Nike Air Max Sneakers History

Nike Air Max sneakers have been a ubiquitous presence in the world of footwear for over three decades, thanks to Frank Rudy, a NASA Engineer who came up with the idea. With their innovative design and stylish aesthetic, these sneakers have become a cultural icon that transcends generations.

Like a comet blazing through the sky, the Nike Air Max line has left a trail of impact and influence, shaping the landscape of the sneaker world and elevating the standards of what a good sneaker should be. From their revolutionary Air cushioning technology to their sleek and eye-catching designs, these sneakers have captured the hearts and feet of millions, becoming more than just a running shoe. History of Nike Air Max is full of innovation and style, and it is a symbol of individuality. In this article, we will explore the rich history of Nike’s Iconic Air Max sneakers and how they have evolved to become the legend they are today.

Origins of Nike Air Max Sneakers

Nike Air Max sneakers were first introduced in 1987 and designed by Tinker Hatfield. The concept behind the design was to create a shoe with a visible air cushioning unit in the sole, providing the wearer with maximum comfort and support. This revolutionary idea quickly caught on with sneaker enthusiasts.

The first Nike Air Max model, the Air Max 1, was a huge success and set the standard for future Air Max models. The Air Max 1 featured a visible air unit in the sole, a sleek design, and a range of colors that allowed the wearer to express their style.

Evolution of Nike Air Max Sneakers

Over the years, Nike has continued to innovate and improve upon the Air Max design. The Air Max 90, released in 1990, was the next evolution of the Air Max line and featured a larger air unit in the sole and a more structured design. The Air Max 95, released in 1995, introduced a new design that mimicked the anatomy of the human foot, providing even greater comfort and support.

With innovative designs and technology, Nike released new air max models in the following years. The Air Max 97, with its futuristic wave design, was a huge success, as was the Air Max 270, the first Air Max model explicitly designed for lifestyle wear.

Impact of Nike Air Max Sneakers on Culture

Nike Air Max sneakers have significantly impacted popular culture and have been featured in numerous music videos and worn by celebrities and athletes. The Air Max line has also inspired countless imitations and knock-offs, a testament to their impact on the sneaker world.

In recent years, Nike has collaborated with various artists and designers to create limited edition Air Max releases, further solidifying the cultural significance of these sneakers.

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Nike Air Max Tailwind Sneaker (1979): The Beginner

The story began with the Nike Air Max Tailwind Sneaker. It was the first-ever Nike shoe with air technology having a small airbag inside the heel. It was designed by Marion Frank Rudy, an aeronautical engineer who developed air technology.

The limited edition of this silhouette got released in 1978 for Honolulu Marathon. Nike released a complete edition of this shoe in 1979, and it was the hot-selling model of Nike. 13 Years later, in 1992, Nike released a revised version with the name of Nike Air Max Tailwind 92, having visible air cushioning.

After the release of this shoe, the aero technology became the main target of the Nike Company.

The Nike Air Max 1 (1987): The Pioneer of The Air Max Series.

Nike air max 1 was the first sneaker to reveal the magic behind air technology, and Tinker Hatfield designed it, and it was released in 1987.

Inspiration of Tinker Hatfield for Nike Air Max Sneakers 1 (1987)

By making air technology shoes the primary goal, the company faced a severe problem regarding the shoe structure. They wanted to make an air-infused heel, an issue the team could not solve.

Tinker Hatfield went on a trip to Paris and saw a controversial Pompidou Centre in France, a modern art museum. He got inspired by this building’s architecture. The structure showed its inner working, which was its unique feature. This idea intrigued Tinker Hatfield, and he proposed a solution to his team regarding the problem. He suggested showing the inner air-infused sole through the midsole. The team liked his idea, and The Air Max1 was designed.

Release of Nike Air Max Sneakers 1 (1987)

When Nike Air Max 1 was released, the company was worried that it would not be a great success. The design of this shoe almost cost Tinker Hatfield his job. People liked the unique design of the air max 1. It had a wide air sole showing through the midsole window, which created an attractive look.

The air-infused heel made the shoe comfortable and versatile, due to which The Air Max 1 sold like wildfire and became a significant success for Nike. The Nike air max was unique when it was first released due to its supreme design and revived the company on the verge of loss.

The Nike company recently released a limited version of this model on its 30th anniversary, and it was sold out in no time. The box came with an extra pair of laces, a Nike booklet with all the features of The Air Max 1 (1987), and a polyester dust bag for the shoe, which was a nice touch to the packaging.

