Who should buy the Nike Air Presto

You’ll find this shoe worth copping if:

Nike Air Presto buy

Who should NOT buy it 

If you love its lightness and comfy feel but are not a fan of its midfoot cage, check out the Nike Presto Fly, priced $30 less. Look over the Air React Presto if you are broad-footed as it is incredibly comfortable.

Nike Air Presto dont buy

Presto! A shoe for comfort-seeking sneakerheads

Nike ramps up the comfort level of the Air Presto by injecting adequate padding on the collar and tongue. Sneaker buffs say Prestos are “insanely comfortable.” It was indeed love at first sight for most of them. 

Nike Air Presto intro

It’s ridiculously light too!

Prestos are known for being “T-shirts for the feet” when dropped for the first time at the 2000 Olympics. Fresher models kept the same barefoot feel using EVA foam pellets or lightweight Phylon and signature Air cushioning on the heel. Vloggers love that this kick can make them fly.

Nike Air Presto light

Rib-like cage tightens the top and secures the fit

The plastic midfoot cage wraps the top of the foot and secures it in. Even as this shoe comes with laces, they're for aesthetics only as it doesn’t help tighten the fit. 

Nike Air Presto rib cage

Its elastic cover feels like a second skin 

"Absolutely clean" and "streamlined" are some of the reasons why sneaker wearers buy this shoe. Its neoprene and mesh cover molds comfortably to the shape of the foot.   

Switch from your work clothes to gym wear hassle-free

Its slip-on design and stretchy collar make slipping in and out effortless. You can even go hands-free when wearing this for your daily errands. The heel pull tab lets you glide your foot inside smoothly. 

Nike Air Presto pull tab

Available in a crazy number of colorways

Prestos have an abundance of colorways to choose from. And there seems to be a suitable pair for varying style preferences. Even celebrities are drawn to this style, AJ Green, Spike Lee, Drake, and Chainz.

Nike Air Presto colorways

Heat doesn’t get trapped in 

It's one of the summer-appropriate sneakers that's caged, but neither does it constricts foot movement nor traps the heat in. 

Nike Air Presto breathable

It needs improvement in the area of durability

Presto reviewers who frequently rock this shoe complained about the upper and sole wearing out sooner than they had expected. 

Notable Features

Two features dominate the Nike Air Presto through its various iterations over the years. One very apparent element of this shoe is the molded midfoot cage. Initially, this aspect of the Air Presto was created to deliver exceptional midfoot hold for those who love to run. Although this caging system continues to provide the same performance, such a feature also gives this trendy shoe a very distinctive style.

Nike Air Presto cage

After nearly two decades since its introduction, this midfoot cage has been at the forefront of the shoe’s history. It remains, to this day, a critical asset that diehard fans of this shoe have come to love.

The second noticeable asset of this shoe is the mesh upper. Nike’s tactic in delivering superior comfort from a shoe that allows the foot to move freely starts with a flexible and ultra-comfortable mesh upper. This technology continues to be the main selling point of the Nike Presto. Although Nike now offers the shoe in usual sizes, instead of the S, M, L, and XL of the original, the upper still provokes a “T-Shirt for the feet” experience.

Nike Air Presto t-shirt

Nike Air Presto history

Nike introduced the Air Presto to the world during the 2000 Sydney Olympics to provide consumers with a featherweight shoe that offers a barefoot feel. As the brainchild of some of Nike’s most innovative and creative talents, Kevin Hoffer, Tobie Hatfield, and Bob Mervar, the shoe turned out to be a unique and highly-advanced concept when it was unveiled the public.

The idea behind the shoe's construction was the “T-shirt for the feet” theme. Nike stayed consistent with the T-shirt concept as the first Prestos went from XXXS to XXXL instead of the standard numeric measurements.

Innovation story of the Nike Air Presto

The idea of the Air Presto was conceived as far back as 1996 through the initiative of then Nike’s footwear developer Tobie Hatfield. Its prototype mimics the same comfort you'll get from a pair of slippers.

