Who should buy the Nike Air Huarache

This strappy, unique sneaker works for your benefit if:

  • you’re mad about out-of-the-box Huarache kicks
  • you like similar plushness as the 270s
  • you are looking for summer-ready kicks with a chunky sole

Nike Air Huarache huarache

Who should NOT buy it

If you’re worried about the strap's durability but love its shameless style, check out the Air Huarache Ultra. This shoe replaces the thermoplastic material with an elastic band. Another shoe that ditches out the plastic strap is the Nike Air Trainer Huarache. Both alternative sneakers are as reasonably-priced as the Air Huarache. 

Nike Air Huarache strap

The fabric cover feels homey and breathable

The stretchy and flexible neoprene and spandex sleeve literally hug the feet like a sock minus the toasty feel.

Nike Air Huarache neoprene

It wraps the feet comfortably 

The lace-up closure and leather cage help secure the foot inside the shoe. 

Nike Air Huarache laces

Gentle to the ankles

It comes with a low-collar design that doesn’t limit ankle mobility. According to impressed reviewers, this feature adds to this shoe's overall comfy feel. 

Nike Air Huarache shoecollar

Chunky, cushioned sole like no other 

That show-stealing sole really pops in the crowd like other chunky Nike sneaks. It punctuates your look, whether you want to go sporty or smart casual. 

Nike Air Huarache chunky

It lets you forget about foot fatigue

This Huarache is shock-absorbing as other Nike shoes with beastly bottoms, such as the Air Max 720 and Nike React Vision

Nike Air Huarache air

Top loaded but not heavy

Huarache loyalists thanked the use of Phylon foam as it significantly keeps the weight of this shoe down.

Nike Air Huarache phylon

It runs narrow 

A few users find the shoe to be narrow-fitting.

Nike Air Huarache narrow

Not a bummer!

Despite its polarizing design, this shoe gets the nod from celebrities like Hilary Duff, Sofia Richie, Bella Thorne, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner, Chris Brown, Maria Sharapova, plus a lot more. The Huarache sneakers easily stand out in the crowd, making them a worthwhile option for several occasions.

Nike Air Huarache style

Nike Air Huarache history

The Nike Air Huarache was first released in 1991 with great fanfare. In one of their many imagined marketing campaigns, they brazenly declared that “The Future is here in sizes 6 to 15.”

Those words will seem prophetic considering how much of an icon the Huarache turned out to be. However, the name Huarache itself almost never came to be as Tinker Hatfield initially referred to the shoe as the “Harrachi,” which is the name of a Native American sandal.

Birth of the Huarache Fit

The concept of the Huarache running sneaker was a eureka moment for Hatfield. He realized the potential of utilizing neoprene cleats for land use during his water skiing sessions. Hatfield observed how the neoprene cleatie conformed around his ankles while his feet were resting in a water slalom ski. It also amazed him that its structure is adaptable to varying foot shapes and sizes.  

Days after indulging in such surface water sport, Hatfield headed to his work studio and started drafting neoprene shoes fitted for running. Stripped to the bare essentials, Hatfield came up with the Nike Air Huarache designed with neoprene and spandex inner socks. It later turned out that the inner sock that literally hugs the foot delivers unmatched comfort and a sock-like fit. The "Huarache fit" was born.

Hatfield introduced exoskeleton support to the flimsy inner sleeve to create a Dynamic Fit sneaker structure. The first silhouette appeared like a futuristic pair of sandals for the gods, a kind of sneaker that Zeus would wear. Resembling the huarache sandals from Mexico, this kick also has a strap that wraps around the heel.

Nike Air Huarache exoskeleton

Trails of the Nike Air Huarache Shoes

Initially, the Air Huarache was planned out as a running shoe. It almost didn’t hit the shelves since the concept of a sandal-resembling trainer seemed like a crazy idea. One of Nike’s product managers, who happened to be Tom Hartge, ignored the skeptics and ordered the production of 5,000 pairs of the Air Huarache.

Hartge brought those shoes to the New York Marathon to dispose of to avid runners. Surprisingly, the futuristic-looking sneaker got the approval from throngs of optimistic runners that thousands of pairs got rapidly washed out in less than a week. What made it an instant standout, apart from its unique style, is its use of foot-hugging neoprene fabric.  

Nike Air Huarache foothugging

After its debut, Nike started to release the Huarache trainer series. The original outline and shape of this shoe, also called the Nike Air Huarache Run, made it fit for other categories such as cross-training and basketball. The Swoosh brand eventually dropped the Basketball, Cross Trainer, Burst, International, and high-performance Racer models, all assembled and engineered with the famous foot-hugging inner sock.

Among the popular variations that sprung from the Swoosh label right after the release of the core model is the Nike Air Flight Huarache (1992), Nike Air Huarache Light (1993), Nike Air Trainer Huarache (1994), Nike Air Max 90 Current Huarache (2009), and Nike Huarache Free 2012.

Nike Air Huarache huarache air

Several athletes had endorsed the Huarache family, including Michael Johnson, a multiple Olympic gold winner. Because of testimonials from athletes, the shoe gained its legendary status. In 2000, Nike reissued the original green/royal blue Nike Air Huarache colorway. The Air Huarache also turned up in the skate world with the Nike SB Eric Huarache drop, named after the pro skater Eric Koston.

From performance to casual shoes

Eventually, this performance-based shoe jumped into the lifestyle footwear category in 2014 as the demand for casual sneakers struck more and more major brands. Nike recreated this style and, in the long run, refreshed its racks with tweaked forms such as the Nike Air Huarache Drift, Nike Air Huarache City, and the most recent remastering, the Nike Air Huarache Gripp.

Over the years, the Nike Air Huarache sneakers have been the subject of numerous collaborations. One of the collab works is the Nike Air Huarache Run Ultra Doernbecher, a product between Nike and the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. This kick is an expression of creativity by a 13-year-old Doernbecher patient-designer. The vibrant fusion of colors used reflects how a little Brayden Sparkman fought lymphoblastic leukemia with positivity.

Another collaborative sneaker that used the iconic Air Huarache silhouette is the Shoe Palace x Nike Air Huarache Run QS. This white/university red Nike Air Huarache Quickstrike iteration arrived in a limited number of pairs. Its launch coincides with the 25th founding anniversary of the casual and athletic shoe retailer based in the US. This shoe is the second time the Shoe Palace teamed up with Nike for a Huarache rendition.

Nice to know

  • An Olympic gold medalist, Michael Johnson, endorsed the Nike Air Huarache in commercials.
  • In 1991, the known American comedian and sneakerhead Jerry Seinfeld wore the Huarache in one of his TV shows.
  • Because of the impressive fit, Tinker Hatfield borrowed the design of the neoprene water skiing shoe in his Huarache creation, adding the neoprene and spandex inner sock in its original format.

Facts / Specs

Style: Classic, Sporty, Chunky
Top: Low
Inspired from: Running
Collection: Nike Air Huarache, Nike Air
Closure: Laces
Designed by: Tinker Hatfield
Material: Leather, Mesh, Rubber Sole, EVA, Neoprene / Fabric

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Nike Air Huarache 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.