Best Retro Nike Shoes & Classic Designs Reviewed
Nike is a widespread name, a synonym for sports apparel, footwear, and equipment, a title which goes hand in hand with professional athletes, topping sports charts and setting world records. The company itself was founded in 1964, under the name of Blue Ribbon Sports, by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. It didn’t officially become Nike, Inc. until 1971, with the name derived from the Greek goddess of victory.
Today, it is the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel, and a leading manufacturer of sports equipment, with revenue in literal billions of dollars.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Upon every strike of the foot, Nike Air cushioning takes in the impact forces and protects all parts of your foot. It will immediately return to its original shape to ensure every step is equally protected. All of this results in staving off fatigue and stress in the athlete’s body. type of "air" cushioning they use reduces the weight of the shoe without reducing performance. The lighter the shoe is, the less energy the athlete will exert during a performance. Different athletes require different performance features. Nike Air cushioning meets the exact specifications of athletic performance.
Though these Nike retro shoes are all made well, the style is sometimes put before their durability. There are several ways, however, to ensure you are able to get the most out of shoes that are even made more for style.
Wearing your shoes: While it may be tempting to purchase a pair of expensive retro Nikes, put them in shrink wrap and let them sit in their box, just for the satisfaction of owning them, you need to know that these are products that were made to be used. Whether you wear them or not, your Nike retro shoes will start to deteriorate with time, which results in the decomposing of the substances that hold them together. It’s nothing that you did wrong, it’s just that your Jordans were not made to be sitting in your closet for 30 years. Our suggestion is that you wear and enjoy your hard-earned sneakers, showing off your sense of style.
Proper use: When you wear running shoes, you put a lot of force on them, eventually causing the cushioning to pack, the upper to crease or tear, and the Nike retro shoe to lose its new shine. If you are an aspiring collector, we would suggest taking things a bit more easy on your shoes. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear them, just make sure you do it in the right conditions. For example, stay away from your monochrome white AF1s in snowy and rainy conditions if you prefer for them to stay white.
Cleaning your Nikes: With any pair of shoes, the most important rule is that all surface dirt needs to be removed as soon as possible in order to prevent permanent staining or discoloration. If you had a spill or an accident, take the first opportunity to properly clean your shoes. Only use the right cleaning products and techniques, and don’t be impatient. When you’re not wearing them, it’s a good idea to use shoe trees which will absorb moisture and ensure that their shape is unaffected by wear. With these simple steps, you’ll be rocking your favorite Nike retro shoes for years to come.
We have mentioned Nike Air Technology countless times in this guide, and it so happens to be the most well-known feature of Nike shoes – a staple, if you will.
So what exactly is this Nike Air Technology? It consists of pressurized air inside a tough, yet flexible bag. These Air-Sole units are located in the midsole underneath the heel, the forefoot or in some cases in both areas. During an activity, they compress, reducing the force of impact. Afterward, the units immediately recover to their original shape and volume, ready for the next impact.
If you are looking at this guide because you’re interested in starting your own collection, you’ve come to the right place. Getting your first pair of Nike retro, whether it’s to rock or to stock, sure is exciting, but can be mind-boggling, especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Do you start with Jordans or Air Max, and which edition do you go with?
One of the things you can do is simply follow the list above. These Nike retro shoes were ordered based on originality, importance in the brand's history, comfort, and quality. The Air Jordan III, Air Force 1 and Air Max 1 all have the same thing in common – they are classics you will be able to wear for years from now. Of course, you have to take price into consideration as well. You’ll notice that some Nike retro shoes will set you back more than $200, and you need to ask yourself whether paying so much for a pair of shoes is worth it.
10 Best Nike Retro Shoes
1. Air Jordan III
The story goes that Michael Jordan was somewhat dissatisfied with Nike in the late 80s, due to some of his most trusted executives leaving the company. He was prepared to leave himself when Tinker Hatfield and the design of the Nike Air Jordan III had convinced him to stay. These Nike retro sneakers were the first Air Jordan to feature visible Air units, the new Jumpman logo, an elephant print trim and tumbled leather for a luxury look. If the account of how it saved the collaboration between Jordan and Nike is true, that means that no Nike retro shoes have ever had a larger impact on the sporting landscape.
