words // Zack Schlemmer

For today’s Eastbay Memory Lane entry, we go back to 1996 for a footwear category that only the most hardcore running shoe collectors may get excited about, road racing flats. The road racers have been overlooked by the majority of sneaker collectors, but as you can see from this page, there are at least a few worth taking a look at.

The first highlight of this page – and probably the only shoe on this page that most casual running shoe fans know about – is the Nike Air Rift.  Long before the Free sole was conceived, Nike was experimenting with the barefoot running concept on the Rift.  You can probably go as far back the mid-80’s for the Nike Sock Racer if you want to talk about a barefoot experience, but the Air Rift took it to the next level with a minimalist sandal-like upper and split toe.  The Air Rift still comes back every now and then, but there’s many a collector still looking for an original pair like the ones seen on this page.

Elsewhere from Nike, you’ll also see the racing version of the always-popular Air Huarache Light, the original Air Max Racer, the ultra-lightweight Niobe weighing in at 5.5 ounces, and the incredibly dope Air Streak and Air Streak Light racers.  AVIA has an eyecatcher with the Mantis, while Reebok, ASICS, New Balance, Mizuno, Etonic and PUMA all had racer offerings of their own.  (I actually had the Reebok Marathon Racer in middle school!)  Without further delay, let’s take it back to ’96 and revisit some of the coolest road racing flats ever.