Return of the Foamposite?

September 04, 2022 by Joey Birch

Return of the Foamposite?

The ‘90s were a time of huge innovations, from the first SMS text message to Google being created. It was similarly a time in which footwear brands were taking some of the biggest risks in their history, some of which have remained such as the introduction of visible air in Nike’s Air Max line, while others faded away like the myriad of huge skate sneakers from the likes of Osiris and DVS.

One brand that truly strode ahead in terms of innovation, was the aforementioned Nike. What many regards to be ‘the golden years’, the late ‘80s and ‘90s saw some of Nike’s greatest basketball silhouettes released including the Air Jordan 1 - 15 as well as the More Uptempo and Air Penny 1 and 2 just to name a few.

Nike Air Foamposite One advert, 1997

However, in 1997, Nike unveiled what is arguably one of the most polarising sneakers of all time; the Air Foamposite One. 

Eric Avar with Kobe Bryant ft. the Nike Zoom Kobe Elite 9 High

The design was spearheaded by Eric Avar and Nike’s Advanced Product Engineering (A.P.E) team. Eric Avar is accredited as one of the greatest basketball footwear innovators of all time, designing not only the Foamposite but also the Air Flight Huarache and Air Max Penny in addition to a variety of Nike Kobe sneakers including the Nike Zoom Kobe 4 and Kobe Elite 9 High amongst others. One of his more recent projects, the Nike HyperAdapt BB, continue to show his drive for innovation.

"There was this notion of what if you literally just dipped your foot in this liquid bath of material and it just sucked around your foot?” Says Avar when speaking about the Nike Air Foamposite in Nike’s Behind the Design, “What if you could go play basketball in that? That was the inspiration and I tried hard to get people to see that"

In a process that took around 4 years to perfect, the mould would be poured into a press with the space for a foot encased within. While the upper was supposedly inspired by the shell of a beetle, the overall design and technology that went into the shoe were amended numerous times including variants with a full-length Air Unit with an exposed section under the heel similar to the Air Max 93.

'Air Max' sample of the Nike Air Foamposite One, 1997

Debuted in the same year as the iconic Air Max 97 and Air Jordan 13, Nike was partnered with several colleges including the Arizona Wildcats who’d they send prototypes of their sneakers as well as outfitting them during college basketball season, a partnership programme that assisted in their rollout of the iconic Nike Dunk in 1985.

Mike Bibby seen wearing the OG Nike Air Foamposite One 'Royal Blue', 1997

At the time of the ‘96-’97 playoffs, Nike sent prototypes of the Air Foamposite One to the Wildcats for their on-court debut finding themselves on the feet of players including Mike Bibby. During the tournament, the Arizona Wildcats were on a roll with continuous wins meaning that the futuristic Foams were seen on feet more and more.

During the original production, the Foamposite One was being made for Scottie Pippen who famously wore the Nike Air More Uptempo. However, legend has it that during an innovation meeting with Eric Avar, Penny Hardaway was uninspired by the sneakers on offer to him to be his next signature shoe following the release of the Air Max Penny 1 in 1995 and the Penny 2 earlier in 1997. 

However, during the meeting, Hardaway spotted the futuristic Foamposite sitting in Avar’s bag and immediately gravitated towards them and at that moment, history was made. 

What originally featured very little branding with only a small Swoosh on the lateral side, a selling point for the sneaker, Hardaway chose the model to be his next signature silhouette which saw the addition of the ‘1 Cent’ logo on the tongue and outsole while the Nike Swoosh remained on the lateral side by the toe as well as appearing on the heel. 

Nike Air Foamposite mould, 1997

The final product released to the public was one of the most durable sneakers on the market, but it came with a high price point. Featuring an upper that is said to be five times stronger than a regular glued and stitched product, in addition to a double-stacked full-length Zoom midsole, the original Foamposite was significantly different to its counterparts. In addition, the shoe originally had to be made within a temperature range of around 150 degrees Fahrenheit within a mould that cost around $750,000 that allows the polyurethane liquid to be heated and moulded to the sneaker shape. 

Nike Air Foamposite Pro, 1997

At the time the Foamposite One was released, the Foamposite Pro was also debuted and featured a large jewelled Swoosh on the lateral side. However, the One has remained the popular choice. 

Following the release of the sneaker in 1997, Nike went on to destroy the original moulds they’d spent so much time and money on developing. This was due to the model underperforming despite the intriguing nature of its design and cosign by Hardaway on the hardwood floors of the NBA. 

Nevertheless, following the Air Penny 2, Hardaway went on to wear the Royal Blue Foamposite One during his first match of the NBA playoffs in 1997.

Nike Air Foamposite One 'Sharpie', 2015

It wasn’t just the public that wasn’t overly excited upon the debut of the sneaker; with Penny playing for Orlando Magic at the time, the NBA felt that the Royal Blue colourway of the OG Foamposite didn’t match the uniform due to a lack of black in the colourway. This led to Hardaway taking a black pen to the shoe and colouring in the grooves, creating a blue and black striped effect along the upper which in 2015 was officially released under the name ‘Sharpie’ by Nike. 

