The History of Air Max: The Ultimate Nike Guide

The history of Air Max is all you need to know to learn if you’re buying the best shoe for your money. Click here to learn more.


Whether you’re a sneakerhead or not, there’s no debate that Nike is one of the best shoe brands of all time. Founded in 1964 in Eugene, Oregon, Nike continues to revolutionize fashion and footwear almost 60 years later.

As one of the most iconic sneaker lines in history, the Nike Air Max is worn and loved by people all over the world. This fashion-forward, technologically-advanced shoe is unlike any other. While you may be one of many who love this line, do you know the history of Air Max? 

Before you make your next purchase, read on to learn all there is to know about this one-of-a-kind sneaker line.

1. Marion Franklin Rudy’s Impact

Born in 1925, Marion Franklin Rudy was an aerospace engineer that used his knowledge to design for Nike. He was the first to design the original air pocket for shoes. 

After he pitched his air pocket idea to 23 different shoe companies, they all rejected him. However, Rudy decided in 1977 to show his design to Nike’s co-founder, Phil Knight. This inspired the Nike Tailwind, a 1978 running shoe. 

Apon the Tailwind’s first release, every shoe sold out within 24 hours. By experimenting with professional runners and various athletes, the success of the Air design was rooted in science. 

2. Who Is Tinker Hatfield? 

The iconic Air Max 1 may not exist without the legendary, innovative mind of Tinker Hatfield. Today, Hatfield works as the Vice President for Design and Special Projects and as head of Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. 

In 1981, Nike hired Hatfield as a corporate architect for their Oregon campus. His main role was to design buildings. In 1985, he had bigger ideas.

Hatfield used his architectural background to create never before seen designs for footwear. When he began working on the first Air Max 1 blueprint, it was part of no previous design plan or marketing brief. 

After visiting Paris and growing inspired by the unique buildings, the Centre Georges Pompidou sparked an idea. One of Hatfield’s main contributions was the concept to make the air-filled pockets designed by Rudy more visible. After much controversy and doubt from outside opinions surrounding the design, the Air Max 1 released and achieved much success.

The first shoe released as one component of the Air Pack. This pack included the Air Safari, Air Sock, Air Trainer 1, and Air Revolution, all thanks to Tinker’s vision. 

3. 1987- Air Max 1 Launches

1987 was an influential year for fashion, entertainment, and pop culture.

This year, the first episode of Full House aired across the country, Madonna was at the top of the music charts, and Nike released the Air Max 1. This sneaker line was to become one of the most advanced, sought after shoes of all time. On March 26th, 1987, this release would set the tone for a long line of Air Max sneakers to come.

Nike Air was more than a shoe, it was a revolution. With its high-tech cushion and airflow design, its bold look did not compromise comfort. In fact, it prioritized comfort. 

With a unique Air-Sole Unit filled with pressurized gas and flexible pouches, the shoe sprung back to the original form after every step. The Air Max 1 was the perfect shoe for the everyday person and athletes on the go.

At the start of the 1980s, Nike had acquired a 50 percent market share of the U.S athletic shoe industry. The year it launched, the average Air Max price was 75 dollars. 

4. a Brief History of Air Max: Most Iconic Releases

After its wide success in 1987, the Air Max collection was just beginning. Over the next several decades, the collection evolved into a more modern line while maintaining the original concept. While there are many options out there, here are some of the most notable and successful Air Max designs over the years. 

1989- Air Max Light

Two years after the original release, Nike would launch the Air Max Light. This sneaker was a more lightweight, slim version of the Air Max 1. The main design components remained the same. 

1990- Air Max 90

The new decade brought the Nike Air Max 90, a reworked version of the original sneaker. The original infrared colorway paired perfectly with its boxier, more angular design.

1992- Air Max 180

The Air Max 180 was exactly that, a 180-degree view of the air pocket sole. The original ultramarine colorway featured shades of bright coral, deep violet, and stark white.

1994- Air Max 2

As the final Tinker Hatfield Air Max design, the Air Max 2 had several air pockets with varying pressure levels. This made for a more comfortable, versatile fit. This shoe’s air pockets are seen on the sides and back heel, making for one of the most unique designs in Nike’s history.

1995- Air Max 95

The Air Max 95 saw a complete rework of the original Air Max 1. Designed by Sergio Lozano, this shoe has a sleeker, more modern look. Its neon yellow, grey, and black colorway is still popular to this day. 

1997- Air Max 97

An original design by Christian Tessler, the Air Max 97 is a familiar favorite among sneaker lovers and fashion enthusiasts. Its ripple design and lengthy sole is unlike any other shoe on the market. 

2003- Air Max 2003

This first launch of the new millennium, the Air Max 2003 has a cleaner feel. The white and silver design is one of the most popular colorways, as it is both simple and eye-catching. 

2017- Vapormax Flyknit

A more futuristic, modern design, Kathy Gomez is responsible for the Vapormax Flyknit. This sneaker has a move obvious air pocket, as the entire sole is made of its clear window. 

2019- Air Max 710

One of the latest releases in the Air Max line, the Air Max 710 has a more significant bulk. It also has a taller body and thicker air pockets. The deep purple, blue, grey, and white colorway is one of the most popular today. 

2020- Air Max 2090

Released this year, the Air Max 2090 is the most futuristic design yet.

This shoe has a 200 percent larger air pocket window, a more flexible body, and a more dramatic build. While the Air Max 2090 has a new, innovative feel, there is also a clear representation of the original Tinker Hatfield blueprint. 

Explore the Beauty of Nike Air Max 

As one of the most iconic shoes in history, the Nike Air Max is like no other. Now that you know some of the top Air Max facts and history of Air Max releases, explore the beauty for yourself. 

Leave a reply down below letting us know your favorite Air Max shoe. For the hottest items and new releases, shop our collections today. 

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