words // Nick DePaula:
I didn’t want to be that guy. So I waited 24 hours, to say…
I’ve never liked Air Max.
I’ll qualify that immediately by admitting that several Air Max sneakers are some of the greatest footwear designs the industry has ever seen.
Air Max 1. Air Max 95. Air Max 97. Tuned Max. Air More Uptempo. Air Max Uptempo 3. LeBron VII.
The list is lengthy. The aesthetic designs are awesome.
The problem is, I’ve worn all of them. And Zoom Air, even Lunar, and more recently, definitely Boost, are all infinitely more comfortable.
As it stands now, I don’t even own any Air Max runners. Had 1s. Had 95s. Had 97s. Wore them each around 2-3 times, and realized they were firm, clunky and not something I wanted to kick around for 6+ hours. (I damn sure wasn’t about to go for an actual run in them.) So I sold them all awhile back, and have never regretted it for a second.
For a technology that’s almost 30 years old, the longevity and success of Air Max is easily attributable — it’s the greatest product marketing we’ve ever seen — because you can see it.
Whether it was the aura of Air in the III lifting the Air Jordan series to new heights, the storytelling behind Tinker’s gorgeous and flowing Parisian Pompidou Center-inspired Air Max 1, or the fact that to the most basic of mall consumers, it simply looks cool as hell — the Nike Air unit in visible form works from a marketing standpoint every time.
Nike re-packaged air, one of the least scarce natural resources on the planet, and sold it to consumers worldwide for a span stretching more than three decades.
Beyond just the fact that I inherently don’t think it’s a comfortable cushioning setup, another reason I’ve lost the love for the Air Max series through the years is the fact that there’s seemingly 17 versions of an iconic model like the Grey / Neon Air Max 95, White / Red Air Max 1 or Infared 90.
I’m showing my age, but it’s gotten old to see 6 different Retro versions of the original released, along with a fused pair, a Natural Motion joint, an Air Max 360 version, an Engineered Mesh release and even pairs with Flywire, because why the hell not at that point.
It’s the same reason Cement print or the KB8 / Crazy 8 don’t hold much value for me these days. The stories have been ran entirely into the ground.
More than anything, I’m such a stubborn proponent of Zoom Air, which is clearly the cushioning benchmark in the industry and has been every single year since it was first introduced in 1994. It’s not even remotely close.
Year after year, the low profile, highly tense and responsive fibers work in tandem to give a boost bounce and feel that no one can match. Just recently, Jordan Brand even further accelerated the properties that make Zoom Air so great, with the introduction of its Flight Plate system. (Go give Flight Plate a run on the court asap if you haven’t already.)
The obvious key flaw that has held Zoom back for all this time from a marketing standpoint is that you can’t see the actual Zoom Air bag from the wall of a Foot Locker, so incredible Zoom-based shoes like the Spiridon (seen right), Hyperdunk 2011, XX8 SE and Jumpman Pro go underappreciated over time. The average consumer just isn’t savvy enough to know what the phrase “encapsulated” means. #EncapsulatedZoomDay doesn’t quite have enough of a ring to it.
When Air Max turned 20 in 2006, Nike rolled out an awesome “History of Air” collection, complete with true-to-form Retro editions of the key Air Max models, along with a new max volume unit that’s become an annual mainstay dubbed Air Max 360.
I was hoping for a similar tribute from the brand when Zoom’s 20th anniversary came around last year, to no avail. Instead, I’ll just be that one grumpy dude during every manufactured #AirMaxDay national holiday from here on out, that won’t be putting his feet through the firmness that is Air Max, calling for everyone else to move on from the past’s greatness and start to appreciate the more efficient and superior cushioning systems out there today.