Zoom Air. Shox. Free. Lunarlon. Over the years, Nike’s introduced a handful of industry shifting cushioning technologies, but few of them have had the staying power of the Air Max line. What began as a revolutionary performance mechanism soon blossomed into an iconic symbol of street style, eventually earning its spot as the best of both worlds for runners and sneaker enthusiasts alike. 

It wasn’t always easy, and many of Air Max’s biggest developments took years to perfect, but Nike’s willingness to push the envelope has resulted in what is perhaps the most well-known running shoe of all-time. To our generation, Air Max is a household name, and believe it or not, its legacy is only continuing to grow. As Nike and Finish Line get set to roll out the latest flagship sneaker, the Air Max 2016, the future is looking brighter than ever. 

Unlike other shoes that might excel in one particular area, the versatility of the Air Max range managed to win over both serious, competitive runners and stylish sneakerheads who hadn’t been on a track in years. The Air Max line’s combination of a striking, visible Nike Air unit and forward-thinking design cues helped it earn a permanent spot in the locker room and on the runway, and it’s this same dual-purpose appeal that’s allowed it to remain relevant for decades.

Illustrations by Marcus Allen​