A quick look at Nike Air Rift's past

Yes, the Nike Air Rift is back in all its oddity. But did you know that Nike isn't the first brand to come up with a cloven hoof-like shoe?

Although the Nike Air Rift dates back to 1995, this shoe's split-toe design was first seen in 15th century Japan. Known as "tabi" socks, these socks, later on, turned into light and durable work boots called Jika tabi. Martin Margiela also had his share in its history by transforming these workhorses into glorified hooves.

Fast forward to the year 1995, Nike (with its love for the fast-paced sport of running) introduces its first split-toe runner. Dubbed as the Nike Air Rift, its name and design are inspired by a ridge system that runs through the north and south of Kenya called Great Rift Valley.

Kenya, for decades, has been known to produce the world's best runners. Kenyan runners, as kids, were used to running barefoot or with minimal protection. Thus, it just made sense for a mad designer and ultra-distance runner like Kip Buck (with the help of Tinker Hatfield) to give these shoes a stretchy shoe-slash-sandal build. This type of design allows unhindered motion and gives a barefoot-like feel.

Benefits of wearing split-toe shoes

Love it or hate it, wearing split-toe shoes does have its benefits. Here are a few:

  • separating the big toe from the rest lets the feet flex naturally and move more efficiently
  • reduces pain and minimizes foot-related injuries
  • promotes balance

2021 Nike Air Rift: Same eccentric look in an eco-friendly package

The Air Rifts has been seen in various colors and designs in the past. For 2021, the Swoosh brand finally decided to put these quirky kicks back but with a few exciting updates:

  • Equipped with the Nike Grind rubber outsole, the soles contain at least 5% recycled materials. This gives the bottom of the shoe a speckled-confetti-like look while providing durable traction.
  • Unlike the plastic-like footbeds in the previous models, this one has a perforated insole. This new feature lets the foot breathe and drains any unwanted moisture to keep feet dry and sweat-free.  



How Nike Air Rift ranks compared to all other shoes
Bottom 7% sneakers
All sneakers
Bottom 10% Nike sneakers
All Nike sneakers
Bottom 6% low sneakers
All low sneakers


The current trend of Nike Air Rift.
Compare to another shoe:
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.