to one another and positioned in different areas in accordance with where the wearer's foot would naturally strike. The VaporMax sole itself has not been significantly innovated upon since its initial release, but original shoes using the sole design continue to be released, including several "hybrids" which fuse a VaporMax sole with the upper design of an older Air Max shoe such as the Air Max 95, 97, and 360.

Air Max 270[edit]

The shoe was originally released on 1 February 2018. It was named "270" for the 270 degrees of visibility in the Air unit around the shoe, and was inspired by the Air Max 93 and 180 shoes. It also was the tallest Air unit to ever be released at the time, measuring 32 mm.[33]

Air Max 720[edit]

One year after the Air Max 270, Nike debuted their second Air unit to be designed for lifestyle purposes with the Air Max 720. As opposed to the heel-only 270 Air unit, the 720 Air unit extends under the forefoot, and is also taller than the 270 by 6 mm. New colours of the Air Max 720 and additional designs based on its Air unit, including the basketball-inspired Air Max 720 SATRN and a hybrid based on the retro Air More up-tempo, continue to be released.


The line was initially advertised in 1987 with a TV campaign that used the Beatles' song "Revolution", the first time a Beatles song had been used in a TV commercial.[34] The following year, Nike used the Just Do It slogan.[35] They were also endorsed by Bo Jackson in exchange for a $100,000 fee, with advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy coming up with the slogan "Bo knows...".[36]

Since 2014, March 26 has been declared by Nike as Air Max Day.[37][38]


  1. ^ Reidy, Tess (December 14, 2013). "Nike's iconic Air Max trainer celebrates 25th anniversary with Tinker Hatfield". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Beaven, Steve (December 24, 2009). "Frank Rudy, the inventor of the Nike Air Sole technology, has died". Oregon Live. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  3. ^ Cavanaugh, Catherine (November 17, 2017). "Expansion set in Missouri to keep up with Nike Air demand". Plastics News. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Germain, Tabie (March 24, 2023). "Nike Air Max Day: 7 of the Most Classic Air Max References in Hip-Hop". BET. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  5. ^ Anderson, Denman C. (June 6, 2017). "How Hardcore and Gabber Shaped Modern Menswear". Highsnobiety. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  6. ^ Eror, Alexs (March 17, 2014). "Scally Lads Are Gay Brits Who Like to Smell Stinky Socks and Have Sex in Tracksuits". Vice News. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  7. ^ Lev, Michael A. (November 17, 1996). "'Air Max Hunting' Shocks Japan -- Holdups, Beatings Blamed On Mania For Used Sneakers". The Seattle Times. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  8. ^ "Running on Air: A History of Nike Air Max".
  9. ^ "Air Max 1 '86 Original Big Bubble".
  10. ^ "Nike Air Max Light". Sole Collector. Complex Networks. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  11. ^ Jane, Adam; Fox, TS (August 25, 2020). "A History of Inspiration: Air Max". Sneaker Freaker. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  12. ^ Bodansky, Nate (June 3, 2013). "RETROSPECT: George H.W. Bush's Nike Air Max 90". Hypebeast. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  13. ^ a b c d e Styles, Unorthodox (2005). Sneakers: The Complete Collectors Guide. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0500512159.
  14. ^ Hope, Aaron (July 26, 2012). "20 Years Of Nike Basketball Design: Air Max2 CB (1994)". Sneaker News. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  15. ^ Deng, Victor (December 7, 2022). "Nike Air Max2 CB 94s Are Reportedly Coming Back". Sole Collector. Complex Media. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  16. ^ Cult Edge - Nike Air Max 95 Colorway Guide
  17. ^ "A Visual History of Nike Air".
  18. ^ "People: Eminem, Gong Li, Keith Richards - Arts & Leisure - International Herald Tribune". International Herald Tribune. August 29, 2006. Retrieved December 23, 2013 – via The New York Times.
  19. ^ a b "20 Things You Didn't Know About the Nike Air Max 97". Complex. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  20. ^ Filippa, Gabe (August 15, 2021). "How the Nike Air Max 97 'Silver Bullet' Shot Through the Heart of Italy". Sneaker Freaker. Retrieved May 9, 2023.
  21. ^ "Skepta Is Giving This Classic '90s Nike Sneaker a Makeover". Vogue. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  22. ^ "Nike sues over Lil Nas X 'Satan shoes' containing human blood". The Guardian. March 30, 2021. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  23. ^ "Nike sues over Lil Nas X "Satan Shoes," alleging trademark infringement". CBS News. March 30, 2021. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  24. ^ ""Jesus shoes" with holy water in the soles are selling for $4,000". CBS News. October 11, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  25. ^ "Nike Reveals the Untold Story of the Nike Air Max Plus". Hypebeast. November 20, 2017.
  26. ^ "We Talk Trainer Design & Tuned Air With Sean McDowell". February 2021.
  27. ^ Richardson, Marc. "Tuned Up: A History of the Air Max Plus". Grailed.
  28. ^ Caruso, Cecilia. "The sneaker of subcultures: the history of the Nike Air Max Plus 'Tn'". NSS Magazine. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  29. ^ "Nike TN Air Max Plus: A Complete Guide". November 19, 2021. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  30. ^ Filippa, Gabe. "HOW THE NIKE AIR MAX PLUS BECAME THE KINGPIN DOWN UNDER". SneakerFreaker. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  31. ^ "How this Nike sneaker stomped its way into Australian street culture". 7NEWS. April 30, 2022. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  32. ^ Turner, Christopher (March 22, 2017). "In celebration of Air Max Day on March 26, 2017, here's a brief history of Nike's Air Max series". Complex Canada. Complex Networks. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  33. ^ "Eight Things You Should Know About the Nike Air Max 270". Nice Kicks. January 9, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  34. ^ Wong, Glenn M (2012). The Comprehensive Guide to Careers in Sports. Jones & Bartlett. p. 232. ISBN 9781449602031.
  35. ^ Carbasho, Tracy (2010). Nike. ABC-CLIO. p. 15. ISBN 9781598843439.
  36. ^ Cashmore, Ellis; Cashmore, Ernest (2010). Making Sense of Sports. Taylor & Francis. p. 423. ISBN 9780415552202.
  37. ^ "This New Nike Release Is a Celebration of All Things Air Max". Esquire. March 26, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  38. ^ "Nike Unveils Collection to Celebrate Air Max Day, Highlighted by Release of Nike Air VaporMax". Businesswire (Press release). February 20, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.

External links[edit]