Nike experienced a renaissance period during the '90s. An era defined by the brand's repeated displays of innovation across their product lines and countless masterful marketing campaigns to match.
With the increasing popularity of the NBA (sparked largely by Michael Jordan), we saw designs for Nike athlete's signature models become increasingly experimental throughout the decade. Things would eventually come to a head in 1997 with the introduction of the Nike Air Foamposite One, a sneaker designed by Eric Avar that resembled something from another world.
First premiered by a young Mike Bibby – a then star college point guard for the Arizona Wildcats – on March 23, 1997, the Foamposite One garnered bewildering looks. Games later, NBA superstar Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway hung up his Air Penny 2s to rock debut his latest signature model in the pros.
How could an upper possible be comprised of anything but leather, suede, or even neoprene? Would a sneaker this solid be functional on the court?
These are just a few of many questions we imagine that the Foamposites brought to mind. Later, the Foamposite Pro model, which separated itself from the original by featuring no Penny branding and including a Jewel Swoosh on the side.
And while both versions didn't exactly fly off shelves initially, major cultural looks like a placement of the "Pearl" Foamposite Pro in Spike Lee's 1998 film He Got Game, did wonders for its perception in urban culture.
Over time, Posite technology was applied to a myriad of other Nike designs. The Foamposite One and Foamposite Pro also returned in OG and new colorways in a stretch of retros released during the early-mid 2000s. It was then that we saw younger demographics flock to the sneakers.
An eventual late 2000s/early 2010s run that brought the most coveted colorways ever to release brought the Foamposite further into prominence, making it one of the best in the Nike cannon.
Stadium Goods revisits the history books to rank the 10 most important Foamposite releases ever.
10. Nike Air Foamposite Pro “Dr. Doom”
Infamous villain Victor Von Doom was more than a thorn in The Fantastic 4's side, as he returned with one maniacal plot after another to take over the world. Nike depicted the fictional character's likeness on a Nike Air Foamposite Pro that appeared in 2006's "Fantastic Four" Pack. Other footwear options included the Nike Air Max 90 ("Mr. Fantastic"), Nike Air Force 1 Low ("Invisible Woman"), Nike Dunk High ("The Thing"), and Nike Air Max 95 ("The Human Torch").
Known for wearing a daunting metal mask, here we see Doom's usual metallic silver and green look supplanted by a simple black and white colorway. However, the color placement here is what's important. The hard-shelled Posite upper and sock-liner appear in Black, which serves as the base. Then comes the Swooshes, outsole, and inner lining – each of which are coated in White, giving the sneaker an absolutely menacing look worthy of Doom's legacy. The colorway re-released on Black Friday 2016.
9. Nike Air Foamposite One “ParaNorman”
Style: 579771 003
The connection between Nike and Laika Entertainment lies in the father-son relationship between Phil Knight, co-founder of the former and chairman of the latter, and the animation studio's President and CEO Travis Knight.
In 2012, Laika's goal was to follow-up the success of its first-ever feature film Coraline with another in-house creation. This one was titled ParaNorman – a story about an 11-year-old boy named Norman with the ability to speak to the dead, including his deceased grandmother. For this reason he's greatly ostracized by others, but this makes for a great story.
Similar to the marketing campaign for Coraline, Laika used their relationship with Nike as a means of cross-branding. And thus, the Nike Air Foamposite One “ParaNorman” was born a special release only made available via a social media giveaway. The contest rules were simple: win by sharing a photo of yourself as a child doing something "weird."
The sneaker's look pulls directly from the film, by playing on the oft-ominous mood with a black upper featuring invasive Electric Green accents that represent the glow seen around the undead in the story. Matching accents appear on the heel and pull tab, which shoe Norman's likeness and the phrase "Weird Wins," respectively. It's safe to call this one of the most sought-after editions of the Foamposite ever, right up there with the “Galaxy” colorway.
8. Nike Air Foamposite One “Tianjin”
Style: 744307 001
Nike has a global scope in regards to the stories they tell, whether it be through their product, marketing campaigns, etc. Acknowledging other cultures (especially those that have displayed brand loyalty) is a forté that's paid off immensely, and we have sneakers like 2012's Nike Air Foamposite One “Tianjin” to show for it.
Released in honor of the Chinese Zodiac calendar change, this take on the classic basketball silhouette totally deviates from the trending tonal colorways. Instead, we see perhaps the most complex motif to ever grace a Foamposite shoe, with cultural imagery that captures the city of Tianjin's essence, including amazing detailing with lotus flowers and other traditional Chinese visuals.
7. Nike Air Foamposite One “Eggplant”
Style: 314996 051
The late 2000s run of Foamposite releases were highlighted by two colorways, one being the Foamposite One in the "Eggplant" motif. From a design perspective, the shoe is pretty standard, featuring tonal color placement on the upper and mostly black accents in all places but the anthracite paneling and icy translucent sole.
