1986. The same year Tinker Hatfield was finalising his design of the Air Max 1, Bruce Kilgore (designer of the Air Force 1), set out to design a racing flat that reflected its namesake: Sock Racer. A shoe that could race marathons, yet felt like wearing only socks.

This was the case, as the shoe was to be worn without socks to experience the benefits of an extremely breathable, form-fitting mesh upper. The upper’s development was a happy accident: the material was intended to be used for running tights, but was found to be light yet strong enough for a running shoe. It also featured straps and buckles for quick fit adjustment, becoming Nike’s first laceless shoe. Wearers were treated to the omnipresent full-length Air sole encapsulated within a lightweight polyurethane sole.

nike air sock racer vintage ads

Air Max has been long considered the revolution of Nike’s success, but the company’s penchant for constant evolution of its shoes rings volumes in the Sock Racer. It set the genealogy of future footwear design. Featuring heavily in aggressive Nike running ads circa 1986-1987, wearers were told to 'Just Do It' and 'Smoke ‘Em.' in the Sock Racer and it paid off too: it won Norwegian Olympian Ingrid Kristiansen the 1986 Boston Marathon.

nike air sock racer vintage

The original Sock Racer is arguably a cataclysmic event that set off three decades and counting of Nike shoe development, forging a brave new world of lightweight minimalism. Evolutionary elements of its design are present in its contemporaries, as witnessed amongst current Hype DC hits, the Air Presto and Sock Dart. Both carry the DNA of sock-like, foot-hugging uppers and flexible soles in a lightweight package.

Hybrid iterations of the Sock Racer have previously emerged featuring original uppers with modern sole units, however the next phase of evolution has not occurred…until now.

nike lunar rift racer

Soon, the Sock Racer returns to Hype DC in an evolved – but certainly not final form: the Nike Air Sock Racer Ultra Flyknit.

It pays homage to itself by draping its uppers in Flyknit – a technology that the original Sock Racer’s stretchy upper was a precursor of. The reliable microfibre straps and buckles remain from the original. Now with a re-tooled sole unit, the already featherweight shoe becomes ultra lightweight, with endless cushioning from Air. Siping along the outsole references Nike Free, another major advancement that evolved from the Sock Racer.

In keeping with the original’s reputation for being 'Still Crazy After All These Years,' the Air Sock Racer Ultra Flyknit reprises its forefather’s bumblebee colourway. A less crazy but still engaging black-and-white flecked number is coming too.

nike air sock racer ultra flyknit

The Nike Air Sock Racer Ultra Flyknit is due to buzz in on selected Hype DC shelves Thursday the 27th of April.


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