The story of the Nike Air Presto

There was a time when – without ever having touched a ball – everyone wore basketball sneakers. However, it has been decades since running sneakers earned a well deserved spot in the sneaker world and in fact, in addition to esthetic, a real interest has risen in having the best technology in sports footwear for the everyday use.

During the 90’s Nike was already a world famous, well stablished brand, sponsored by none less than Michael Jordan and with the Nike Jordan as a result. At the same time, while Tinker Hatfield had designed several Air Jordan models and the Air Max 1, his brother Tobie -eclipsed until today by Tinker’s fame- found himself working under the direction of Richard Clark together with Kevin Hoffer and Bob Mervaren in Nike’s Alpha Project. Its goal at the time was to get the technology to develop a sneaker closer to running and all it implies: maximum lightweight while ensuring the protection of the feet. The result didn’t come ex nihilo, but it was the result of a search through its precedents, specially the Nike Air Huarache Light (1993).

Imagen vía @prestology

So, in 2000, the Nike Air Presto were finally released, famous because of their slogan “The T-shirt for your feet”, a well deserved nickname. The are light, flexible to the point of bending completely over and with an upper that fits the foot like a sock. With a minimalist but detailed esthetic, what came first was the need of the sneaker’s appearance and the foot’s anatomy to be one and the same. Something like sock, like how a T-shirt fits your body, like wearing nothing. As a result the sizing system is different from the rest, based on a range going from XXXS to XXXL. On the front of the Nike Presto there is a piece that works as a extra support between your toes and which works together with the upper’s structure in neoprene and mesh.


This aspect is the starting point of different investigations by Tobie Hatfield that resulted in the creation of the Nike Free, and the culmination of the concept of a sneakers in which you feel as if you were walking barefoot, but with the best protection on the sole.

Imagen vía @prestology

Design and colors are inspired by the “Fruit Flavours” case of Apple’s Imac G3, which revealed the working insides of the computer. With a release in 13 colourways, the Nike Air Presto established a record for the model with a wider color array until that moment, some of them still up to date like the Brutal Honey or the Unholy Cumulus. Some of the most famous colourways were released then in 2000 like the Lightning, Ice Pick, Lava or Rainbow colourways.

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Shortly after that and in the same year when the first Nike Air Presto were released, two of the most special and renowned models were created, designed for the EEUU and Australian teams for Sydney’s Olympics. The 2000 Nike Air Presto Olympic Edition are the only Presto with this print, of blue bubbles that rise up and fade into the horizon. Something similar happens with the ones designed for Australia, the host of the Olympics, which are surrounded by an exclusivity halo and haven’t been released or reissued to this date.

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We are accustomed to seeing basketball stars like Michael Jordan show off their sneakers, but it is not so usual to see rock stars like Eric Clapton wear the Nike Air Presto, designed especially for his 2001 World Tour. Other exclusive Presto models were the Hawaii (of which only 48 pairs were produced), the USA 2002 after the 11-S or the Hello Kitty 30th Anniversary Pack.

Maybe we should see beyond when measuring the true importance of the Presto if we take into account that, aside from its multiple versions, its essential elements like the plastic insertions or the combination between flexible and durable in its structure are part of the essence of other models by brands other than Nike.

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Probably those who saw the TV commercial will remember the story of the man followed by a chicken, or David Belle doing parkour to advertise the Nike Air Presto back in 2012.

Even though currently running is causing a sensation, what this marketing shows is that a decade ago the concept of the Presto as a sneaker was trying to get beyond the usual. The context and the atmosphere of the famous “Angry Chicken” spot, which is an ironic mention to the police, hints at the context and target audience. Just as happened with adidas and hip-hop, these exclusive Nike sneakers are no longer exclusive for professional runners, but they are shared by a much wider group of youths, not necessarily rich, from any social status. The story of the Nike Air Presto is, in the end, the same story of most of the sneakers in the last years, since in spite of new technologies and innovations in the Nike Free the Presto are not only the base, but they feature all that is needed in a running sneaker, or simply in a superbly comfortable sneaker.

Pictures from @prestology