Nike Air Max Models We’d Like to See Retroed
The words Nike and Air Max go hand in glove – or foot in shoe as it were. Ever since the first release of an Air Max model in 1987, the sneakersphere has been treated to a steady stream of Air-infused gems, many of them going on to forge their own unique identities in all corners of the globe. There have been so many iterations over the years that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all.
While most of the high-profile releases get plenty of retro attention these days, there are a few sleepers that we think have been left in the dark. From the Air Max 90 Current to the second iteration of the ground-breaking Air Max 360, check out this list of Air Maxes that we would like to see resurrected from the vault.
Nike Air Max 90 Current (2008)
Back in the mid- to late-aughts, and even in the early 2010s, Nike were churning out Free-based hybrids left and right as they capitalised on the popularity of the minimalist running trend. Some were more successful than others, but the best of the bunch was undoubtedly the Air Max 90 Current. Famously included in the Swoosh's two-part AM90 colab with KAWS, the kicks added flexible Free siping to the forefoot while retaining the 90's iconic Max Air unit in the heel. The streamlined mesh toe box also set these apart, while updated colour-blocking on the 'Infrared' drop perfectly capped off the contemporary spin on the OG.
Nike Air Tuned Max (1999)
Given the return of 1999's Air Max Deluxe, we're shocked that Nike have yet to resurrect the Air Tuned Max. Released that same year as part of the Swoosh's forward-thinking Alpha Project, the kicks were hailed as the lightest Air Max ever, and not only featured full-length Tuned Air cushioning, but came with iridescent panels and a moulded Foamposite heel. Skepta even loved the original 'Dark Charcoal/Celery-Saturn Red' colourway so much that the grime heavyweight applied it to his Air Max 97 collaboration. Alas, that's the closest we've come yet to an Air Tuned Max retro.
Nike Air Trainer Max2 94 (1994)
We know what you're thinking: didn't Nike just bring these back? Well, sorta kinda. In 2018, Nike dropped the 'Pine' version of the kicks, but eschewed the mid-90s trainer's original mid-top form in favour of a lower cut. Those were fine and all, but we'd prefer to see the 1994 release in all its mid glory, a la 2014's short-lived comeback. And maybe the return of a few more colourways to sweeten the deal.
Nike Air Max 360 II (2007)
2006's groundbreaking Air Max 360 was the culmination of 19 years of Max Air as Nike finally dropped a silhouette with 360-degree Air-Sole cushioning. The original silhouette — especially its OG Air Max 1-inspired colourway — was a gorgeous technological achievement, but we've always been partial to its 2007 follow-up. Simply dubbed the Air Max 360 II, the kicks retained the 360's namesake sole unit, but heavily modified the upper with sleek design language that tied it in with the likes of the beloved Spiridon.
Nike Air Muscle Max (1996)
Nike have a long and storied history with heavy-duty strapped trainers, and 1996's Air Muscle Max is the one collectors and 'heads have long been clamouring for. The rugged high-top employed everything from an Air More Uptempo—like sole unit to dynamic lacing, and two oversized straps for a lockdown fit. The Muscle Max is the perfect illustration of that clunky mid-90s aesthetic we all know and love, and a gym-worthy beast at that.
Nike Air Mad Max (1996)
We don't know whether it can be chalked up to potential copyright issues or what, but the Air Mad Max is another mid-90s trainer that Nike have yet to bring back to shelves. In 2017, the Swoosh revisited the design to create the all-new Air Max Grigora, but those Hyperfuse trainers were a far cry from the rugged OG. Nike have even used the original Mad Max's tongue on the Air Max 90 SneakerBoot, while the rest of the old Ndestrukt release's design elements have remained in the archives. Who knows if the Air Mad Max will ever again see the light of day, but we're sure Max Rockatansky himself would approve.
Nike Air Max Light 3 (1996)
Sneakerheads are undoubtedly familiar with both the Air Max Light and its followup, the Air Max2 Light, the latter of which is currently enjoying a return to the spotlight. For us, though, the third time was the charm, and 1996's Air Max Light 3 was better than both of its predecessors. These lightweight Air Maxes sported an intricate upper that paired a breathable mesh base with a smattering of leather overlays, nylon lacing loops, and a heavy dose of 3M reflectivity throughout. The zig-zagging nylon should look especially familiar as Nike have employed similar elements on countless silhouettes over the years, including 2000's Air Max Haven — a shoe recently resurrected by CLOT in hybrid form for its latest Swoosh colab.
Nike Air Burst 2 (1996)
The Air Burst 2 may not be an Air Max by name, but one look at the 1996 release's oversized Air bubble and you'll know where it truly belongs. The 2 massively improved upon the aesthetic of the original Air Burst, which looked a bit like a cheap knockoff of the Air Max 94 and Air Huarache Light, shamelessly cribbing design cues from each and combining them into a decidedly 'meh' package. Its successor was anything but 'meh' though, thanks to its overhauled upper of padded mesh and thick leather panelling.
For more old-school sneaker deep dives, take a look at our jam-packed Features section.
Note: This article was first published in March 2019 and updated in December 2020.