Underrated Kicks, Vol.4: Nike Air Carnivore

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

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In the latest installment of Underrated Kicks we take a trip back to the 1990s, which in my opinion was the greatest era in sneaker history. With athletes like “Neon” Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson making a name for themselves not only on the gridiron but on the diamond as well, the 90s were a heyday for some of the most iconic and transcendent performance trainers of all time. To this day, these shoes are being retroed and used not only as a fashion statement but also for modern performance. For example the Diamond Turf (Deion Sanders) Reebok ES22 (Emmit Smith) and even Brett Favre and Dan Marino had pseudo-signatures with the Nike Zoom Turf and Speed Turf respectively.

One of the most iconic and original designs also made its debut 1990s: the Nike Air Huarache, which is Spanish for shoes or sandals. The Huarache line revolutionized sneakers with its use of lightweight materials, inner sockliner and structural minimalism – the use of exaggerated mesh or cutout holes to reduce weight and enhance breathability. This line has been retroed, re-imagined, updated and retroed over and over again. Whether it’s classics like the Nike Flight Huarache, which has been worn by numerous NBA players, or the lesser known Huarache Trainer 94, they’re some of the most visible shoes on the market. The Nike Huarache even recently took several of their most popular silhouettes such as the Flight Huarache and the Huarache Low and tried to modernize the design using Nike Free bottoms to attract today’s modern runners. Even though these designs were met with some scrutiny, it is a constant reminder that the Huarache line is alive and well.

Off of the success of the Huarache line and shoes like it came many other renowned (and albeit lesser known) silhouettes. These kicks share some striking similarities to its celebrated predecessor, but were either ahead of their time in terms of look or not properly indorsed enough to make a splash in this celebrated but crowded market of sneakers. An example of this misfortune happens to be one of my favorite kicks of all time.

The Nike Air Carnivore was released in 1993 in two colorways: the classic Green/Purple/Black and a lesser-known all black model with purple accents. In the 2010 the Carnivore was retroed in the same classic green, purple and black but with this release Nike added new white, red and gold – almost 49ers-esque – colorway.

The Carnivore was said to be the a trainer on steroids and featured a very aggressive and futuristic design. The Carnivore come with zero laces and the lockdown mechanism is provided via a series of straps very similar to the David Robinson-worn Nike Air Unlimited. The Carnivore has a strap over the forefoot, a strap on the ankle sleeve (which is where we see the most similarity to the Air Unlimited) and a small strap tightener on the outer which pulls that foot in to the midsole for a firm lockdown. The only other time that I have personally seen another strap of this kind was in Amare Stoudemire’s STAT signature shoe, except that strap was hidden. These straps by themselves wouldn’t provide the an adequate fit for a trainer, but when they all work cooperatively they provide a fit that in my opinion is comparable to some of the top basketball shoes today.

The aesthetics of the Carnivore set it apart from any shoe before or after, for that matter. With an extremely tall neoprene inner sleeve and a reptilian-patterned insole along with colors that are hard to match with a fitted or t-shirt, you can see how these sneakers could be an acquired taste to some sneaker enthusiasts. To this day this shoe is a gem for a few sneaker collectors; I personally am on my second pair of Air Carnivores and they were one of my first shoes in my collection. If I was to judge by the amount of looks and questions that I receive when I wear them out, it definitely is not a well-known shoe and is a head-turner for sure. You can usually find Carnivores at Nike Factory Stores, even thrift shops, and I was luck enough to get mine on the cheap on eBay (even though I’d over pay for these babies.)

It’s hard to tell why shoes don’t sell or are slept on. I think its a byproduct of people being afraid to step out of the box and pigeonholing themselves into one type of shoe or one brand of shoe. I myself have fell victim to this and have tried hard to step out of my comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to branch out and be an individual – you would be surprised at what you have been missing out on.

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