Air Max is one of Nike’s most celebrated sneaker franchises, but the running shoes haven’t come without criticism. To reinvigorate the line, the brand will rely on its upcoming Air VaporMax release.
“Today’s Air Max is one of our heavier and stiffer products that we have in the line, so we wanted to really make [the Air VaporMax] as flexible as Nike Free and as lightweight as some of our racing product,” Brett Holts, VP of Nike Running Footwear, told Footwear News last week at the brand’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
What separates the Air VaporMax from past Air Maxes is its design. The shoe features a Flyknit upper atop an air bag with an integrated outsole, which reduces the number of layers between the foot and the acclaimed Air unit.
“Because of the constraints of some of the technologies, there have been iterative evolutions of our product line,” said John Hoke, VP of Nike Global Design. “But this to me feels like a revolution. It’s a step change — because of new manufacturing, because of Flyknit. This defines now and the future of a new aesthetic.”
Although the shoe was designed for serious runners, Nike knows aesthetics are just as — if not more — important to today’s consumer. A tweet on Saturday from Matt Powell, VP and sports industry analyst with The NPD Group, stated succinctly how the modern sneaker customer shops: “Only 25 [percent] of athletic shoes are worn for sport purpose. It’s a fashion business, not a sport business.”
Although the Air VaporMax is scheduled for a March release, the shoe has already hit stores through a collab with Comme des Garçons, which dropped earlier this month in a limited capacity.
“We wanted to make sure we were coming at this from a pure performance lens. … We also know Air Max is a lifestyle choice,” Holts said. “If a serious runner wants to use it as a primary running shoe, that’s what this is designed to do. If somebody wants to wear it as just an expression, that’s fine, too.”
The Nike Air VaporMax drops on March 26, known by sneakerheads as Air Max Day, and will retail for $190.