The Father Of Nike Air: Marion Franklin Rudy

Throughout the course of its history, Nike has celebrated the accomplishments of its signature athletes all over its Beaverton Oregon campus with buildings, statues and street names. In the 50+ years in which Blue Ribbon Sports and subsequently Nike, has been in business, you might find it appropriate for them to celebrate the birthdays of those who have been its greatest contributors. The list would read like a “Who’s who?”

Bill Bowerman

Phil Knight

Steve Prefontaine

Michael Jordan

Tinker Hatfield

Marion Franklin Rudy

Marion Franklin Rudy? Who? Why would Nike think a NASA employed Aerospace Engineer is one of its greatest contributors? Because of this.

Frank Rudy

Photo via http://www.airmaxy.pl/

Frank Rudy found that the work he was doing for NASA could also be of practical use on the ground. He was able to encapsulate dense gases into rubber membranes creating a gas or “AIR” bag. The rubber molding processes he and his NASA colleagues were working with allowed for the creation of a hollowed out midsole to fit the air bag. The technology would exponentially decrease the impact a single step has on the body.

While Rudy found his creation to be a revolution, other footwear manufacturers didn’t feel the same nor envision its potential… until 1977, when he got to Beaverton. After much trial and error & research and development, Nike created the Air Tailwind for release in 1978 as its first shoe using Rudy’s “AIR” technology. Rudy was able to patent his “AIR” technology finally in 1980 furthering the “Revolution”.

Nike Air Patent

Photo via http://www.crookedtongues.com/

Rudy’s foresight and Nike’s willingness to embrace it and its vision of its potential it is something which took the small, young company and turned it into the enormous, global force we know it as today. Rudy spoke about his invention in 2009 shortly before his death.

Frank Rudy would have turned 90 today. His technology single handedly changed an entire industry in all areas of performance footwear.

Thank you. Thank you M. Frank Rudy. Thank you for making our steps more comfortable and allowing us to walk on “AIR”.

Rudy Collage

 

Todd Krevanchi is a self proclaimed "sneakerhead" and embraces the term. He's one of the "Original Four" founders of NikeTalk and has contributed to the Finish Line and Sole Selectah blogs. His brand loyalty throughout his formative years is something he still regrets. He proudly supports his High School and the North Carolina Tar Heels. He likes a lot of stuff but doesn't buy nearly as much as he would like to.