10 Years On: A Look Back at the Nike Air Mag’s Long-Awaited 2011 Release
Still one of the most famous sneaker moments in film history, Marty McFly sliding his feet into the self-lacing Nike Air Mags undoubtedly paved the way for years of technological advancement in the footwear game.
In 2011, 22 years after the premiere of Back to the Future Part II, the sneaker would relinquish its title as the ‘greatest shoe never made’, finally releasing after decades of capturing the sneaker world’s imagination, as well as that of mainstream pop culture.
Ten years on, here’s a look back at the modern history of, arguably, Nike’s most recognisable sneaker – and certainly one of the most sought-after.
Worth the Wait
After being made famous by Back to the Future Part II, the Air Mag’s debut release in 2011 helped raise funds to work towards a future without Parkinson’s disease. Just 1500 pairs were auctioned on eBay, with all net proceeds going directly to The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
The auctioned pairs were designed to be a precise replica of the original from Back to the Future Part II, with identical contours of the upper, the glowing LED panel, and the electroluminescent ‘Nike’ in the strap. While it wasn’t self-lacing (Nike saved that for later), it did illuminate with the pinch of the ‘ear’ of the high top, glowing for five hours per charge.
In the largest charity auction in eBay history, 150 pairs were made available via the platform’s Fashion Vault over a 10-day stretch. Thanks to a previous $50 million match given to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, all donations were matched, effectively doubling the contributions from the auction. By the end, $4.7 million in funds were raised, all of which went towards the aggressive research programs fighting for a cure to Parkinson’s disease.
‘The enthusiasm this project ignited, and the funds and awareness the shoes generated for Parkinson’s research, are both humbling and inspiring,’ said Fox. ‘Our Foundation is truly grateful to Nike for this unique partnership that brought Back to the Future fans, sneakerheads and the PD community together in the quest to eradicate Parkinson’s from the space-time continuum.’
To this day, pairs of the 2011 Air Mag continue to push $20,000 on the secondary market.
The Air Mag Adapts
The hype gigawatts were ramped up to never-before-seen levels in 2016, with the announcement of the second coming of the Air Mag.
‘Though it initially shared only a few seconds of screen time with Michael, the idea behind the Nike Mag unlocked something much bigger at Nike,’ said Mark Parker, Nike President and CEO at the time. ‘It sent us down an uncharted path of innovation, but it also opened our eyes to our ability to fight some of the world’s biggest challenges.’
That ‘bigger’ idea was, of course, adaptive footwear and the eventual release of the famed Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 in December of the same year, the brand’s first auto-lacing performance shoe. Naturally, the 2016 Nike Mag was also equipped with this new technology, making it the most accurate recreation of Marty McFly’s pair we’d seen to date.
If you thought 1500 pairs was limited, the 2016 stock numbers would’ve had you shouting ‘Great Scott’. Nike and The Michael J. Fox Foundation announced a limited-edition release of only 89 pairs – an homage to Back to the Future Part II’s release date – available globally through an online draw, with tickets acquired via $10 donations to The Michael J. Fox Foundation (unlimited entries). Additionally, three pairs were auctioned live in Hong Kong, London, and New York City, with one final pair raffled in Nike Town London. Again, most importantly, 100 per cent of the proceeds went to The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
When the dust eventually settled, it was announced that $6.75 million had been raised from the release, bringing Nike’s overall total between 2011-2016 to $16 million towards the Foundation’s mission.
While a pair fetched $200,000 at auction in NYC upon release (more than double what the OG pair from ‘89 managed to attract a few years later), the sneaker continues to sell for close to $50,000 on the secondary market, with that number trending upwards over the past few years.
We don’t have Dr. Emmett Brown’s DeLorean handy, but we don’t expect the Air Mag to reappear for some time – if ever again.