Outlook of Nike Air Max Sneakers 1 (1987)

It has a whole outlook and high comfort level that most shoes don’t have. The shoe’s base is made of white mesh material with a vertical up-and-down weave. On top of the mesh, a neutral grey suede is layered, which covers the mesh, mid portion, and the heel. On the grey layer lies the infrared mudguard, which goes through the shoe’s lateral side and covers a small part of the medial side and the heel. The company also embossed the red branding on the back of the shoe.

The tongue of the shoe has a branding name stitched on top of it. The shoe’s insole is all red, and its brand name is imprinted. The midsole has a broad area and is cut up from either side of the heel. The air-infused midsole looks like a window in the heel. The shoe’s outsole is white, black, and red with Nike Air branding embossed.

Nike Air Max Sneakers 90 (INFRA-RED) (1990)

The Nike Air Max 90 was released in 1990 It is also known as the air max 3. The first release of Nike air max 90 had an infrared color, which attracted many people and became very popular.

Outlook of Nike Air Max Sneakers 90

The sneaker’s base comprises a bright white nylon mesh on the top with a layer of grey suede. A black synthetic leather lies on top of the grey suede on either side of the shoe, which gives a classic look.

The white tongue has a Nike patch sewn on top of it. The shoe’s insole is infrared with a branding name printed on the heel side. The shoe’s outer sole is infra-red and black with Nike Air embossed.

On the ankle side of the shoe, a nice infra-red air max logo is seen in the center of the black synthetic leather. The shoe heel has an air sole in the midsole, and a banding of Nike is embossed on the back of the shoe.

Stating fact, The Nike Air Max 90, specifically Air Max 90 (infra-red), is one of the most iconic shoes of all time.

Success of Nike Air Max Sneakers 90 (Infra-Red)

With its supreme design and high comfort level, The Nike Air Max 90 became the hit of the shoe industry after the air max 1.

After its hit, this shoe came in numerous variations, such as The Duck Camo colorway, Fly Ease Modes, and ACG Palettes.

On The 30th anniversary, The Nike Air Max 90 got a re-makeover. The designer slimmed it down, creating a sleek profile and an altered heel design.

Nike Air Max Sneakers Big Window (BW) (1991)

Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Nike Air Max BW got released in 1991 with visible Air. ‘Persian Violet colorway became popular among European hip-hop communities.

Nike Air Max 180 (1992)

Tinker Hatfield and Bruce Kilgore joined hands together to design this new Nike Air Max 180 sneaker. The sneaker featured more extensive Air cushioning having 180 degrees of visibility. The shoe got released during the Barcelona summer Olympics in 1992. And one of the famous athletes, Micheal Jordan, wore it.

Nike Air Max 270 (1993)

Tinker Hatfield designed yet another Nike Air Max Sneaker in 1993. This sneaker was inspired by the shape of a milk jug and offered a 270-degree view of the Air cushioning, i.e., from sides and back. The Air bag was surrounded by a predominantly white upper, with accents of turquoise in the Dusty Cactus colorway. The signature feature of the design of the Nike Air Max 93 is its snug-fitting neoprene collar, which offers a custom fit for the wearer.

Nike Air Max Sneakers 95 (1995)

The Nike Air Max 95 was designed by Sergio Lozano and was released in 1995. It is considered a revolutionary runner due to its highly comforting insole and air-infused heel. It comes in various designs and colorways.

Inspiration of Sergio Lozano for Nike Air Max Sneakers 95

After Tinker Hatfield left to work on some other projects for Nike, Sergio Lozano took his place. The company’s primary goal was to revive Air Max and make it a statement piece.

It was a rainy day, and Lozano was looking outside from his office window. Suddenly, the inspiration struck him. The eroding earth inspired Lozano to design the shoe. Not only this, but the human anatomy also played a significant part in influencing Lozano. The shoe was designed to acquire forms of muscles, fibers, and vertebrae.

What a fantastic inspiration!

Outlook of Nike Air Max Sneakers 95

The shoe itself became an icon and was most loved by runners.

It was the first shoe with a dual-air cushioning system having the air sole inside the mid-soles and the forefoot area offering a unique silhouette.   

The color of the Nike Air Max Sneakers 95 is black, graphite, white, and neon green. This model was the first to come with a black midsole in the Air Max series, and it now comes in 150 different colorways.

