Nike Air technology began in 1979 when former aerospace engineer Frank Rudy pitched his idea to Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Together, Nike and Rudy designed and patented the first Air-Sole unit, introducing the world to a new cushioning system. The Tailwind was the first shoe to feature Nike Air technology.
Nike Air began as inserts in shoes, but Nike soon developed a way to embed the unit into its midsoles.
Following is a brief look at what touched off - and refined - Nike's "air revolution":
Nike Air (launched 1979)
Its original, and most basic, air technology, Nike Air was extremely versatile and could be found in heel, forefoot and full-length configurations. Nike Air cushioning was more durable than foam-based cushioning because it doesn't break down over time. More than 30 years after its debut, Nike Air remains the standard in impact protection.
Max Air (1987)
Max Air was a form of Nike Air cushioning that contained maximum air volume for maximum impact protection. It reduced impact by absorbing energy during footstrike. Max Air took a variety of forms: full-length, heel, forefoot, three-quarter length, dual-pressure, symmetrical and asymmetrical. Max Air was ideal for athletic activities with high-impact landings, such as running and basketball. All Max Air cushioning was visible through windows in the midsole.
Zoom Air (1995)
Zoom Air cushioning was a flatter, thinner unit that provided a low-profile, super-responsive cushioning for top speeds and fast "off-the-mark" movements. Zoom Air brought the foot closer to the ground for optimum feel and aggressive maneuverability. It was ideal for athletes because of the benefits they got in feeling the ground or court with Zoom Air's low-to-the-ground responsiveness.
Tuned Air (1998)
Tuned Air was a cushioning innovation that incorporated mechanical elements into a Max Air unit. The mechanical elements used were resilient plastic pieces within the Max Air unit. This allowed cushioning to be "tuned" in specific areas where there was a need for varying resistance in different parts of the midsole. This integration with the Max Air unit allowed for a softer ride and smoother transition.