Since 2014, Nike has celebrated Air Max Day to commemorate the innovation behind and lasting cultural impact of its iconic Air Max sneakers. Lucky for fans, the annual event is here once again — bringing with it, per tradition, a host of highly anticipated releases.
This year’s holiday marks the 35th anniversary of the Air Max One, aka the cult-classic style responsible for putting Nike’s revolutionary Air cushioning technology on the map. As such, The Swoosh has released three new versions of the OG silhouette: the “Blueprint,” a North America-exclusive drop featuring a mesh-based upper with blue suede overlays; “Lumière,” a women’s-only style exclusively releasing in Europe and featuring dangling charms that name the annual date for Air Max Day; and “Wabisabi,” launching only in Latin America and Asia Pacific. This latter shoe has a mesh upper offset by earth-toned suede panels as well as “cracked” design in the midsole and outsole that pays homage to the Japanese tradition of appreciating imperfections.
Also debuting is the Air Max Motif, a modern update made with recycled materials and a larger Air window, and an emerald-colored version of the Air Max 97 SE for men to honor the Air Max milestone.
While Air Max Day drops tend to sell out fast, there are a range of other amazing Air Max styles that are regularly available on Nike.com and currently yours for the taking. From the old-school Air Max 90 to the recently released Air Max Dawn, there’s an option fitting for every need and aesthetic. Keep scrolling to shop some of our favorites from the collection.
Nike Air Max 90
Looking for a cool street sneaker to amp up your style game? Look no further than the Air Max 90. The legendary performance-turned-lifestyle shoe has signature Max cushioning for bounce with every step, plus an iconic Waffle sole to keep you stable. Stitched overlays and TPU accents add to their classic appeal. Grab the pair in versatile all-white or go for a pop of color for something bolder.
Nike Air Max 90
Nike Air Max Dawn
If you need a sneaker to pound the pavement in, however, try Nike’s Air Max Dawn. Released just earlier this year, it offers a sporty heritage look with plenty of performance features, including a low-profile Air sole unit, plush midsole cushioning and a heel clip for security. To top it all off, the style also does better for environment, as it’s made with at least 20% recycled materials. We love it in this cheery pink and green version that will add a statement to simple outfits.
Nike Air Max Dawn
Nike Air Max 270
An extra-large Air Unit in the Air Max 270 ensures your feet will stay happy for hours, whether you’re running errands or bopping around town to meet friends. For even more comfort, the sock-like upper is breathable and designed to feel like a second skin.
Nike Air Max 270
Nike Air Max Pre-Day
Alert: One of last year’s Air Max Day drops can still be yours. The sharp Air Max Pre-Day running sneakers boast an updated Air window that’s both eye-catching and adds optimal plushness. These are also made with 20% recycled materials for an eco-friendly touch.
Nike Air Max Pre-Day
The history of Air Max sneakers
Defined by its revolutionary Air bag technology, Nike’s Air Max line has become the brand’s most popular franchise to date since launching over 40 years ago. You’ve likely seen Air Maxes on the feet of countless celebrities and influencers, with new models, colorways and collaborations on the style continually launching.
Its story begins with NASA aeronautical engineer Frank Rudy, who began placing tiny bags of high-density gasses inside shoes for impact absorption. Convinced this system was the solution to many runners’ foot pains, Rudy pitched his idea to multiple athletic companies in 1960, only to face rejection until finding a willing partner in Nike nearly a decade later. In 1978, the Swoosh debuted its first shoe, called the Tailwind, featuring the novel Air Max technology. The shoe premiered as a limited release for the Honolulu Marathon and was more widely distributed in 1979.
The line really took off in 1987, however, with the advent of the Air Max One. Designed by Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, it exposed the Air unit in the heel for the first time. In the ’90s, other iconic takes become staples of streetwear and hip-hop culture around the world. And in recent years, the line continues to earn a spot in sneakerheads’ closets thanks to a series of forward-thinking updates that highlight Nike’s commitment to developing cutting-edge performance tech and materials.
