Footwear brands have used various materials over the decades to improve their shoes. Some experiments have gone wrong and the companies were quick to abandon the concepts in development. Some flawed concepts made their way into a few models, but they were taken off shelves, rolled back or simply never produced again by the renowned brands. Nike shoes are an epitome of function and endurance, but they are also stylish and superior comfort. While it is difficult to generalise the cushioning technology used in specific types of Nike shoes, one can get familiar with the approach of the brand. Nike makes shoes for various purposes and it would be unwise to club the varieties in any particular way considering whichever attribute you try to standardise.
Around half a century back, shoes were mostly made of leather or canvas. You could choose low or high top. There were fewer options regarding materials, fits, cushioning systems, heights, support and stability or weight for that matter. You could get handmade tailored shoes, but they were costly. Nike shoes were among the first to experiment with lighter material and they were also among the pioneers of cushioning technology. Nike shoes were among the first to sport a mesh and made use of synthetic materials. The mesh made Nike shoes more breathable and lighter. The synthetic materials also made the shoes lighter than their leather and canvas brethren’s. Synthetic materials proved to be more durable than nylon even. The reduction of weight is quintessential to athletic footwear, something Nike specialises in.
The reason why mesh and synthetic materials must be accounted for is their role in cushioning technology. Leather or canvas did not pave the way for air cushioning, gel cushioning or foam cushioning. Nike shoes have used all these three cushioning technologies over the years. Nike Air has been one of the torchbearers of this technology. Originally launched as Air Tailwind way back in 1979, the pair of Nike shoes used an air system under the shoe and completely encapsulated in a plastic chamber of the midsole. You practically walk or run on air with this pair and its successors.
Foam and gel cushioning technologies have also evolved with time. Today, the foam cushions used in Nike shoes do not wear down easily. Gel cushion has always been preferable for footwear brands because the material does not suffer any degradation or even compression and provides the same comfort over the years, possibly decades.