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Nike Air Max Shoes are one of the most iconic sneaker lines of all time. The Air Max collection is a lesson in what sneakers do best: blend technological innovation with fashion. Air Maxes are so notable, in fact, that there’s a Nike Air Max Day 2023 holiday on March 26 to celebrate the shoes.
Now, this is a holiday for the masses. Whether you’re a Nike collector, regular, or absolute beginner, there is going to be something for you. For Nike die-hards, Air Max Day often brings back iconic styles, colorways, or other details from the archives. For the experts, it’s a day of both nostalgia and looking forward to whatever tech comes next. For first-time buyers, the holiday is a field day. There will be iterations, new and old, giving you a real chance to find something that fits your style.
Sneaker fiends love a throwback, and Nike brings that energy to Air Max Day. Air Maxes have been around since the late ’70s, and with that history comes 35 years of new Air tech and sneaker design. The Air technology — what you might see as the small, clear pocket in the midsole — was designed by who else than a NASA engineer. As legend has it, the former engineer Franklin Rudy brought this bag of pressurized air to Nike, and Nike dropped the first Air sneaker in 1978 at the Honolulu Marathon.
Of course, it wouldn’t really be Nike history if designer Tinker Hatfield didn’t have something to do with it. Hatfield is credited with designing sneakers such that Air technology was visible in the midsole. Nearly all modern Nike Air Maxes keep that visible air as part of their designs.
Those exposed air pockets make for a bouncy response when the foot hits the ground in a way that other tech simply doesn’t do. It’s flexible, so it moves under pressure and then restores its original form on release. It’s virtually indestructible, too, which means you can put all the pressure in the world on it, and it won’t budge.
The shoe’s Air tech and fashion-forward aesthetic are hugely popular among sneaker buyers of all kinds, and many new iterations of the sneaker sell out as soon as they launch. Nike Air Max Day is sure to bring some of that sellout energy — if you can get your hands on a pair, you might want to get your hands on two. There are a ton of Nike Air options, and we’re helping you sort through the bunch.
So keep scrolling for our guide to the best Nike Air Max shoes for any person to buy during Nike Air Max Day 2023.
Best Nike Shoes
Best Nike Walking Shoes
Nike Air Max 90 Shoes
- Year released: 1990
- Size range: W5-12; M6-15
- Special features: Waffle sole
- Celebrity fans: Lady Gaga, Kendall Jenner, Emrata, Scarlett Johansson, Kylie Jenner
- Popular collaborations: Kaws, Huff, Off-White, Atmos
- Best for: Wearing every single day
The Nike Air Max 90 is one of, if not the, most wearable Air Maxes around. They originally dropped in 1990, and they’ve maintained that retro runner vibe every since. The Air Max in the heel keeps your feet supported, and the padded collar and tongue makes sure that no fabric rubs on your feet throughout the day. They’re able to span the range of wearability: they look just as good with leggings or a hoodie as they do with dresses and suits.
What Reviewers Say: “These are perfect for walking, running, relaxing. I love everything about these. And they look cool too.”
Best White Sneakers for Men
Best White Sneakers for Women
Nike Air Max 270 Shoes
- Year released: 2017
- Size range: W5-12; M6-15
- Special features: 270-degree Air unit
- Celebrity fans: Lucy Hale, Anya Taylor Joy, Morgan Stewart, Kaley Cuoco
- Popular collaborations: Travis Scott
- Best for: Athleisure
While most Air Maxes were designed with sport in mind, the Nike Air Max 270 was always made to be a lifestyle shoe. It’s one of Nike’s newer Air models, and its 270-degree Air unit gives the whole back of the shoe a different look. The knit upper is stretchy and flexible, making for a fit that feels good all day long. These are great for leaning into an athleisure-esque vibe by pairing them with joggers or graphic hoodies.
What Reviewers Say: “I have a lot of different types of shoes and these by far are the most comfortable shoes! Must buy. Super lightweight.”
Nike Air Max 97 Shoes
- Year released: 1997
- Size range: W5-12; M3.5-17
- Special features: Full-length Air cushioning
- Celebrity fans: Hailey Bieber, Vanessa Hudgens, Halsey, Kaia Gerber
- Popular collaborations: UNDEFEATED, Skepta
- Best for: Serving vibes
The Nike Air Max 97, born in 1997, got its wavy mesh and synthetic design from super-fast bullet trains. It was the first Air Max with full-length Air cushioning along the bottom of the foot. The Air pockets sit below a foam-cushioned midsole and above a durable rubber outsole.
