Nike Air Presto ‘Lightning’: OG vs Retro vs React
The Nike Air Presto is an important silhouette in sneaker lore. The story has been heard countless times: it’s the t-shirt for your feet. Designed by Tinker Hatfield’s brother, Tobie, it did away with conventional numerical shoe sizing. Instead, it ranged from XXXS to XXXL, the equivalent of size 5 to 15 US. Strangely enough, Nike used to display a Presto size chart online that went to the extremes of 5XS to 5XL, despite those fringe sizes never officially existing!
Launched in 2000, the Air Presto is arguably an early example of sneakers receiving nicknames or themes. Instead of being given these monikers by consumers, it was Nike themselves who gave the Presto’s 13 launch colourways irreverent names like ‘Shady Milkman’ and ‘Unholy Cumulus’.
Here, we focus on the ‘Trouble At Home’ version, aka the ‘Lightning’. It’s considered one of the Presto’s more collectible colourways, and was brought back in 2015 along with a couple of other OG Air Prestos. Four years later, Nike introduced React cushioning to the line, effectively reviving the Presto name.
SKUey Decimal System
Naturally, we’ve collated the SKU for each ‘Lightning’ Presto. The numbers won’t mean much to most, but they’ll definitely narrow down eBay searches. For your reference, the OG’s SKU is 104231-002, the retro’s is 789870-004, and the React’s is AV2605-006. As for shoeboxes: they come packaged in the grey/brown Alpha Project box, skinny red Nike Sportswear box, and standard red Nike box, respectively.
The biggest point of comparison between these Prestos will be the lightning print. Unsurprisingly, the OG has the most vibrant lightning print, displaying the highest amount of white bolts along the tongue and toe box. The retro has a relatively piddling amount, opting for deeper royal blue bolts, but the print does run towards the back of the shoe. The React’s lightning pattern sits somewhere in between, also introducing purple shades. Its toe box Swoosh is bonded black, as opposed to both Air Prestos’ embroidered silver contrast types. It’s fairly clear which version has the best-looking lightning print.
Nike touts Air and React as two of their most revolutionary cushioning materials. As such, both iterations of the Presto are supremely comfortable. But – maybe it’s old head bias – the Air sole rules over React underfoot. The tooling on the OG midsole flows much better too. The React looks a bit mutated. One thing the Air Presto retro gets right is the BRS 1000 and Duralon sole sections. Other Nike retros, like Air Ghost Racer, didn’t bring back the Duralon. React is reportedly the company’s longest-lasting foam, so the latest Lightning Presto could beat out the Air soles – it already has a 20-year headstart.
Born out of the Alpha Project era, the Air Presto’s stretchy upper accommodated different feet shapes, but still needed some form of lockdown. Enter the plastic exoskeleton ‘cage’ that formed an external heel counter and midfoot lace system. Given the OG Air Presto is reaching its 20th birthday, the cages have gone rather foggy and opaque, with a yellow tone running throughout. In the four years of the retro’s existence, there’s a slight milky finish forming. Of course, as the React edition only released this year, it’s still pristine – but it’s the most opaque of the three. Its staggered eyelet placement might provide the best fit.
The Finer Details
Is a Presto a Presto, if it doesn’t use t-shirt sizing? It’s something of an existential question, ever since Nike ditched it in favour of standard numbers, circa 2016, when the Presto blew up again. The React Presto goes the same route, so is it a true Presto? There have been plenty of permutations over the years, so it would be unfair to exclude the React version. It’s a respectful homage to the OG, down to the medial Presto branding and Alpha Project dots. A nice-to-have on the React Presto would have been the rubberised ‘P’ tongue badge like the Air Presto, but obviously its lace system prevents that.
The OG has the best shoelaces. Yes, they’re the right width and length for a small knot when laced loosely. The 2015 retro’s laces were verging on being a suitable replacement for SB Dunk laces – that’s how fat they were in comparison. The React Presto lacing system doesn’t particularly lend itself to tying the ends, as it’s too easy to just loop them on themselves. Its pointy toe box shape is rather pleasant though, especially on-foot. People who choose the wrong size with the Air Presto either make them look like a stuffed ham, or inflict them with the cursed ‘banana’ toe.
All in all, regardless of any bias towards the OG Air Presto ‘Lightning’, it’s still worth tracking down the 2015 retro and/or the React Presto versions, simply for the fact they’re great shoes. It’s promising to see Nike do their back catalogue justice. Next up, the Air Max 90...