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The different types of Nike Air Max | Complete guide

The Nike Air Max is undoubtedly the boss of the trainer world. There are tons of options, so we’re here to help you discover them all.

Different types of Nike Air Max trainers complete guide

Way back in 1987, Nike released their first ever Nike Air Max trainer. The accurately-named Nike Air Max 1. It was a lightweight athletic shoe designed for running and featured a single visible unit of pressurised air in the heel. With it, Air Max technology had been born.

Back in the ‘80s, even the most optimistic of Nike employees couldn’t have foreseen what the Air Max range would become. Now, 35 years on, tens of millions of pairs have been sold worldwide and some of the most iconic Nike trainers are now seen as wardrobe staples.

We’re here to look at every Nike Air Max model which is available right now, from the retro icons through to the modern classics. Let’s just do it.

What kinds of Nike Air Max are there?

Just like Nike Air Force 1 and Nike Air Jordan releases, Nike Air Max drops are regularly highlighted in any sneakerhead’s calendar, and rightly so. Nike releases a new model on Nike Air Max Day (yes, it has its own day on March 26th) every year, along with a raft of redesigns and colourways for other popular models too.

There are plenty of models which come and go, which shows that it truly depends how each release lands with the critics and sneaker-loving public. With that in mind, there are plenty of models which have stood the test of time…

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Nike Air Max 1

nike air max 1 trainers
Image from Nike.

The OG Air Max. Probably one of the most iconic trainers of all time. Available in suede mix and leather upper options, most of the new colourways sell out instantly on release.

The Nike Air Max 1 is a fairly low-profile design, with a lengthy colour block across the top of the upper. The small, original visible Air unit sits in the heel. This design was truly groundbreaking and it remains legendary to this day.

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Nike Air Max 90

nike air max 90 trainers
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Using similar design ideas to the Nike Air Max 1, the Nike Air Max 90 still remains immensely popular today. Created in 1990 (no surprises there), it contains a slightly larger Air unit and taller profile with deep ridges on the outsole.

The AM90 has bold panelling across the uppers and tends to come in all-leather materials with a large, half-hidden Swoosh staying from its predecessor. It’s another timeless model that you’ll be used to seeing stomp many streets across the world.

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Nike Air Max 95

nike air max 95 trainers
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These trainers are known affectionately as ‘110s’ in certain parts of England, namely Merseyside, in reference to their original price of £110. The Nike Air Max 95 somehow still looks as modern as it did back in 1995.

The key details on this model are the layered panels across the uppers and the first inclusion of multiple, visible Air bubbles sitting within the midsole. Ultra popular with the youth of the UK, these trainers are also incredibly comfortable.

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Nike Air Max 96

nike air max 96 trainers
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One of the truly retro-looking AMs, the Nike Air Max 96 emits strong ‘90s vibes. The AM96 II remake brings back all of that goodness to the modern market, smashing its way through the popular ‘dad’ shoe trend. Get those baggy jeans ready.

The multiple Air units stayed from the AM95, and the athletics-inspired look remains too. Often available in more retro colourways, it’s certainly one of the rarer options for Air Max fans. That point aside, it doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

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Nike Air Max 97

nike air max 97 trainers
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The first model of AM to feature 3M reflective technology, an innovation which would stay in the trainer world for good. Back in 1997, the Air Max 97 set a new standard for sports sneakers with the introduction of a full, uninterrupted Air bubble. Bouncy.

The multiple upper layers are a feature which stayed from the acclaimed AM95, whilst the addition of two pull tabs on the heel and tongue sharpened the fit and look. This is one of the most comfortable AMs ever made.

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Nike Air Max 98

nike air max 98 trainers
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One of the chunkier silhouettes from the Air Max range, the Air Max 98 is also one of the most difficult to find. Released in ‘98, it was recently re-released to high demand, meaning the AM98 is only really available on the reseller market.

Keeping with the layered structure of the upper from earlier models, the Air unit is split into two, with a heel section sitting alone. The smaller Swoosh gives it a sleeker look overall. Wacky and wild colourways are the flavour with AM98s, but you’ll do well to sniff them out.

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Nike Air Max 200

nike air max 200 trainers
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Weighing in with 200% more Air (that’ll be the ‘200’) in the wraparound unit, the Air Max 200 has a mesh and synthetic mix construction. The shoe debuted with a raft of colourways inspired by Nike’s greatest sporting moments.

One of the more understated models of Air Max, modelled after the discontinued AM180, the 200 takes it back to basics. Renowned as a hard-wearing design, it’s bulky and considerably heavier than other models. If you’re into an affordable everyday pair of sneakers, these are your friend.

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Nike Air Max 270

nike air max 270 trainers
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Making its debut in 2018, the Air Max 270 has arguably become one of the most popular models of all time. If you’re out and about, you’ve probably seen a pair or two. The ‘270’ comes from the bulging 270-degree Air unit in the heel.

