VaporMax shoes first hit the market as a limited release in February: laceless versions co-branded with the Japanese fashion label Commes des Garons. They now resell for as much as $950. The first mass-market iteration went on sale on March 26, the 30th anniversary of Nike Roshe Run Femme Fleur the original Air Max. So far, each new color has sold out in a matter of days—a testament to the shoe’s popularity, Nike Air Huarache Mujerbut also to Nike setting supply low to create buzz.
With their bulbous, see-through soles and $190 price tag, the VaporMax are meant to be conspicuous. “Visible technology has been one of the cornerstones of the industry to get the consumer to spend a little bit more,” says Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at NPD Group. The runner’s space-age look, though, could lessen its appeal as casual wear. “This shoe is a bit polarizing, and that’s what we wanted,” says Holts, the Nike designer. “We want to push people into a new space.”
For the past few years, customers have been going for classic sneakers and cushy-soled low-tops that look good with skinny jeans—designs at which Adidas excels. Two of the German brand’s Asics Gel Lyte 3 Womens oldest models, in particular, have fueled its success: the Stan Smith, a simple leather tennis shoe named in 1Nike Air Max Classic BW Damen 971 for that year’s U.S. Open singles winner; and the rubber-toed Superstar, which was the top-selling shoe in the U.S. last year, according to NPD Group. Adidas stoked demand for the Stan Smith by not shipping any in 2012 and 2013. The tactic worked beautifully. In 2015 it sold 8 million pairs, almost a fifth the number it sold in the previous four decades combined.
During the Stan Smith hiatus, Adidas released its first Boost running shoe, with a midsole made of fused polyurethane foam beads developed by BASF SE. The sole’s bouncy feel and distinctive look, akin to chunks ripped from a Styrofoam cooler, won over runners and sneakerheads alike, and Adidas began adding models and colors. At the moment, the company can’t make the sneakers fast enough—it forecasts tight supply until 2019, as it works with BASF to churn out more Nike Air Max 95 Dames soles.
Adidas’s hot streak is partly a matter of luck; trends have shifted its way. But the company has influenced those trends. Before the Kanye collaboration, it had paid almost no attention to sneakerheads, who will line up around the block for limited releases. As of 2014, according to market tracker StockX, Adidas accounted for just 1 percent of the collector resale market. Yeezys, which now fetch as much as $6,000 a pair at resale, and limited Boost releases have changed things to the extent that, last year, Adidas held 30 percent of the secondary market.