The Complete History of “Medicine Ball” Nike Shoes

Apr 3, 2019 | Matt Halfhill |

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Bo Jackson is arguably the greatest athlete of all time – even ESPN agrees with this statement.

What better athlete to be the face of the multi-sport training category for Nike than Bo?  Bo Jackson is the only athlete to be an All-Star in two professional sports leagues, have the speed to qualify for the Olympic team, and be disciplined in more sports than most Division 1 universities sponsor concurrently.

1988 Magazine Advertisement for Nike Air Trainer SC featuring Bo Jackson
1988 Magazine Advertisement for Nike Air Trainer SC featuring Bo Jackson

In 1988, Bo Jackson led the charge for Nike’s followup to its original Nike Air Trainer that released in 1986 with the Nike Air Trainer SC. One of the colorways that were cooked up for the original release took color inspiration from a training staple for Bo – the medicine ball.

Horween Leather medicine ball
Horween Leather medicine ball

The shoes were featured in magazine ads for Nike as well as TV spots as well as on the feet of a young up-and-coming film director and actor by the name of Spike Lee in the 1989 film “Do The Right Thing.”

Spike Lee wearing the Nike Air Trainer SC in "Do The Right Thing"
Spike Lee wearing the Nike Air Trainer SC in “Do The Right Thing”

The Nike Air Trainer SC sat in the vault for more than a decade have a one and done release in 1988 and did not see a retro drop until 2000. When brought back for the first time, Nike gave the shoe its proper due and rereleased the “Medicine Ball” colorway.

Since the retro release, the legacy of them has made a number of appearances over the years with the colorway gracing a handful of different shoes telling the Bo Jackson story.  Take a look below at the history of the “Medicine Ball” Nike shoes.


Nike Air Trainer SC 1988
Nike Air Trainer SC in original Nike catalog

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer SC
Release: 1988

The Nike Air Trainer SC first released in 1988 in three colorways including the “Medicine Ball” one. It would appear in Bo Jackson adverts and on the silver screen that year, but not see another release until the next century.

Nike Air Trainer III "Medicine Ball" 2000 Retro
Nike Air Trainer III “Medicine Ball” 2000 Retro

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer III “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2000

The Nike Air Trainer SC returned in 2000 with a name change to the Nike Air Trainer III as part of the newly created Limited Edition line by Nike.  Tightly produced runs of the shoes made their way to limited stores as part of a new program launched by Nike in the very early days of what would then become Nike Sportswear.

Nike Dunk High "Medicine Ball"
Nike Dunk High “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Dunk High “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2007

The mid-2000s saw a great Nike Dunk program sold through independent stores and Journeys with Dunks heavily inspired by other iconic Nike and Jordan shoes.  A three-shoe Nike Dunk High set featured this “Medicine Ball” inspired colorway along with pairs that represented the “Chlorophyll” colorway from the original Nike Air Trainer and the unmistakable gray and yellow from the Nike Air Trainer Max ’91 – two other models made famous by Bo Jackson.

Nike Air Trainer III "Medicine Ball"
Nike Air Trainer III “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer III “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2009

In 2009 Nike launched a major initiative around performance training with the launch of the Nike Trainer 1. Besides relaunching the category with substantial investment, Nike wasted no opportunity to remind the market that they invented the category with Nike Sportswear dropping some of their very best OG trainers including the Nike Air Trainer III.

Nike Air Trainer 1.2 Low "Medicine Ball"
Nike Air Trainer 1.2 Low “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Trainer 1.2 Low “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2011

Nike Training updated the Nike Trainer 1 in 2010 with the Trainer 1.2. In 2011, the successful training shoe received a low top update that featured the same great Nike Free forefoot + Air Max heel, Flywire upper, but removed the strap and freed up the ankle for more mobility.  To launch the low top model, Nike took it back with a nod to Bo Jack and introduced the shoe in a “Medicine Ball” motif.

Nike Air Trainer Max 360 "Medicine Ball"
Nike Air Trainer Max 360 “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer Max 360 “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2014

Full-length Max Air was all the rage across numerous categories at Nike by 2014 and the Trainers got their due with the Nike Air Trainer Max 360.  While this drop came on its own, it was only a few months ahead of a big Medicine Ball celebration by Nike Sportswear in early 2015.

Nike Air Trainer Huarache "Medicine Ball"
Nike Air Trainer Huarache “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer Huarache “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2015

While the Air Trainer Huarache was never a shoe connected to Bo Jackson, the Air Trainer Huarache is by far one of the most popular cross trainers from Nike’s vault. This pair was part of a Medicine Ball story that Nike Sportswear launched to start 2015 with a bang.  No better way to crush those new years resolutions properly than to get a little Bo Jackson inspiration.

Nike Air Trainer III "Medicine Ball"
Nike Air Trainer III “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer III “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2015

The great one returned again in 2015 for the first time in six years. Surprisingly, the shoes sold through quite well on opening day at online retailers, but were sluggish in stores with a number of pairs making their way to the outlets.

Jordan Legacy 312 "Medicine Ball"
Jordan Legacy 312 “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Jordan Legacy 312 “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2018

Don C and Jordan Brand hooked up again for another project in 2018, but instead of some retooled and reworked retros, Just Don and JB created a new shoe together – the Jordan Legacy 312. To introduce the Jordan model that blended several iconic shoes previously worn by Mike, Don dressed the shoes in colors that represented some iconic Nike shoes of the era including the “Hot Lime” Nike Air Command Force, “Hot Lava” Nike Air Tech Challenge II, and the “Medicine Ball” colorway from the Nike Air Trainer SC.

Nike Lebron 16 "Medicine Ball"
Nike Lebron 16 “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Lebron 16 “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2019

Nike kicked off another round of LeBron Watch in 2019 on the LeBron 16 with some special make-ups of LeBron’s game shoe inspired by other legendary Nikes. The LeBron 16 “Medicine Ball” released live on SNKRS followed up by a release the next day on the app. Following the surprise drop of this shoe is another return of the shoe in the original trainer form.

Nike Air Trainer 3 "Medicine Ball"
Nike Air Trainer 3 “Medicine Ball”

Shoe: Nike Air Trainer 3 “Medicine Ball”
Release: 2019

More than three decades since its original debut the “Medicine Ball” Nike Air Trainer SC (now called Air Trainer 3) the Bo Jackson classic is back.  They are set to release on April 25, 2019 priced at $130.

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