Nike is retroing a forgotten gem from its Air Max line this year and will drop for the first time ever the original big bubble version of the Air Max 1 from 1986.
The sneaker is distinct from the standard Air Max 1 in that it has a bigger visible Air unit on the midsole. The Air Max 1 with the bigger bubble didn’t see a full release in the ’80s, and the smaller bubble version has persisted in the sneaker’s long retro life.
Nike confirmed the retro in a video on its SNKRS app around Air Max Day in March 2022. Now, new details about the shoe, which will officially be called the Air Max 1 ’86, are emerging.
The original white and red colorway will be among this year’s Air Max Day releases on March 26, sneaker industry sources tell Complex.
Also in the works is a “First Sketch” Air Max 1 ’86 colorway inspired by designer Tinker Hatfield’s initial drawings of the shoe. The “First Sketch” pair is set to launch as part of Nike’s Summer 2023 line and will feature a blue safari print on the mudguards and aged midsoles.
The Air Max 1 ’86 may feature in Nike’s Air Max Day plans for 2024 as well. According to one source, the original white/blue colorway is slated to come back for Spring 2024. This scheduled release could change, though, given how far out the sneaker is.
Nike did not respond to a request for comment on its plans for the Air Max 1 ’86.
In the SNKRS program from last year introducing the retro, Nike footwear designer Jonathan Kosenick broke down the history of the big bubble Air Max 1, explaining that Nike had to pull the shoe off the shelves and replace it with a version with a smaller visible bubble.
“As they were testing it in the end of 1986 and as it was rolling into retail in 1987, there were issues,” Kosenick said. “Places where it gets cold cold, they were seeing the Air units start to crack.”
In the same SNKRS program, Nike product line manager Jamie Paige said it took three years to recreate the original 1986 model as a retro. In this work, Nike had to solve the issues that the big bubble version presented decades ago.
“Essentially in 1986, we kind of failed,” Paige said. “We didn’t bring the original design intent to market. So we wanted the challenge of, ‘Is it possible 35 years later?’”
The Air Max 1 ’86 will be a relatively limited sneaker for the foreseeable future and will only be available on SNKRS and at “neighborhood” Nike retail partners—basically sneaker boutique-type stores. The model will be around at least until Fall 2024, per an internal Nike document viewed by Complex.