The Nike Foamposite has a legacy like none other. Not only one of the most expensive Nike shoes of its day, the Nike Foamposite also splits opinions like no other footwear design.
Nike has always been synonymous with incredible advances in sneaker tech and aesthetics, and in 1997, the Swoosh unveiled perhaps its most groundbreaking shoe in terms of design: the Air Foamposite One.
In the 1996-97 college basketball season, Nike invited the Arizona Wildcats to its Oregon HQ and routinely sent the team prototype sneakers to try out. And it was during 1997’s crunch March Madness tournament that the Foamposite first appeared on the feet of Mike Bibby and other Wildcats.
Arizona came up against tournament favorites Kansas in the sweet sixteen round, meaning there was a good chance the Foamposites debuted in that tie would disappear as quickly as they’d appeared. But Arizona won and kept winning, meaning their Foamposites kept appearing on the big stage all the way to the championship game against Kentucky, which Arizona won 84-79.
Shortly afterward, the Air Foamposite One debuted on the NBA hardwood. Orlando Magic point guard Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway laced up his Foamposites in early April 2017 as the Magic prepared for the playoffs. The shoes even sparked a minor controversy, with the NBA ruling that the all-blue kicks didn’t match his team’s black uniform. But Hardaway filled in the shoe’s gaps with a Sharpie and kept wearing them.
Part of the Air Foamposite One’s appeal was its lack of dominant Nike branding. With just a tiny white Swoosh on the lateral forefoot side, it wasn’t immediately obvious that it was a Nike sneaker. Standing out more than the Swoosh was Hardaway’s 1Cent logo on the tongue, heel, and outsole, which was first seen on the player’s Air Penny 1 and Air Penny 2 models.
As the story goes, Nike met with Hardaway to show him samples for his next model. But he wasn’t satisfied with any of them — until he saw a bag with the Air Foamposite One prototype inside. Hardaway immediately fell in love with the model, and so Nike turned it into his own. According to Arizona’s Quynn Tebbs, Hardaway wasn’t happy when Arizona players debuted the shoe before him, although equally, there are stories the Foamposite was actually designed with Chicago Bulls’ Scottie Pippen in mind, not Hardaway.
Designed by Eric Avar and Jeff Johnson, the beetle-inspired Air Foamposite One was packed with new tech. Labeled “the shoe of the future,” it featured a full-length low-to-the-ground Zoom Air unit. The incredibly light polyurethane upper and midsole surrounded the foot for protection and comfort. A carbon fiber plate provided stability and flexibility in the midsole.
South Korean company Daewoo, better known for making cars, provided the formula for the shoe’s synthetic materials. A synthetic liquid was poured into a $750,000 mold, integrating the upper, midsole, and outsole into one piece. Bizarrely, those original molds were destroyed, with no thought that the shoe might return in future — a costly error. The Air Foamposite One retailed for a staggering $180 on release and a new generation of sneakers was born.
In fall 1997, the Air Foamposite Pro followed, featuring a jeweled Swoosh on the side and no 1Cent logo. Since 1997, Nike has released almost 100 different Foamposite colorways and countless other models inspired by the original design, including the Air Flightposite, Clogposite, Air Foamdome, Air Bakin Posite, Trainerposite, Hyperposite, and the 1/2 Cent.
The Air Foamposite Pro retro-ed for the first time in 2001. Seven colorways came out over the next five years. In 2007, the Air Foamposite One returned for the first time in four colorways. Among the most covetable Foamposites to follow over the years are the “ParaNorman,” “Doernbecher,” and the 2014 Supreme collab.
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