It was in 1991 after a day out on the water that Nike designer Tinker Hatfield took off his tight water ski boots and had a thought. He could design something with this look to release as performance footwear. Quickly, he drew up the first designs for the Nike Huarache. It was a new running shoe at first, but in 1992, it had already crossed over to the basketball court as impressive high top basketball shoes. The Nike Air Huarache managed to stay relevant as an insanely popular trainer for both men and women. The sneaker was released in boys, girls, and baby sizes, so even parents ran to the sale to buy a cheap pair. Although it first came out in the early nineties, the Air Huarache didn’t peak until halfway through the second decade of the 21st century. At that time, retro style sneakers with a vintage look were in fashion and people wanted to get the old school Huarache in all kinds of men’s, ladies’ and kids’ sizes. The low top version, looking very much like the original (OG), became a huge hit, again, even catering to junior and infant sizes. The sneakers flew off the shelves in UK stores and all over the rest of the world. The Air Huarache was also available with custom designs using Nike ID. To understand how the Nike Huarache has managed to stay wildly popular, even after 25 years, we have to dig deep into the design of the shoe. A lot of people at Nike thought that Tinker Hatfield was crazy when he showed them the first designs for his Huarache. It certainly does sound weird to design a running shoe based on boots made for water skiing. The shoe even had some of the elements of a water ski boot: a solid base, an exoskeleton round the heel for additional support, and an elastic fabric called neoprene that molds to the foot, ankle and lower leg. Though the people at Nike weren’t convinced, the shoe actually turned out to be a big success with the public.
With time, the original Huarache was overtaken by newer models. Nike Huarache hit the streets and with that, accrued an even bigger fan base. We were given submodels such as the Huarache Ultra and the Huarache Run Ultra, whose success was credited to the wide range of colors and prints it offered. If a sneaker sells well in simple block shades, you know Nike did something right with the design itself. And that’s exactly what happened with the Huarache. The All Black and All White versions, which as the names suggest come in black and white, did amazingly well. This is also the case of the similarly pared down Cool Grey, of which the upper is completely grey, and the block colour models in red, navy blue or green. Take a look at the Peach too, looking great with its unique shade of pink. On the subject of colour, the Air Huarache began with a model in block white with green and blue details. Just like the Scream Green model now. The Purple Punch, with white and purple, looks just like one of the older models from the early nineties. And then there’s the Hyper Punch, with its black with bright pink and neon shades, which gives a nod to the classic model with a new, updated look. Later on, modern colouring technologies gave new energy to the Nike Huarache, resulting in the Rainbow, a multicolor sneaker where the shades fade neatly into one another. By that time, changes in material had come along. This is best seen in the Huarache Premium, a premium version of the original with top-shelf materials, ranging from suede to shiny leather. This last material is also seen in the Maroon and the Rose Gold. By this time, designers were already experimenting with the use of print. The creatives working on the Huarache brought us camouflage in green and beige in the Camo, animal prints in the Zebra and Blue Elephant , and played with Hawaiian floral patterns on the upper of the Aloha. They even gave us the tasty Oreo, using a black and white speckled pattern in a nod to the famous cookie.
Now, you may be wondering if the overall aesthetic of the shoe changed at all over all those years? The answer is simple: it did. We’ll talk you through a couple of those changes. First, the exoskeleton itself has been altered. The frame around the heel of the Nike Air Huarache Drift is slightly less prominent than in the original version of the shoe. In the Air Huarache Utility, even less so, although the overall look of that model is more rough than in other versions. Another difference can be found in height. On the one hand, there’s the Nike Huarache Edge, a low top version with a heel cage in mostly foam. You also have the Huarache Gripp, a high top sneaker which looks like a snow boot. Completely different in almost every way is the Gladiator. This model is unmistakably a Huarache but is open, like a sandal. Then there’s the futuristic version, the Nike Adapt Huarache. The model has the trademark Nike Huarache look, but with the hypermodern automatic lacing Adapt technology. As you may know, all of the most popular Nike sneakers evolve so much that eventually exclusive models appear. We’ve picked out one special edition of the Huarache, the Mowabb. It was inspired by Nike’s ACG line of outdoor clothing. This version of the Huarache was given the same recognisable colours and patterns. So here let’s look at some of the incredibly popular models.
Air Huarache Ultra
Nike wouldn’t be the brand it is today without constantly innovating and pushing each new model to the limits, ensuring that athletes can excel, and paving the way for the sports and fashion of the future. With the Huarache, Nike did all of this. With the Nike Huarache Ultra they slimlined the model, as they often do with their sneakers. The goal was to make the shoe less heavy by removing everything that wasn’t 100% necessary to the design. The exoskeleton frame around the heel was slimmed down, leather panels on the upper were replaced by mesh. Also, the foam outsole was made to look less chunky. It all results in lower weight for ultimate performance. One thing which didn’t go was the neoprene material. The sock was given more length and a tiny redesign, with a pull tab on the back of the sock that wraps around the ankles. Even in this lightweight submodel, Nike made variations that were available in men’s and women’s sizes. The Air Huarache Ultra Breathe, looking great in purple, was given a different type of slightly rougher mesh, allowing the shoe to breathe more easily, and so making it perfect for the summer. Another sub submodel, the Nike Air Huarache Ultra SE, contains all the special edition models of the Ultra. Alongside versions in colours such as khaki and burgundy, and colourways such as Triple Black and Triple White, the Nike Air Huarache Ultra was given amazing rare colour combinations, prints and patterns. And, believe it or not, the Ultra got a sister model.
Air Huarache Run Ultra
Now let’s run through the differences between the Nike Huarache Ultra and its sister model, the Nike Huarache Run Ultra. The best way to distinguish these two sneaker models is by weight. The Air Huarache Ultra is lighter than the original, and the Air Huarache Run Ultra is lighter still. This is all thanks to the slimmed down exoskeleton frame that cradles the back of the foot. Other differences can be found in the neoprene sock. In the Nike Air Huarache Run Ultra this again is just a little bit higher, and appears to cling tighter round the foot. Now, let’s focus a bit more on the heel frame. Nike threw in older technology, linking back to the roots of the trainer in the form of Flywire. Some of the Run Ultra models were given this foot cradling technology to provide the needed stability, looking especially nice in the turquoise, beige or orange colourway. Next to other striking colours such as yellow, you will also find the more mainstream black and white. Some pretty cool special edition models were made using these shades. The Air Huarache Run Ultra SE in black with bright red details, for example, is worth a look. The range of submodels of the Air Huarache is pretty impressive, varying not only in colour and print, but in design. Nike switched up large parts of the original 1991 design for new ideas, and this bold move was rewarded. The Huarache has a huge fan base, and was once even Nike's international bestseller.