The Nike Air VaporMax was released on the 25th of March 2017, and instantly turned heads with its air unit that took up the entire sole. Released in time for Air Max day, the shoe was Nike’s attempt to look into the future of Air Max, and not just re-releasing their previous models. The shoe was a risky move, and just like every Air Max release that had more air or a larger air unit, there were skeptics who thought the shoes wouldn’t be durable, but 3 years on it is clear Nike proved its critics wrong.
What sets the Nike Air VaporMax apart from any other shoe is its sole made up completely of air units. Now, other shoes had done this before, however they have always had a support system made up of plastic, inside the bubbles to keep their shape and to stop them from popping. This was the first time the air bubbles were completely translucent, with nothing in them but air. Said to have taken 7 years to design, the creators decided instead of trying to add more air to a shoe, like they had previously done, they should use less air, more efficiently. The idea was to have a shoe that truly felt like you were walking on air, and when you looked at someone wearing a pair of VaporMax’s, it would give the illusion they were floating.
The Nike Air VaporMax was not just made to look nice, like many of the other Air Max models, it was designed to be a running shoe. For this reason, the shoe is very light thanks to a comfortable FlyKnit upper, supported by a reinforced heel section and FlyWire around the mid foot. The air units were split up so that the shoe could still bend with your feet and feel more natural, not too dissimilar from the idea behind Nike’s Free technology.
As it was a running shoe that was also stylish enough to be worn casually, the Vapormax instantly started to be compared to the Adidas Ultraboost. The Ultraboost at the time was extremely popular, especially thanks to its Boost cushioning that people swore by at the time, and up until this point no brand had come close to matching it. That was until the VaporMax came along, and for the first time, the Air units were no longer a gimmick that looked good, they were also ridiculously comfortable. The mix of FlyKnit and this new Nike Air regained some of the market for Nike, that Adidas had taken with the Ultraboost, and all of a sudden Adidas had to deal with competition. Nike and Adidas both produced laceless versions of the VaporMax, they both collaborated with big brands like Acronym, Missoni, and Kith, and the sudden competition brought out new, wild, and risky ideas from both brands.
It is safe to say, the Nike Air VaporMax has impacted shoe culture massively already, and shown the extent of Max Air. It has shown that Air units, originally used in 1979, with a few tweaks and adjustments, can still live up to the performance standards of today, 41 years later.