Preface: Having no March Madness and no NBA basketball sucks bad rn, ugh.
Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice? Psh, yeah right, tell that to Nike introduction of the Air Huarache line back in the early ’90s.
Tinker Hatfield’s original Air Huarache (1991) and Air Flight Huarache (1992) have become two of the most used important designs for Nike Running and Nike Basketball respectively. Both shoes were instant hits with their new-age designs and supreme comfort.
Today we’re doing the Sneaker History name justice and focusing on the basketball implementations of Nike’s Huarache tech [design], and how it remains relevant almost thirty years after its debut.
Air Flight Huarache (1992)
Thank the popularity of NCAA Men’s Basketball in the 1990s because, without it, the Air Flight Huarache’s ceiling would’ve been much lower. Michigan’s all-time powerhouse known as the Fab-5 (you might’ve heard of them) destroyed opponents with their NBA-ready play and killer Nike kits. From head-to-toe, the Chris Webber led squad dripped in Nike swag – from their baggy shorts and black socks to their elite kicks.
Among those famous shoes was the Nike Air Flight Huarache. Due to the Fab-5’s insane popularity, the Air Flight Huarache gained notoriety as the ‘next’ high-performance shoe on the court (and in the streets).
The wet-suit inspired Neoprene bootie largely contributed to the Air [Flight] Huarache’s snug, comfortable, fit – which only added to the shoe[s] fame. Tinker Hatfield, the Air Flight Huarache’s designer, smartly paired an internal Air Unit with the bootie-based upper and heel counter to create a setup that’s still viable all these years later.
NBA players have always gravitated towards this unique and functional shoe. Reggie Miller rocked the Air Flight Huarache in the ’90s, Kobe Bryant famously wore them during his Sneaker Free Agency, and PJ Tucker even pulled out a fresh pair last season.
Comfort is king in the performance sector of footwear and the Air Flight Huarache started a legacy of high-tech, comfortable, kicks that would continue to thrive through the 2010s all under the Huarache banner. it would be ten plus years before we’d get that next installment, but when we did…. it was damn good…
2k4 Huarache (2004)
Twelve years passed between the introduction of the Air Flight Huarache and the next model, Nike’s legendary court-warrior, the Zoom 2k4 Huarache.
A curious creation at the time, the 2k4 Huarache combined elements of older Nike basketball heavyweights like the Air Force 1, Air Flight Huarache, Air Jordan XI, Penny IV, and others. Selectively choosing to integrate various features of past greats into one model wasn’t the most novel idea, but the 2k4 did it better than any other shoe in sneaker history. Sleek, strong, sporty, spicy…. the 2k4 delivered on all fronts.
Like most Huaraches the model frequently popped up in all levels of basketball; but Kobe kept a big bag of 2k4 PEs back in 2004 – no one comes close to the sheer number of 2k4 Hurarche Player Exclusives the Black Mamba sported.
With multiple retros under its belt, the Zoom 2k4 Huarache rivals the OG Air Flight Huarache in terms of overall popularity; but from a performance perspective, the 2k4 is in a league of its own.
2k5 Huarache (2005)
Acting as both the literal and spiritual successor to the Zoom 2k4, the Zoom 2k5 Huarache upped the ante by enhancing overall flexibility. Another popular choice by pros and amateurs alike, the Zoom 2k5 released in a grip of GR colorways and limited editions. Of course, we got Kobe PEs, but Doernbecher and Sole Collector collaborations released too.
For an unknown reason, the Zoom 2k5 is yet to retro… maybe 2020 will change that unfortunate fact for the better!
Air Huarache Elite (2006)
As Nike Basketball passed the halfway mark of the 2010s they further experimented with the Huarache line. The Huarache Elite was a “you had to be there” sneaker in basketball history. High school and college hoopers around at that time should be very familiar with the Huarache Elite’s unique and serviceable design.
By meshing the Huarache’s historical ankle collar and [then] modern tooling and technique Nike Hoops created a performance sleeper. Player Exclusives galore flooded the NCAA and NBA like the beautiful Jason Richardson Golden State Warriors PE above.
Two versions of the Huarache Elite released at retail, one with standard internal Air and a second Air Max based model – what’s curious about the Air Max version is the fact that the tooling itself kinda contradicts the fundamental principles of the Huarache line… aka Huaraches should always be flexible.
Air Zoom Huarache 64 (2006)
Sixty-four teams make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament every season (well, sixty-five, but whatever) and Nike decided to released a new Huarache model made specifically for said mentioned programs. Equipped with a unique lace/angle system, the Air Zoom Huarache 64 played as fast as it looked. Lockdown wasn’t an issue here as the novel construction securely locked players’ feet into the shoe from the ankle to the floor.
Again, the line’s well-known neoprene bootie returned, but with a twist as the heel clip was completely redesigned.
Nike Air Zoom Huarache Elite II (2007)
Nike saw the first Huarache Elite and thought, “let’s run that back.”
Elements from the Huarache 2k4, 2k5 and Huarache Elite 1 were melded together to form the beastly Huarache Elite 2. The tongue was uber comfortable, stability was A1 and the cushioning had responsive volume.
Air Huarache ’08
Made famous by way of Kanye West, the Air Huarache ’08 remixed the Huarache formula once more to great effect. While often forgotten outside of Kanye’s collab, the Air Huarache ’08 saw regular on-court action in the NBA. Blazers stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy both laced the ’08s up with LaMarcus even receiving a custom Air Max loaded Air Huarache ’08 PE.
For everyone but LaMarcus, free-like tooling upheld the Huarache’s lineage of flexibility alongside the ever-present bootie ankle construction. Overall, the Air Huarache ’08 was an unheralded performer.
Air Huarache ’09
Tony Parker spearheaded the Air Huarache ’09’s on-court campaign, but outside of his killer Spurs PEs the ’09 is kind of the black sheep in the Huarache Basketball family.
Obvious callbacks around the collar and ankle beckon to the OG Air Flight Huarache, but the rest of the shoe underwhelms from a design point-of-view. After the ’09 iteration, we understood why the line went on a basketball hiatus.
Zoom Huarache Trainer (2010)
The crazy thing about the Zoom Huarache Trainer is actually quite obvious… it’s a training shoe! But, it makes our list because Amar’e Stoudamire rocked these puppies on a nightly basis while playing for the Knicks. We can count the amount of Nike Trainers worn in NBA games on one hand, and that’s extremely impressive, so we had to show some love.
Huarache Free Basketball (2012)
Adding Nike Free tooling is rarely a bad thing and the Huarache Free Basketball is no exception. Not much to report here as the shoe speaks for itself – Nike Basketball simply retooled the fabled Air Flight Huarache with Free tech.
This simple edition unleashed the Air Flight Huarache’s true potential as a maneuverable, comfortable, performer. Cheers to retooling old shoes properly, Nike.
Nike Air Flight Huarache Ultra (2017)
Last, but not least, we have the Ultra remix of the Air Flight Huarache. This completely reimagined Huarache featured a speed lacing system alongside a completely wrapped neoprene ankle and collar. The only real obvious homages to the OG Air Flight Huarache are the ankle window shapes and the heel counter. Kuddos to trying something new.
Which Huarache model by Nike Basketball is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.