Nike Air Max 1 Vs Air Max 90 – Which Iconic Sneaker Wins?


Nike is associated with ‘trust’ in the shoe industry. They have so many excellent sneakers in their collection.

Among these, the Air Max 1 and 90 models receive significant attention. Though both share the Air Max lineage, their unique attributes make them distinguishable.

This article will delve into this Air Max 1 vs Air Max 90 comparison to aid your purchase decision. In the beginning, we’ll know about their origin. I have compared these two shoes based on key features and materials.

But not just a table, I have detailed comparisons based on design, comfort, performance, versatility, durability, and cultural impact.


I’m here to explain the differences and similarities between these two classics. Let’s join us as we’ll dive into the details of Air Max 1 and Air Max 90. 

Table of Contents

Design Heritage and Origins

In 1987, Nike introduced the revolutionary Air cushioning technology with the Air Max 1, completely transforming the sneaker game. As designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, the Air Max 1 gave fans a glimpse of the technology that fueled their every step by exposing the Air cushioning unit in the midsole.

On the other hand, the Nike Air Max 90, formerly known as the Air Max III, was released in 1990. In addition to being designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Max 90 was enhanced by its larger Air unit, bolder design, and enhanced cushioning. This sneaker was soon a favorite among enthusiasts and athletes, becoming a true Air Max classic.

Air Max 1 VS Air Max 90 At A Glance

I’ve created a detailed comparison table of the Nike Air Max 1 and Air Max 90, considering various factors like design, comfort, cushioning technology, versatility, performance, cultural impact, resale value, etc.

AspectAir Max 1Air Max 90
DesignStreamlined and elegant designBolder and chunkier athletic design
ComfortComfortable for everyday wearEnhanced cushioning for all-day comfort
PerformanceSuitable for light activitiesSuitable for high-impact and daily wear
Notable Colorways“University Red,” “OG Blue,” collaborations“Infrared,” “Hyper Grape,” popular collabs
WeightLightweight constructionSlightly heavier because of added layers
DurabilitySturdy construction for daily wearDurable materials for long-lasting use

Design and Aesthetics

Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 feature unique aesthetics that have stood the test of time in terms of design. 

I like the iconic mudguard and Swoosh placement on the sides. But a streamlined and sleek silhouette with clean lines of Air Max 1  fascinates me more.

Air Max 90, on the other hand, exudes a bolder and more athletic vibe. The added layers on the upper and the pronounced Air unit in the heel distinguish it from its predecessor.

Throughout the years, the Air Max 90 has inspired many iterations and collaborations, cementing its status as an icon for streetwear.


The Air Max 1’s cushioning provides a comfortable ride, suitable for everyday wear and light physical activity. However, some might need more cushioning for extended wear, particularly in the forefoot.

Air Max 90, with its larger Air unit and enhanced cushioning, offers a plush and supportive experience for all-day wear. Whether strolling through the city streets or hitting the gym, the Air Max 90 has your back, ensuring each step is as comfortable as the last.


The Air Max 1 is true to size and fits well with regular sizing, providing good support during the breaking-in period. It is suitable for thin socks and makes a great summer shoe.

Speaking from my experience, the Air Max 90 feels more substantial and caters better to people with wider feet. However, if you have narrower feet like me, there’s no need to size down. The time it takes for both models to feel “just right” is pretty short because they’re made from soft materials.

But, I did notice that the Air Max 1 took a day or two longer to feel perfectly 

comfortable due to its snugger fit and thicker padding. 

On the other hand, the Air Max 90, which has less padding and more room inside, was quicker to break in for my standard or narrow feet. That being said, if your feet are wider, it might take you a bit more time to feel completely comfortable in them.

Comparison based on materials and Key features


The Nike Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 sneakers feature materials like leather, suede, mesh, and synthetics. Both highlight visible Air-Sole units for cushioning, with the Air Max 1’s iconic design and Tinker Hatfield’s touch. At the same time, the Air Max 90 introduces a waffle outsole, layered panels, and a bulkier silhouette. 

Let’s dive into a detailed comparison of the Nike Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 based on materials and key features:


AspectAir Max 1Air Max 90
Upper MaterialLeather, mesh, and suedeLeather, mesh, and synthetic overlays
Toe BoxMesh or suede with leather overlaysMesh or suede with added TPU or synthetic panels
TonguePadded mesh or suedePadded mesh or suede
Heel CounterSturdy leather or suedeSturdy leather or synthetic heel counter
MidsoleFoam with visible Air unit in the heelFoam with visible Air units in the heel and forefoot

Key Features:

AspectAir Max 1Air Max 90
Air Cushioning TechnologyVisible Air unit in the heelVisible Air units in heel and forefoot
Silhouette and AestheticsStreamlined and sleek designBolder, chunkier, and athletic appearance
Comfort and FitComfortable with a snug fitEnhanced cushioning for all-day comfort
Performance and DurabilitySuitable for light activitiesSuitable for high-impact and daily wear

Versatility and Styling

The Air Max 1’s sleek and timeless design makes it a versatile choice that pairs well with various outfits, from casual jeans to sporty athleisure wear. It’s an ideal option for those seeking a classic, minimalist sneaker that complements their overall style effortlessly.

