The Air Rift was one of the most innovative, singular designs in Nike’s stable when it was rolled out in 1996 — still is, really — featuring a strapped, laceless upper and decoupled toe to mimic the feeling of running barefoot. Now, nearly two decades later, the evolution of that trailblazer continues with a design even more minimal, even more barefoot: the Nike Free Rift Sandal.
The new design embraces the minimalist ethos of the Air Rift, but falls much closer to sandal than sneaker. The Air Rift’s textile upper and rubber outsole are foregone entirely, replaced with sleek, slim TPU caging and a soft, responsive Phylon midsole. Nike Free technology is then added to the outsole for a wide, natural range of motion, the logical next step, being that the Air Rift was a clear predecessor to Free tech. Finally, rubber pods are added to the outsole in high-wear areas, ramping up durability.
The new model defies categorization, boasting the light, minimal comfort of a sandal, but the performance-driven technology of a running shoe. And it’s nearly upon us.
The first Free Rift Sandals will launch on Nike.com/NikeLab and in select NikeLab destinations May 7, with a wider North American launch set for May 28.