Having worked at American space agency NASA, former Aeronautical engineer Marion Franklin Rudy had been introduced to a process known as “blow rubber molding.” He was able to manufacture a cush-ioning system based on an inert gas encapsulated in polyurethane plastic, and used the rubber molding processes to cre-ate a hollowed-out midsole to fit an air bag. This gave Rudy the idea of adding airbags in the soles of shoes, the footwear technology would exponentially decrease the impact a single step has on the body. He decided to explore business opportunities.
Rudy and his business partner Bob Bogert arranged a meeting with Nike co-founder Phil Knight to pitch their Crazy Idea of injecting air into running shoes. Like the previous 23 companies Rudy and Bogert had met with, Knight was skeptical as he stared at soles that looked as if is they’d been teleported from the twenty-second century – big, clunky, they were clear thick plastic with bubbles inside. As Rudy was ready to walk away from the conference table, he told Phil Knight that Adidas had been skeptical also. Abracadabra. Knight immediately asked to fit the soles into his running shoes and went for a 6 mile run and returned to his office intrigued – Rudy and Bogert’s soles were in-deed one heck of a ride. Nike had found “Air”.
Researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville asked 10 run-ners to run on a treadmill in the Nike Tailwind. They found that the athletes used less energy running in the “Air” shoes than running in conventional running shoes.
Nike Air Tailwind was first shoe to use Air technology.
Nike marketing staff released a limited number of Tailwind shoes prior to a broader launch. Shoemakers at Nike’s first R&D lab in Exeter, New Hampshire, cranked out 250 pairs of the highly technical shoe, which were sent to six Hawaiian running stores for the Honolulu Mar-athon. The shoes sold out within 24 hours, despite an unprecedented $50 retail price.
Marion Franklin Rudy shows off his “AIR” invention, 1980.
January 15th 1980, Rudy patent his “Air” technology.