Style Nike Air Foamposite, the future

Nike Air Foamposite, the future

Andrea Tuzio
Nike Air Foamposite, il futuro |

In 1997 Nike launched one of the most innovative, futuristic, disorienting, polarizing, divisive and successful silhouettes in the brand’s history, the Nike Air Foamposite.

The reception of that basketball shoe so different from anything seen up to that moment divided public opinion into two camps: on the one hand, there were those who branded it as a failed experiment, both from the point of view of design and from a structural point of view, even claiming that Nike was throwing away all the work done with the Air Jordan line; on the other, there were those who fell in love at first sight, seeing a decisive step in the future.
Doubts, however, were dispelled almost immediately.
Right from the first tests in the field, it was clear that the shoe of the future was not just an aesthetic quirk but translated into an incredible comfort and thanks to the heat developed during the activity inside the shoe, the Posite upper molded around the foot, this peculiarity made the Nike Air Foamposite one of the best performing basketball sneakers ever made.

“What if you literally just dipped your foot in this liquid bath of material and it just sucked around your foot? What if you could play basketball with the resulting structure?””
Eric Avar

It began as an experimental project by Nike’s Advanced Product Engineering team led by Eric Avar and current Director of Footwear Innovation Exploration, Jeff Johnson, and soon turned into the Beaverton-based company’s most expensive silhouette ever: the mold used to create the shoe alone cost Nike a whopping $750,000. “Basically, it was a kind of coating of material into which we poured polyurethane. That way we defined shape and structure. The middle part of the mold defined the shape of the shoe, while the side moldings defined the outside details; then, we pressed all the parts together”, Avar stated.

The difficulty of Avar and his team was to find a contractor able to provide the synthetic material for the seamless structure of the shoe, the answer came from the Daewoo car company that contributed in a decisive way to the production of the Foamposite. According to Avar, the process of creating the 1997 model took about three or four years and was completed not without negative criticism as we said at the beginning.

Originally intended to be worn by the second-highest scoring fiddle in basketball history, Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen, who however refused once he saw them, it was another NBA player who chose to wear them, Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway
Avar called the then-guard of the Orlando Magic to discuss his new signature shoes after designing the Air Penny two years earlier, and they met, “We were finishing up and Penny looks at me and says, ‘what’s that in your bag?’ I almost hesitated to pull the shoes out of the bag but I did and he grabbed them and goes ‘what is this?’ I said it was a concept we were working on. He stopped me right then and there and said ‘This is it. I want this to be my next shoe'”.

Penny Hardaway in fact was the first NBA player to wear them on the court but the real debut of the Nike Air Foamposite on a parquet was thanks to Mike Bibby, at the time playground of the University of Arizona, the famous Arizona Wildcats, who wore the shoes during an NCAA game on March 23th, 1997.

Hardaway wore them in the second part of the 96/97 season but, given the regulations based on the coloring of the shoe – which had to be always in color with the colors of the franchise – the NBA felt that too much blue did not match the colors of the Orlando Magic so it seems that the same Penny Hardaway colored in black with a marker pen the grooves of the upper, creating the famous colorway “Sharpie”.

In these almost 24 years the technology that characterized the Foamposite has been used for many other models still present in the Nike Basketball catalog and many were the colorways made, making the leap off the parquet and becoming a cult model for every sneakerhead on the face of the earth.

With its hefty price tag and oh-so-divisive futuristic aesthetic, the Nike Air Foamposite has become one of Nike’s most sought-after silhouettes and cultural landmark, as underscored by its 2014 collaboration with Supreme and the impending comeback of one of the iconic models in Nike’s entire history.
Written by Andrea Tuzio
Listen on