The Nike Air VaporMax Plus debuted at retail in 2018. However, its origin story dates back decades prior.
Inspired by the illustrious Nike Air Max Plus from 1998, the Air VaporMax Plus proves just how modern technology can uplift iconic ideas. Famously, the original Air Max Plus debuted at retail in 1998 and never left the shelves for more than 20 years to follow, always stocked in concurrent colorway or updated retro form in some corners of the world.
Essentially, the roots of the Air Max Plus date back to 1997 when Nike footwear designer Sean McDowell had arrived at the brand. Quickly, he was tasked to create a new Air Max running shoe. Already having ideas that originated from his time hanging out on Florida beaches, McDowell pulled from the elements by drafting a sneaker that had a sunset aesthetic on the upper, upheld by support that looked like swaying palm trees. The breezy beauty became the Nike Air Max Plus, a shoe easily recognizable thanks to its fluid design, top-down 3M flash and of course, new Nike Air cushioning.
While design details caught the eye of fashionable wearers around the world in 1998, the true selling point for serious runners at that time was the Nike Air Max Plus’s new Tuned Air technology. Serving as the debut model for Nike’s latest performance tech, the Air Max Plus ushered in a new way to articulate the brand’s infamous Air Max cushioning. By using blow-molded Air bubbles backed by rubberized hemispheres in strategic spots, Tuned Air cushioning was designed to offer a smoother, more supportive ride for runners.
Over the course of the late 1990s and 2000s, Nike would continue to reinvent its Air Max cushioning in a myriad of ways. However, it was in 2017 when the most radical revision of Nike Air would hit the market in the form of VaporMax.
Taking seven years of ideation and engineering before it was fit to hit the market, VaporMax mimicked running on air aesthetically while offering a more efficient ride technically. The full-length cushioning was fresh, flexible and far less weighty visually than previous iterations of Nike Air, providing the most futuristic rendition of the famed technology yet.
Instantly, the new tech turned heads in the world of running while also gaining traction among fashion crowds. Having seen this phenomenon before, Nike leaned into the upcoming 20-year anniversary of the Air Max Plus to modernize an old favorite with yet another new evolution of Air Max cushioning.
In 2018, the Nike Air VaporMax Plus was released.
Sporting a stronger, more advanced stance than the iconic original, the Nike Air VaporMax Plus quickly caught attention from fans hip to nostalgia but also honing curiosity about what was next. On the Air VaporMax Plus, the Tuned Air sole was replaced by a more modern VaporMax unit, while the upper elected a softer neoprene fit. The original’s palm tree styling became even stronger by way of bold TPU caging, while 3M hits also appeared down the tongue and toe box as a nod to the original. For added effect, the famous heel branding was carried over, instead reading Vm Air rather than Tn Air.
In its introduction, the Nike Air VaporMax Plus pulled from original favorites like the acclaimed “Hyper Blue” colorway seen on the Air Max Plus and its orange “Sunset” iteration. Tonal pairs in all-black and all-white also turned heads, proving that like the original, the Air VaporMax Plus could continually reinvent itself in new themes and colorways without missing a beat.
Over the course of its growth, the Nike Air VaporMax Plus began to expand its range by releasing in beautiful “Be True” celebratory colorways as well as makeups that nodded the likes of other archival Air Max favorites like the “Neon” Air Max 95 and “Undftd” Air Max 97. The shoe became a hit from fashion elite, such as A$AP Rocky, as well as everyday mall shoppers looking for a loud look with plenty of modern cushioning. The Nike Air VaporMax Plus appealed to almost all due to its nostalgic lines, evolved technology and accessibility at sneaker stores worldwide.
Even after years on the market, the Nike Air VaporMax Plus has proven to have incredible staying power. Living as a lifestyle favorite among fans of all ages and less of a performance running shoe, the VaporMax Plus remains in rotation at shoe stores in the U.S. and abroad. With no signs of slowing down, countless colorways continue to be rolled out, ranging in inspiration from Nike athletes Ken Griffey Jr. to black/hyper pink pairs reminiscent of the Nike Air Yeezy 2.
Touching down in 2018 but offering homage to 1998, the Nike Air VaporMax Plus is here to stay.