Nike Huarache

What Are Nike Air Huaraches? A History of Nike Huarache Shoes


Nike Huarache shoes first dropped back in 1991, yet they have a timeless and lasting appeal that not many shoe lines can replicate. The shoes were designed by Tinker Hatfield, a former athlete and one of the star shoe designers at Nike since 1981. In this guide, we give you a rundown of everything you need to know about the Huarache shoe, including what they are, what they’re made of, how to wear them and more.

What Are Nike Air Huaraches?

Nike Air Huaraches are unique and have been since their beginning three decades ago. The shoe was not modeled after any other basketball or running shoe, but rather a style of Native American sandal. When the shoe first dropped, it landed with the catchline “Have You Hugged Your Foot Today?” This is because of the Huarache’s unique design, which includes tight-fitting neoprene and spandex socks. 

The shoe has always maintained a simplistic, minimal branding style that quietly symbolizes pure performance footwear. The Huarache line started with a basic all-around sneaker but has since branched out into international, cross trainers, basketball shoes, Triax, and racer models. The shoes have been promoted by several famous athletes, including Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson and, most famously, Kobe Bryant, at his Sneaker Free Agency.

Since the shoe’s 1981 debut, the Nike Air Huarache has been redesigned to be even lighter and to fit more snug. Nike has also re-released the shoe in several new colorways, with some popular examples including 2013’s “White Turquoise Gold,” “Turbo Green” in 2014, and the “Super Bowls” in 2016.

What Kind of Shoe Is a Nike Huarache?

The Nike Huarache is meant first and foremost for comfort. Some runners enjoy the shoe, and other athletes appreciate the neoprene sock and its fit. It fits into a sneaker “gap” as both a comfort shoe for the general public and a functional shoe for amateur levels in sports like running and basketball.

Why Are They Called Huaraches?

“Huarache” is a word that is based on the term “warachi,” from the Purépecha language. In English, this translates to sandal. Now, the word “huarache” is used throughout Mexico to mean a specific type of open-toed sandal made from hand-woven leather straps. The sandals themselves became popular throughout North America during the ’60s as the hippie movement gained popularity. 

The name of the Nike shoe comes from the appearance of the Huarache. Supposedly, the crossing pattern of exterior fabric mimics the crossing lines of the Mexican sandal. For some, this has made them look futuristic and inventive. For others, they appear bulkier and lacking style. However, the shoe was popular and comfortable enough for Nike fans that it has stayed in the sportswear game for a long time.

What Are Nike Huaraches Made Of?

Unlike the leather sandal from Mexico, the Nike Huarache is constructed from high-quality and comfortable materials meant to support both sneakerheads that enjoy a comfortable fit and athletes alike. The first model was designed with a spandex and neoprene sock, all within the shoe’s upper portion. Their design has changed very little since that first model, including the socks.

The rest of the shoe is leather, thermoplastic (TPU), and textile, depending on the style and purpose you buy them to suit. The way that the sock fits around your foot literally feels like it is hugging your foot.

Are Nike Huaraches Meant for Running?

Nike Huaraches aren’t specifically meant to be a running shoe. However, they provide the support and fit that runners need to maintain proper alignment during high-impact exercise. Running athletes and other Nike Air Huarache customers have reported having the best experience when they run on casual running surfaces, like sidewalks, fields, asphalt roads, or a soft dirt path. They aren’t always the best when it comes to running on tracks, especially professional courses.

These shoes are made with a larger-than-average treading on the outsole, which helps some trail runners running on low-intensity trails.

Do You Wear Huaraches With Socks?

While this is not a question you would normally have to contemplate with typical sneakers, the Nike Air Huarache isn’t a typical sneaker. You don’t have to wear socks with a pair of Nike Huarache sneakers because of the integrated neoprene socks, but you can. If you would like an extra layer of protection and coverage over your feet, you can use a pair of socks inside your Huarache sneakers. If that is how you intend to use the shoes most frequently, you should try them on using a typical pair of socks to ensure you buy the right fit.

Do Huaraches Run Small or Big?

Most customers say that these shoes either fit true-to-size or are somewhat narrower than expected. Part of this is to be expected because of the snug style of the neoprene sock. If you are bordering between two sizes, size up at least half a size. 

These shoes are also somewhat notorious for being difficult to get on. The opening for the foot is quite stretchy but small. The upper is made entirely of one knit piece, like a sock’s design, and there is a plastic frame around the back that doesn’t flex very much. Reserve judgment on the size and fit of the shoe until you’re able to walk around a bit to test the feel.

The Nike Huarache: A Favorite Through the Ages

These shoes started with a futuristic design and a comfy fit meant to appeal to a wide range of consumers. If you want a shoe that is both comfortable and functional, the Nike Huarache is a great option. The shoe’s releases have niched out throughout the years while the main brand has remained the same — a shoe based on an ancient design that always continues to bring comfort and support to the modern-day wearer.