Similarly to Nike Air Jordan I, the Nike Air Jordan III retro Nikes has abundant texture throughout the sole, and the giant pivot point doesn’t hinder its performance in the slightest. This shoe behaves well no matter what you’re doing on the court, and you can always rely on this Nike retro shoe to support you in your game.
In the Nike Air Jordan III, the foot experiences a thorough lockdown from the midfoot to the heel. Even while moving at a rapid pace and quickly changing direction, your foot stays secure in the shoe, allowing you to perform some of your best moves.
Cost and Value
Well, there is no easy way to say this - the Nike Air Jordan III retro shoes is mind-numbingly expensive. It is indeed a legendary Nike retro shoe, with its design recognized and respected all over the world. If you really are after something truly legendary, then start saving up, and start looking for ways to get your hands on one of these.
Inspired by Mexican sandals - and previous Nike retro shoes, such as the Bermuda and the Air Flow - the Nike Huarache was created on the premise of simplicity. The original Nike advert for the shoe posed the question, “Have you hugged your foot today?” because of the unbelievable comfort level of this Nike retro shoe. Its design is stripped to bare essentials, with the idea that less is more. The Huarache first came out as a running shoe, but now this Nike retro shoe has basketball and trainer versions as well.
The upper of the Nike Huarache is constructed out of neoprene, along with mesh material and synthetic leather. The neoprene and mesh combination provides a sock-like fit, perfect breathability and a lightweight feel, while the leather is there in the areas where you need support the most.
Rubber pods are strategically placed on the outsole of the Nike Huarache for the best possible performance. They are exceptionally durable and create a stable, heavy-duty base. Zero problems with slipping!
Cost and Value
Compared to other Nike models in this guide, the Nike Huarache is somewhere in the middle range when it comes to price, leaning towards expensive. These are fine retro Nike shoes, which offers good traction and stability, and performs well if used for sports, though without any outstanding features in general. It will last you a long time, however, so if you’re into this model, you won’t regret giving your money for this Nike retro shoe.
3. Air Max 95
Sergio Lozano, the main designer of the Nike Air Max 95 retro Nike shoes, based his concept on human anatomy - with the spine of the shoe resembling the human spine, and the materials representing the ribs, skin, and tendons. This sneaker was also the first one to feature two air cushions in the forefoot, and air pressure technology which fits the curvature of the wearer’s foot. Even though this Nike retro shoe design is from 1995, the Nike Air Max 95 is still a decent runner’s shoe, light and with tons of grip.
The waffle design of the Nike Air Max 95 outsole makes it perfect for optimal traction, durability, and grip. Furthermore, the outsole flexes outward, so you can pack these retro Nikes wherever you need to go to enjoy that refreshing run before a busy day!
The upper of the Nike Air Max 95 is constructed out of high-grade mesh material with foam panels that are perforated on top of welded overlays. As you lace this Nike retro shoe up, you will feel as though the flexible, breathable materials are hugging your foot.
Cost and Value
The Nike Air Max 95 comes at a steep price, but we actually think it is worth every last cent. They are insanely long-lasting, and most people still have their trusty Air Max 95s in their closet 10, 15 years after first getting them. Not only that, they are likely to still be good for a run, which makes them a great deal!
It doesn’t get much more retro than the Nike Cortez. This running shoe was originally released in 1972, marking it the first Nike-branded running shoe. Its designer, Bill Bowerman, reworked the Onitsuka Tiger Corsair model, creating this heel-wedged retro Nikes sneaker with a nylon and suede upper, an EVA midsole and a herringbone pattern in the outsole. Since its inception, the Nike Cortez has struck a chord with runners and non-runners alike, becoming world-famous thanks to Tom Hanks and the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ with its blue, white and red colorway.
The EVA material in the midsole of the Cortez retro Nikes provides enough rebound to handle any weight, but also adds comfort by reducing the pressure from coming in contact with various types of terrain. The lightweight wedge style midsole also makes this Nike retro shoe look impressively trendy.
