Throughout history, Nike has released many iconic sneakers. However, few have generated as much debate as the Nike Air Max. For years, many users have talked about the benefits of shoes with air chambers. However, its creator is hardly ever talked about, a person who left his career as an aeronautical engineer only to try his luck with sneakers, and who was a hair’s breadth away from failing.
The Nike Air Max has DNA from NASA
Talking about the Air Max is talking about one of Nike’s greatest successes. However, for its creator, selling the idea was not easy. Marion Franklin Rudy was born in Ohio in 1925. He was an aeronautical engineer and came to work for NASA. However, during one of his studies for the space agency, Rudy discovered a very resistant rubber capable of encapsulating gases through membranes and creating air pockets.
Rudy was very clear at the time, and in the 1960s, he gave up his career to get that aerospace material to the ground. He devised a system to place an air chamber in the soles of shoes to cushion impacts. At first, he thought that the brands would fight over his invention. However, his bold idea was rejected by 23 shoe companies . The spatial origin of the invention was not enough to convince the big companies, who did not finish seeing the usefulness of the air chambers in the shoes.
Nike did give oxygen to Rudy’s project
In 1977, Franklin presented the prototype to Phil Knight , the co-founder of Nike. Knight tested the shoes on campus in Beaverton and was won over by the comfort and softness. This is how Nike got hold of one of its most successful products.
A year later, the Nike Tailwind debuted with Franklin Rudy’s air cushion system . They did so in limited numbers, and were strategically shipped to stores in Hawaii days before the Honolulu Marathon. In less than 24 hours, not a single pair was left in stores, despite the fact that prices were quite high for the time.
Already in the 80s, this whole concept led to the development of the Nike Air Max 1 , designed by Tinker Hatfield, who was inspired by the Center Pompidou in Paris to give the shoes color and lines.
From this moment on, the original formula of Air technology was squeezed to create all kinds of original designs. In 1994 the Nike Air Max 2 was launched, with multiple air chambers. It is a model that has never been relaunched. This line was very successful until 2006 with the Nike Air Max 360. Shortly after, Nike stopped this line, which returned in 2017 renewed with the Nike Vapormax Flynit and finally, in 2019 with the Nike Air Max 720, with a much more sneaky air in the design of the shoe.
Smoke, air or marketing?
For many, Nike’s ‘Air’ surname is nothing more than a form of marketing . For the same reason, the Nike Air has been put to the test by science on numerous occasions.
In 1978, researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville asked 10 runners to exercise on a treadmill wearing the Nike Tailwind. After collecting information from all the subjects, they verified that the athletes spent less energy running with the Air shoes than with the conventional ones.
The results of the study spread, so that by the mid-1980s, more runners were attracted to these Nike shoes. That would confirm the success of models like the Nike Air Max 1.