Lightweight, comfortable and an extremely modern silhouette, the AM270 has a raft of colourways (which are still coming out) and has been adapted with React and Flyknit ranges too. There’s no doubt that this is a must-have Nike shoe.

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Nike Air Max 720

nike air max 720 trainers
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And now for something completely different. The Nike Air Max 720 features the biggest ever Air unit, sitting at a whopping 38mm tall. Built in 2019 and inspired by lava flows and natural landscapes, it’s also made from over 70% recycled materials.

The AM720 is constructed of a high-quality synthetic mesh upper which includes flowing lines and an embedded lacing system similar to the Air Max 97. This is a shoe which stands out, and that’s why it was super popular. If you’re going to get hold of a pair now, you’ll be lucky.

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Nike Air Max 2090

nike air max 2090 trainers
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In 2020, Nike dropped the Nike Air Max 2090 (oddly). On the 30th anniversary of the legendary AM90’s launch, alongside a documentary about the famous shoe design, Nike brought the 2090 to the table. A strong dose of AM90, plus more modern bits of AM270 and AM720.

It’s a lightweight synthetic / fabric upper construction, which is breathable across an extremely modern silhouette. A more ‘classic’ Air bubble is included, mixed with futuristic grill-style raised panelling on the heel area. It’s certainly different and it’s still readily available.

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Nike Air Max 2021

nike air max 2021 trainers
Image from Nike.

Nike have really begun experimenting in recent years, and the Air Max 2021 is no exception. With its deconstructed upper and an almost oozing, exposed Air unit in the heel, this is a sneaker which immediately catches the eye.

Available in sizes for all the family, the design lends itself to some wacky and garish colourways. The comfort as you’d expect from an Air Max trainer, is top notch. It looks more like a running shoe than any of its predecessors but come on, you’re not buying them for that, are you?

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Nike Air Max Dawn

nike air max dawn trainers
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A more sleek and streamlined edition now, with the Nike Air Max Dawn range. A more laid back, casual stroller of a shoe than we’ve seen before. The Dawn emits a certain vintage vibe that most other AMs currently on the market do not.

Rooted in track athletics, the silhouette is a low-profile runner (think about a modernised Cortez). A perfect lifestyle shoe which can be coupled with just about anything, for just about anyone in the family. Lots to love about these.

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Nike Air Max Excee

nike air max excee trainers
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Stepping into the more budget realms of Air Max now, the Air Max Excee costs considerably less than most models from the AM series. Modelled on the iconic AM90, it’s a takedown version which is still stylish and may be an entry point for new Air Max fans.

It isn’t the groundbreaking design that we’ve come to expect from Nike, but this sneaker still looks decent enough on feet. Cheaper materials in the construction (compared to AM90) may mean that they won’t last quite as long, but if you keep ‘em fresh, they’ll work a treat.

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Nike Air Max Genome

nike air max genome trainers
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Debuting in 2021, the Nike Air Max Genome has a distinctive criss-cross upper design and is built with premium craftsmanship. Lightweight meshing runs through the shoe to keep the feet dry and the full-length Air bubble returns for added comfort. Make no mistake, these are elite.

The synthetic overlay across the sneaker adds durability, this is a bulky shoe but don’t let that fool you. It’s light. The colourways range from sharp to wild and it was pricey on release, but you can pick them up relatively cheaply now.

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Nike Air Max Invigor

nike air max invigor trainers
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The Air Max Invigor is one of the least talked about in the AM range. Its design isn’t as flashy as some of the other models, but it’s comfortable, breathable and durable. And hey, we think it looks pretty good too.

Loosely taking inspiration from the Air Max 95, the Invigor range has a raft of simple yet appealing colourways splashed across its (mainly) mesh upper. This is a budget summer sneaker, perfect for everyday wear.

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Nike Air Max Motif (just for kids)

nike air max motif kids trainers
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The 2022 Air Max Day release was aimed directly at the kids market and it brought the Nike Air Max Motif to life. A cool addition to any child’s, toddler’s or baby’s shoe shelf, this modernised Air Max 1 design looks extremely smart on little feet.

Throwback style with sleeker shaping, this sneaker still features the Air unit for super-soft cushioning. The colourways are playful and that’s what these trainers are there to allow: extended play time for all.

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Nike Air Max Plus (Tn / Tuned Air)

nike air max plus tn tuned trainers
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Another legend in the list. The Nike Air Max Plus, colloquially known as the ‘Tn’ shortened from its full ‘Tuned Air’ name. This sneaker changed the game in 1998 and has since been re-released as recently as 2017. And 25 years on, the AM Plus still feels like the future.

