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For the purposes of this history, Nike Air Huarache Donna I’ll focus on the running shoes since the Nike Air technology was originally built for competitive track athletes. It’s also important to emphasize how Nike marketed the extra cushioning as a good thing for all runners. This claim has proved to be rather dubious in recent years. Experts say shoe companies like Nike are to blame.
“Part of the problem is the shoe Adidas Superstar Womens industry as a whole does a really horrible job of matching footwear to feet,” physical therapist and biomechanics expert Jay Dicharry, told The Atlantic last year. “All the methods used to fit feet to shoes don’t really hold up as valid ways to classify Adidas Superstar Womens runners and to match shoes.”
Along those lines, the main thrust of Air Max innovation boiled down to the grand American ideal that more means better. This philosophy is wonderfully expressed in the now iconic Air Max ads from the 1990s. Even the aesthetic of simple black text on stark white backgrounds emphasizes that simple but bold formula. You can see this Madison Avenue tradition as far back as the Mad Men-era Volkswagen ads and continues to this day with pretty much every Apple ad in the past ten years.
By the greedy ‘80s, the Air Force 1 and original Air Jordan sneakers Nike Roshe Run Damen Blumen had taken over the world of basketball. Nike had also cultivated its image as an edgy brand—so much so that after the NBA banned the original Air Jordans for not meeting its coloring guidelines, Nike actually paid Michael Jordan’s fines as long as he kept wearing them on the court. But the company continued to innovate and take Nike Air technology to new levels.
Nike became a billion dollar company in 1986, around the same time that it was putting the finishing touches on a massive upgrade to its line of air-cushioned shoes. The following year, the company released the Air Max 1 running shoe, featuring a much larger air pouch and a little window into the cushion on the side of the heel.
This involved a little bit of reengineering. What had been a thin, foot-shaped container for the air cushion would be redesigned to resemble Adidas NMD Mujer a squished Klingon starship, the edges of which held the visible air. In the middle, there was a beefy pouch with supports for primary cushioning. This concept would become a defining brand for Nike, especially in terms of establishing the company’s superiority in technology-driven design. The air wasn’t just visible either; you could poke the packet of gas and feel the bounce.
Air Max shoes put the technology on display without offering too many clues about how it worked. (It’s honestly just a polyurethane pouch filled with inert gas.) That simplicity remained key to the overall design. The original Nike Roshe Run Femme Nike Air Max I, designed by the now-legendary Air Max maestro Tinker Haven Hatfield, established a formula that would help Nike bring in billions of dollars in the decade after it was introduced.