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This is what walking on air feels like

Get ready for takeoff

By ELLE team  April 10th, 2017

It was 11 degrees on a spring day in Seoul’s hip Hongdae district, where 40 runners had gathered to do a 5km street run. The chilly wind couldn’t dampen any spirits—the crew had only one thing on their mind as they sprinted through the alleys: putting their brand new Nike Air VaporMax sneakers to the test. It’s not every day that you get to try the most cutting-edge running technology before the rest of the world, especially one from Nike’s iconic Air Max family.

Nike has been putting visible air pockets in soles since the Air Max 1 debuted in 1987, so why is the VaporMax so radical? It’s because inspite of the shoe’s success, Nike has been tweaking the design for three decades, compressing this air (really nitrogen) into different mouldings for a bouncier, more cushioned footfall. The latest Air VaporMax is the lightest yet, constructed without the rubber casing and foam layers around the pockets. It’s almost a shoe hug as your foot is cocooned with their signature knitted FlyKnit while it sits on the airbag-like sole. “Foam breaks down over time because it’s porous, but air maintains the same resilience,” said Andrea Corradini, Nike’s senior product director about the concept behind the latest upgrade.

The sole’s design isn’t sleek exactly, but then Nike doesn’t do things merely for the aesthetics. Since performance comes first, the team went through 15 prototypes and wear-tested these designs for 2,03,000 kms with the help of 350 athletes before it landed on shelves. It may look like a wonky shoe, but after the run day in Seoul, everyone agreed that it delivered on its promise of cloud-like comfort. And at only 250 grams, the Nike Air VaporMax weighs half of the Air Max 1. For non-runners, this kind of light, flexible shoe will help you go way beyond your threshold. The only conundrum: should you wear them just on your run or could you get away with wearing them to cocktails later? 

Flip through the gallery to see the landmark running sneakers that came before the VaporMax:

Air Max 1, 1987  

When the Air Max revolution began, Nike was worried about selling a shoe with a hole in it.

Air Max 93, 1993

It took some experimenting before the engineers finally found a way to create 3D Air soles for a pillowy sensation.

Air Max 95, 1995 

While the team replaced foam with Air units in the back, this time they introduced another one under the front of the shoe as well.


Air Max 97, 1997

This version witnessed many first-time innovations, like the single unit of Air that covered the entire foot, and hidden laces. 

Air Max 2015, 2015 

Team Nike could not resist tweaking the technology further to make the most flexible full-length Air soles ever.