Tinker Hatfield and Nike have revolutionized the shoe world into how we know it today. One of the first and most popular Nike shoe is the Nike Air Max. The Air Max was the first shoe that allowed customers to see the actual air bubble cushion inside. Here is how Tinker Hatfield developed the Air Max Zero, the one before the 1.
"“There was no brief or research, just a single revelation. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we design an exciting new running shoe that reveals to the world what Nike Air really is?’” — Tinker Hatfield
At the time, Nike had already introduced Nike Air, which was a big hit among running enthusiasts. But Hatfield knew that wasn’t enough. The sensation of air underfoot needed to be expanded to other senses.
“I remember thinking about how we were making bigger and bigger Air-Sole units and that people needed to see and understand them,” Hatfield recalls.
Nike had the technology. What it needed was the perfect package to reveal it to the world. So Hatfield put pen to paper to do just that.
What happened next is history: Hatfield famously travels to Paris, where he sees the Centre Pompidou and is inspired by the building’s unique inside-out design. Upon returning to Oregon, he sits down and brings the concept of visible air to life in the form of a revolutionary running shoe.
This is the story that most know – but it is only half true. The Nike Air Max 1 wasn’t designed in one shot. Rather, it was the result of several design iterations, one of the earliest being the concept of the Air Max Zero. Unknowingly channeling designs that would not come to fruition until many years later, Hatfield focused on a shoe that featured only the necessities for supreme comfort and performance.
“I thought about sculpting the midsole to be more minimal, rising up where more support is needed and dropping back down where it isn’t," Hatfield remembers.
He designed the upper to be comfortable and form-fitting, with a tipless vamp, an idea borrowed from the 1985 Nike Sock Racer. The sketch also featured an external heel strap that lacked a heel counter, a design concept that remained unseen until the Nike Air Huarache release in 1991.
"It was pre-Huarache. Kind of like how sandals are designed to wrap around your heel, over your heel bone," Hatfield recalls about his original design.
Put short, Hatfield had designed a shoe so advanced it could not be produced.
“In many ways, it was ahead of its time,” Hatfield says. “Not just in regards to its appearance, but also in terms of the construction it required. The technology and materials available to us at the time weren’t advanced enough to execute the original vision.”
Faced with reality, Hatfield was forced to reinterpret his design. This led to the creation of the Nike Air Max 1, which singlehandedly kickstarted a revolution in the running shoe industry. Visible air would soon make its way from running to basketball. Over time, Nike Air Max would transcend its running roots to become a lifestyle staple recognized around the world." from Nike.com