After losing ground to the Stripes, the Swoosh whipped out some impressive 2017 creations that struck new chords with sneaker aficionados around the world. The year was spent reflecting on the core values of heritage product, and translating past successes into fresh sneakers fine-tuned for the times. So here’s an overview of the year that was, which will leave you in no doubt: Nike have got their groove back.
Air Max Anniversaries
The year’s biggest Nike headlines have been anniversary-themed. The Air Max 97 and Foamposite each celebrated twentieths, the Air Force 1 turned 35, and the SB line hit 15. But the biggest party of all was reserved for the Air Max 1 – the big 3-0. The wider Air Max family joined the festivities and harnessed the occasion to launch their newest member, the Air VaporMax.
Every decent Nike anniversary brings with it a barrage of retros. As our calendar pages flipped over we saw OG Air Max 1s with painstakingly period-correct details, 90s Foamposite colourways and a number of SB throwbacks – but the two biggest retro drops were the atmos Air Max 1 ‘Elephant’ and the Air Max 97 ‘Silver Bullet.’
In the ten years since its release, the collaborative atmos x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Elephant’ has earned itself a spot in the sneaker hall of fame. It’s only fitting that it resurfaced this year to join the party. And while the shoe wasn’t an easy cop, resale prices have mellowed lately so any desperados out there can fulfil their desires without too much hip-pocket damage. The ‘Silver Bullet’ was another matter. The 20-year-old colourway didn’t drop just once, nor did it drop twice – by our count it was restocked as many as six times! And yep, every restock sold out straight away. There’s no doubt that the silver 97 is a favourite, and when the birthday colourway found its way onto other silhouettes such as the LeBron Soldier 11, Air Max 95 and Air Max Plus the crossovers were a hit.
Although the Air VaporMax wasn’t exactly an anniversary release, we’re slotting it in here anyway. How could we do a Nike recap without it? The shoe officially released as part of this year’s Air Max Day lineup, realising the technology’s inevitable evolution to an all-Air sole unit. No foam, no plastic supports, just a series of strategically placed gas-bags.
Virgil Abloh's Off-White x Nike ‘The Ten’ collection was the biggest collaboration of the year, period! Yeezys have become yawnsome, and while the ,Supreme Uptempos came close to top spot, this year has been all about Abloh. Across Pharrell, Don C, ACRONYM, DJ Khaled, we saw plenty of solid colab releases, but Virgil’s entirely fresh take on existing silhouettes wins for its impressively simple creativity.
For all those who missed out (the online release was a shambles), breathe easy – rumours suggest ‘The Ten’ part two will set the sneakersphere on fire again in 2018. With plenty saga left to play out, it’s entirely possible that, thanks to Virgil, the Jumpman could jump back over Yeezy. Time will tell.
Nike’s Breaking2 campaign turned up the heat to unprecedented levels this year thanks to the revolutionary VaporFly. First up, the Swoosh laced their elite marathon runners in custom pairs of VaporFly Elite. The goal was to aid the athletes in breaking the elusive two-hour marathon – something yet to be done. However, the shoe ended up causing plenty of controversy with concerned rivals claiming it contravened rules pertaining to performance-enhancing footwear.
Despite missing out on the coveted two-hour record, Nike athletes scored 19 of 31 possible podium finishes in 2017. And it wasn’t only the VaporFly Elite that stood tall; many athletes competed in the general release VaporFly 4%, whose claim to fame is its supposed ability to improve running efficiency by 4 per cent.
So what did Nike do to this shoe to make it go so fast? They scienced the shit out of it. One of the first things you notice is that the sneaker is a lot higher off the ground than your average distance-running design, and that its chunky midsole comes to a point at the heel. The low and lightweight upper makes use of all the available top Nike tech, but it’s what’s inside that really makes the difference: a carbon fibre spring plate embedded beneath the foot gives athletes and extra kick.
There’s no denying Nike have absolutely killed it this year. And while many question their dominance, it looks to us like they’re simply redefining their spot on top.