Super comfortable, ultra durable too. TPU lines run across the upper and keep it solid but lightweight, whilst the multi-Air units are iconic on this model. The synthetic weave of the upper helps to keep them box-fresh. Grab this classic in every colour, whilst you have a chance.

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Nike Air Max Pre-Day

nike air max pre-day trainers
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Combining modern and retro looks is something that Nike are no stranger to, and that’s exactly what happened with the 2021 Nike Air Max Pre-Day release. A low-profile casual runner with futuristic elements such as a gapped Air unit and deconstructed lacing system. It’s bold.

It’s super springy and with Nike’s push towards sustainability, it’s made with at least 20% of recycled materials. If you’re looking for something very different to set you aside from the Air Max crowd, this may just be the one.

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Nike Air Max SC

nike air max sc trainers
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Another budget design falls into our eyeline now. The Nike Air Max SC is a takedown version of the AM1 and AM90s. Don’t be mistaken though, this sharp all-rounder can top off just about any outfit, and the colourway selection is endless.

It feels ultra light and the leather / mesh mixed uppers offer fantastic breathability. For a cheaper model, the SC can withstand a huge amount of wear and tear and the outsole is similar to that of the AM90. Honestly, this is an amazing shoe for the low price point.

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Nike Air Max Tailwind

nike air max tailwind trainers
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Let’s party like it’s 1999. A true retro model here from just before the turn of the millennium, coming in the shape of the Nike Air Max Tailwind. Chunky dad shoes have had somewhat of a revival in the ‘20s, and this is a prime example of why.

Chunky sole, multiple Air bubbles and lively panelling on the uppers all make for a distinctive retro look. You can get hold of re-released version of the Tailwind 4 (IV) and also the newer Tailwind 5 (V) in lots of vibrant (or simple) colourways. If it’s retro, then it’s right.

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Nike Air Vapormax

nike air max vapormax trainers
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This now iconic Vapormax design came as recently as 2017, and has had a number of iterations since with modernised 2021 silhouettes, Flyknit releases, Plus and Evo combos. This true original is a stone-cold classic and worn the world over, every day.

The latest Flyknit Vapormax 2021 is made from 50% of sustainable materials, and the sock-like fit is unrivalled for comfort. The full Air outsole is the largest of all Air Max models and it truly gives the feeling of ‘walking on air’. Uber popular and uber stylish.

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Nike Air Max: FAQs

How can I look after my Air Max? Will the Air units pop?

nike air max air units on trainers
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Believe it or not, the material used to make Air Max units is incredibly durable, and even after extended contact with sharp items the Air units will not pop.

As for taking care of them, regularly applying sprays such as ‘Crep Protect’ will prevent liquids from attaching to suede materials, and therefore help to preserve the colour.

For non-suede shoes, the best method in our opinion is simply baby wipes and a toothbrush. By wiping your shoes down with a baby wipe immediately after use, you don’t give the mud/dirt time to dry and embed itself within the material, extending their brightness and shine.

A toothbrush can help remove dirt from the more intricate areas, such as stitch lining or mesh. A lot of trainers these days are also machine washable, so investing in trainer laundry bags could be a good idea. Make sure however, that the shoes are actually machine washable, it will usually say so on the tag.

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Can I run in Air Max?

running in nike air max trainers
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Although originally patented for running, modern models are designed for aesthetics and with only lifestyle wear in mind, and whilst they do provide exceptional levels of comfort, most Air Max are too heavy to be useful for running.

The materials used in some designs provide lesser levels of breathability and durability compared to elite running shoes, which means they can’t withstand the wear and tear that running causes. We recommend buying purpose-built running shoes instead.

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What is Flyknit?

what is nike flyknit technology on air max
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You will have probably seen 'Flyknit' or 'FK' slapped onto the end of many Air Max models and even on Nike football boots too. It describes the method used to create the shoe’s upper material.

Flyknit shoes make use of various lightweight fabrics (such as polyester or nylon), intricately spun together to create a more breathable and flexible material for the upper of the shoe. Nike claims it allows for greater stretch, support and all-round general comfort.

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When is Air Max Day?

Air Max Day always falls on the 26th March, a date chosen simply because it’s the same date as the Nike Air Max 1’s original release. If you’re interested, Nike has a timeline of the original releases on their news site.

On this day Nike often releases new models, special editions and runs huge design competitions and restocks of some of the most hyped releases. At FOOTY.COM, we’ll also be sharing their news on that day.

Where can I buy Nike Air Max?

At Nike, obviously. But if you’re looking for a real bargain though, at FOOTY.COM we compare 1000s of prices on a whole range of Nike trainers to ensure you get the best deal from every retailer and Nike Air Max stockist. What are you waiting for? It’s time to get some fresh Air Max kicks.

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Kevan Thorpe

Quintessential grassroots journeyman. I've had more "you look like Gareth Barry" comments than I have career goals.