With its bolder and chunkier aesthetic, the Air Max 90 commands attention and makes a statement. It looks great with streetwear, retro-inspired outfits, and even modern fashion outfits. Air Max 90 integrates style and performance.

Performance and Durability

The Air Max 1’s lightweight construction and ample breathability make it perfect for everyday wear. Its versatile outsole pattern provides sufficient traction on various surfaces, ensuring a steady grip wherever you go.

However, the Air Max 90’s larger Air unit not only enhances comfort. It also offers excellent impact protection. So, it’s an excellent choice for those who enjoy high-impact activities. Air Max 90s are made from durable materials so you can wear them for years.

Price Range

The Air Max 1 is generally priced lower than the Air Max 90, with a retail price ranging from $100 to $140, depending on colorway and collaborations. 

Compared to the Air Max 1, the cost of the Air Max 90 varies from $120 to $160, depending on color and collaboration options. The price difference between the two models is not significant, however. 

However, prices may vary based on colorways and collaborations, so comparing prices from different retailers before purchasing is recommended.

Notable Colorways and Collaborations


Several colorways and exciting collaborations have been released for the Air Max 1 and the Air Max 90 over the years. 

Sneakerheads love the Air Max 1’s iconic red and white colorway, known as “University Red” or “OG Red.”

Meanwhile, the Air Max 90’s “Infrared” colorway has achieved legendary status in sneaker culture, and its various iterations have consistently sold out within minutes. 

Both models have collaborated with artists, designers, and brands, resulting in limited-edition releases highly sought after and valued by collectors worldwide.

How Do They Impact Culture?

Air Max 1’s revolutionary Air cushioning technology paved the way for modern sneaker design, forever changing how sneakers were viewed and designed. Its iconic status has led to several re-releases and variations, making it a timeless shoe that has remained relevant decades after its initial release.

Similarly, the Air Max 90’s impact cannot be understated. Its popularity soared in the early ’90s, and it became synonymous with the urban and streetwear culture of the time.

As hip-hop and street fashion grew in influence, the Air Max 90’s chunky design and vibrant colorways became a symbol of self-expression and rebellion.

Collectibility and Resale Value

As with any iconic sneaker, the Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 have amassed a dedicated following of collectors. Limited-edition releases, special colorways, and collaborations have become hot commodities among sneaker enthusiasts, considerably driving up their resale value.

The Air Max 1’s OG colorways and collaborations with artists and sneaker boutiques, such as Atmos and Patta, remain highly coveted in the sneaker resale market. Air Max 90 collaborations, such as those with Off-White and Travis Scott, have been extremely popular and skyrocketing in price.

Personal Preferences and Style


The choice between the Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 depends largely on your preferences. If you prefer a stylish, versatile sneaker that blends seamlessly with various outfits, the Air Max 1 might be your best option. Its elegance and timeless design make it ideal for casual to semi-formal occasions.

If you prefer bold and attention-grabbing sneakers with an athletic flair, the Air Max 90 is more suitable for you. With its unique layering and larger Air unit, this sneaker commands attention and adds an edge to your streetwear or sporty outfits.

Technological Advancements

Over the years, the Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 have undergone various technological advancements to improve performance and comfort. Nike introduced Flyknit and Hyperfuse as lightweight and breathable alternatives to basic Air cushioning by modern sneakerheads.

Nonetheless, some purists might value the nostalgia of the first Air Max models, which have a classic construction.

Evolution and Iterations

Modern materials and lighter constructions have enhanced the iconic Air Max 1, such as the Air Max 1 Ultra and Flyknit. The Air Max 90, too, has seen updates like the Air Max 90 Ultra and Air Max 90 Essential, offering improved comfort and fit while staying true to its original design DNA.


Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 have earned their spots in sneaker history and have captured the hearts of sneaker enthusiasts around the planet. 

I have used both of them. If you ask me, it is hard for me to choose one between them. Both shoes were comfortable and provided good cushioning.

Maybe I used my Air Max 1 more than my Air Max 90. Because I could wear them with any outfit, which is great for daily use. 

If you like simplicity and versatility in your shoes, then Air Max 1 might be a good choice for you. But if you prefer boldness and streetwear appeal, Air Max 90 is the suitable one for you.

Here are some more Nike iconic sneakers you might like Nike Dunks Low vs. Jordan 1 Low

Are Air Max 1 and 90 the same?

No, they might be a little similar in design, but they have many differences.

Which is more comfortable Air Max 1 or 90?

Air Max 90 is more comfortable.

Why is Air Max 1 so rare?

Air Max 1 shoes are very attractive because of their unique colorways. So, they tend to sell out quickly.

What is Air Max 90 good for?

Air Max 90 is good for running. They are made with extra comfort and support, keeping runners in mind.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *