A Look Back at the Early Years of Nike Presto Magic
The Air Presto has a long and well-documented history, especially in the midst of its resurgence in recent years.
Released at the dawn of the new millennium, and born out of Nike's storied Alpha Project, the ahead-of-its-time design was the ultimate minimalist runner and, rather conveniently, as comfy as a pair of house slippers. Since its debut nearly two decades ago, the Presto has been the perfect canvas for some of the Swoosh's more modern tech, including Lunarlon midsoles, Flyknit construction, Ultra tooling, and React cushioning. The beloved classic has even been re-worked by the likes of Errolson Hugh and Virgil Abloh into a couple of the most sought-after colabs to touch down in recent memory.
However, long before the Presto made its big comeback in the mid- to late-2010s, Nike had a full-blown Presto lineup that included a bevy of mostly forgotten gems. With that in mind, we've decided to highlight just a few of our many favourites – as well as the original classic – and what exactly they brought to the table.
Featured image credit: Nike.
Nike Air Presto
Obviously, this is the one that started it all. Released in 2000 and billed by the Swoosh as 'a t-shirt for your feet', the Presto was innovative for countless reasons, whether it be its lightweight, form-fitting, minimalist construction; its unconventional sizing; or its pioneering use of digitally-printed uppers. Its lasting legacy, however, may be all of the offshoots it's spawned, and its acceleration of the natural running movement. If it weren't for the Presto, there would be no Nike Free.
Nike Air Presto Chanjo
The Presto Chanjo is exactly what it looks like: an 'uncaged' version of the original Presto. The Chanjo took the Presto's minimalist design concept even further by eliminating its signature cage entirely, opting instead for a number of slight design modifications – most notably around the tongue, heel and collar – to create a full slip-on performance runner. Eventually, future Chanjo offerings switched things up with uppers and tooling that gave the silhouette a life of its own, and an aesthetic that was far removed from the OG Presto.
Nike Air Presto Cage
In an effort to bring the Presto across categories, Nike designed a basketball-inspired version of the Presto. Dubbed the 'Cage', the kicks were specifically made for post-game wear away from the court, and amplified the Presto aesthetic with a bolder midsole and in-your-face TPU cage design.
Nike Air Presto Faze
Think of the Air Presto Faze as a combination of the Chanjo and Cage. The unofficial spiritual successor to the OG Presto, the Faze rocked a nearly identical upper and slightly modified tooling, but stood out from the crowd by ditching its lacing – a la the Chanjo – and transforming the original moulded TPU cage into an apparatus that stretched across the midfoot and around the heel for improved support.
Nike Air Presto Escape
With the Escape, Nike crafted their vision of what a Presto cross trainer could be. Building on many of the original design elements of its running counterpart, the Escape offered up a decidedly chunkier midsole and a less pronounced V-notch at the collar. A thicker material was also used for the upper, allowing the Swoosh to ditch the laces-assisted cage and instead employ a more traditional moulded external heel counter along with a flexible new cage design that stretched across the midfoot.
Nike Air Presto Tremble
The Tremble represents a next-level follow-up of sorts to the Escape. Gone was the sleek running-inspired tooling in favour of a more training-appropriate construction, as well as the line's most daring cage design yet. The Tremble also holds the distinction of being the first and only Presto silhouette to ever utilise the Swoosh's visible Air tech.
Nike Air Presto Gym
Another cross training Presto alternative from the Swoosh? Meet the Air Presto Gym. Like the Escape and the Tremble, the Gym did away with the Presto's V-notch in favour of a more supportive collar design. Other features included a modified cage and lateral outrigger, as well as more pronounced arch support.
Nike Air Presto World
The World is perhaps the silhouette in the Presto lineup that's closest to the look and feel of the OG. The design was essentially a more fluid take on the original, employing streamlined tooling along with a new heel clip and more rugged toe bumper. And while the lacing remained intact, the cage was ditched in favour of nylon lacing loops that extended up from the midsole and out from beneath a protective overlay.
Nike Air Presto Footent
Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Footent is easily one of the weirdest entries into the Presto lineup. Released in 2002, the kicks were highlighted by a tent-like structure that was suspended above a heavily ventilated upper. The idea? To keep the majority of the shoe from actually making contact with the top of the wearer's foot for peak breathability. Sadly, the design – which clearly ended up having some influence on the Air Jordan 19 – flopped from the get-go. Hatfield himself has called the Footent his biggest failure, so CDG's decision to make another go of it – albeit with the original Presto tooling, a modified upper, and new 'Foot Tent' designation – was an odd choice indeed.
Nike Air Presto Zip
Footent and Foot Tent aside, the Zip is yet another Presto oddity. A bit of a chukka-like mid-top Presto boot design, the Zip featured a decidedly more rugged tooling setup than your typical Presto, and was highlighted by a zippered shroud that spanned the length of the upper to hide and protect the laces underneath.
Nike HTM Air Presto Roam
When it comes to Prestos, the Air Presto Roam will always be one of our favourites. Born out of the collective vision of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield, and Mark Parker's collaborative HTM endeavour, the Presto Roam is essentially the ACG version of the Air Presto, and one that married a trail-ready upper construction with tooling similar to that of the Air Presto Zip. The result was one of the best and most coveted HTM drops of all time, sadly limited to just 1,500 pairs worldwide.