The types of Air Max sneakers
While there have been innumerable iterations of Air Max sneakers over the decades, the Air Max One is undoubtedly the most popular in Swoosh history. Though, other notable models include:
Nike Air Max 90: Released in 1990 following the debut of the Air Max One, this style featured more air in the heel and eyelets of varying widths. It was originally dubbed the Air Max Three but later re-named in the 2000s with the launch of retro versions of the shoe. Still a widely popular silhouette, it’s even been reworked by the late Virgil Abloh for Off-White — a style which sold out within minutes of dropping.
Nike Air Max 180: This 1991-debut had a larger Air bag (offering 180 degrees of visibility) and was displayed directly in the outsole, rather the midsole as was tradition. Famously, Michael Jordan wore the shoe at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Nike Air Max BW: Also launching in 1991, the Air Max BW offered a similar look to the Air Max 90 but made the visible Air unit even larger (fittingly, “BW” stands for “Bigger Window”). The style became a favorite among the hip-hop underground scene in London and Paris, notably worn by rappers Skepta and Dizzee Rascal. Most recently, the BW has been updated with a full-length Air bag in the sole, inspired by that of the Air Max 97.
Nike Air Max 93: Debuting in ’93, this style has a 270-degree Air bag that covers the back of the heel and extends slightly to the slides. The Air unit was also updated with tinges of color, and the silhouette became beloved for its snug, form-fitting neoprene collar.
Nike Air Max 95: A clear departure from previous Air Max models, this 1995-launch was the first to offer visible Air units in both the heel and forefoot. Created by Sergio Lozano, the bold design also features a standout waved pattern inspired by elements of nature and the human anatomy. The style was reissued multiple times in the late ’90s by popular demand and has remained a customer favorite ever since.
Nike Air Max 97: The brainchild of Christian Tressler, this shoe continued the wavy upper design theme of the Air Max 95 in an ultra-streamlined silhouette. Often called the “Silver Bullet,” the shoe was partly inspired by a silver bullet train, but its original colorway is actually designed to embody the silver finish of mountain bikes. These days, everyone from Bella Hadid to Diplo can be seen rocking the style.
Nike Air Max 98: Although this silhouette was initially a flop when it debuted in 1998, a buzzy 2016 collaboration with Supreme brought it back into the spotlight. The eye-catching style features a full-length Air sole and mixed media upper with patent leather accents.
Nike Air Max Plus: Also premiering in 1998, the Nike Air Max 180 introduced Tuned Air, a system of individual air bags calibrated to differing PSI to create ultra-lightweight, responsive cushioning. On the upper, the waved details are inspired by palm trees and the gradient color is reminiscent of a sunset that designer Sean McDowell encountered on a trip to Florida. The shoe was an instant hit when it first hit shelves, garnering an outstanding fanbase in London.
Nike Air Max 360: Instead of using any foam in the midsole, this style has a 360-degree Air unit for maximum shock adsorption from every angle. While the model wasn’t a bestseller following its release in 2016, its groundbreaking tech continues to inform the designs of other more popular sports-oriented models.
Nike Air VaporMax: Taking the 360-degree approach a step further, the VaporMax is the first shoe in the line to have the Air Unit function as the shoe’s sole. Like its predecessor, the performance-driven style has no foam in the midsole. However, it does adopt a breathable Flyknit upper that not only molds to the wearer’s foot but is also attached directly to the sole to create a unique ground feel. A successful iteration, this 2017 debut has even been worn by Kate Middleton to play a game of tennis.
Nike Air Max 270: Currently a go-to among Gen Z consumers, the Nike Air Max 270 debuted in 2018 as the brand’s first lifestyle-only shoe with Air unit technology. It takes inspiration from the Air Max 93 and 180 and features a thick, 270-degree Air unit in the heel to meet the demands of everyday activities.
Nike Air Max 720: A year later, Nike dropped its latest Air Max model, which boats the tallest Air unit in the line to date. Also a lifestyle shoe, the 720 is a chunky, comfort-driven silhouette done in a range of trippy nature-inspired colorways. This silhouette is so popular in fact, it’s currently sold out on Nike’s website.