Such is the popularity of Nike Air trainers these days, it’s difficult to imagine a time when they weren’t on present practically everywhere you go. Heck, with the first one hitting the shelves way back in 1979, most of you reading this won’t remember a time when they weren’t!

The Air technology has helped cement Nike’s position atop the sports/streetwear mountain, paving the way for thousands of other styles and ideas over the years.

Nike’s first shoe to feature the Air technology was a breakthrough moment, and later came the seminal Air Max with full exposed air bubble which literally changed the landscape of trainer design forever. Along the way there have been some spectacular hits – and one of two inevitable misses – and here we pay homage to some of the most iconic Nike Air trainers ever to grace our feet.

The Tailwind

The Tailwind was the first trainer to feature Nike’s innovative Air technology and it was piloted at the Honolulu Marathon in 1979. Although the pocket of air was hidden inside the trainer, this was a massive leap forward for running trainers as it offered additional comfort and support over long distances. After receiving some initial scepticism, the Tailwind proved a hit and the following year it was in the shops ready to be snapped up by eager buyers who wanted a piece of this novel design.

The Air Max

After being inspired by the Pompidou building on a trip to Paris, architect come shoe designer Tinker Hatfield conjured up the Nike Air Max 1, a design which truly revolutionised sneaker design. Not only did the first iteration of the Air Max feature the patented Air technology, but this time you could actually see it. Worries by some members of the Nike team that the delicate-looking pocket of air would put off buyers proved unfounded, and the Nike Air Max 1 went on to smash records and drag the struggling brand back into the big time.

The Air Max 95

The Air Max 95 was another giant leap forward and showed Nike were prepared to move with the times, upgrading the design of the earlier iterations to reflect the shift in consumer demands. This time the Air system was given a revamp, introducing a larger section to the heel with the idea being that support should be different depending on the area of the foot. This was another major success story for Nike and the design is still going strong today, hundreds of colourways later.

The Air Max Plus (TN)

With the aim of improving stability without compromising on comfort, Nike set to work giving their Air technology an upgrade and the result was the Tuned Air technology. This new design feature used a combination of air and a thermal plastic pod, which would provide more support to the wearer while still ensuring the ultra-comfortable experience buyers had come to expect. The Air Max Plus was chosen to showcase Nike’s new work, and this state-of-the-art technology, coupled with the futuristic swirly design, would bring the trainer the huge success that continues today.

The Vapormax

7 years in the making, the Vapormax finally hit the shelves back in 2017 and it’s still as impressive today as it was back then. A marvel of engineering, this near-weightless and flexible trainer, which features an ultra-light, sock-like Flyknit upper with a full-length Air unit, is the most comfortable Air Max running shoe ever created. Unlike previous running shoes which feature a foam buffer between the Air unit and the upper, with the Vapormax you’re literally walking on air. For some this takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve acclimatised, you’ll be in awe of this trainer’s truly unique and visionary design.

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