The Nike Cortez features a durable plastic outsole with a herringbone pattern which allows you to take on any type of terrain. You can rest assured that this shoe will keep you safe and secure on your treks, as well as prevent you from slipping and injuring yourself. Not only that, but thanks to this unusual pattern of the sole, it will also wear well over time.
Cost and Value
Compared to other Nike retro shoes in this guide, the Nike Cortez is refreshingly affordable. It is an old model, and as such, it leaves some things to be desired, as there are some highly advanced running shoes on the market today, but for this price you get a quality, sturdy retro Nike shoes that will meet all your basic running - and everyday wear - needs.
5. Air Max 1
Released in 1987, the Nike Air Max 1 changed the course of footwear history as the world knew it. While Air wasn’t new at the time, with this sneaker Nike’s signature technology became visible in the midsole. The Nike Air Max 1 is designed for runners, created for speed and impact with lightweight and well-cushioned construction. To this day it is one of the most beloved Nike retro shoes, often remodeled and customized with new fabrics and unique color combinations for casual wear.
Visible Air Pockets
Nike’s designer Tinker Hatfield had a problem of how to fit larger Air pockets into the traditional foam midsole. Thanks to a trip to Paris and a look at Centre Georges Pompidou, he came to the idea to cut the foam away to expose the Air and - voila! Visible Air pockets in the midsole!
Of course, the Nike Air Max 1 has the standard, expected durability of all Nike shoes. But this Nike retro shoe won’t just hold well when you walk or jog, it will endure even the heaviest of physical labors you might engage in.
Cost and Value
You will get all the comfort, superior technology and stylishness of the Nike Air Max 1 for a reasonable, middle-range price. These are retro Nikes that will serve you well, whether you’re just looking for footwear to complete your sporty looks, or if you’re actually intending on running in these to improve your performance.
6. Air Force 1
Widely considered one of the best Nike shoes of all time, Nike Air Force 1 was a beacon of functionality when it was first released in 1982. Its design process was somewhat unusual - Nike designers played a game of basketball with scissors on the sideline, and every few minutes they would cut off a piece of the shoe to see what was essential and what wasn’t. This method helped develop the best-selling basketball shoe of all time, the first one to use Nike’s signature Air technology.
The toe front of the Nike Air Force 1 is perforated, allowing for proper air circulation. The upper can be constructed out of leather or suede, or even synthetic materials and these little holes in the front of these retro Nike shoes enable your foot to stay dry, cool and comfortable.
There is something entirely special about getting a new pair of AF1s and putting them on for the first time. Their design is clean, timeless, and it has successfully bridged the gap between the 80s and today’s fashion craze. No matter what color you choose, you won’t go wrong with the Nike Air Force 1.
Cost and Value
Despite being around for over 35 years, the Nike Air force 1 is surprisingly reasonably priced. It does depend on what material you choose for the upper, and what colorway you prefer, but when it comes down to your wallet, this Nike retro shoe will go easy on it. Especially if we take into account that it will surely last you a decade, and still be good for the court!
7. Air Jordan I
The retro Nike shoes that started the legendary Nike Air Jordan campaign actually has a turbulent history behind it. It is said that Michael Jordan, for whom the Nike Air Jordan I was originally designed, hated it the first time he saw it. However, he did end up wearing it, and together with Nike, he revolutionized the world of basketball shoes. The Nike Air Jordan I is a high top, with a selection of premium materials for the upper, Air-Sole cushioning for comfort, and a rubber cupsole for support and durability. Even almost 35 years after its release, these Nike retro shoes are still playable.
The traction on the Nike Air Jordan I has to be experienced to be believed. The reason for this is multidirectional circles along the soft and flexible rubber of the outsole, which enable impressive medial and lateral movements on the court.
The full leather upper of the Nike Air Jordan I, as well as the rubber midsole and outsole adds some sturdiness and weight to the shoe. The type of leather used allows for added strength and durability, which is always a bonus feature.
