There’s Foamtime Like the Present:
The Inevitable Return of
The Foamposite

Written by: Brock Arends

If there is a piece of footwear that needs little to no introduction, it’s Nike’s Foamposite. In its over 25 years of existence, no single item of footwear has been more arresting, polarizing, and memed than Penny Hardaway’s 3rd(ish) signature model. Foamposites are a titan, having lived through multiple generations of streetwear culture across several mediums.

The abbreviated early history of Foamposites goes something like this: In the mid-to-late 1990s, Nike developed a new technology to create shoes by injecting liquid foam into molds. In 1997, the now infamous then alien Foamposite was released as the signature model for the Orlando Magic’s legendary superstar.

Upon their release, Foamposites were quite polarizing in part to their abnormal design, but also their gargantuan sticker price of $180 ($342 in 2023).

Sweedish Foamposite Ad

As is tradition with sneakers bolstering high costs, Foams soon became a staple amongst local hustlers, particularly in the DMV where they built a strong cult-like following throughout the 2000s in partial thanks to Mayland’s Wale. Nike continued to develop the technology, utilizing it within the likes of the Flightposite, Total Max Foamposite (aka Tim Duncans), and the Lebron IVs to name a few.


After a successful retro in 2007, Nike began to run with the Foamposites. Releasing the classic ‘Eggplant’ and ‘Copper’ colorways in the years shortly after, the brand knew it had hit as people began lining up, fighting for, and reselling the shoes. Nike also had another manufacturing trick up its sleeve. As solid colors saw great success, the brand's newfound ability to print patterns (via vinyl) on top of the shoes opened up a portal into the next universe of streetwear culture.

2012 saw the chaotic release of the Galaxy Foamposite; a pair of foams so infamous that they cease any introduction. What makes Galaxy Foams so noteworthy, so exceptionally important (aside from the fact  a man willing to trade a motor vehicle for a pair), is that they were the first pair of sneakers to be entirely defined and adopted by internet culture.

Intentional or not, the unconditional nonsensicality of Galaxy Foams paired with the unconventional levels of hype it garnered within streetwear allowed the shoes to transcended into mainstream meme culture. While niche forms such as NikeTalk and KanyeToThe provided a hub for many sneaker related jokes, the mass adoption platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and iFunny in the early 2010s gave any meme from any niche the ability to gain more virality than ever. Intentional or not, the utter absurdity of Galaxy Foams paired with the unconventional levels of hype they garnered allowed the shoes to transcended into mainstream meme culture.

Suddenly, people with zero visibility into sneaker and streetwear culture became aware of the goofy shoes with the goofy colors. As the strong love and hype for Foamposites continued to build, so did the relentless meming and discourse surrounding them. Every major colorway and its release went viral, leaving many utterly perplexed as to why people other than meteorologists were spending hundreds of dollars on shoes with a weather map on them. However, this increased level of exposure also introduced a younger generation to Foamposites. A generation that not only fell in love with the shoes themselves, but embraced the digital cache and absurdities inherent to them.

Foamposite hype peaked in 2014 when the in-store release of Supreme's two colorways was shut down by the NYPD. Hype and relevance dwindled as Adidas began to take over and Nike began shifting its energy towards Jordan Brand and Nike SB. Fast forward to 2023, and we are on the cusp of what seems to be a Foamposite renaissance. With the releases of the Metallic Reds and Penny PEs this year along with rumored 2024 rereleases of the Galaxies and Clogposites (via Supreme), it’s clear that Nike is going all in on the return of the Foam.

In 2021, Nike began rallying its troops for the next major wave of Foamposite releases. Deploying the great gods at Comme Des Garcons for the release of the label’s own Foam, Nike was simply playing by its rules; using the long-partnered label to test the waters of streetwear for an older, unconventional silhouette. CDG’s touch brought a level of elegance and a fashionable-prestige that the legendary clunker had never seen before.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Commeposites were a sweeping success. Not only were they beloved by Foamies, but the reception amongst the fashion/luxury consumer was overwhelmingly positive. People who once looked down upon the Foam as nothing more than a meme began seeing them as a respectable footwear choice. As Nike proved to us all once again, all you need is a high fashion collaboration to reboot an old favorite.