This shoe was spotted worn by several rap singers such as Eminem, Drake, Lebron James, and athletes.

Nike Air Max Sneakers 97 (1997)

Christian Tresser designed the Nike Air Max 97, released in 1997.

Inspiration of Christian Tresser for Nike Air Max Sneakers 97

By the time Air Max 97 was to be designed, Tinker Hatfield and Sergio Lozano left to work on different Nike projects; this put tremendous pressure on Christian Tresser because this shoe was the one to make his career.

The world was on the run to innovation and technology. Christain got hit by the idea of bullet trains which were the technology’s masterpieces at that time. He designed The Air Max 95 inspired by bullet trains.

Features of Nike Air Max Sneakers 97

The shoe came in color silver and white. It was inspired by the bullet trains and so was called the “silver bullet.”

It was the first shoe with a hidden lace-up system and a fully air-cushioned sole. It cost more than its predecessors, which was $150. The shoe was a success, but the hype lasted only a year.

Nike Air Max Sneakers 98 (1998)

After the release of Nike Air Max Sneakers 97, Sergio Lozano wanted to work on Air Max 95’s shortcomings. By that time, there were drastic changes in The Air Max series.

Sergio Lozano designed The Air Max 98, released in 1998 in various colorways. But today, Nike Air Max “Gundam” is considered an OG pair.

Features of Nike Air Max 98

The Air Max 98 “Gundam” color was inspired by the Japanese anime “The Gundam.”

The downfall of Air Max was its very high price of $150, which is $225 today. Another aspect of the Nike Air Max 98 downfall is that it had to compete with a successful Nike model, “The Nike Air Max Plus,” selling like wildfire.

Nike Air Max Plus (1998)

In 1997 SEAN McDowell was hired as a designer at Nike. The Nike Air Max  Plus was designed by Sean McDowell and was released in 1998, the same year Air Max 98 got released.

Inspiration and Features of Nike Air Max Plus

When Sean was given this project, he immediately thought of the Florida beach sunset. So, one of the shoes, this model, came in a vibrant orange-yellow colorway inspired by the evening sun, which he loved.

One of The Air Max Plus’s essential features was the supportive shank spread from the bottom sole to the midsole. The whale’s tail inspired this feature of the silhouette.

Sean Mcdowell grew up as a runner. Based on the runner’s safety, he thought putting reflectors at the back of the shoe was weird. So, Sean designed the shoe with reflector bars on the forefoot area, the vamp, and the tongue.

The “Tn logo” was embossed at the back of the shoe and on the outsole. “Tuned Air” was a considerable technology turn for NIKE. This strategy included solid half spheres into the air sole and midsole, allowing reduced pressure in the heel.

Nike Air Max Sneakers Plus III (1998)

The Nike Air Max Plus III was designed by Sean Mcdowell and released in 1998.

It has a sleek and classic design which makes it worth its price. It has more comfort and style as compared to other sneakers.

The Nike Air Max III appeared in 20+ colorways. One of the supreme colorways of this sneaker is matt black.

Features of Nike Air Max Sneakers Plus III

This supreme silhouette has a classic finish to it. It is an all-black sneaker with good breathability and comfort. The “Tune Air” feature is one of the critical features of this silhouette. Last but not least, the air sole in the midsole and forefoot adds a high level of comfort to this sneaker.

Nike Air Max 360 (2006)

As the name suggests, the Nike Air Max 360 was the first Nike sneaker to have 360 degrees of Air cushioning without the foam in the midsole. It got released in 2006

Nike Air Max (2018)

The Nike Air Max 270 was designed by the director of The Nike Company, Dylan Raasch, and was released in 2018.

The Air Max 270 has a fully covered upper area with mesh, allowing breathability and air sole for extra comfort. It is the only Air Max model with the most extensive air sole. This silhouette appears in 80+ colorways, each unique based on its beautiful combinations of colors. It is lightweight, durable, and extra comfortable, which makes it worth its price.


Nike Air Max sneakers have come a long way since their introduction in 1987. From their revolutionary Air cushioning technology to their sleek designs and cultural impact, these sneakers have become a staple in the world of footwear. Whether you’re a sneaker enthusiast or appreciate a comfortable and stylish shoe, the Nike Air Max line has something for everyone.

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The Nike Air Max has an air-infused sole built into the midsole and the “Tune Air” feature, which provides high comfort and durability.

The Nike Air Max series ranges from approximately $110-$280.

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