A New Sporty It-Sneaker Era Is About to Begin

Nike just unveiled a lineup of athlete-designed footwear with massive street style potential.

a breakdancer performs a skill while wearing baggy pants and a crop top
(Image credit: Courtesy Nike)

Last week in the heart of Paris, Nike gathered 40 top athletes including Serena Williams, Sha'Carri Richardson, and Chloe Kim for a runway show unlike what editors see at the city's bi-annual fashion week. This wasn't a catwalk for inspiring a top-to-bottom wardrobe overhaul (though there were some impressive pieces by Sacai and Marine Rose mixed with functional leggings and sports bra looks). It was for birthing the next generation of It-sneakers.

The event kicked off Nike's involvement in the 2024 Olympics on the surface: unveiling the team kits for several US sports, which were designed using motion-capture footage of the athletes for optimum fit and function, and revealing new footwear equipped with Nike's Air Max technology. (Before even reaching the runway, guests navigated a winding exhibit detailing the Air Max's many evolutions since its first iteration in the 1970s, all the way through to a chunky Zoom Pegasus debuting next year.)

Serena Williams and several Nike athletes stand on a stage wearing Nike sneakers and sports gear

At Nike's Air Immersion runway in Paris, Olympic athletes including Sha'Carri Richardson, Chloe Kim, and Serena Williams styled custom designer pieces with athletic sneakers.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Each athlete walked the runway in an Air Max model that's currently on the market; later, the show concluded with a glimpse at futuristic prototypes designed for each of their sports. As the past and future gold medalists left the stage to reveal models of their new kicks—enhanced with aerodynamic soles and lightweight materials—my mind wandered to the streets outside the Air showcase and all the way back to New York. At home, I could envision these tricked-out sneakers taking on a second life—because some Nike pairs already were.

The same week, I'd watched from my phone as Kaia Gerber walked around New York City in a pair of Nikes with grippy, cleat-like soles. Two days later, Katie Holmes debuted Nike's upcoming Bode collaboration on one of her casual neighborhood walks. Both their sneakers were originally designed for competition and found their way into everyday life.

Nike athletes wear air max sneakers while walking in paris

Juliana Sagat, lead footwear designer at Nike, says styles like the Air Maxes pictured here are created with both professional athletes and everyday shoppers in mind. "It's a people shoe"—not just one for Olympians.

(Image credit: Courtesy Nike)

a guide to nike Air prototype sneakers designed by athletes

Prototypes of Nike Air sneakers designed for specific athletes push the boundaries of what sneakers can look like—and where they can be worn.

(Image credit: Nike)

Juliana Sagat, lead footwear designer at Nike, knows that the brand's upcoming track, basketball, and even marathon shoes could take on a purpose beyond their intended playing fields. It's baked into their design. "When the design team creates a new Nike product, we obsess form, function and feeling. They are equally important in performance and lifestyle," she told me. Breaking records and winning medals is the main priority in sneaker design—crossover into street style is a frequently common bonus.

The time is ripe for an It-sneaker shakeup. After years of slim, retro runner sneakers ruling the market (cough, the Adidas Samba), chunkier and more overly athletic sneakers are on their way back in both runway collections and everyday styling. Some celebrities are incorporating thicker-soled shoes back into their outfits already: Taylor Swift spent Coachella's opening weekend wearing a pair of chunky black sneakers, while Gerber, Kendall Jenner, and Gigi Hadid have recently been spotted on laps around Manhattan and Los Angeles in more amped-up footwear.

A collage of Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Kaia Gerber wearing Nike sneakers on various occasions

Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Kaia Gerber, pictured above, have all worked sneakers designed for sports into their everyday outfits.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A Hadid or a Holmes or a Gerber probably doesn't have aspirations to qualify for Olympic trials. But if Nike's soon-to-drop sneakers are anything like the ones starting to appear in street style, their origins might not matter. Athletes and It-girls ultimately want the same thing: a comfortable sneaker that feels like walking (or running) on air.

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.