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“From rags to riches!”
To this day, this hopeful phrase is the typical American dream that we like to associate with the country. And although countless people have tried to fulfill this dream in the past, only very few have actually succeeded. Phil Knight is one of them. However, he was not a dishwasher, but a student and enthusiastic runner when he founded a sportswear company together with Bill Bowerman in the sixties – the beginning of a never-ending success story. With the vision of producing the world’s best sports shoe, the company Nike was born in the early seventies from the pure sale of sports shoes. Since then, the American company has become a global corporation, but one that has lost none of its drive and passion for innovative techniques.
Hardly any other manufacturer can claim such commercial success as Nike to this day. As the market leader, Nike has sold more than any other brand in this segment since the end of the 1980s. But Nike is not only at the top in sportswear – the company is considered the most valuable clothing brand and is one of the 100 most important companies in the world. Building such an impact within a few decades is more than a good achievement – we take our hats off!
In this article we will not only introduce you to the company Nike and its history, but of course also reveal all the details about the top models!
Nike got its start in 1964, when successful sports coach Bill Bowerman founded Blue Ribbon Sports with Phil Knight in Portland, Oregon. Bowerman provided the athletic know-how as well as an irrepressible ambition for innovation with the will to create the perfect shoe for even better performance. Knight, on the other hand, was the marketing head of the duo. He was the one who made contact with Japanese manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger – now ASICS – and thus laid the foundation for the collaboration.
First, he sold the Japanese athletic shoes out of the trunk of his green Plymouth Valiant – starting the storybook story of the American Dream. While Knight sold, Bowerman took the shoes apart to figure out how he could make them better. He developed updates to the Japanese shoes, and he tested his designs on the young runners on his team. But Bowerman wanted more – more design, more lightness, more grip. It was time for something of his own.
It took a whole 7 years until the company began to produce its own shoes and changed its name to Nike. Inspired by the Greek goddess of victory “Nike”, the name was to become the program: With the new name, they catapulted the company to the next level and have managed to stay at the top through innovation and passion to this day!
The first own and directly successful Nike shoe was the Nike Cortez. A student designed the Nike “Swoosh”, which is still so typical today and symbolizes the wing of the Greek goddess of victory and makes the pioneering spirit of the brand clear.
Through the sponsorship of well-known athletes, the Cortez quickly became known and popular – not only as a sports shoe. It established itself as an identifier for gang members in Los Angeles due to its eye-catching logo and various colorways. It even went so far that everyone was directly associated with the gangs when wearing the Cortez. Supposedly, it was even banned at some schools. While this led to good sales of the shoes, it also contributed to a certain image. Through clever placement in movies and series, Nike was able to restore the Cortez’s reputation and gained huge popularity as a result. This also extended to other models like the Nike Dunk Low or the Nike Air Max Plus or Nike TN.
When we think of Nike today, we associate it directly with the images of Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. This coup with the basketball star was an important – if not the most important – milestone for Nike and clearly shows the strategy Knight used to make the brand great.
Sponsoring professional athletes is of course widespread, especially in sportswear – but Nike has taken the topic to a whole new level. The Jordan 1 designed specifically for the top athlete is and remains the best-known model and still ensures that the Nike Jordan are so popular today. Many famous athletes like Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong followed and Nike even got the opportunity to sponsor the NFL. With the slogan “Just do it” they had finally made it to the top in the sportswear segment.
Nike started its success in the running segment and from the beginning had the vision to support runners and other athletes in the best possible way. What Bowerman did on his own in the founding years became more and more professional over the years. In the meantime, the company has influenced the market with many revolutionary technologies, defending its throne. Among the most important innovations are, for example, the Air damping and various upper materials such as the Flyknit.
While Nike now counts an insanely large fan base in the lifestyle sector with models like the Jordan 1 Mid or the Air Force 1, the brand is also among atheletes still the professional sports shoe that it was from the beginning. Many athletes in the professional or even dilettante area swear by the Swoosh and buy Nike shoes out of conviction.
The popularity of the brand extends across all sectors and is clearly recognizable. Whether in the gym, on the court or in the lifestyle sector, Nike’s success is undisputed.
With its innovative marketing strategies and revolutionary technologies, no other company has been able to outstrip Nike. But the brand’s success is not solely due to Michael Jordan and technical innovations. Nike also owes its market position to the fact that the group is continuously developing, picks up new trends and moves with the times. Over the years, sports clothing and accessories have therefore become established alongside shoes. In order to be technically up-to-date in the age of digitalization, the company developed its own fitness app and, together with Apple, the Apple Watch Nike+.
Nike’s hobbyhorse, however, is and remains the sports shoe. Whether for professional sports or as a lifestyle sneaker – the Swoosh can be found in almost every wardrobe. But which models are the absolute favorites?
