March 26 is officially Air Max Day and rightfully so as it was the day Nike introduced the Air Max 1 to the world. However, January 21 is an important day in Air Max history as well — January 21, 2006 to be exact. That was the date Nike released the Air Max 360 worldwide, the first sneaker using full-length Air for cushioning without any foam support. Whereas the Air Max 97 was the first to bring about full-length Air, Nike always had to use some type of foam to encapsulate the Air cushioning, until that moment.
The goal for many within the headquarters of Beaverton was to have the capability to have wearers literally walking, or preferably running, on a layer of Air. It took over 25 years after the introduction of “Air” cushioning and nearly 20 years after the release of the original Air Max 1, but they were finally able to do it. The result was an Air unit that was thermo-molded and featured Caged Air to create stability. The Air unit was the first to achieve 360 degrees of cushioning — huge reason why Nike went away from the year-numbered models and appropriately named the runner the Air Max 360.
Martin Lotti was the lead designer for the Air Max 360. Not only was he using new technology and materials but also looked to the past to show how the Air Max lineup had progressed. The original colorway of the Air Max 360 was an homage to the originator. The upper also took a bit of styling from the original Air Max’s bottom rand to create its midsole, while higher up the laser-cut gradated look was inspired by the Air Max 95. The Air Max 97 shows up in the “striping” and the “less is more” overall look taken from the Air Max 2003. Other details on the runner were the seamless sock liner and revised midfoot webbing to keep your feet in place.
Weighing in at only 12.3 ounces in a men’s size 9, the Air Max 360 was also the lightest Air Max model to date. In a traditional midsole with foam support, after 300 miles of use it compresses 40% whereas the Air Max 360 cushioning retains its original form under the same conditions. To say this was a big deal for Nike is an understatement. The release of the Air Max 360 was a global campaign that not only saw the release of the new model but also the “History of Air” pack released, allowing fans of previous Air Maxes (1 – 2003) to get their hands on original and very-limited special edition colorways. Also, in 2006 Nike released hybrid one-time-only limited edition sneakers. These combined the uppers of popular Air Max models with 360 Air Max cushioning.
Since its introduction 10 years ago, the foamless 360 Air unit has had some changes to make it more comfortable than the first incarnations. Now those large Air Units are uncaged, and more flexible and light than ever before. Even with the changes, the essence of the cushioning system is pretty much what was 10 years ago: It had us feeling like we were walking on clouds.