What Reviewers Say: “Absolutely one of the best shoes of I’ve ever worn. I have a wide foot, so I had to size up a full size, as these do run narrow; however, I would recommend you try on in store first, if possible. Once you get the size right, you’ll see these shoes have been around since ’97 for a reason. This model is so easy to wear with jeans or shorts, and the colorway is perfect for a minimal look that still hits. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.”
Nike Air Max 1 Shoes
- Year released: 1987
- Size range: M3.5/W5 – M15/W16.5
- Special features: Visible air pocket
- Celebrity fans: Lady Gaga, Sydney Sweeney, Camila Cabello
- Popular collaborations: Concepts, Patta, atmos
- Best for: Budding and veteran sneakerheads
The Nike Air Max 1 is the shoe that started it all. Although it wasn’t the first Air Max ever, it was the original Tinker Hatfield design that put Air Maxes on the map. Hatfield was inspired by French architecture that made its innards — plumbing, etc. — visible on the outside of the building. That’s just what he did: bring the Air pocket into the outward design. For Air Max Day, Nike is releasing the ‘86 “Big Bubble” colorway that started it all in the white and red color combo. It will launch on the SNKRS app and is sure to sell out quickly.
Nike Air Max 95 Shoes
- Year released: 1995
- Size range: W5-12; M6-15
- Special features: Air in the heel and in the forefoot
- Celebrity fans: Rita Ora, Hailey Bieber, Halsey
- Popular collaborations: atmos, Carhartt, Comme des Garçons, Kim Jones, Corteiz
- Best for: Collectors
The Nike Air Max 95 has one of those origin stories where, as soon as you hear it, you won’t be able to forget it. In 1995, Sergio Lozano designed the sneaker originally for serious runners, using the human body as his muse. The lacing system is designed to look like human ribs and the upper as muscle fibers. The quite visceral history aside, the Air cushions are both in the heel and the forefoot for a full-foot support system.
What Reviewers Say: “I bought these shoes for my husband in black and he was adamant that he get them in white as well. He says they are the most comfortable shoes he’s ever had. We even bought our son a pair. Based on what they have expressed, I give these shoes five stars!”
Nike Air Max Excee Shoes
- Size range: W5-12; M6-15
- Celebrity fans: Sophia Richie
- Best for: Arch support
The Nike Air Max Excee sneaker is similar to the 90, but with its proportions drawn out and its support a bit heightened. Its a favorite for people with foot ailments who need additional arch support. It comes in a ton of colors, but the all-white and all-black versions are great for wearing to jobs where you have to stand all day. Some reviewers say these tend to run a half to a full-size small, so keep that in mind when placing an order of your own.
Nike Air VaporMax 2021 FK Shoes
- Year released: 2017
- Size range: M6-15; W5-12
- Special features: 40% recycled materials by weight; stretchy FlyKnit uppers
- Celebrity fans: Kate Middleton, Kourtney Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Shay Mitchell, Kaia Gerber
- Popular collaborations: Off-White, Acronym
- Best for: Walking
You can’t go wrong with any Nike sneaker for walking, but there’s something especially great about moving in the Nike Air VaporMax 2021 FK. Sneakerheads and athletes alike lost their minds when these first dropped back in 2017. The VaporMax cushioning has more compressed air inside of it than any sneakers before it had, making them extra bouncy. That, in combination with the stretchy FlyKnit upper, makes them a great candidate for long walks and exploring new cities.
What Reviewers Say: “This quickly become my favorite shoes. It’s a great fit, true to size, and they match well with everything. They’re awesome for an everyday shoe!”
Nike Air Max Terrascape Plus Shoes
- Year released: 1998
- Size range: M3.5-15
- Special features: Reinforced toe, plastic cage outer
- Celebrity fans: Hilary Duff
- Popular collaborations: Supreme
- Best for: Outdoor activities
The Nike Air Max Plus is one of the ’90s babies of the family, but it’s recently been done up in outdoor detailing to make the Nike Air Max Terrascape Plus. The reinforced toe and plastic cage on the outer add some protection for when you’re walking outdoors or up a mountain. The shoe is lined with Air pockets for spread-out support. The outdoors helped inspire the shoe design, too. The dramatic-looking arch comes from a whale tail’s shape, and the outer caging is inspired from palm trees and ocean waves.