In the Nike shoes is not only concentrated know-how from the top sports and cool design. With the Air technology, the brand has brought real NASA knowledge into the house! The aerospace engineer Franklin Rudy has developed the Air Unit for Nike and at the end of the seventies Phil Knight could start the first test run. The shoes’ special cushioning system delivers increased bounce and flexibility while maintaining support. The chambers filled with compressed air absorb shock and allow athletes to give their all in sports without compromise. The Nike Tailwind sold out so quickly that it was clear: The story of Air technology has just begun!
The Nike Air Force 1 silhouette came on the market in the eighties as a basketball shoe and quickly became a real cult object. It did not take long and many great basketball players wore the shoes with Air cushioning. Even today, the Air Force 1 is not only a gamechanger on the court, but a real lifestyle must-have. Similar to the brand name itself, Nike has also thought big with the Air Force 1, because the shoe is named after the plane of the American president.
The shoe itself was designed clean and fits almost any outfit. Meanwhile, the AF 1 is available in over 3000 colorways and different heights as well as variants, such as the Air Force 1 Pixel and the Air Force 1 Shadow. The original high variant with the Belt and the breathable Toe Box was the ideal sports shoe for good support and perfect cushioning. But on the street, the low version is definitely the most popular. The Air Force 1 experienced a decent upswing with the rap of the 2000s and has been an absolute favorite again since the renewed sneaker trend!
Until the early eighties, adidas and Converse were the big names in basketball. But Knight was clever and signed the exceptional talent Michael Jordan at the right time. No one expected that this contract would ensure such success on both sides – because to this day, Michael Jordan is one of the most famous athletes in the world. Nike thus also secured the lead in basketball and relegated adidas to second place.
The first Air Jordan was designed specifically for the athlete and appeared in black and red. From a marketing point of view, this was again an absolute hit, because black shoes were not allowed in the NBA. For each game in which Jordan wore these shoes, he had to pay several thousand dollars in fines. Of course, the press immediately pounced on this scandal and thus really pushed the popularity of the Air Jordan 1. Many more models of the Air Jordan followed by Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, who also introduced the typical Jumpman logo. But that was not enough, because there were many highlights in the Air Jordan series. For example, a special design was developed for the 1992 Olympics, and at the temporary end of Jordan’s career, the AJ X appeared with the athlete’s achievements on the sole. In 2001 Nike launched another model of the Nike Air Jordan – from the pen of Wilson Smith. With this he made a real fashion statement!
The Air Jordan 1 still enjoys such popularity that there were many collaborations. Through these special models there was so much hype that, for example, the value of the Jordan 1 Off-White “Chicago” is sometimes 20 times its former selling price. A real rarity among die-hard fans. Many other models are now also valued as collector’s items and traded at a multiple of the original price. In the meantime, however, the Jordan 1 Low and the Jordan 1 Mid are also sought-after silhouettes – a fact that no one believed a few years ago.
The Air Max is probably one of the most popular sneakers with Air technology. New colorways are regularly out of stock and are hyped among sneakerheads like no other shoe. The look goes completely away from the previous clean look. The designer wanted to reveal the inside of the shoe with the Air Max and thus gives insight into the air chambers, which guarantee the best comfort through maximum damping even with firm impacts.
The first Air Max 1 stormed the market in 1987. Only a short time later followed other models such as the Air Walker Max or the Air Max Light. At the beginning of the 90s followed the Air Max 90, which is still the second most popular Air Max of all time. Also the successors like the Air Max 95, Air Max 97 and the Air Max 98 belong to the long runners in the Nike online store.
Another silhouette that also made it to one of the front places is the Dunk. In the mid-eighties, this model was designed for basketball players and quickly worn up and down by the skater scene. Thus, especially the Nike Dunk Low firmly established itself in the street style field and is popular because of its colorways and unusual details. With the originality of the colors and a well-rounded storytelling, the Dunks have managed to step out of the shadow of the Air Jordan and inspire their own fan base.
Here, too, there have always been collaborations with greats like Travis Scott, which have provided for proper publicity and have made the shoe one of the most popular models of Nike. In addition, over the years, other Dunk models have been added to the range: the Dunk High, Dunk Disrupt and the Nike SB Dunk.
There is probably no other company that has already defended the first place in its segment for so many years with a huge perseverance and dedication as Nike. What started back then in the trunk of a Plymouth has been able to have a lasting influence on sports and also street style to this day. Responsible for this, in addition to revolutionary technologies and new designs, is not least the courageous and innovative marketing concept of Phil Knight, who has proven a golden hand in the selection of athletes every time. After all, it was the athletes who established Nike shoes in professional sports and ensured that the brand was taken seriously as a sports brand right from the start. But that’s not all, because Knight always deliberately chose athletes whose success and personality had such a huge impact that they made Nike shoes a real icon in the lifestyle sector. This balancing act between professionalism and lifestyle succeeds only the fewest brands really well – Nike is the absolute pioneer.
The Group not only produces high-quality sneakers that have a lot to offer in terms of both technology and design. The Group shows that passion, creativity and courage pay off when you are willing to go beyond limits. Hell yeah!
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