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    Air VaporMax

    Get ready to run on… nothing! Sounds crazy, but that’s really what it’s like to wear Nike Air VaporMax. When Nike designers Tom Minami and Zach Elder launched this innovative new running shoe in 2017, they said they were fully delivering on Air’s original promise made back in 1987 by Tinker Hatfield when he designed the first ever Air Max. Hatfield decided to reveal the ‘hidden’ technology of Air to the world of running, an idea which popped into his mind after a visit to the famous building ‘Pompidou Centre’ in Paris, that also shows its internal structure. A revolutionary move by the American. Within 30 years Nike managed to expand the visible Air from a small under-the-heel, completely encased in a foam midsole, to an Air-only sole with no foam at all. It was a long ride from the debut of Air Max 1 in 1987 to 2017, which was Nike VaporMax’s time to shine. The world witnessed Nike launch mens and womens shoes and VaporMax evolve from a running shoe to a sneaker. We even saw the introduction of kids’ shoes targeting boys, girls and the younger children with junior sizes. The world's biggest stars such as Neymar, Ronaldo (CR7), Travis Scott and Odell Beckham Jr (OBJ), start wearing Nike VaporMax. From the moment they came onto the scene, people in the UK and the rest of the world have rushed out to the nearest store whenever VaporMax goes on sale, hoping to buy the latest model at a cheap price. Air Vapormax is one of the few Nike shoes that exists in two worlds at once: the shoe gets sneaker freaks’ hearts racing while it also allows athletes to run effortlessly. With that in mind, let's break down the design.

    Designing shoes for Nike means letting technology and comfort lead the way. That’s the best route to achieving their fundamental goal: enabling athletes to perform to the best of their abilities. As a result, technology and comfort largely determine the overall aesthetic of the shoe, and that is definitely the case with Nike VaporMax. In 2010, the designers set out to enable athletes to run on nothing but air: the ultimate freedom. This meant they had to get rid of the foam midsole and outsole, and construct the new Air Sole in a way that would deliver the intended cushioning, while also offering the stability and durability a running shoe needs. Heat maps and data analysis of foot placement while running led the designers to strategically place several separate Air units under the foot, which explains the big ‘blocks’ on the outsole. It allowed the fully visible Air system - the eye-catching base of the shoe - to operate as the outsole as well as the midsole. The outsole always consists of nothing but air, regardless of the material (or colour) of the upper, which varies in the VaporMax Plus, 2019 and Flyknit. Having no midsole raised some questions. Would it be hard to attach various materials to the Air-only outsole? Would it even stick? These worries turned out to be unfounded. Mesh, leather - even suede - all turned out to connect perfectly. This allowed designers to combine uppers from previous Air Max models to the new Air Sole, turning the running shoe into more of a sneaker and resulting in collabs like the VaporMax 97 - which included the original Silver Bullet colourway - and the VaporMax 95.

    Air VaporMax has had some impressive models since 2017 where Nike wasn’t afraid to use colour. As well as the already impressive All White, the design team produced models completely in orange, in blue (for example the Blue Orbit which originally came from the ‘Day to Night’ pack) and in grey (the famous Wolf Grey shoe). Besides that, they also made multicolour rainbow models. Flyknit material opened up a whole new world of detailed colouring. The Oreo, for example, combined tiny black and white stitches. Along the same lines, it’s also worth mentioning Zebra and Safari. The two models look very similar, apart from the energetic orange Air Sole of the Safari. From the same nature series, VaporMax also has a model called Tiger, which has the animal’s print on the back heel. In addition to these already quite distinctive series, Air VaporMax has had some other exceptional models. Let’s start with the Nike VaporMax Utility. The shoe, also known as Nike Air VaporMax Run Utility, has a slightly industrial look and is made specifically for off-road running. It even took the Flywire out of the Flyknit jacket and features some reflective panels on top. It shows what VaporMax is capable of.

    The shoe allows for famous artists to design remarkable special editions. The Cactus, with its out-of-the-box look, is one of those designs. Virgil Abloh’s Off White edition, a completely white or black version with some small copy on the side, orange details and a big red tag, is slightly more sleek and fashionable. Likewise, the mesmerizing Triple Black version is one to look out for. Not to be confused with the laceless Comme des Garcons (CDG) edition, which was also released all in black. Another collaboration was with Acronym. The brand saw its work on the VaporMax ‘as a visual project’, resulting in a disruptive V-shaped print. Edison Chen’s fashion label CLOT got a blank canvas to work with, the artist chose for a bright red colour. Another interesting variation is the Inneva, which stands out because of its woven upper. Early 2020, a mash-up model of the Vapormax and the Air Max 360 from 2006 came out, called the Air Vapormax 360. The outsole had the typical recognizable Air-only technology and the upper had mesh material similar to the 360 from fourteen years earlier. Then of course there’s the VaporMax OG. A newer version of the first Air VaporMax, which enthusiasts of the original will adore. It’s also possible to design your own custom-made pair with Nike ID. The Nike VaporMax has pulled off some quite impressive looks over the years, and there’s no sign of that slowing down anytime soon.

