A detailed look at the infamous Air Max 90


Photo: Nike

The Air Max 90, unsurprisingly released in 1990, has been a top seller for three decades now, making it one of the most recognizable sneakers in the world. Originally known as the Air Max 3 until 2000, the shoe was designed by Tinker Hatfield, who was also the creator of the Air Max 1, the Huarache, and many of the early Air Jordan models. With its simple yet eye-catching design, its no wonder that it has been the shoe of choice of everyone from Rihanna to Kanye West.

The shoe originally was constructed out of a padded mesh, leather, and suede upper with the famous Air Max unit in the midsole. Other popular details are the TPU accents across the shoe and the waffle sole, that gained its name after Nike Co-Founder Bill Bowerman attempted to make an outsole with similar grooves as his waffle iron. The shoe is known for its sleek look, that over the years have been modified by Nike’s team, as well as special guests like Virgil Abloh and Brian Donnelly (better known as Kaws). FlyKnit uppers found their way onto the Air Max 90, along side Lunarlon midsoles, however the original design is yet to be topped.

The Air Max 90 is turning 30 years old this year, and to celebrate, this Air Max day, Nike are releasing the Air Max 2090. Said to be a brand new shoe, sharing the DNA of the Air Max 90, the new silhouette rocks a futuristic look, with its transparent fabric upper and translucent outsole. It shares similar TPU accents to the original Air Max 90 and unlike previous Nike releases, the air unit is a similar size to the unit on the Air Max 90, causing the midsole to look very familiar.

Like all Air Max releases before 2018 the Air Max 90 was originally a performance model. Particularly for running, the air unit was used to provide comfort to the wearer as well as reducing the impact on your body when you ran on a hard surface. Similarly, the waffle sole was intended to give the shoe some traction, and prevent slipping, whilst the padded mesh kept the shoe breathable. However, what made the Air Max 90 so popular, was not only its performance, but also its athletic look. This might sound strange at first, however in the early 90’s running shoes shared a similar bulky leather style, with a sleek shape, that can also be seen on the Asics Gel-Lyte V or the Adidas ZX 8000. This differed from the original style of running shoes such as the Nike Cortez, or the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66, and it became immensely popular much to the Air Max 90’s delight.

Thirty years is a long time in the world of shoes, and is older than plenty of sneakerheads themselves. In this time, we have witnessed Reebok get bought out by Adidas, and Converse similarly being saved by Nike, as well as brands like Pony and K-Swiss lose their popularity. However; what has been constant during this time, is Nike’s dominance. This is thanks to many different factors, but the Air Max line is definitely part of the reason, and especially its most recognizable silhouette, the Air Max 90.