Cost and Value
You might think that the Nike Air Jordan I is a bit overpriced, but we are here to tell you that its price is actually reasonable, compared to other Air Jordan sneakers. It could require some saving up, but for that money, you’re getting stylish, legendary, Nike retro shoes which will still perform well on the court, if you’re interested in playing ball.
8. Air Max 97
Futuristic, even 20 years after its initial release, the Air Max 97 are Nike retro shoes that everyone will recognize. This was a sneaker that was completely inspired by nature and the materials that go into construction, and they are the first Nike retro shoes to feature a hidden lacing system, as well as a full-length visible Air Max bubble. It is still re-released almost every year, with numerous colorways to choose from, so you can opt for both futuristic, even alien-like models, or go with those that are a bit more down to earth.
The Air Max 97 uses a combination of materials to give you a shoe made for running. Constructed with leather, mesh and synthetic, it will provide you with an easily adaptable fit that both breathes well and is resistant to the wear and tear that comes with everyday use.
The only thing that changed from the original with the Nike Air Max 97 is the weight - the models released this year are weighing less, making these Nike retro shoes even easier to wear on a long term basis. In part, this is achieved by making the Air bubble smaller, but surprisingly enough, the shoe loses none of its cushioning, and is even softer to walk on than the original.
Cost and Value
Like any other modern classic, Air Max 97 Nike retro shoes definitely require an investment. It’s a pair of retro Nikes that will cost you more than average, and depending on the colorways and customization you go with, can even set you back more than $200. Nonetheless, it’s possible that these won’t be re-released anytime soon, so if you’ve got your mind set on a pair of 97s, then this is the moment to go for them.
9. Air Max 90
Released in 1990, the Air Max 90 retro Nikes became an instant hit thanks to the fact that it showed off even more of what made the original such a sought after sneaker. These Nike retro shoes feature an even larger visible Air window and have a recognizable silhouette that’s sure to turn some heads, especially if you get a pair in the famous “infrared” shade of red.
Variety of Uppers
The best thing about iconic Nike retro shoes is the fact that you can get them in a vast array of colorways and materials for the upper. Whether you prefer leather, suede or synthetic, you can find all of these. Plus, if you go with an iD version, you can choose almost any color and material combination, making these shoes truly yours.
More Than Just Lifestyle
Though the most common place you’ll be seeing a pair of Air Max 90s is the streets, paired with outfits that show off the unique colorways, it’s important not to forget that these shoes were made for running, and still do a great job at it, even 30 years since they were originally released. Featuring Nikes Air-Sole, they’ll protect your feet and joints from the hard impact, keeping you comfortable for longer.
Cost and Value
With a price that’s relatively low compared to Nike’s most iconic styles, the Air Max are great Nike retro shoes to get - whether you’re buying it for everyday wear, for athletic use, or even for your collection. It’s always available in a vast number of colorways, from sensible monochrome to a mixture of screaming shades, so you’ll easily find a pair that shows off your unique personal style.
10. Air Foamposite Pro
The original Foamposite changed the rules of the game completely in 1996, bringing a shoe that used brand new techniques in the construction process. Upon its original release, it caught the eye of Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway who started rocking it on the court. One year later, almost everyone else was wearing it on hardwood floors, making the Foamposite one of the most popular Nike retro shoes in basketball history.
The Air Foamposite Pro uses a specially designed upper made with a sole and upper made with the same material, using no stitching, thus giving the foot much better protection. The Pro version adds synthetic leather to the mix for a premium feel and look that’ll have you stand out on the court or the street.
Herringbone Pattern Outsole
Hardwood floors on indoor basketball courts can be tricky, especially when they are not properly maintained. If you prefer not to keep your time wiping down your soles, the Air Foamposite Pro will prove a valuable ally thanks to the herringbone pattern that’s divided into four zones in the forefoot, allowing for excellent range of motion.
Cost and Value
Ranking high on this list in terms of price, the Nike Air Foamposite Pro is an expensive pair of Nike retro shoes that will cost as much as the latest releases endorsed by some of the best players in the world. It’s a good choice, however, and is sure to serve you well on indoor courts, as well as on the street.