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The history of the Nike Huarache

One of the most iconic Nike silhouettes born in 1991 from the mind of Tinker Hatfield

The history of the Nike Huarache One of the most iconic Nike silhouettes born in 1991 from the mind of Tinker Hatfield

Today, September 13, the new Nike Adapt Huarache will hit the stores. The shoe is equipped with a FitAdapt technology that, through an app on your smartphone, allows the electronic adjustment of the laces and adjusts the pressure according to the shape of the foot. Just ask your iPhone to fasten or untie your shoes, and the motor system built into the midsole will automatically adjust to your preferences. In addition, you can customize the color of the LEDs on the sole. 

This is just the latest in a long list of versions of the Huarache made over the years that contributed to making the shoe one of the most iconic Nike creations. A curious fate if we think that its disastrous debut almost made it impossible to realize the shoe.

Let's go back to 1991. The company has been talking for some time about the possibility of producing a sneaker with a more minimal design, "with the bare essentials". The right idea came to Tinker Hatfield (already the author of best-sellers like the Air Max 1, Air Max 90 and Jordan III) while he was on water-skis when, after a fall, he noticed how the neoprene sock he was wearing fit particularly well on his foot. Back in the studio, he began to develop a project for an unusual silhouette, consisting of a sort of boot covered with an exoskeleton and without a heel cushion, but with, instead of the solid support, a strap similar to a sandal. Enthusiastic, the man showed his sketches to his colleague Sandy Bodecker who commented on Tinker's work by writing the phrase "Sneaker of the Gods" on the paper, explaining that they reminded him of the shoes worn by Greek gods. Inspired, Hatfield decided to call his creation after the name of the most famous Mexican sandal: Harrachi (later adapted into Huarache). 

Although the Nike team liked the new model, it didn't have the same success among buyers. Orders did not exceed 50 pairs and all of Tinker's work risked ending up in oblivion. Luckily for Nike, a product manager, Tom Hartge, ignoring the instructions, fill out a fake order for five thousand pairs. The forward-thinking employee took them to the New York Marathon in an exhibition pavilion near Times Square and managed to sell them all in just three days. The success was surprising: in a month Nike went from zero to orders for half a million pairs. Soon everyone knew the sneaker characterized by an unusual upper made with neoprene parts, a double row of shoelaces and an external unit in thermoplastic material. Despite the absence of the Swoosh logo, it became an unmistakable item and, also thanks to a captivating advertising campaign with the slogan "Have You Hugged Your Foot Today?" we began to talk about the "Huarache fit". The photograph of the runner Derek Redmond at the finish line with his father carrying him wearing a t-shirt with this phrase during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics made history. 

First loved by runners, the sneaker quickly became popular in other sectors. If Jerry Seinfeld and Will Smith aka The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Season 02 Episode 20) were wearing it on TV, it was the world of basketball that turned it into a must-have. Huarache was the first to seduce the "Fab Five", the players of the Michigan university team: Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and their leader Chris Webber. Then came the turn of Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant (the Huarache 2k4 is considered one of his first "signature" sneakers) and Michael Johnson who was the protagonist of a TV commercial for the shoe. 

In 1991 alone Huarache recorded 250,000 sales and for a few more years it confirmed its success. Meanwhile, Nike began to produce more and more contemporary and captivating sneakers that put the creation of Hatfield in the corner. It will only reappear in 2000 when it was reworked for a special collaboration between the sportswear giant and Stüssy.

New variants of the shoe began to appear. Someone has calculated that from 1991 to 2012 have been released 43 different colorways plus 8 samples, although to see the runner back in vogue we had to wait for more recent times. Thanks to the nostalgic passion of the Millenials for the 80s and 90s kicks and for chunky sneakers, in 2013 the model was reprinted in its OG colors. From then on, the reiteration of Huarache multiplied, as did the street style images in which the celebrities wear them. 

It's hard to choose among all these Huarache versions, in addition to the most successful OG version of 1991, but nss has tried to select the top 5.


Nike Air Flight Huarache Ultra (2017)

Nike Air Flights become even more comfortable and lighter. The futuristic aspect remains. The features? In addition to the classic heel reinforcement, neoprene upper with breathable knit insert on the toe and nubuck reinforcement around the ankle, Nike cushioning system.


Nike Air Huarache Run Ultra (2015)

The Nike Air Huarache is back in the Run Ultra version: mesh upper with Nike writing on the back, Dynamic Flywire lacing system, phylon midsole, and rubber sole.


Nike Air Huarache Drift Premium (2018) 

Hatfield's creation continues to evolve, and some of the most recognizable details remain, such as the heel support and Huarache logo on the tongue, but the sole is made even thicker and more stable thanks to the waffle structure. The upper is made of mesh and neoprene and there is the possibility to adjust the force of the lacing by inserting additional plastic panels to be applied to the sides. Available with a double set of laces.


Nike Huarache Free 2012 (2011)

Inspired by a legendary college basketball team from the early 1990s, it combines a low-profile upper for the basketball court with a sole designed for running. The upper is made of patent leather with a mesh insert and perforated details with a Phylon midsole and sole.


Nike Huarache E.D.G.E (2018)

New look for the Nike family. The Huarache E.D.G.G.E. features transparent rubber details, 3M panels and super pull-tab. Also interesting is the version by Heron Preston.