Nike Air Max Dawn Shoes
- Size range: W5-12; M6-15
- Special features: Pull tab and heel clip
- Popular collaborations: WHO DECIDES WAR
- Best for: Wearing to work
The Nike Air Max Dawn brings all of the vibes of a retro Nike running sneaker without having to step foot on the pavement. The slightly elevated heel and narrow toe is reminiscent of old-school track-and-field sneakers but with a modern edge. The Air pockets are low-key, making for an understated construction that’s easy to wear every day. Wear them with trousers or a suit and a plain white tee.
What Reviewers Say: “They look fabulous and are extremely comfortable. Good fit if you work standing on your feet all day.”
Nike Air Max Scorpion FlyKnit Shoes
- Year released: 2022
- Size range: M6/W7.5 – M15/W16.5
- Special features: “Point-loaded” Air unit, Flyknit chenille upper
- Best for: Street style
The Nike Air Max Scorpion FlyKnit looks like it belongs to the future, and, in some ways, it does. It’s big. It’s dramatic. It’s quickly becoming a street-style staple. If you thought the VaporMax had a lot of air, the Nike Scorpions dwarf them. It’s a street-style statement sneaker if there ever was one.
The History of Nike Air Max Sneakers
The Nike Air Max sneaker line has only grown taller and wider since Nike first launched the original Tailwind back in 1979, and Tinker Hatfield designed the original Air Max 1 in 1987. Franklin Rudy, a former NASA engineer, brought the Air pocket technology to Nike, but it was Hatfield who put it on display. Hatfield designed the Air Max 1 to not just use Air technology but actually to show it off. In his design, you’d be able to see through a window into the pocket of air built into the shoe. That visible air pocket is what most people will recognize today.
Over the years, the Air Max 1 has been played with, reimagined, and redesigned, and other Nike designers have used the Air pockets in their own ways. Sergio Lozano, for example, designed the Air Max 95 to look like a human skeleton overlayed with muscle tissue, and he dropped Air pockets into both the front and back of the shoe. Today, the uppers are getting remade to be stretchy and flexible, made with recycled fabrics, or done over with collaborations from some of fashion’s best minds.
What to Look For in Nike Air Max Sneakers
- Fit: When assessing comfort and fit, pay attention to the feel of the Nike Air Maxes on different parts of your foot. For example, you should have enough room between your toes and the toebox to flex and spread out your toes comfortably without jamming into the toebox. Additionally, look for a Nike Air Max sneaker with an upper that resembles your foot shape and doesn’t rub or pull. Nike’s Air line tends to fit on the narrow side, so if you have wide feet, take a half size up.
- Material: Air Maxes span the range of upper materials, so it’s buyer’s choice. For a casual shoe to wear to work, you can go with a synthetic leather, suede, mesh, or a combo. For walking and other athletic endeavors, look for FlyKnit uppers.
- Usage: Many of these shoes were originally designed for running, and you can still get in a good workout with most of them. However, Nike has really leaned into these as lifestyle shoes in the past few years. Thus, we’d recommend them mostly for low-impact movement like walking.
- Foot type: If you have any foot conditions, such as flat feet or high arches, make sure to look at the construction of the shoe. For example, the Air Max Excees are great arch-support shoes, while the Air Max 270 and the Air VaporMax Plus shoes are excellent walking shoes for plantar fasciitis.
How We Selected and Reviewed the Best Nike Air Max Sneakers
For more than 75 years, Footwear News has been the shoe authority. Our coverage spans top industry news, retail trends, head-to-toe fashion, athletic and outdoor analysis, and more. Footwear News’ global network of editors has carefully curated all product selections featured using our expansive brand knowledge and thorough research to find quality, long-lasting items. When it came to selecting the best Nike Air Max shoes for men and women, we took the job very seriously. We polled our sneaker community, tested many styles over time, and scoured online reviews to compile real customer feedback. The result is a researched list of 10 of the best Nike Air Max sneakers for men and women. Many of them are classic, year-round favorites, but we closely vetted new iterations to ensure that we gave our readers the best selection of Nike Air Max sneakers. And since no shoe is perfect, we were also transparent about some of the things that give us pause or specific conditions you should definitely not use each model in.
Meet the Author
Christine Flammia writes about style, grooming, and more; she is the former associate style editor of Esquire and is currently pursuing a PhD in communications at Columbia. When Flammia is not at school, she can be found in the gym testing the latest and greatest Nike workout sneakers. And when she’s in school, it’s AF1s all day.