    Air VaporMax Plus

    One of the VaporMax design team's biggest worries was how any upper would hold on to their new, innovative and fully visible Air Sole. They knew how well all kinds of materials stick to a foam midsole, but now the foam midsole wasn’t there to attach the upper to, it had to be glued straight to the Air units. It sparked the imagination of sneaker-focused designers. Lots of uppers from older running shoes got the chance to be fitted to the VaporMax sole. Nike Air VaporMax Plus is a great example. Here's the formula: Air-only sole + Air Max Plus upper. A shoe with a spacecraft-like and at the same time 90s feel. The Nike VaporMax Plus was launched in a variation of interesting colour combinations. The Black Volt, the Sunset, with its recognisable rainbow fade, and the Obsidian Blue were resurrected. Colours made famous in the last century now got a second life on a 21st century sneaker. Note: the famous ‘Tn’ logo was replaced by ‘Vm’. The VaporMax Plus lends itself well to collabs. Take the winning pair of the ‘Nike On Air’ design competition, designed by Lou Matheron. The main reason for its success was the emerging trend, which began in 2015, of young people wanting to wear sneakers with a 1990s look. Air Max Plus was launched in 1998. A few years before that, Nike designer Sean McDowell was enjoying a stunning sunset on a Californian beach when he suddenly got the inspiration for the Plus’s colourful upper. The palm trees blowing in the wind along the shoreline inspired the wave-like pattern. Nike went on to design some black, grey and solid white trainers. On top of that, the American brand released a colourful rainbow edition. They ingeniously combined past and future, with a 90s upper and a futuristic base.

    Air VaporMax Flyknit

    We would never have had the Nike VaporMax Flyknit if it wasn’t for the year 2012. Back then, Nike launched its groundbreaking Flyknit technology. An upper made out of one single cord, they claimed. Sounds unstable and weak? It turned out to be anything but. Flyknit is defined by extreme strength, durability and comfort. The one string upper was manufactured to mould around the foot, giving it a sock-like feel and fit. Combine that with the walking-on-air concept and you would expect to get a shoe that provides for an effortless run, and that’s exactly what VaporMax Flyknit offers. It didn’t take long for Nike to produce the Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 2 and 3. In those women’s and men’s shoes the Flyknit technology got an update, with the material made even softer, tighter, and more light. One of the biggest assets of the Air VaporMax Flyknit is its multicolour use, designs vary from plain beige to all kinds of bright and dark colours. The detailed stitching of the Flyknit material allows designers to go all out. It has blessed this shoe, as well as the laceless VaporMax Flyknit Moc 2, with nice mysterious shades of purple, navy and cargo khaki. That last version shouldn't be mistaken for the green Camo, which distinguishes itself by the striking pink lug under the biggest air pod beneath the heel. Other models had less colour but weren’t any less flashy. The All Black, that even includes a black Air sole, for example. Or the Pure Platinum, which is completely white and even leans towards silver. Building on that look, the Metallic is also totally white but has a metallic back heel. There was another dark-bright duo in the form of the dark grey Midnight Fog on one hand, with its black Air system, and the light grey Asphalt on the other, with its transparent AirPods. And of course don't forget the Flyknit Utility, a remarkable mid-level version with two little Swoosh logos on the top of the shoe, all made from flyknit material. This variety of Flyknit SE (Special Edition) shoes shows the possibilities with the Flyknit version of VaporMax are endless.

    Air VaporMax 2019

    It seems like ages ago that the Air VaporMax first graced our planet. The fact is, it has only been around since 2017. Building on the success of Flyknit for two sequels, the Nike design team decided to rework the upper for the launch of the Nike VaporMax 2019. The biggest difference: no Flyknit. A new material called Nexkin was developed. Out went the single strings, in came a ‘translucent stretch-woven material’, as Nike described it themselves. As with Flyknit it provided stability, breathability and hugged the foot, but Nexkin was more durable and waterproof. Even Flywire went out the door for the Nike Air VaporMax 2019. It was replaced by another cage-like design. Visible from the outside, the bridge-like structure offered more stability for the runners’ and walkers’ feet. Also without Flyknit - that goes along with subtle colouring - the VaporMax 2019 continues to have some impressive colourways. The first model for men and ladies was released in 2019 and certainly caught people's attention. It was possible to choose between a white and gold, black and gold, or even a copper-coloured shoe. All in all, the century with VaporMax looks promising.

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