-Joe La Puma (@JLaPuma)
Sure, there have been “DEAR COMPANY: BRING THESE SNEAKER BACK” pieces done before, and they include the usual suspects—like an athlete’s lesser-known signature shoe, or a highly limited sneaker that flew off the shelves a decade ago. This piece is not one of those pleas.
How often—in anything—is something looked at as so underrated that over 12 years you’re kicking yourself that you didn’t cop multiples when you saw it at a discount? The Nike Air Zoom Citizen runner is one of them. I’m not going to bullshit and say I’m the most active athlete nowadays, but during high school I actually ran cross-country and clocked in over 10 miles a day. My sneaker of choice: The Nike Air Zoom Citizen. Off the shelf, it was fashion not function that first drew me to the Zoom Citizen. The quirky plastic overlay on the mid-sole, crisp suede on the toe box and a flawless black/blue/white colorway made the shoes pop, it wasn’t as straightforward as an Air Max 1 and not as recognizable as a Air Max 95. It flew under the radar, and it was perfect.
The looks of the sneaker made you pay attention, but the technology is what really cemented the sneaker as one of the best of the ‘90s. The Citizen was part of Nike’s Alpha Project—a range of sneakers identified by a subtle series of five dots (on the Citizen they appeared on the heel and tongue pulltabs) that was represented the pinnacle of Nike tech. The big story of the sneaker was the visible Zoom Air unit, which was totally new tech shared by the basketball Vis Zoom Uptempo.
But again, the whole point was performance. The TV spot for the shoe showed a man running so long, when he got home there were new people occupying his house.
Zoom Air’s tag-line is a “flat thin unit that provides low-profile, super-responsive cushioning for top speeds and fast ‘off-the-mark’ movements” which was a perfect choice if you were running on uneven surfaces and cross-country courses that featured hills nicknamed “Cardiac Hill.”
As awesome as the Citizens were, they weren’t a huge seller—maybe people weren’t ready for the saddle shoe style later revived for the Air Jordan 2012—and they were never appreciated as they should’ve been. It was good for me because when they ended up on outlet shelves, I ended up getting a few pairs for cheap. A friend of Sneaker Report and human sneaker encyclopedia Gary Warnett said he came up on a pair for $40 (they retailed at $109.99) recently.
A dozen years after its release, the Citizen is gone. Check eBay, nothing there.
Hit up even the most savvy resellers, they probably don’t have any. It was a sneaker that was ahead of its time, and I just imagine if Nike brought it back now and souped it up even more. The aesthetic lends itself to an Hyperfuse upgrade—you could even throw Nike+ tech into it—and none of its original advantages would be compromised. Everyone loves second chances nowadays, just ask Wale. Nike, do us a favor and re-release these for the kids who scramble for training sneakers during cross-country season and the older heads who actually appreciated these the first time around. Not only do we promise they won’t end up at the outlets, we promise we’ll get off the couch.