Despite the polarising feedback the Foamposite endured, the Foamposite Pro went on to receive its first retro in 2001 and the technology that went into the shoe was further utilised in many silhouettes including the Air Max Penny 3 in 1997, Air Foamposite Max in 1998, Air Flightposite 1 & 2 in 1999 & 2000 as well as the Zoom Lebron 4 in 2006 and the 11 in 2013. 

Nike Clogposite, 2000

In spite of that, the weirdest release was the Nike Clogposite from 2000 which saw Nike use the Foamposite technology on a slipper-style clog which arrived in three colourways including the popular iridescent ‘Egg Plant’.

Despite the technology being utilised in several silhouettes, it was the variety of colourways and designs that were used on the Foamposite that have made them so iconic. Similar to the Nike SB Dunk, the Foamposite became a sneaker that made for a great canvas for what can be argued to be wearable art. 

Nike Air Foamposite One 'ParaNorman', 2012

From a variety of simple, yet intriguing, colourways to more intricate designs and collaborations that set in motion some of the biggest sneaker moments in history, the Foamposite has done it all. A large selection of these releases arrived between 2012 - 2014 during a time when the silhouette seemed to make a resurgence in popularity with diehard fans racking up huge collections. 

While there are too many memorable releases to run through, honourable mentions that act as prime examples of just how influential the Foamposite was include the Nike x Supreme Air Foamposite One from 2014 as well as the infamous ‘Galaxy’ Foamposite. 

Nike x Supreme Air Foamposite One, 2014

The Supreme collab, which featured a Versace-style pattern across the upper against either a black or red background, remains in history as a shoe that many remember lining up for, with the release almost causing a riot, leading to the NYPD having to shut it down with concerns to public safety. 

Nike Air Foamposite One 'Galaxy', 2012

Similarly, the ‘Galaxy’ Foams have become one of the most infamous sneakers of all time. Released in 2012, the pair were released initially during the NBA All-Star weekend in Orlando with a second drop taking place in New York City at the Nike store in 21 Mercer and a local Footlocker. 

The wristband-controlled event was soon overrun with over 600 people clamouring to get their hands on a pair of the highly converted sneakers. With people even going as far as to try and sell their car just for the chance to get their hands on a pair - the ‘Galaxy’ Air Foamposite One remains one of the most infamous grail-level sneakers of all time.

Moving into the later part of the 2010s, the Nike Foamposite once again fell out of popularity in favour of more slimline, running silhouettes from YEEZY and adidas in 2015. However, as with all trends, they’re never gone for long. 

Nike x CDG Air Foamposite One, 2021

In January 2021, at Tokyo Fashion Week, Comme Des Garçons unveiled their collaboration with Nike on the Air Foamposite One. Arriving in two colourways, CDG took the usual shell-like upper and transformed it with an intricate Japanese Zen Garden pattern. Maintaining the miniature Swoosh by the toe in addition to the carbon fibre shank plate across the outsole, wrapping around the midfoot, the 2021 revitalisation of the Foamposite didn’t seem to bring back the wave of popularity, perhaps due to its high price point sitting at around £385 at retail. However, recent rumours could suggest that the Foam wave is returning. 

Nike x Stüssy Air Penny 2, TBC

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Nike Air Penny 2, the Swoosh is going back to the archive to retro the iconic basketball sneaker in a range of colourways. In addition, it was rumoured earlier in the year, with official images arriving last month, of a collaboration with Stüssy following their recent Air Max 2013 release. 

With 2022 also marking the 25th anniversary of the original Nike Air Foamposite One and Foamposite Pro, the question is what can we expect to see return and when? 

Those questions may have just been answered.

Nike Air Foamposite One 'Metallic Red', 2017

In a Twitter post on the 29th of August, Complex Sneakers Podcast and Full-Size Run cohost Brendan Dunne posted an image of the Metallic Red Nike Air Foamposite One on Twitter with the simple caption ‘Summer 2023’. 

A colourway that debuted in 2017, the Metallic Red variant of the Nike Air Foamposite is as bold and noticeable as ever sporting a deep shiny red upper with matching red detailing around the tongue, heel tab and outsole. Sitting atop a semi-translucent outer outsole, the colourway is a look back at the silhouette through rose-tinted glasses. 

Nike Air Foamposite One PE, TBC

Following the announcement, further news has broken confirming the release of a rare player exclusive (PE) pair in a clean black and white colourway. The pair, first seen on the court in 1997, also graced the cover of Pro Basketball magazine. 

So far, 2023 is slowly looking like the year we see a resurgence of the Nike Air Foamposite. Whether you love or hate them, time will tell how the new generation of sneaker collectors takes to the vintage silhouette.

For more on the Nike Foamposite and Nike, keep it Kick Game.