The Nike Air Max Family started it’s illustrious history in 1987 when Tinker Hatfield designed the Nike Air Max 1, the first shoe to feature a visible air unit to prove you are walking on air.
Since the Air Max 1 first shook up the industry Tinker and other talented designers have produced other wonders such as the Air Max 90, 93, 95 – all the way through to the recent Ultra re-workings of these classics and little tastes of the future such as the Air Max Zero.
Tinker’s Little Idea that Kept on Growing
The idea to make the inner workings of the Air Max 1’s cushioning system visible from the exterior was inspired by the Pompidou Centre in Paris with it’s ‘inside-out’ design. Tinker has a background in architecture and this shows in the solid construction of all his designs, built from the ground up. The Air Max unit has since evolved into several ways, adding to the original idea, but the concept of using pressurized air in a sealed ‘bubble’ to provide a comfortable ride still remains.
Tinker was soon sent back to his drawing board to create the next step in the evolution of the Air Max technology. First came the Air Max Light in 1989, that added some aesthetic changes to the original, but was clearly closely related to the AM1. The real jump came with the Nike Air Max 90 released at the beginning of the next decade. Originally called the Air Max III, it contained an enlarged Air Max unit in the midsole which gave the shoe a steeper silhouette and a stockier build than the original. It was a perfect fit for the new decade and it’s OG ‘Infrared’ colourway is arguably still the best ever to adorn an Air Max shoe.
Constant Air Innovation
The Air Max team now had a clear aim to their innovations – To push the technology to it’s extreme to create the most comfortable running experience possible, the maximum amount of Air Max. The next step in this journey was the Air Max 180, with an air unit so large that its pushed out through the outsole and was therefore visible from 180 degrees around the base of the shoe. The uppers had been deconstructed to reduce weight, so all attention is focussed on the increased Air.
The Air Max 93 continued this trend and this time pushed the Air Max ‘bubble’ out the heel so it reached all the way around, and could provide cushioning to a wider area of the foot. The design of the uppers took influence from the Air Max 90 and 180 and was a clear progression down one line of thought. This was all to change with the release of the Nike Air Max 95, that took the idea of visible air in a whole new direction. Designer Sergio Lozano took influence from parts of the human anatomy when design this unique running shoe. It’s lace holds are meant to be the rib cage, the overlays are layers of skin and the midsole of shaped on the curve of the spine. For the first time it’s midsole contained two separate Air Max units in the front and heel to provide cushioning and support down your whole foot.
Nike Air Max re-worked
Recent years have seen several different presentations of the original Air Max range from Premium fashion models made with a wide array of unusual, luxury fabrics to the new Ultra version of the Air Max 1, 90 and more. These reworked Ultra editions have lightweight, breathable uppers, seamless overlays and a hollowed out midsole to reduce weight further. They have not yet managed to produce an Air Max design that makes you float clear off the ground, but it seems to be only a matter of time.