Whether you're a Nike newcomer or a longtime fan, chances are there are still some things you could learn about the Swoosh. The brand is backed by a deep, rich history that serves as the groundwork for the strides and innovations they are able to make today. In order to get you better acquainted, we've rounded up some facts that help explain exactly why Nike is the number one sneaker brand in the world today. From historic tidbits to info on modern technologies, these are 25 Things About Nike Performance Sneakers Every Athlete Should Know.
Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and a contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things pop culture, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.
No. 1 - You can't get EVERY signature shoe.
From LeBron's sneaks to Ronaldo's boots, Nike's numerous signature models are among their most popular. However, oftentimes athletes are laced in specialized custom versions that cater to their specific game and differ from the models found on retail shelves. Look no further than Serena's Lunar Mirabella PE, which tennis fans are still thirsting for. And you thought the "Red Octobers" were hard to track down!
No. 2 - Nike has shoes for almost every athletic activity.
Nike makes shoes for almost everything, including yoga and dance with the Studio Wrap training shoe (pictured). Cop 'em here.
No. 3 - NikeiD was a true game changer.
NikeiD launched in 1999, offering a customizable, yet fairly bare bones experience. Through the years, they've improved the design and functionality of the page to make it more intuitive and user friendly. Ten years after its debut, NikeiD brought in over $100 mil for the Swoosh, and today it remains one of their most lucrative offshoots.
No. 4 - SB's weren't always successful.
Nike's first foray into skateboarding was a struggle, as the skate market was already dominated by brands like DC and Vans. It took almost five years for the Nike SB brand to come to fruition, but now they've developed into a well respected brand in the skate community.
No. 5 - They even took the Swoosh to the ice, but you may have missed it.
They even had a brief run in hockey, after they re-branded Bauer products in 2006. Just two years later, the Swoosh's tenure on the ice was over. Good luck finding a pair of Nike ice skates in 2014.
No. 6 - There was a time when using leather on a basketball shoe was unheard of.
In a move that would change the landscape of basketball footwear, Nike introduced their first leather hoops shoe, the Blazer, in 1972. However, adidas beat them to the punch with the Pro Model in 1965. Nowadays, leather has been all but abandoned on Nike's performance basketball sneakers in favor of modern materials like Hyperfuse, Hyperposite, and Flyknit.
No. 7 - Sorry, Air Max won't make you jump higher, but...
Air Max cushioning is best for athletes who need to absorb serious impact, such as basketball centers and other larger sized athletes. No, it won't make you jump higher, but it will cushion your landings, keeping you safe and comfortable.
No. 8 - The first time was the charm for Air Max.
Air Max debuted in 1987 on the Air Max 1 running shoe and Air Revolution basketball sneaker. Nearly 30 years later, it's still a Swoosh staple on running, basketball, and training shoes. Its debut was accompanied by an unforgettable TV spot which you can check out below.
No. 9 - As athletes evolved, so did Nike's cushioning.
Zoom Air is best for agile athletes looking for speed and responsiveness. Think quick, explosive guards who player on their toes and short distance runners who require quick movements. More details are available here.
No. 10 - Zoom Air debuted under a different name and paved the way for the sneakers of today.
Before it was known as Zoom Air, it debuted as "Tensile Air" in the Air Go LWP. Worn by guys like Penny Hardaway and Gary Payton, the Air Go LWP served as the foundation for today's signature Kobe and LeBron shoes.
No. 11 - The game continued to change with Lunarlon, which took its inspiration from NASA tech.
Meanwhile, Lunarlon, which was designed in 2004 by Kevin Hoffer and Eric Avar, offers a middle-ground between Zoom and Max Air, with a balance of both heavy duty shock absorption and energy return. Check the full rundown here.
No. 12 - Nike is always ahead of the curve, and Free is a perfect example.
Nike was an early adopter of the minimal running trend. For athletes who prefer more natural flexibility instead of sturdy cushion, Nike Free soles were introduced in 2004, and they're still going hard today. Check out one of the original commercials below.
No. 13 - Tinker Hatfield may be the single most important designer of all time.
Tinker Hatfield came aboard in 1981 and wasted little time in revolutionizing the sneaker world. Hatfield is notable for originating the concept of cross-trainers, allowing athletes to stick with one shoe for a variety of activities. He's also the brains behind some of the Swoosh's biggest designs, including the Air Max 1, Air Huarache, and a majority of the Air Jordan legacy collection.
No. 14 - But the younger Eric Avar is hot on his heels.
