Nike Air Max : The shoes that revolutionized the world of sneakers

April 16, 2021 8 min read

Nike Air Max : The shoes that revolutionized the world of sneakers

If there is any shoe that sportswear lovers love, it is the Air Max. These legendary creations of Nike have made history by being the greatest collection of sneakers of all time.

Nike's Air Maxes have defied footwear trends: they are masterpieces that have been warmly welcomed by the street, a true reference in streetwear. These must-haves have made their way into the heart of the crowd in an authentic way, having as sole ambassadors the remarkable quality of the product and its revolutionary design.

Nike Air Max : from 1987 to the present day

These models of sneakers, as exceptional as each other, each have their own history. Between the evolution of the design and the development of Air technologies, Nike never stops innovating. To understand how the Air Max gained popularity, we must take their story from the starting point.

You want to discover the secret of their success? We invite you to retrace with us the history of the Nike Air Max step by step. You'll quickly understand what made them the best sneakers in the world.

Nike Tailwind : the basis of the Nike Air technology

Nike Tailwind

Nike Air technology is always associated with the Air Max, but this wasn't the first time the iconic sportswear brand had incorporated it into their shoes. The use of pressurized air in flexible compartments dates back to the Nike Tailwind.

Isn't putting air in shoes a genius idea? When a NASA aeronautical engineer is inspired by his work to create sneakers, it promises to be a big one. Frank Rudy was the first to replace the traditional EVA foam in the soles with flexible, high-pressure air bubbles.

Not everyone was convinced by this very original, if not too extravagant find for their taste. Many were afraid that the bubbles would not resist the movements, that they would deflate or explode. It is therefore with great caution and very low expectations that they began by launching limited quantities of the product.

To everyone's surprise, the Nike Tailwind was a real success. Flexibility, elasticity and lightness: these ultra deformable shoes gave the impression to float in the air. The cushions in the sole were super comfortable, and perfect for a long day on your feet or doing sports. That's when it all started.


Nike Air Max 1 : the first Air Max

The first Nike Air Max changed the rules of the footwear game. The creativity of their design is undeniable, a classic that we never stop revisiting.

The very first models of the Air Max take the structure of the Pompidou Center. If you are from Paris, you can boast that the famous Tinker Hatfield, one of the greatest designers of Nike, was inspired by the architecture of the building in creating the first Air Max.

He took the principle of exposing the internal structural and functional elements of the Beaubourg Center and applied it to the sneakers. He decided to highlight the most important part of the shoe, the one everyone wanted to see: the famous air bubbles. They could be seen through an Air Window, the pressurized air compartments, just to prove to the skeptics and haters the legitimacy of their Air technology.

With this window, the bubbles, which this time were larger in size, were directly exposed to the outside. There were still fears that they would break under the weight of the body and external forces, and once again, Nike's shoes passed the test with flying colors.

For the rest, the innovative design of the Air Max took care of their vast popularity. This EURÊKA earned Nike the launch of a shoe collection with global impact. Such success was unheard of: everyone wanted to own Air Maxes.

It was the beginning of an aesthetic revolution in the world of footwear, a milestone that marked the history of Nike forever. The Air Pack, which included the Air Max 1, but also the Airs Trainer 1 and the Air Safari, became the new starting point for the brand. A breath of fresh air that Nike, which was beginning to have difficulties to impose itself on the market, needed atrociously..


Nike Air Max Light : Featherweight Air Max

Nike Air Max Light

The Air Max 1 were already very light, but Nike could do better, right? That's what they proved with the Airs Max Light in 1989. It's hard to break a record you set yourself, yet that's what they do throughout the Air Max collection.

This is not to say that the support of the foot was diminished! These models allowed a better distribution of weight by changing the materials and structure of the sole, and at the same time ensured a better stability. Also, the composition of the materials allowed for better internal ventilation. This was ideal for athletes, but also very practical for everyday life. These sneakers are the basis of the next Air Max of the 90s.

Nike Air Max 90 : A new decade of Air Max

Nike Air Max 90

Simplicity and endurance: this is the emblem of the Air Max 90, released in 1990. Nike went all in on the aerodynamic design, and once again, they hit the mark. The Air Max 90s stand out from the crowd, and quickly become a favorite of the hip-hop culture that was at the height of its success at the time.

The design wasn't the only reason these models rocked. These ultra comfortable sneakers were known for their sumptuous infra red color. Although this is not the original color of the Air Max, it has been associated with this edition forever.

A little nugget in itself, it is also the origin of the Air Max 360 released in 2006, which had a window on 360 °: that is to say on the entire sole. This classic has been revisited more than once in recent years.

Nike Air Max 180 : 180° of exposure! 

 Nike Air Max 180

After expanding the window several times, Nike had run out of ways to display their Air Technology on a larger surface. A return to their roots soon put them back on track. The Air Max 180, released in 1991, was a model they pulled out of their drawer of sketches that never saw the light of day.

A 180° Air Window! It was the first time the window was also on the base of the shoe in addition to being lateral... but not the last!

Air Max 95 : sneakers X-rayed

the Air Max 95

In terms of creativity, Nike has outdone itself with the Air Max 95. It is a brand new specimen that puts the anatomy of the foot under the microscope for the benefit of streetwear.

