The Nike Air Max 1 “Big Bubble ’86” returns in 2023

Air Max Day 2022 saw some of the biggest Air Max releases in recent memory. But at the same time, the 35th anniversary unfolded one of the most surprising release rumours on an Air Max shoe. In an episode of SNKRS Live, Nike previewed an unexpected 2023 return of the Nike Air Max 1 “Big Bubble”. Back for the first time ever!

Let’s take a long trip down memory lane and talk about why the “Big Bubble” sample never came to fruition. Either way, this is going to be one long exciting wait as we enjoy more Air Max releases in 2022.


Before the Nike Air Max 1 officially hit the market in 1987, the shoe had a different look. Aside from a slightly larger Swoosh, there was – bigger Air, hence the “Big Bubble” moniker.

The scrapped Air Max 1 sample was completely different from the “Big Window” Air Max BW which was released half a decade later. The “Big Bubble” was literally a big Air unit with four pillars inside; contrary to the usual three pillars that made the final cut.

The vintage Nike ad shown above gives a glimpse of what could’ve been. The biggest problem faced by Tinker Hatfield and the design team was that the big Air bubble cracked under immense pressures and impacts; making it vulnerable and ineffective for performance sports – specifically running.

Eventually, the Air Max unit in the heel featured three smaller pillars as Nike revised the final Air Max 1 design. The shoe made its debut in 1987 and changed the sneaker world forever.

How Air Max changed Nike

Before Air Max came to life, Nike Air was the only cushioning technology by Nike aside from the usual dual-density sponge foam seen on the likes of the Cortez.

Air Max was a make-or-break for the Oregon-based sportswear brand, whose founders were accustomed to game-changing scenarios. Nike co-founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman worked together to get the rights to sell the Cortez (formerly Onitsuka Tiger’s Corsair); also, Bill Bowerman invented the waffle traction pattern we see on most Nike trainers even now. All of these inspired Nike into creating something new in the name of track and field.

Fast forward to 1987, the Nike Air Max 1 made a quiet debut; but everyone who witnessed its emergence was surprised. The shoe was unlike anything we’d seen before! Ever since then, Tinker Hatfield steered the Air Max ship, even incorporating Air Max into Air Jordan 3 to 6.

Nike Air Max 1 ’86 “Big Bubble” Returning in 2023

While 1986 may have lackluster technology to keep the large Air bubble durable, 2022 is a completely different era! The Nike Air Max 1 ’86 “Big Bubble” looks to make its first-ever release in 2023 as revealed during a SNKRS Live episode hosted by DJ Sneakerhead. It will feature the OG “White / Red” edition just like the 1987 debut model.

According to Air Max product manager Jamie Paige and footwear designer Jon Kosenick, remaking the Big Bubble Air Max 1 after its unfortunate short-lived run in 1986 took three years to develop. With new technologies available in the modern era, expect the upcoming Air Max 1 remake to be as comfortable if not even cosier than the OG.

We’ll finally get to see the large volume Air Max unit in full display soon!

Biggest Nike Air Max 1 Releases in 2022 so far

2022 is the 35th anniversary of Air Max technology. And with that, Nike went all out in bringing new colourways as part of the celebration. Here are some of the biggest Air Max 1 colourways you may have missed out on during the Air Max Day last March.

Nike Air Max 1 SP x Concepts

A trio of Nike Air Max 1 colourways inspired by hippie culture arrived throughout the month of March 2022. The “Mellow”, “Heavy”, and “Far Out” renditions brought colourful designs with a unique theme found on each pair.

Nike Air Max 1 “La Ville Lumiere”

Three regional exclusive Air Max 1 colourways released during Air Max Day 2022. This women’s “La Ville Lumiere” was a Europe-only launch. It features an iridescent panel right on the midfoot with 3.26 labels on the tongue. More info

Nike Air Max 1 “Wabi-Sabi”

Limited to Asia-Pacific and Latin America, the Wabi-Sabi boasts a full-blown Japanese aesthetic on the upper. Golden streaks on the midsole represent “Kintsugi”, or the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. It’s another women’s exclusive release. More info

Nike Air Max 1 “Blueprint”

This blue-based rendition features blueprint and grid designs all over the upper; showcasing the global impact of Air Max. The shoe came in bigger sizing and was an exclusive release in the North American region. More info

Upcoming Nike Air Max 1 Releases in 2022

The Air Max Day celebration extends throughout the entire year. Check out some of the expected Air Max 1s to arrive this year.

Nike Air Max 1 x Travis Scott

First scheduled for a Holiday 2021 debut, the expected Air Max 1 x Travis Scott was postponed indefinitely after the rapper’s controversy during his Astroworld concert back in November 2021. Five colourways surfaced and are now expected to arrive in 2022. So far, there are no official release updates about the collab.

Nike Air Max 1 “Treeline” DR9773-300

A “420” version of the Air Max 1 seemingly inspired by the Nike Dunk High “Skunk” from 2010. More info

Nike Air Max 1 “Safari Cobblestone” DV3027-001

A fresh and updated revamp of the Safari Atmos originally released in 2003. This new rendition features the same grey safari print on the mudguard and collar. More info


It’s been quite a productive year for the Nike Air Max line. The Nike Air Max 1 is back in its former glory, and with the latest build-up about the upcoming “Big Bubble” in 2023, expect even more surprises as the brand continues releasing new colourways apart from the highly coveted brand collabs.

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