Nike Air Max – History of a trainer that changed the world of sneakers.

History of Nike Air –

A story about how Nike took a great idea and built upon it — forever innovating and refining without stopping.

Nike Air was lighter than the midsole foam everybody else was using. It had a wonderful feel to it, “A great ride.” runners said. It’s possible that without the discovery of Nike Air, Nike would be a very different company.

Frank Rudy

Nike Air Origins

It all began in 1977 when aerospace engineer Frank Rudy brought an idea to Nike: trap air in a durable and flexible membrane and put it in a shoe.


Nike and Rudy worked together for the next nine months, and a revolutionary new type of cushioning was born. Nike called this innovation Nike Air. The first running shoe built with Nike Air was called the Tailwind. The year was 1979.

Taking Nike Air Further

Nike rode the success of Nike Air and brought much-needed innovation to what had been a pretty boring industry. And then Nike designers began to tinker with the technology, creating a variety of Air-Sole units, each providing different benefits.

1987: Max Air Technology

The next major milestone came in 1987. Shoe designer Tinker Hatfield cut a hole in the midsole, revealing the Air-Sole unit inside the Air Max shoe. This was the birth of Max Air technology. Not only could consumers see Nike Air for the first time, it was literally bigger than before and offered better impact protection. Tinker got this idea of making the air visible after having visited the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France.

Max Air Enhancements

Enhancements to Max Air continued. With the release of Air Max 90, Air Max 180 and Air Max 93, Nike designers introduced dual-density Air-Sole units and perfected blow-molding technology.

Air Max 90
Air Max 93
Air Max 180

This new manufacturing process allowed the Nike Air unit to expand beyond the midsole for 180 degrees of foamless impact protection in the heel.

Nike designers continued to push Nike Air in other directions, creating a huge variety of units, including full-length Nike Air. This comfortable unit became the foundation of millions of pairs of the incredibly popular Air Pegasus running shoe.

Air Pegasus

Did You Know?

The first forefoot Nike Air Max cushioning was introduced in the iconic Air Max 95.

1995 – Nike Zoom Technology

Nike research drastically flattened midsole heights in Zoom LWP with the invention of Zoom Air technology.

Nike Zoom cushioning’s low profile and tensile responsiveness opened up a whole new type of cushioning experience—ideal for athletes who preferred the low-to-the-ground feel.

Nike designers also succeed in creating a full-length Max Air unit, first in Air Max 97 and then in Air Max 2003, giving runners truly the maximum cushioning available.

1998 – Tuned Air

Tuned Air hit the pavement for the first time in 1998, combining Max Air units with mechanical elements to help guide the foot through footstrike.

1998 – Caged Nike Zoom Technology

Caged Zoom Air debuted in the Air Zoom Spiridon shoe, combining the size and impact protection of a Max Air unit with the responsiveness of Zoom Air technology.


2006 – Air Max 360

More than 25 years after the introduction of Nike Air, the promise of a completely airborne ride had been realized. Enter Air Max 360: the first shoe ever to let you run on a full 360 degrees of air cushioning. All air and no foam.

2014 – Flyknit Air Max 360

Ultralight support meets maximum cushioning in the Nike Flyknit Air Max Men’s and Women’s Running Shoe, featuring the most flexible Max Air unit yet and a woven one-piece Flyknit upper.

2017 – Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit

The Lightest, Most Flexible Air Max Ever.

Over 7 years in the making, the Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit Running Shoe places your foot directly on Nike Air technology. By removing any layers in between and providing cushioning only where needed, it delivers the lightest, most flexible Air Max running shoe yet.

And because there is no finish line at Nike, the innovation of Nike Air cushioning will continue to grow

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