As a kid growing up in the 90’s, there were only two brands of shoes that I cared about: Nike Air Jordan’s and Airwalk. Jordan’s were out of my price range when it came to sneakers (although my grandma did get me a pair of Jumpman Pro Quick’s in 1998), so Airwalk was what I desired the most and sometimes got. I loved my Airwalks, they were comfortable, looked good, and lasted forever. But like most things that you love as a kid, your attention turns elsewhere, and before you know it you’ve forgotten all about that one thing you used to love.
I forgot about Airwalks for a good ten years. I don’t think I heard the term Airwalk anytime between 1999-2009. But one day, I was reminiscing and I had this sudden flashback of some really cool skater shoes and the Airwalk brand came back to me. I immediately went online to see where I could buy a pair and was both disappointed and excited to see that Payless Shoes was now the exclusive retailer of Airwalk.
The hardcore skater shoes were gone and in their place were a variety of casual shoes, flipflops, and some shoes that might could pass as skater shoes as long as you weren’t at a skate park. I bought a pair, anxious to recapture my youth, and the found the shoes to be quite comfortable. Actually, I grew to love that pair of shoes for about three months, before they started doing what all Payless shoes do after three months, and they started breaking down.
I went back for another pair and the style I had bought had been replaced, so I bought the next closest thing and decided to only break out the Airwalks every once in a while. I was able to milk those shoes about a year before they failed me.
I picked up some Airwalk Chuck Taylor knockoffs and another pair of the skater shoes sometime later, but gone were the comfortableness and my patience for buying a pair of $24-$30 shoes twice a year. Also, as I packed on some pounds and go a little older, I found that cheap shoes would no longer cut it for me. I needed shoes that could support me and I decided to allow my good memories of Airwalks finally rest in peace.
Six or seven years have passed since that time and I don’t bother stopping in when I pass Payless at the mall. My wife buys cheap Airwalk flip flops once a year for the beach, and whenever I see that Airwalk logo on a ten dollar flipflop I’m disappointed at how far Airwalk has fallen. What once was a proud and respected skater brand is now slapped on the back of any type of shoe the fine folks at Payless hope to increase sales with a minor nostalgia bump.
In March, I was at work one day and I decided I wanted a pair of skater shoes for the summer. I’ve actually never bought any brand other than Airwalk, so I figured I’d just check and see if Vans or DC had proper arch support or were my feet just too old to wear those types of shoes. Just for fun, I decided to check on Airwalks to see what they had going on when I discovered that in 2017 Airwalk decided to try and get serious again with a premium shoe. They had a new design, but more importantly they re-released the 30 year old Airwalk Random, the bestselling Airwalk of all-time, and the same Airwalk I once owned. Part of me was excited, but I didn’t want a $30 knockoff of the Airwalk Random, so I did a quick Amazon search and sure enough, this new line of shoes was not made for the Payless Market. They all retailed around $100 and were sold in bigger shoe stores than Payless.
The cheapest I could find The Random was $80, which is about $40 too much for me to buy a pair of skate shoes. I kept clicking on links to read reviews, when I realized that a couple of stores were selling them for $39.99 that week. Five minutes later, I made a purchase from Urban Outfitters.
Less than a week later, I got my shoes and I opened the box to a wave of nostalgia. There they were, just like I remembered them, but bigger. I quickly slipped them on my feet, and like muscle memory, my toes instantly felt at home. It was so strange.
The shoes felt great and were incredibly comfortable right out of the box. I did notice however they were going to need a little breaking in around the toes. I wasn’t complaining though, I got exactly what I wanted at a very fair price.
And so, life has come full circle and I once again own a nice pair of Airwalks. Sadly, I don’t believe The Random or the new line sold all that well, so I doubt we’ll be seeing them again. This is probably my last hoo-rah with Airwalk so I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it and channel the 90’s the best that I can.