Eric Avar got involved with designing early, helping Tinker Hatfield to conceptualize the Air Flight Huarache in 1992. This innovative model brought Huarache tech to the hardwood for the first time, and Avar continued his groundbreaking ways with designs like the Air Foamposite One. Today, he's responsible for Kobe Bryant's signature collection, which ballers can shop here.
No. 15 - For as much flack as they get about certain practices, Nike has gone to great lengths to be environmentally friendly.
In 2005, Nike launched their Considered program, which introduced sustainable sneakers constructed of environmentally friendly materials. Considered sneakers use stitching in place of potentially harmful glues and adhesives, and generally use as few materials as possible. The result is a shoe that will break down easier, which can be recycled into something entirely new or disposed of with minimal environmental impact.
No. 16 - The Air Jordan XX3 and Trash Talk models are proof that less is sometimes more.
Considered hit the hardwood for the first time in 2008 with the Air Jordan XX3 (above) and Steve Nash's Trash Talk model (below). The latter was the first ever basketball shoe constructed from manufacturing waste. For green-conscience athletes, Considered is one of Nike's most important innovations.
No. 17 - Nike knew Apple was onto something with the iPod, and their partnership paid off.
Partnering with Apple, Nike launched Nike+ in 2006. This allowed athletes to track their workout progress and has evolved into one of the most popular mobile apps for fitness and running. You'll need the Nike+ sensor to get the full benefits of the technology, but the standalone running app is a great way to track your progress and get a feel for what it has to offer.
No. 18 - Never slip around in your shoes again.
The Swoosh's patented support system, Flywire, was inspired by the cables of a suspension bridge. Designer Jay Meschter played a key role in Nike winning the Advertising Age's Design Company of the Year Award after Flywire made its debut in 2008. As illustrated in the image above, Flywire is strategically placed through the upper to support and lockdown the foot while also allowing for a flexible range of motion. If you're the kind of athlete who feels like they never have enough support, Flywire is your solution.
No. 19 - Is that a sweater?
After years of research and development, Flyknit burst on the scene at the 2012 Olympics in the form of the Flyknit Racer. This highly breathable sock-like material offers new levels of comfort for many activities, including running, training, soccer, football, and basketball. We're still waiting to see if the Swoosh will take Flyknit to the baseball diamond or skate shoes, but for now we're just enjoying the cool breeze at our feet.
No. 20 - The Flyknit Racer is so light, you might forget you're wearing them.
The Nike Flyknit Racer weighs just 5.6 ounces, making it the lightest Nike running shoe of all time, 19% lighter than the 2011 World Championship winner Zoom Streak 3. If you're looking for lightweight speed, cop these now for $150. You might not even notice they're on your feet! Find out how to clean 'em here.
No. 21 - The Air Pegasus belongs in history books.
In its 31st year, the Nike Air Pegasus is the longest lasting Nike Running franchise of all time. It made its debut in 1983. Built around a nylon and suede upper, the original Pegasus retailed for just $50 and set the tone for decades to come.
No. 22 - By working closely with their athletes, Nike continues to improve the Pegasus franchise.
The most recent Pegasus installment, the Air Zoom Pegasus 31, was inspired by 5k/10k champion and Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah. Sticking with tradition, the Pegasus 31 features a clean design that is ready to take on long distance running and training. Find out more about the Pegasus 31, including details on Mo Farah's insight, in the clip below and pick them up today for $100.
No. 23 - The Swoosh logo design cost Nike just $35.
The iconic Swoosh logo, designed in 1971 by graphic design student Carolyn Davidson, originally cost Nike only $35. In 1985, Davidson was gifted a gold and platinum Swoosh ring, as well as an undisclosed chunk of Nike stock. "The stock has split three times since I received it, so I can definitely say that I have been well compensated for my design. You must remember too, that this was something rather special for Phil to do, because I originally billed him and he paid that invoice,” said Davidson.
No. 24 - Nike will replace your damaged shoes.
Nike stands by their product and all of their shoes come with a warranty; if your product has any manufacturing flaws or defects within a two year period, Nike will reimburse you with a voucher for the full retail value. Find out more about submitting a claim here.
No. 25 - They're constantly progressing.
Nike products are always evolving. New technologies, improvements, and updates are unveiled on a regular basis, resulting in higher performance, added comfort, and longer lasting durability. If you're having trouble finding the right Nike shoe for you, don't compromise and waste your hard earned cash on something that might not get the job done. Wait it out, your dream sneaker could be right around the corner.