words // Nick DePaula

When it comes to footwear design, there's one model in particular that set the bar as the industry inched closer to a new millenium. Headlined by NBA star Penny Hardaway during his explosive prime, it was the Foamposite One that literally blew people's minds when they were first introduced in 1997.

It's the shoe Tinker Hatfield says he wishes he designed.

The molded upper (and price tag, to be fair) was unlike anything we had ever seen before, and the Foamposite had sneaker enthusiasts excitedly bracing for what could be in store as Nike's design powerhouse of Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar and Aaron Cooper looked to continually push the envelope of design and innovation. 

Eric Avar, designer, recalls the shoe's design process:

"It was probably about two years before we really got to the point where we decided that we were going to go forward with this and now we needed to figure out what was the final design going to be.

There were a lot of people involved at that time, and our advanced group was called Advanced Product Engineering. There were a number of people in the group working on all kinds of technologies, and one of the technologies at the time that we were working on was this Foamposite construction.

It took a good two years to really get that construction to the point where we really felt there was something there where we could go forward with this and actually make it, produce it and manufacture it. So that was definitely a longer lead time than your average shoe. Even when we did that we had some other original designs and we still didn’t quite know how it would look. It was a pretty radical design and quite a departure from our other designs and where shoes were at the time, and we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it or even what player might wear it or any of that."

Look for more sketches of some of the industry's most beloved shoes in our ongoing series, and be sure to also catch our new "Inside The Designer's Studio" series for background stories and industry thoughts from some of footwear's biggest designers.

Nike Foamposite One // 830017-511