As with any sneaker re-release, the question still remains: Is streetwear and fashion culture as a whole ready to embrace the Foamposite again? The answer? Absolutely. Foamposites are coming back because they are synchronized with contemporary fashion from both a stylistic and cultural position.

Stylistically, there has actually never been a better time to wear Foamposites. Historically, the bulky, uneven, indestructible, loud, single tone, 1-piece synthetic upper has been notoriously difficult to pull off. From sloppy stacked denim to joggers, the past three generations of fashion haven’t been able to properly capture the abstract technical essence of Foamposites. If anything, the style tropes and trends of eras bygone have only enhanced the quirkiness of Foams.

Though in years past it may have once seemed impossible to pull off Foamposites in a fashionable context, in the year 2023, we have the technology. The rise in popularity of technical materials, hiking boots, well-proportioned baggy bottoms, and all things Y2K has generated a field ripe for a respawn of the all-mighty Foamposite. In fact, the Foampoiste might be a possible solution for those feeling overwhelmed and bored with the current zeitgeist. Hiking specific shoes and boots are becoming too popular, but still yearn for that technical aesthetic? Foamposites. Minimal soccer shoes are getting too boring and hurt your feet? Foamposites. Need a weather-proof shoe that hasn't been vandalized by GORE-TEX branding? Foamposites. 

See what I’m getting at here? Sure, Foams may not be ideal for the average everyday closet, but they’re surprisingly more diverse and practical than many believe, given that you go for a more neutral, solid colorway. Additionally, Foams are durable; able to withstand nearly any climate based event thrown at them. The inherent waterproofing that comes with a solid, single piece synthetic upper has even inspired Nike to incorporate the technology into their ACG line.

For all the technological innovation and design cues packed into Foamposites, the silhouette will never be able to escape the silliness cast upon by a decade of meme culture. The polarity of its bulky, seemingly random shape and loud colourways/graphic. Sure, there will always be people who cast down upon those donning Foamposites, but they are fading (and aging) out of the zeitgeist (sorry, streetwear is a young person’s game).

From a cultural standpoint, Foamposites are also primed for an absolute take over. A generation of people raised by the internet are already familiar with the shoe via its legendary status within meme culture. In generations prior, once a shoe became a joke, or had any sort of negative connotation, it hindered any chance it had of breaking through past a certain subculture. In 2023 however, irony and internet culture only enhance the status and visibility of a garment.

Irony is a foundational element to the cultural movements of today’s youth. This key characteristic will allow the current generation of fashion and streetwear enthusiasts to embrace Foamposites with open arms, embracing all that comes with lacing up a pair of Nike’s most notorious bastard child.

However, if there is one thing that is for certain, it is that Foamposites will always remain somewhat niche. Though they will always have a group of loyalists, and will likely gain relevance amongst a large subsect of the fashion and streetwear communities, Foams will never be a sneaker of the masses. Even if Nike can somehow bring the price down, the silhouette is simply too crazy to be adopted on a mass scale. Aritzia Girlies and JP Morgan Summer Interns will simply not be purchasing pairs.

But that doesn’t mean they won't come to dominate fashion discourse in the months and years to come. In a culture fixated on hyper individuality and opinions, Nike’s upcoming retros of the Galaxy Foamposites, Eggplants, as well as Supreme’s take on the Courtposite dropping this Thursday are engineered to drive narratives and polarize consumers. And although virality will play a major part in the return of Penny Hardaway's most infamous signature model, it will not come to define the products themselves as they are cemented in 2.5 decades of streetwear history.

As it stands now, there is foam time like the present.

madeintheurl 2023