The Department of Nike Archives is located in a discreet building located off Nike's Beaverton campus. Usually, people fortunate enough to visit DNA aren't allowed to take photographs of Nike's rather extensive archive, which includes mock-ups, prototypes, wear-tested versions, and even a stockpile of Nike apparel.

We were given the rare opportunity to dig deep at DNA, under the guidance of iconic designer and Nike archivist Wilson Smith, who designed the Air More Uptempo and Jordan XVI, among others.

With Air Max Day 2017 coming up, here's a look at the best sneakers we saw, preserved at DNA for generations to come.

Sock Racer

Originally released: 1985

One of designer Tinker Hatfield's early hits, the Nike Sock Racer ditched laces and set the stage for future technologies like Flyknit. Made with triathletes in mind, the minimal sneaker paved the way for shoes that emulated barefoot running. The neon yellow neoprene upper provided a colorful contrast that has gone onto influence offerings from fashion houses like Marni. But the OG isn't going anywhere. It was just retroed this year.

Sock Trainer

Originally released: 1987

The Sock Racer's slightly sturdier cousin, the Sock Trainer reinforced the heel of the Racer and added a more substantial sole, making it ideal for cross-training. It was a banner year for Nike sock-like shoes, as the Aqua Racer slip-on and logoed-out Air Sock also made their debut. But most of these releases were overshadowed by more iconic silhouettes like the Air Max 1 and Italian-made Air Jordan II.

Zoom Ultra Spike

Originally released: 1988

Nike has a long history of supporting some of the most prolific runners, and this particular pair of Zoom Ultras was worn by Lynn Jennings, one of the best American runners of all time. The purple accents and neoprene contrasts add a welcome pop of color to the gray suede and mesh upper, and the pink foxing on the sole provides an elevated femininity in addition to all the shoe's on-track performance benefits.

Air Max Light

Originally released: 1989

The Air Max Light is overshadowed by its predecessor (the Air Max 1) and successor (the Air Max 90). This iteration was lighter than the AM1—hence the name. It switched up the midsole to a polyurethane heel and phylon forefoot, adding hits of thermoplastic straps for extra support, and sat on a BRS1000 waffle outsole that was sturdier than the AM1's.

Air Huarache

Originally released: 1991

This envelope-pushing design from Tinker Hatfield takes its name from the beachside sandals often seen in locales like Mexico. Fusing a neoprene, mesh, and suede upper with a sporty-technical rubber strap and a jagged, chunky midsole that looks like a mountain range, the Huarache is a physically imposing sneaker that remains as attractive now as it was then.

Air Terra ACG

Originally released: 1992

Designed by Trip Allen as a trail runner, the bright accents and patterned midsole make the Terra one of Nike's most memorable kicks from its outdoorsy All-Conditions Gear sub-offering. It even made Gary Warnett's cut of the 25 Best Nike ACG Models of All Time.  It embodies that '90s obsession with day-glo outdoor gear, and you could easily see someone rocking these with a pair of nylon warm-up pants and a neon puffa jacket.

Air Zoom LWP

Originally released: 1995

One of the initial sneakers in Nike's Air Zoom series, which took the Air technology and spread it around the sole in different encapsulated forms, the LWP saw the debut of textile lace loops and an early version of a low-profile cushioning system at the forefoot, with a larger Air unit at the heel meant to absorb shock. The retro-futuristic appeal of the shoe caught the eye of Louis Vuitton menswear designer Kim Jones, who revisited and reinvented the silhouette last year.

Air Zoom Talaria

Originally released: 1997

The sleek Talaria, another underrated Tinker Hatfield design, showed off Nike's bright Volt colorway, which has seeped into more standard offerings. The sole melded two of Nike's most signature technologies—Air and the waffle sole. As for the name? That comes from the winged sandals worn by Hermes, the mythological Greek messenger of the gods.

Air Max 97

Originally released: 1997

Christian Tressler's Air Max sneaker remains one of the most sought-after kicks 20 years after its debut. An especially big hit in Italy, its design draws from speedy Japanese bullet trains and highly technical mountain bikes alike. Italian fashion designer Riccardo Tisci recently revisited the model, offering up a mid-top silhouette in an understated black colorway with metallic accents.

Air Max Plus

Originally released: 1998

Amidst the glut of Air Max sneakers that dropped in 1998, the Air Max Plus was designed by Sean McDowell and debuted the "Tuned Air" technology, which saw Air units spread out strategically over the sole. The gradient  "Team Orange" colorway definitely helped it stand apart from the pack. It gained a second life as a cult classic amongst heads in England, Australia, and France—where "Hyper Blue" gradient colorway gained the nickname "Le Requin" for its resemblance to a shark.

Find out about everything Highsnobiety is doing to celebrate Air Max Day and check out our Snobshots competition for a chance to be featured on our website and Instagram. You can also subscribe to Highsnobiety’s sneaker chatbot on Facebook to receive lightning quick updates on release dates, sneaker street style, shopping tips and more.

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