The Nike Air Huarache was designed by legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield and was first launched in 1991. The launch nearly didn’t happen as the suits upstairs were not too pleased with the lack of Swoosh branding and the fact such a unique looking shoe had never been released to the public before also got them concerned, Nike was in unknown territory and about to take a huge risk. When designing the shoe, Tinker took inspiration from water skiing boots or more specifically the use of the boots snug neoprene sock. The goal of the design was to create a lightweight, comfy and stylish running shoe. They did this using their trademark cushioned midsole and newly developed neoprene and spandex sock. The sock literally hugged your foot, which gave the Huarache its unique and extremely comfortable fit. TrainerAddict.com brings you all the latest release news and UK & European stockists for the Nike Huarache, make sure you keep track of our site and social media accounts so you never miss a release.
Like most great things, they begin as an idea by a talented individual. The Nike Huarache was no different, it was an idea formed by legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield. Tinker joined Nike in 1981 but before that he had studied at the University of Oregon School of Architecture where he graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. As well as having a keen eye for design, Tinker was also quite the sports enthusiast. Whilst at high school he was an all-state selection for basketball, football and all-American track and field. He would then go on to run track at University for coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. After joining Nike, Tinker realised he could apply his architectural skills into designing sneakers. After watching numerous people at his local gym bring various sneakers for different activities such as basketball, running and weightlifting, Tinker had the vision of creating a multi-sport cross-trainer which could be worn by all. By 1980, Nike had attained around 50% market share in the U.S athletic shoe market, which was dominated by tennis shoes and high top basketball shoes. After the release of the now iconic Air Max 1 in 1987 and Air Max 90 in 1990, Nike looked for their next big release. Tinker would play a huge part in Nike’s next big move as the release of the Huarache was put into motion.
Following on from what Tinker had seen at his local gym he set work to design an all-purpose running shoe with minimalistic looks that performed at the highest levels. It’s likely Tinker called back to memories of his sporting days whilst at high school and university for the inspiration of how the new sneaker should feel and perform. As well as this Tinker took some inspiration from water skiing boots or more specifically the use of the boots snug neoprene sock and now iconic heel cage. The neoprene sock helped give the high comfort levels enjoyed by its wearers and led to the now famous advertising slogan “Have you hugged you foot today?”
The shoe was packed full of technology and the idea was to tone down the branding and swoosh coverage to let that technology speak for itself. This idea was not without controversy though as allegedly there was some resistance from the corporate suits. The issues were, not only had Nike or in fact, anyone released such a unique looking shoe before, they had never produced a shoe with such little branding. It’s rumoured the Nike bosses were not happy with this marketing strategy, nor were they confident in the shoe design itself, worried it would not be embraced by the general public. The Huarache nearly didn’t make it to market at all; sales based on the sample were well below the 100,000 average used to justify production. The Huarache managed just 5000 secured orders and was subsequently cancelled. The legend goes, one of the marketing employees decided to get the 5000 pairs produced and sell them at the NYC Marathon in the early 90s, this risk ended up being a huge success with runners taking to the shoes design and concept instantly. The test run gave the Nike bosses enough confidence to put the shoes to market and the first models were released in 1991.
The launch of the Huarache was a huge success. The new sneaker had not only filled a gap in the market, it had created a whole new gap all together and was about to become one of the most important sneaker releases of all time, paving the way for many revolutionary sneaker designs which would change the way the market was perceived forever. The public had never seen a sneaker like this before but instantly took to the futuristic looks. As with all new trends, when something is so different it’s usually perceived as edgy and cool and all it takes is a snowball effect of individuals to set off a new trend. Forgotten were the tennis and basketball shoes of the 80’s, the Huarache was here and it was the future. The success of the launch was of course helped by Nike’s massive advertising budget, which included a TV commercial featuring running star Michael Johnson. Foot Locker also played a significant role in the Huarache success as they were one of the main large retail stockists; they even collaborated with Nike to bring out its very own Limited Edition pair. After the success of the original Huarache, Nike set to work on expanding the Huarache range and came up with the Nike Air Flight Huarache which was released in 1992. The design shared a similar heel cage and neoprene sock lining but was designed around the current basketball style shoe, resulting in a much bulkier and taller design.
Following on from the Nike Air Flight Huarache, Nike expanded the range throughout 1992 which saw models released such as the Nike Air Huarache International, Nike Air Tech Challenge Huarache and Nike Air Dynamic Flight. It wasn’t until 1993 when the next standout model was launched, the Nike Air Huarache Light. This new design edged the Huarache back into the running shoe market and was popular for its slimmer, lightweight design. Gone was the recognisable heel cage which had become the Huaraches feature trademark. Instead, Nike decided to use a cushioned mesh around the upper and heel which would again, ‘hug your foot’. The shoe also featured a new unique lacing system which was another design innovation that had never been seen before.
A year later Nike brought out the Air Trainer Huarache 94. This is another iconic design we could not leave out. The Huarache 94 closer resembled the original Huarache and was a step back in the basketball market. The new design featured a new cushioned midsole and coloured mesh and tonal inserts. The feature that really stood out though was the new double strap fastening system. The new strap system not only brought a fresh new look to the Huarache range, it also served a major purpose in further helping to secure the user’s foot, one of the reasons the shoe became so popular on the basketball scene.
Fast forward over 10 years after the initial hype of the Huarache had well passed, the shoe had become something of a memory, a fashion trend which was no longer around. That is until Nike and Foot Locker would once again join forces and bring some of the original colorways from the initial 1991 launch back to life. The trend had turned full circle and the now the retro look was highly sought after. This coupled with the boom in the sneaker market sparked the rebirth of this iconic shoe and paved the way for the new generation of Nike Huarache. After the original colorways had been re-released the trend began to pick up pace and Nike started work on creating new designs. Not to miss out on the action many of the now larger and well-placed retailers decided to also join forces with Nike, which flooded the market and led to a further demand for brand new colorways. This of course also helped supply the now growing demand for the reborn Huarache, which to current date is still selling in large quantities, especially in the UK where the public has really taken a shine to the retro style. In the UK, the Huarache has even started to outsell the legendary Air Max 1 & 90. The retro look is huge at the minute, especially with the younger crowd who ironically are likely to not know much about the original release. Today’s existence of viral social media and the increase of online following of celebrities such as Joey Essex who endorsed the shoe has helped kick-start the trend for the second time with a new generation. There are currently well over 100 different styles and colorways available for purchase with almost a new colorway being released each week. Nike also added the iD feature for the Huarache so users can go online via the Nike store and design and customise their very own pair. The current demand shows no sign of slowing down, but as with all trends, it will eventually die down as the hype surrounding the trend coming back into fashion fades and the need for something new and different grows stronger. The good news is the Huarache will look just as great as it did in 1991 and as it does now, in another 15-20 years so who knows we may yet see a third revive of the legendary silhouette, I certainly hope so.