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Ever since the Nike Tailwind’s debut in 1978, the evolution of Nike’s signature cushioning technology is predicated on making a single dream into reality: the feeling of walking on air.
Aeronautical engineer Frank Rudy originally conceived (and patented) the idea of a cushioning system based on an inert gas in a polyurethane plastic capsule. This provided the basis of Nike’s trademarked Air tech, and it’s been updated considerably
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then. But 30 years ago, the Air Max 1 broke the magician’s rule of never revealing how an illusion works—adding a visible window on the sole to show people that they were indeed running on an invisible layer of air.
Nike’s latest innovation, the VaporMax, brings the company ever closer to that goal. Comprised of over 39,000 parts, the resulting sneaker (which drops on Air Max Day), is 4 ounces lighter than its predecessor, the Air Max 2017.
In 1978, Nike’s Air technology made its debut in the soles of the Nike Tailwind. Nine years later, the Air Max 1 showed the world that innovation has nothing to hide, adding a visible bubble to exhibit Nike’s proprietary technology.
Now, Air takes its next step forward. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the iconic Air Max 1, the Nike Air VaporMax is Nike’s most advanced shoe yet.
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Nike Air Vapormax Damen
VaporMax sole mold is composed of over 39,000 components, making it more complicated than a high-powered car engine. It took approximately fifteen tries to get the shoe perfect, since the material is fused directly to the Air bag.
As a result, the sneaker is light, extremely responsive, and extraordinarily flexible. The FlyKnit upper is reinforced with Nike’s FlyWire lacing system for a snug fit, bringing it one step closer to working in total harmony with the body.
From a design perspective, we have a goal to create a simple, elegant solution,” says Andreas Harlow, VP and Creative Director of Footwear Design for Nike Running. “It was all about reduction, getting rid of all the extraneous things that get in the way of that sensation, and amplifying the feeling of running on air.
Previous Air Max models treated the Air bag more like
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under the foot. The VaporMax turns the concept into more of an engine, with the Air functioning like pistons along the sole, providing support and flexibility where runners need it most.
If you look at the shoe closely you’ll see areas that are very tightly knitted, and other areas that are more elastic and more open,” adds Harlow. “That requires an incredible amount of tuning concurrently with the Air bag development.
According to Kathy Gomez, Nike’s VP of Underfoot Cushioning Innovation, it took 15 tries to get the VaporMax sole right.
“To create this, we had to balance durability with stability, and of course cushioning and sensation,” she says. “It was really figuring out how to marry all those things together and find the perfect balance of wall thicknesses and geometry to create the platform that worked.”
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testing in Colorado consisted of experimental soles fused on the running upper of the streamlined Lunar Racer 1 silhouette. Feedback from runners on these early versions showed signs of promise to continue moving forward.
“That created a tremendous amount of confidence and momentum for the whole project because feeling it is believing it, and so many people experienced what the dream was,” says Gomez.