What to Expect From the Return of the Nike Footscape

January 15, 2023 by Joey Birch

What to Expect From the Return of the Nike Footscape

Many hold the 90s as Nike’s golden era. The decade that saw the release of what is to this day regarded as the greatest sneakers of all time, propelling Nike into an eternal state. 

It would be futile to attempt to list all the best sneaker releases, let alone Nike releases, from the 90s. However, it is easier to review some of the lesser-known pairs that either went under, been somewhat forgotten in time or at the very least been left behind in the tidal wave of popularity that the sneaker industry has experienced over the past 3 years. 

A prime example of this is the Nike Air Footscape. Originally debuted in 1996, the silhouette was designed by Toren Orzeck, who also had a hand in the Nike Air Foamposite while being developed by Nike's Sports Research Lab with the Advanced Product Engineering group. The 90s was also the time in which Nike was arguably the most experimental with its footwear with examples including the Foamposite in addition to the Nike Air Presto all created in a variety of subsidiaries of Nike’s production. 

The focus behind the Nike Air Footscape was simple, Orzeck was looking at designing a sneaker around the anatomical structure of the wearer's foot as opposed to placing a foot into a premade model. The first, and most noticeable feature, was the side lacing which ran up the lateral side of the upper as opposed to the centre. Inspired by the Converse Odessa Ox first released in the 1970s, the laces running up the side of the foot are designed to assist in avoiding extensor tendonitis, a result of having the usual vertical lacing system, in addition to a foot-hugging mesh and suede upper being used in conjunction with a plastic heel counter (on the 1996 version) which took a similar appearance to the Nike Air Huarache which released 5 years prior. 

The midsole featured the usual Air cushioning found in all ‘Air’ models, sitting atop a textured outsole which allows the sneaker to respond to the ground underfoot. Following its original production, the Air Footscape’s silhouette and key design features didn’t change a huge amount - instead, it was used to fuse with other innovative Nike designs. 

The first instance of this came in 2001 with the introduction of the Nike Air Footscape 2 Presto in which The Swoosh combined the Air Footscape with the aforementioned Air Presto. Utilising the midsole, outsole and lacing system of the Air Footscape alongside the T-Shirt-ESC material of the Air Presto on the upper with a rubber heel counter. 

Within 5 years, the Footscape had taken another significant step forward via the then newly coordinated team of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker who created Nike HTM. Tasked with furthering Nike’s innovative, yet classic, line of sneakers, the trio produced the Nike Air Woven Chukka. 

Lightweight and flexible, the Woven Chukka takes a similar construction to a baseball glove across the entire upper sitting atop the usual Footscape midsole. A similar low version was also released which featured a material heel counter, instead of the OG plastic, alongside the side lacing and woven effect surrounding the midfoot. This design was further developed throughout the early 2000’s up until 2015 with a variety of colourways and collaborations from the Nike Free 5.0 Woven Footscape which introduced the Nike Free Run 5.0 into the mix with a Mayfly-ESC silhouette to the Nike Air Footscape Magista in 2015, taking a football boot inspired approach. 

Following the sneaker's almost 20-year tenure, the popularity seemingly began to dwindle with the likes of adidas taking off with the introduction of the Ultraboost and NMD which took the all-in-one socklike upper and elevated it further. 

Nevertheless, as we approached the end of 2022 going into the start of 2023, we have been privy to more news suggesting that we’ll be seeing the return of a number of previously forgotten about silhouettes including the Nike Mac Attack, Air Alpha Force Low and Air Foamposite. Now, it’s been confirmed that the Air Footscape can also be added to that list. 

Taking what is arguably the most popular rendition of the sneaker, the Woven Low, images suggest that a cow print colourway in addition to a plainer black and charcoal grey rendition are on the way in what could be Nike’s attempt to reignite the once incredibly sought after model. 

At the time of writing, the two colourways shown are women’s exclusive with no confirmation as to whether we’ll see further pairs or any in men’s sizing. Nevertheless, it appears Nike is staying true to what made the original Footscape Wovens so special. 

2023 looks to be the year in which Nike showcases its biggest roster of silhouettes yet from the usual ‘hyped’ releases we’ve seen over the past couple of years including the upcoming Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’ in addition to various Air Jordan 4 colourways while also offering something a little different with a slew of lesser-known classic retroes. 

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