‘Air’ of superiority: Nike’s GOAT shoe bounds forward

Between a new shoe for Gen Z and a movie about another, it’s a big moment for Nike’s Air brand.

Nike’s GOAT shoe bounds forward

Olivia Heller

John Donahoe referred to running as “the heart” of Nike, and basketball as “its soul.”

Unfortunately, he missed the opportunity to refer to Air Max as the company’s lungs, though he did describe the unit as a “multi-billion-dollar business in its own right,” growing double digits YoY.

Next week is a big one for the Nike brand, with Sunday marking one of the holiest days of the year for sneakerheads — Air Max Day — as well as the launch of the Pulse, Nike’s first Air Max shoe designed for Gen Z.

The history of Air Max…

… stretches all the way back to 1977, when NASA engineer Frank Rudy realized the inflatable inserts he was building for his wife’s ski boots had sneaker potential.

After a meeting with Nike CEO Phil Knight, who then took the inserts on a six-mile run, the duo struck a deal.

While Nike launched the tech with the Air Tailwind in 1978, it wasn’t until 1987, with architect Tinker Hatfield’s Pompidou-inspired Air Max 1s, that you could actually see the signature Air unit in the heel.

In recent years…

… Air Max has seen strong growth:

  • In 2021, the top four bestselling athletic sneakers were Air-branded shoes, per NPD Group.
  • Between 2016 and 2020, the market share of Air Max shoes on sneaker reselling platform StockX rose 800%; between 2019 and 2020, their average value on StockX appreciated 28%.

How ‘bout that for an inflation hedge?

BTW: If the words “Michael Jordan,” “cool sneakers,” and “on the big screen” pique your interest, you’re in luck on April 5.

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