Since its public unveiling in 1987, Air has undergone dramatic change in its aesthetic and performance. It has enthralled designers and engineers, precipitating a now decades-long legacy of evolution.
Two of the technology’s most innovative proponents share more:
I look at Air as a form vocabulary. It allows for endless exploration of shape tied to function, resilience and responsiveness. When I think about the formal engineering, the gesture and the aesthetic of the Air unit, two thoughts come to mind.
The first is the exciting opportunity that occurs when we deny the traditional methods of making shoes — stacking materials. Because of that denial, the shoe becomes a biomorphic shape. With Air, and thanks to innovative techniques like the outer swept pinch, we can limit layers and create a symbiosis between foot and cushioning.
Second, it allows me to ask, "What can we do with technology, and these pockets that are proscribed to the way your foot works and the way your body sits on materiality?” And, ultimately, “How can the bag become part of the body's natural motion?” There's nothing in nature that says, "walk on bubbles," necessarily. But the Air unit moving and adapting and adjusting to all the pressures put on it… it's a truly dynamic shape that allows for constant reimagining and reinventing the base idea.
— John Hoke, Nike’s Chief Design Officer
Women's Launch Colorways
While men's Air Max launch colorways may be more recognizable, the women's versions, though sometimes under the radar, are just as impactful.
In seeking new sensations, we have continually stretched the boundaries of Air-Sole design. Exaggerated shapes communicate their value — some plush, some protective, some flexible. And it’s not always about more Air, but where Air is most required.
With the VaporMax, this was a soft, bouncy, flexible ride. With the 270 and 720, we arrived at new heights (see H) and a depth of displacement that improved comfort for longer wear. In all three, we worked with the core benefit of Air Max: energy absorption. We want, ultimately, to do two things: The first is to find ways to highlight that benefit, unencumbered from any other material. In the most imaginative sense (see I), we want to achieve weightlessness. The second is to push the limits of absorption with new geometries.
Air is always pushing back, so we have to consider how those geometries make for a pleasurable sensation. We also have to find a stable base for the wearer. Because of these controls, we don’t start our work with the aim of creating a provocative shape, but it is a happy byproduct.
We see Air as a variable, a shape shifter that follows a clear truth: When we solve for a pure, functional need with Air, our result is intuitive and beautiful.
— Kathy Gomez, VP of Cushioning Innovation