From the objective of producing a performance shoe with unparalleled comfort and fit, Hatfield conjured up the Nike Air Presto that featured what he called a V-notch or a hollowed-out V-shaped section from the ankle down to the midsole. Apart from easy heel fit, the carved-out feature reduces tension in the collar area.

Two years after, Hatfield teamed up with other Nike designers and fetched an updated look of the earlier profile. The 1998 version was named the Nike Air Gauntlet, which retained the unique V-notch with a single sheet of stretch mesh towards the front of the shoe and a rear side clip that granted an individualized fit. The blend of these elements gave the feet the freedom to move in a more natural gait. 

Nike Air Presto heel

The 1996 Nike Air Presto evolved as the Swoosh brand devised another running shoe model in 1998, labeled as the Nike Air Zoom Drive. This kick eliminated the cored-out section of the collar found in the previous design, while the entire upper was draped using a stretch mesh.

The heel clip found in the Gauntlet was utilized too, but it is fixed firmly this time. This shoe was loaded with tech features, including integrating the visible Zoom Air cushioning unit that granted users a responsive ride.

The first set of Nike Air Presto shoes

Four years after the prototype was created, the Nike Air Presto shoes reappeared with a highly breathable spacer mesh. The cover is also ultra-flexible as it stretches in all directions, a solution that Hatfield and other genius designers brought to the table that delivered a comfortable fit. The upper had the same comfort benefit as the V-notch element found in the prototype shoe without sacrificing its overall aesthetics.

Nike Air Presto top

For the first time in the history of sneakers, different colorways of a specific shoe were given a unique name to grant substance and character to each of those variations. Thus, the Nike Air Presto pack, which debuted in 13 vivid and highly-symbolic color variations, was christened in multiple names. There was a Presto Bill, Unholy Cumulus, Catfight Shiner, Trouble at Home, Abdominal Snowman, and Brutal Honey. Other names include Rogue Kielbasas, Migraine Fly, Jack Mackerel, Rabid Panda, Orange Monk, Shady Milkman, and a 13th model, which surprisingly never got a name.

Updates on the Air Presto sneakers

The original and cheeky naming system quickly caught fire. Before long, the Nike Air Presto became the symbol of being relaxed and fashionable for thousands of people. From there, the shoe received minor modifications, including introducing the mid-top variations.

This running-inspired sneaker also became the subject of several collaborations with some of the industry’s most famous designers. In 2017, the Swoosh label hooked up with Virgil Abloh to drop the Off-White Nike Air Presto, baring a style that quickly makes it a statement sneaker. Abloh’s trademark “AIR” detailing is displayed on the rear strap, and the traditional Off White tag is hooked through the lace.

A year later, Nike teamed up with tech brand and independent design agency Acronym to launch the Acronym x Nike Air Presto Mid. The extended ankle collar and zip feature gave this silhouette a technical modification. Instead of the usual black and white hues associated with cybergoth streetwear sneakers, this kick is splashed with sunny and intense color palettes, specifically Racer Pink/Photo Blue-White-Black, White/Black-Volt, and Grey/Black-White.

There’s just no denying the attractiveness of this versatile sneaker. The fact that every re-release of the original colorways and drop of remastered designs are very much sought after is a testament to the shoe’s enduring popularity.

Facts / Specs

Style: Classic, Sporty
Top: Low
Inspired from: Running
Collection: Nike Air, Nike Presto
Closure: Slip-on, Laces
Designed by: Tobie Hatfield
Material: Mesh, Rubber Sole / Fabric

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Nike Air Presto unboxing and on-feet videos

Author
Danny McLoughlin
Danny McLoughlin

Danny is a sports nut with a particular interest in football and running. He loves to watch sports as much as he loves to play. Danny was lead researcher on RunRepeat and The PFA’s report into Racial Bias in Football Commentary. His football and running research has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, New York Times and Washington Post.