Nike is bringing back its classic Air Kukini sneaker

A bold cheetah print ushers in the 22-year-old shoe that dispels water.

Nike Air Kukini sneaker "Leopard"

Nike is leaning into ‘00s nostalgia by bringing back its Air Kukini sneaker.

First introduced in 2000, the lifestyle runner features a ventilated sole to prevent water logging, as well as a quick-drying mesh upper accented by webbing. Multiple color schemes of the Kukini are expected later this year, and a striking leopard print iteration is one of the very first to be revealed.

The purr-fect pair — For its return, the Kukini maintains its original design alongside updated Air Zoom cushioning. The model’s signature cage sprawls across the upper and hooks onto the midsole. Its translucent plastic takes care not to draw too much attention away from the bold mesh upper, now done up in leopard print.


Muted beige, brown, and black shades cover most of the sneaker as a result, with the exception of the shoe’s exposed bright orange Air units. Solid black hits panels at the toe and heel, as well as the sneaker’s recognizable diamond-shaped heel tabs — which, here, resemble cat ears.

There’s nothing like the original — Nike has teased the return of the Air Kukini before, using the silhouette as inspiration for its ACG Air Zoom AO as well as an Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2 collaboration with Stüssy. In 2020, the two brands also introduced the Air Zoom Kukini, an update of the Air Kukini but subjectively no match for the real deal.

With a sleek build and futuristic details, the Kukini is one of Nike’s best retro sneakers. Its design calls back to ‘90s and ‘00s utility trends and compare to Prada Sport sneakers of the same era. The Nike runner should be considered a luxury, albeit at an affordable price.


More to come — There’s no word yet on when Nike plans to release the Kukini, but imagery for this cheetah pair suggests a drop is imminent. With an expected retail price of $135, the retro runner is fairly affordable, but that doesn’t ensure accessibility: Fans of the Kukini have already waited years for its return, and they’re sure as hell not waiting for a restock.

Anticipate higher demand as Nike begins to roll out the sneaker, or wait around to see what other color schemes the brand has in store. After the initial rush, the Kukini should be relatively easy to score, granted no celebrities turn hypebeasts on to the silhouette (as they’ve done with others).