Back in the ‘90s, Nike was in the middle of a big, bold sneaker design phase. Many of the shoes were so wild and revolutionary, they didn’t need much branding – the silhouettes spoke for themselves. Because of this, Nike shrunk down the size of the Swoosh logo on many models and slid them out of the spotlight.

Then, along came the Air Grudge in ’95 -’96. A seemingly low-key “dad shoe” with one obvious difference: the big fat Swoosh slapped on the sides. The Swooshes almost touched the shoelace holes on top of the upper, and they paid no mind to the outsole, carelessly running right onto it.

The general public didn’t know what to make of this shoe: was it a walker/runner for the aging 45-and-older crowd? Or was it an in-your-face street style model for the younger generation? As a result, the Air Grudge didn’t fare well, and has been scoffed at by sneakerheads since its initial release.

That all began to change last year, with the unveiling of the Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite and Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE rendition of the Nike Blazer. Both sneakers went the way of the Air Grudge, with oversized Swooshes that spilled from the upper onto the outsole. Whether or not this was inspired by the Air Grudge is not entirely clear, but the Swoosh similarities are undeniable.


Many OG sneakerheads recognized the likeness, and have since been digging out their old Air Grudges to display the resemblance. “The Grudge needs a retro!” is now the rising cry for this discarded ‘90s silhouette. It’s not necessarily ironic that people find the Air Grudge “cool” now that successful new Nike models have utilized the big Swoosh; it’s just noteworthy. And, some time soon, maybe the Air Grudge will have its day in the sun via retro form. Hopefully that will help make this forsaken shoe a little less “grudgy.”

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Words by Drew Hammell

New York-based sneaker commentator perpetually stuck in the ’90s.