However, its lush Varsity Purple look takes this Foamposite to unforeseen heights. One could describe the final product as poetry in motion – the perfect verse over a tight beat.
6. Nike Air Foamposite One “Supreme”
Style: 652792 001
There's no need to preface that hype will accompany any Supreme x Nike collab. In 2014, the New York City-based streetwear brand expanded its touch to Nike's Basketball line, a deviation from the preference for Air Jordan, Nike SB, Air Force 1, and Trainer models seen in the past releases.
The Supreme x Nike Air Foamposite One, arrived on April 3, 2014, in red and black colorways. Here we highlight the latter, featuring a polished black upper coated in a luxurious fleur-de-lis all-over print in gold. This shoe is certainly the more modest option. The icy outsole balances out the look on the upper.
Additionally, Supreme released a basketball jersey and athletic shorts to match the kicks.
5. Nike Air Foamposite One “Copper”
Style: 314996 081
Some concepts are low-hanging fruit, but that doesn't mean the final product will be any less potent. Let's look at exhibit A, shall we?
The Nike Air Foamposite One "Copper" draws inspiration from Anfernee Hardaway's famous nickname "Penny," as it sports a look akin to the one cent coin. It's glossy, but somehow still hard as a bed of nails and bound to turn a few heads.
Another important know is the era in which the "Copper" Foamposite released. As we currently fight through bots and site crashes to procure the sneakers we cover most, this colorway hit retailers during a time when campouts crowds could transform into an angry mob (sans torches and pitchforks, of course!) in an instant.
4. Nike Air Foamposite One “Supreme”
Style: 652792 600
The second and more popular option in the Supreme x Nike Air Foamposite One collab is this red colorway. Featuring the exact same fleur-de-lis print, the eye-catching red upper is what separates this shoe from its companion pair. The simple change in color makes for a more ambitious look, one that ultimately made it the more coveted shoe on release day.
3. Nike Air Foamposite One NRG “Galaxy”
Style: 521286 800
Talk about a game changer. Depending on your feelings on basketball, NBA All-Star Weekend 2012 played second fiddle to one of the most hyped sneaker releases ever – Nike's Air Foamposite One "Galaxy."
Examining the hype around this shoe in great detail is important, for it's the reason sneaker culture has the reach that it does now.
For starters, this is the first major shoe release following the riot-starting return of the Air Jordan 11 Retro "Concord" in December 2011. The sneaker world stirred a craze like no other, with even casual wearers clamoring for a pair of the latest hot pair to drop. The fire continued to burn with the "Galaxy" shoe. Prospective buyers began camping out a week prior to the shoe hitting retailers on February 24, 2o12.
The hype around athletic footwear had officially reached critical mass.
That year's All-Star Game featured a "galaxy" theme, and its host city of Orlando is only a stones throw away from NASA. Therefore, it only made sense for Nike to communicate that story through a fresh product.
Enter the Air Foamposite One "Galaxy," a version unlike any we've seen – it was the first to feature a graphic upper with its astronomical design. The upper features a deep purple colorway, with celestial stars appearing all over. The translucent outsole also glowed in the dark. A pull tab that reads "Remove Before Flight" is attached to the laces as a final touch.
2. Nike Air Foamposite Pro “Pearl” House of Hoops
Style: 378829 201
For all intents and purposes, the reintroduction to the Foamposite in all of its iterations began in 2007. But it wasn't until May 11, 2009, that the world saw one of the most iconic colorways return: the Nike Air Foamposite Pro "Pearl."
Released exclusively at Foot Locker House of Hoops in limited quantities, it was just the third time that Nike dropped this version, following its genesis in 1997 and eventual return in 2002. The distinctive Pearl White hue here differs from the lighter "Mother of Pearl" look seen previously. However, the shoe maintains its allure as a work of art. The way Black accents the Swooshes, sock lining, and the heel is second to none. Subtle hits of red also play a major role is tying the design together.
1. Nike Air Foamposite One “Royal”
Style: 314996 500
The genesis. In 1997, when the Nike Air Foamposite One first released, it was the Orlando Magic-inspired colorway that hit retailers. It mirrored the style, flash, and panache that made the expansion team so fun to watch during their NBA Finals run just two seasons prior. And while Penny began to slow down due to injuries, the marketing campaign around his Nike signature models only gained steam.
The upper was a jaw-dropping innovation, as it boasted a hard-shelled construction with a ridged pattern that appears throughout. The vibrant Royal Neon colorway is still one of the most revered looks in sneaker history. Black accents on the slip-on bootie and laces maintain the Magic motif. Penny's patented "1-Cent" branding is embroidered into the tongue and encrusted onto the tongue to complete the look.