Nike Huarache

    Filter at

    • Sort

    • Gender

    • Brand (Nike)

    • Collection (Air Huarache)

    • Size

    • Colour

    • Technology

    • Edition

    • Sport

    Nike Huarache

    Nike Huarache

    644 articles

    A sneaker inspired by a water ski boot that became a beloved design.

    Air Huarache

    One day, during a water skiing trip, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield was impressed by how his ski boots’ neoprene construction supported and accommodated his feet. Being a visionary, Hatfield naturally wanted to experiment with the material to see if he could incorporate it into a Nike shoe. This forward-thinking concept brought about one of the brand’s most groundbreaking designs, the Nike Huarache. 

    Hatfield’s unconventional sneaker was the first runner to incorporate neoprene through its Dynamic Fit technology, which combined this flexible material on the inside with a thermoplastic external housing to give it structure. At the back, the heel counter had been removed, with support provided by a rubber strap fastened behind the achilles. This innovative feature made it look somewhat like a sandal and is the reason it received the name “Huarache” after a traditional piece of Mexican footwear. When he saw Hatfield’s preliminary sketches, Sandy Bodecker, Nike’s Director of Product Development, said it was a “sneaker of the gods” – a glowing endorsement but also a reference to its sandal-like appearance, which resembled the footwear worn by mythical Greek gods like Zeus. 

    Next, a prototype was forged. Along with the thermoplastic exoskeleton, the Air Huarache boasted a number of features that boosted its comfort as well as its performance as a runner. A memory foam sockliner was combined with Phylon foam and Air in the sole to make it soft underfoot, while dual rows of eyelets allowed the wearer to customise the lacing to their preference. They also reduced the branding – an idea that was quite radical at the time. But Hatfield was confident that the merging of functional Mexican footwear and foot-hugging neoprene had resulted in a shoe so utterly unique only Nike could have made it. Everyone would know it was a Nike design, so the brand logo could be left out. Instead, the Huarache received its own distinctive patch, which was placed on the tongue, while Nike branding remained on the outsole and heel strap. This move reflected a minimalist ethos that Nike had been trying to introduce in its newer sneakers. The Huarache certainly embodied this as the designers’ use of only essential components brought its weight down to roughly 9.5oz., making it the lightest runner ever at the time, and one which was the height of performance technology. 

    At this point, it was all looking so positive for the Nike Air Huarache. That was until the samples were presented to store managers. Much to Nike’s dismay, not enough orders were placed to justify manufacturing it, and the silhouette was almost canned. If it wasn’t for a particularly daring product manager by the name of Tom Hartge ordering 5,000 Huaraches despite not having the appropriate sign-off, the shoe might never have seen the light of day. Hartge went to the New York Marathon, the perfect place to showcase a new runner. Three days later, they had all been sold. Demand had been established, and store managers ordered 500,000 pairs within the first month. 

    On its release in 1991, not only did the Nike Huarache look completely different to other running shoes of the early 90s, but its neoprene inner meant that it adjusted to the shape of each wearer’s foot. This gave it a sock-like fit which was so unique the brand launched it with the slogan “Have you hugged your foot today?”, giving the suggestion of support, warmth and comfort. It was an iconic line – one that gained international renown after an occurrence involving athlete Derek Redmond during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. After injuring his leg during the 400m semi-final, he was determined to finish the race. Seeing his son struggling, Redmond’s father came onto the track to help him. He happened to be wearing a branded Nike cap and a T-shirt printed with the Huarache slogan in large text, inadvertently presenting it to a huge, global audience as he supported his son over the finish line in a truly touching moment.

    Another athlete, United States sprinter and Olympic gold medal winner Michael Johnson, gave the shoe a more formal endorsement, appearing in a famous 1992 commercial which gained the Huarache much wider recognition. While the original came in three flashy colourways – Scream Green, Purple Punch and Game Royal – which have been used in subsequent releases, the sheer number of different versions of the design that have appeared over the decades show how influential it has become. Over the years, it has been reworked into a cross-trainer and an American Football boot, but one of the most well-known evolutions of the revolutionary Huarache involved its transition to the basketball court.

    To achieve this sporting shift, Tinker Hatfield began by changing the running-appropriate, lightweight build of the Huarache to something more suited to the court by adding a higher ankle support and a deeper midsole. With the help of young designer Eric Avar, the basketball-specific Nike Air Flight Huarache was crafted and released in 1992. Its success was immediately cemented by the endorsement of Michigan college sensations the “Fab Five”. As more players from the NBA began to adopt the model, its popularity grew. However, it was Kobe Bryant who really solidified it as an iconic design. In the early 2000s, he wore a particular Flight Huarache in the Lakers colours of yellow and purple that got fans brimming with excitement. Bryant’s versatility inspired Avar to create another variation of the Huarache which would go on to become a favoured basketball trainer throughout the noughties – the Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2k4.  

    The Nike Huarache is a bold shoe. It was in 1991, and it still is today. It was inspired by a water ski boot, was hyped by Sandy Bodecker, ignored by store managers and vaunted by Michael Johnson. It thrived on basketball courts and was worn by famous players. Eventually, it became a beloved fashion item. It is a sneaker that was almost shelved before the public had even seen it. Since overcoming that initial difficulty, though, the remarkable Huarache has continued to prosper.

    Rank the Nike Huarache

    SPORTSHOWROOM uses cookies. About our cookie policy.


    Choose your country



    Asia Pacific


    Middle East