Nike Alpha Project fans rejoice: the Swoosh are bringing back the Air Kukini! The Y2K slip-on runner's return was first rumoured last fall, but its return is official tissue now as product images of two colourways, one with leopard print and the other that looks to feature a topographical map, have been loaded up in the back end of the Nike website.
The last time we saw the Kukini's cult favourite plastic cage was in 2020 when Stussy mashed it together with the Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2's midsole to create a hybrid sneaker, and it also made an appearance with Nike Free soles back in 2012. However, these retro releases are no hybrid – they're true to the original 2000 design, which last retroed back in 2011.
As mentioned above, the Air Kukini is a part of Nike's Alpha Project, an innovative, performance-geared Swoosh sub-label that was active around the turn of the century and also gave us classics like the Air Presto, Air Zoom GP and Air Zoom Haven. The Air Kukini was created by Sean McDowell (the man responsible for the Air Max Plus), and its flexible plastic cage system was inspired by the logo on the Spyder racing suit that Olympic skier Picabo Street wore during the 1998 Games. The Swoosh tapped triathlete Mark Allen for the Kukini's wear testing, which lead to another innovation: small holes in the sole so the water triathletes often pour over their head to cool off wouldn't pool in their shoes! Other details include large pull tabs for ease of entry and removal and a heel Air unit. There's not much branding to be seen either – just a single small Swoosh on the tongue and the Alpha Project's signature five-dot logo on the lateral heel.
Expect the Nike Kukini to return to market later in the year. Its MSRP has yet to be announced.
While you wait for the return of the Air Kukini, check out one sneakerhead's love letter to his ultra-beat pair – first published all the way back in Sneaker Freaker #8! Click here.