Air Zoom Flight (Mid)
(Note: A high top version also released in 1995 but has never been retroed.)
Year of Release
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Though not an official signature shoe, Nike’s Eric Avar created the Air Zoom Flight 95 with Jason Kidd in mind. Officially named the Air Zoom Flight, the shoe released in both a mid and high top version. Although the Zoom Flight 95 was famously worn by Kidd, the shoe was also worn by countless players in the NBA and NCAA.
Generally, the Mids were more popular with Guards and Small Forwards, while the Highs were favored by Bigs, though that wasn’t a hard and fast rule. Today, the shoe is named the Air Zoom Flight 95 instead of simply “Air Zoom Flight”, in recognition of the year it was released and to distinguish it from subsequent Zoom Flight models.
A SCIENCE AND AN ART
The design and performance features of the Zoom Flight 95 were ahead of its time and still remain relevant today. As Avar put it: “Design is a balance between science and art”. So with that, let’s take a look at both the science and the art behind this transcendent silhouette.
Any shoe designed for Kidd would need to be light enough to match his high speed style of play, but sturdy enough to support his 6’4”, 200 plus pound frame.
Avar’s answer was the Zoom Flight 95. Avar originally wanted to use carbon fiber to reinforce the shoe. However, in order to keep the shoe lightweight he used Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), which is light and durable, for the upper and midsole instead.
He also turned to the then fledgling Zoom Air technology for cushioning, instead of heavier alternatives such as Air Max, and placed it in the forefoot of the shoe.
The First Basketball Shoe With “Zoom Air”
The Air Zoom Flight 95 marked the transition from “Tensile Air” to “Zoom Air” and became the first basketball to feature the “Zoom” name. Prior to the Zoom Flight 95, “Zoom Air” had been known as “Tensile Air”, named after the taut but resilient tensile fibers that Nike placed within a narrow Air unit. These fibers would compress and expand as the athlete’s foot made contact with the ground, aiding in speed.
Tensile Air debuted in 1994 as a low-to-the-ground alternative to traditional “Nike Air” cushioning. The first basketball shoe to feature Tensile Air was the 1994 Air Go LWP (Light Weight Performance). By 1995, the name “Tensile Air” was dropped in favor of the more marketable and more descriptive “Zoom Air” name. Subsequent releases were credited with having “Zoom Air” instead of “Tensile Air”.
In addition to being lightweight, the shoe also had to be sturdy. For stability, Avar reinforced the Zoom Flight 95 in the forefoot and the heel.
In fact, the shoe’s most distinctive feature, the “bug eyes” located in the midsole, were made of TPU and formed a framework for the foot to sit in. This provided ample support during hard cuts and sudden bursts of speed, things Kidd was known for.
“We played around with different shapes, but the one word I was thinking about at that time was anatomical geometry…it just took the shape of these elliptical shapes, and we kind of bent them forward to give the sense of speed and a stance where it was almost like the shoe was in motion.”– Eric Avar
Not to be outdone by its technological features, the Zoom Flight 95 went heavy on aesthetics as well. Inspired by geometric shapes, Avar used the aforementioned “bug-eyes” and placed them in a contoured midsole to create the illusion that the shoe was in motion.
This was fitting given it was designed for the lightning quick Kidd and featured the name “Zoom”. Avar also reinforced the upper with TPU, which gave the shoe a modern look. He referred to the Zoom Flight 95 as the “disk shoe”.
- lightweight Durabuck upper
- TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) reinforcement for lateral stability
- full-length Phylon midsole
- forefoot Zoom Air cushioning
- encapsulated large-volume heel Air-Sole unit
- exposed TPU midfoot stability plate
- weight: 14.7 ounces
- 1995 OG retailed at $109.99 (about $188 in 2021)
- 2008 retro retailed at $130 (about $157 in 2021)
- 2015 retro retailed at $150 (about $165 in 2021)
- The 2008 versions were the cheapest, the 1995 originals were the most expensive, adjusted for inflation.
- The Zoom Flight 95 High retailed at $114.99 (about $196 in 2021)
THE TAKEDOWN MODEL
The Air Thrill Flight released in 1996. A takedown of the Air Zoom Flight 95, the Thrill Flight featured a full grain leather/ Durabuck upper, full length Phylon midsole, TPU mid-foot support shank, solid rubber outsole and an encapsulated heel Air Sole unit. The Thrill Flight weighed 13.6 ounces (compared to 14.7 ounces for the Zoom Flight 95) and retailed for $77.99 (about $129 in 2021).
The Thrill Flight was popular among NBA players, especially guards, and was worn most notably by Reggie Miller and Gary Payton. The Thrill Flight has never been retroed.
The Air Zoom Flight 95 remains one of the most iconic sneakers in history and has inspired numerous retros. Its design has also been re-imagined several times, most notably in the Air Flight Motion (2000) and the Air Flight Bonafide 2017).