Is The Nike Air VaporMax The Real Deal?

Tego Sigel

3 months ago

By Tego Sigel

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You know the story, 30 years after Nike introduced visible Air to the world the brand are ready to release their most innovative version of the Air Max in a generation – the Nike Air VaporMax. In the same year as the HyperAdapt made it to market (limited as it was) and their football proposition was upgraded with the more subtly impactful Hypervenom 3, Nike chose to unveil the VaporMax, but as Air Max Day approaches, its high profile roll-out means its legacy is already in question.

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Highly anticipated, the VaporMax is being asked to represent 30 years of research and development into one of the great steps in footwear history – visible Air. Three decades after the Air Max 1, 2017 is also significant for being 20 years since the release of the incredible Air Max 97. That 10 year anniversary saw Nike extend the visible Air-cushioning unit along the entire sole. In the time since, the use of Air in Nike shoes has taken “incremental steps”, until this year when we’re told the brand will mark their incredible anniversary with “a leap”. So does it?

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Matching the subtle with the striking, the VaporMax’s development saw a major breakthrough when new technologies allowed its Air to serve as a completely standalone outsole. That means Air is not the thing placed in your shoe for comfort, that means it’s not strategically placed in the heel like Zoom, but that it becomes the major function of the trainer. The VaporMax is Air. How? Air units have always been insulated by a secondary layer of rubber, for protection and an improved durability. A necessity due to the materials and technologies available at the time. You won’t have thought about the materials that stand between your foot and your Air, because why would you? That’s all Nike have thought about. No foam, no Lunarlon, no rubber – just air. While comfort, durability and energy return have always been the focus for Air evolution, this new holistic VaporMax Air unit replaces previously inflexible structures, designed so as to be housed and protected, with a new installation that can independently maintain its form, with elasticity. That would be the leap.

Removing the need for foam midsole meansa a fairly dramatic weight loss and if you’re going to make a leap with Air Max technology then that’s exactly where you’d want to make it. Saving on materials also tells a comfort story, with the foot-to-Air feel resembling a genuinely pillowy sensation with an improved energy response. The lightness of the VaporMax Air Unit is then complimented by a Flyknit upper, another one of Nike’s technologies constantly being upgraded through research and development, with Nike Flywire precision engineered across the foot to create targeted zones of stretch and support.

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The Nike Air VaporMax’s first test comes from the eye and while early colour choices served to highlight the new technology, it might not have served the shoe aesthetically. In the months since we’ve seen an all-black Comme Des Garcon version of the shoe (above) worn by Skepta in his No Security video, and the simplified grey and white interpretation that will launch on 26 March, which have both seen the needle shift dramatically. The trainer’s second test comes in the feel. In hand, the VaporMax is lighter than you could possibly imagine. Challenged to reduce waste and provide comfort, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t deliver on the first front and while Flyknit might not yet be beyond reproach in terms of comfort – it’s pretty close. The third test is the wear and while all reports are positive, we’ll have to wait until 26 March to say for sure.

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The Nike Air VaporMax debuts officially on Air Max Day 2017 (26 March).

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