If you’re looking to make your next sneaker acquisition one that sports the iconic swoosh, it quickly becomes apparent that choosing just a single pair is not easy. Since their humble beginnings as Blue Ribbon Sports back in 1964, the Oregon-based sportswear brand has come a long way, and nowhere is this more apparent than their sneaker collection.
Nike has released game-changing footwear across every category. From their performance-driven running and basketball silhouettes, to their more streetwear-focused offerings, there’s bound to be a sneaker with a swoosh and your name on it. In fact, you can quite literally put your name on their shoes using NikeiD – but we’ll leave that for you to explore.
For now, let’s take a look at the best shoes that Nike has released since their inception, whether to help you buy the right pair, or simply as an educational exercise. Bear in mind that this list is in no particular order.
Air Force 1
This is the type of shoe you can write a whole book about. Its rich history includes collaborations with iconic artists across a variety of mediums, from rappers of the 90’s to some of the world’s most respected designers. The simple and timeless silhouette has gone through countless variations and served as the inspiration for many shoes to come after it.
Today, you can find the Air Force 1 in a variety of colorways and materials, from Nike’s Flyknit technology, to Foamposite to Liquid Metal and much more. The newest iteration is the Utility, which features techwear-inspired details such as the Velcro strap where the laces would usually be, as well as a striking gray and neon green colorway.
Despite it being around since the 80’s, the Nike AF1 is still a versatile and attractive sneaker that can be styled in a variety of ways. It’s safe to say that there will still be some time before the AF1 goes out of trend, so it’s a reliable and affordable purchase if you’re looking to add some classic Nike flair to your wardrobe.
The Nike Dunk is perhaps the most versatile sneaker of all time. How many other shoes can you name that were and still are widely used in both basketball and skating? From the High Pro silhouette to the iconic Low Pro SB, Nike has made the most of the Dunk’s versatile design to capture the hearts of sneakerheads far and wide.
The Air Jordan 1 was released back in 1985 and started the “retro” trend when it was re-released in 1994. The original high-top silhouette is perhaps one of the most iconic and recognizable sneakers of all time. Plenty of colorways and collaborations have given the shoe a variety of faces, from the infamous “breds” to Nike’s collaboration with OFF-WHITE.
Just like the Air Force 1, the first Jordan brand silhouette has managed to remain relevant and stylish to this day. While some colorways, like the Patent Leather and Fragment collaboration are either extremely rare or ridiculously expensive, there are still a variety of unique 1’s that you can get your hands on quite easily.
The Vapormax is a fairly new player to the game, but will easily go down in history as one of the biggest advancements in sneaker design. The rather oddly shaped outsole was initially met with some criticism, but as the fashion-minded community found some interesting ways to style the shoe, we’ve grown to love the Vapormax.
It’s difficult to include any Jordan shoe after the 4’s in a post that’s supposed to list Nike’s best sneakers, as the topic is extremely subjective. For example, some people swear by the 12’s, while others wouldn’t be caught dead in them. That said, one thing is for certain with the 11th entry into the Jordan brand, and that’s their importance.
To this day, they’re the fastest-selling shoe of all time and are held in high regard by the sneaker community. Perhaps this is largely due to the original Space Jam collaboration edition, which still fetches a hefty asking price on reseller websites. Regardless, their futuristic design and impressive comfort make them a good buy to this day.
The Cortez was released way back in 1972 as a re-work of the Onitsuka Tiger Cortez which, ironically, was designed by the co-founders of Nike. Its original white leather upper, red swoosh and blue midsole stripe colorway is perhaps one of the most iconic of all time and is revered by sneakerheads to this day.
Air Max 97
The Nike Air Max 97 came back into the spotlight when Virgil Abloh put his unique take on sneaker design to use and revamped the shoe into a hot seller. But even before this happened, the Air Max 97 was a prominent and influential element in Nike’s sneaker lineage.
From the countless colorways that have adorned the sneaker in recent years, to its iconic 360-degree Air bubble, the Air Max 97 is loved by many for its unique silhouette. There are more than enough variants to choose from these days, and plenty more to come. Be sure to check out this list of the Air Max 97 next drops from The Sole Supplier to get your hands on the hottest pair.
Air Max 95
If the 97 is somehow too subtle and reserved for your liking, then its younger sibling is sure to satisfy. Weird contours, techy features and otherworldly detailing make the Air Max 95 a truly standout sneaker. So, what is subjectively for better or for worse, the Air Max 95 played a major role in changing the future of sneaker design.
Air Max 1
While the Jordan 1 was the first sneaker to use Air cushioning technology, the Air Max 1 was the first to make the bubble visible from the outside. This shoe is most recognizable in its Varsity Red colorway, which was first introduced back in 1987.
Since the Air Max 1 inspired many of the shoes that followed it, it’s not surprising that legendary sneaker designer, Tinker Hatfield, was responsible for its creation. While a little “chunky” by modern standards, you can still don the Air Max 1 in style with the right outfit, or simply leverage their comfort and use them as a pair of daily beaters.
The Foamposite is widely regarded as the most ambitious sneaker Nike has ever made. While other basketball shoes of the late 90’s featured leather, suede and mesh materials in their construction, the Foamposite was on a completely different level.
Its lightweight, flexible synthetic construction offered superior performance and didn’t crease like other leather shoes. For the time, this was space-age technology and its standout design complemented it perfectly. The innovation that went into the Foamposite opened the door for many sneakers to come after it, making it an important piece of Nike history.
While this list is by no means comprehensive, it paints a vivid picture of just how much the swoosh has influenced the sneaker industry. From their daring designs to their constant push to innovate new sneaker technology, Nike has rightfully won our respect.
But we still have a long way to go, and it can only get better from here. Our sneakers will look cooler, perform better and fit more comfortably, making the future all the more exciting.
Just out now!