Take the First-Ever Look Inside Nike’s Air Manufacturing Innovation Facility

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It’s one of the most recognizable and versatile shoe designs ever created—yet how it’s manufactured has remained a mystery to many over the past 40 years.

The Nike Air (bag), which is used in everything from the company’s basketball shoes to even golf and skateboarding shoes, was a pioneering idea that helped establish Nike as one of the most innovative companies around.

Presented to Nike co-founder Phil Knight in 1977 by inventor Frank Rudy, the company has kept their US-based Nike Air Manufacturing Innovation facility under wraps for decades. In celebration of the release of the Nike Air VaporMax this month, however, the company has finally taken the curtain off to reveal just how those air bags get made:

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The Beaverton, Oregon-based facility, as well as its counterpart in St. Charles, Missouri, have manufactured a combined 3.5 billion Nike Air units to date. To pull in those kinds of numbers, the company employs 1,300 highly skilled people to work around the clock at both facilities. That’s a lot of air!

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