Indeed, the position of the reliefs of these sneakers takes the tendons, ligaments, muscles and bone markers of the foot. A design like no other that seems, according to experts, to mimic the natural structure of the feet. The shape and texture of the shoes, which represented the layers of the organ, made it an ultra-trendy piece of design art.

A less important detail might escape you. This is the first Air Max with a sole other than white. That might be a discreet transition for you, but the designers thought about it more than once before making the move. After trying black with the Air Max 95s, they were more comfortable exploring other colors later.

Nike Air Max 97 : walking on the clouds

 Nike Air Max 97

Their Air Window became the signature of the brand, Nike never stopped having fun doing more. After all, we never get tired of it: more is better.

The 1997 Air Max was the first to have an air bag on the entire bottom surface of the sole. With its teardrop toe and its fashionable design, it is a futuristic shoe at the border of high fashion and streetwear. Avant-garde sneakers!

1998 : Shark alert!

1998 : Alerte aux requins !

In 1998, Nike released three Air Max models:

  • Nike Air Max 98,
  • Nike Air Max 98 TL,
  • And the famous Nike Air Max Plus, commonly known in urban areas as "Shark".

Its design, aggressive and imposing to say the least, earned the Air Max Plus its nickname. The sharp separation in the middle of the sole is reminiscent of the shape of a shark, and you can't help but make the similarity once you notice this detail.

Everything about this model was inspired by a sunrise in Florida. The shades of black, purple, orange and blue echo the colors of the sky at that moment. The original shape is not that of a shark, but of a palm tree.

This is not to say that the model did not embody to perfection the role of predator it has been assigned. The Air Max Plus exudes urban culture and street style, inseparable from the source of its nickname. A real turning point in the history of the Air Max.


Flyknit Air Max : a perfect blend

Flyknit Air Max

In 2014, almost two years after the launch of their Flyknit technology, the Nike Flyknit Air Max were released. The combination of these two wonders from Nike almost stole the show from the original models. This modern touch also brings an extra value to the legendary Air Max.

The Flyknit texture is almost a separate category of Nike sneakers. The breathable fabric chosen is ultra-light and stretchy. However, don't be fooled by its super thin appearance, it is made of very strong fibers that are further strengthened in areas that need support.


Air Max 2015 : the fruits of innovation

Air Max de 2015

Two great Air Max models were added to the collection in 2015 :

  • The Nike Air Max 2015: with its remarkable upside down swoosh, these sneakers revisit the Nike logo in a new light, literally! But that's not the most dramatic change in these Air Maxes. The designers merged two air bubbles to create a more stable tube in the middle of the sole. This invention would later become a gold standard in modern Air Maxes.

  • The Nike Air Max Zero: too revolutionary for its time, these models could have been the first Air Max! Unfortunately, they were not selected, because they were considered too daring for the time.
 Nike Air Max Zero


Nike Air VaporMax : lighter than the wind!

Between 1987 and 2017: 30 years have passed, but the authenticity of the Air Max remains unchanged. Only the development of Nike's Air technology continues to advance.

Nike Air VaporMax

The VaporMax sole took the sports brand's engineering team seven years to develop. More air, less other materials, and more efficiency is their goal. The independent sole allows a continuous flow of air into the sneakers to adapt the pressures of the air chambers to the movements.

Air Max 270 : a new generation of Air Max

Air Max 270

Inspired by the Air Max 93 and the Air Max 180, this model was intended to be the Air Max 273. Instead, Nike focused on the number of degrees of air bubble exposure and instead went with 270. With a very imposing raised heel, the Air Max launched in 2018 is easily recognizable.

This modern model is immediately dedicated to a casual everyday use. It promotes an enjoyable experience and a stylish design that is simply streetwear as we are used to.

The street demands Nike sneakers, and Nike would be nothing without the street. The launch of the Air Max 270 is previewed in the neighborhoods of Paris. The famous sportswear brand does not stop there, the advertising campaign of these sneakers is based on the complicity of Nike with its fans. They broadcast the story of artists and young urban talents who become the very symbol of these sneakers.


Air Max 720 : the last jewel of the collection

Air Max 720

A futuristic design to end 2019 in style! With Nike's Air Max 270, the air bubble goes around the sole.

Where does the number 720 come from? If you take the 360 degrees of freedom vertically and horizontally, you've got the count! Another detail that has changed, the heel is even higher than last time. A predictable change according to the addicts of the modern sportswear brand.

What you may not know is that the latest Air Maxes are designed largely from recyclable materials. With its radiant nature-inspired themes (Galaxy, volcano, sunset, etc.), Nike is determined to become Eco friendly afterwards. More values that sneaker lovers approve 100%.

The Air Max, timeless and timeless are one of the pillars of urban fashion and popular culture. These sneakers are so influential that the brand celebrates their anniversary, Air Day, every year on March 26.

Nike's Air Max collection has been able to rise above the challenge of time. They are always moving forward without forgetting the basic fundamentals of the first Air Max. We all wonder what Nike has in store for the next model, but one thing is for sure: Nike always manages to surprise.

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