Sneaker Freaker Staffers Share Their Favourite Nike Air Max Sneakers
Air Max Day has brought the sneaker world plenty of innovations and blasts from the past during its short history, and we’re not about to let this commemorative occasion go by without a little reminiscing. At Sneaker Freaker, we have a long-standing love affair with Air, and the legendary cushioned lineup has delivered some of our most adored sneakers of all time.
Here’s a look at some of our personal favourite big-bubbled beauties.
Minh – Opium x Nike Air 180
My all-time favourite Air Max shoe is the Opium x Nike Air 180 from 2005. To the new gen, it’s a bit of a mythical beast, given its age and the relative obscurity of Air 180s in the post-sneaker forum era. This collaboration was with Parisian boutique Opium, and formed part of the French edition of the ‘Clerks Pack’, alongside the Colette x Elite and A.P.C. x Court Tradition. The mid-2000s was when ‘Premium’ actually meant premium, and the Opium’s melt-in-your-mouth soft buttery perforated leather (not that I ever tried tasting it) was reportedly the same type used on the uber-rare ,Kidrobot x Air Max 1. Other details like the desert camo detailing, Paris insoles, red suede Swoosh, and random neon accents simply worked. And that purple outsole!
I acquired my pair back in 2009 in Sydney, Australia, from a streetwear and sneaker store called SP-3. It held the coveted Nike Tier 0 account at the time and its OG location, SP-1 (yes, there was also a SP-2), hosted one of the first Sydney sneaker swap meets! That being said, my pair of Opiums came from the personal inventory of Mister SP, who was selling his collection through the stores. There also exists a very, very rare edition of this colab that released with a Windrunner jacket and phat neon laces in a special box, whereby only 49 individually-numbered units were available from Opium Paris at the launch party. Proper unicorns. Not to mention the snakeskin-Swooshed Hyperstrike/sample...
Of course, after a hard life of footwear retail shifts and countless WDYWT pics, my pair of Opiums are now tucked away in a den filled with polyurethane dust. Would I love another pair? Sure. Should Nike ever retro them? Never!
Boon – Nike Air Max 1 OG ‘University Red’
It may seem like an uninspired choice, but the 1 that started it all has a special place in my heart. The OG Air Max 1 in the ‘University Red’ scheme, in my mind, is one of the archetypal sneakers in Nike’s extensive lineup.
Sure, the history speaks for itself – the Air Max 1 was the first model to introduce visible Air to the world, laying the foundation for decades of marvellous Max. However, it’s also the undeniably sporty white and red scheme, which screams out 80s running culture, that gets me feeling positively nostalgic every time I throw ‘em on. Sure to attract plenty of eyeballs – and dust stains – this Air Max 1 continues to be one of my rotation staples.
Cesca – Nike Air Max 95 ‘Neon’
Given the epicness of the Nike Air Max lineage, how does one choose a favourite? What metric does one use to measure an individual model’s – nay, individual colourway’s – rank within 34 years of Maxes? Perhaps you measure by wear time, perhaps by rarity. Or maybe you just go with your gut and pick whatever feels right at the time.
In the end, I’ve gone with my gut and given the Air Max 95 ‘Neon’ the winner’s ribbon. For years, I’ve touted the 95 as my favourite shoe but, somewhat shamefully, the OG scheme was absent from my collection. Thankfully, the 2021 retro filled that gap. There’s not much to say about this classic that hasn’t been said over the last 26 years, so let’s just keep it to this: hot damn, it’s a good looking shoe!
Honourable mention goes to the atmos x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Viotech’, which will have me forever pining.
Gabe – Nike Air Max 97 ‘Silver Bullet’
Christian Tresser’s uncompromising Air Max 97 is still my favourite Air Max silhouette. Despite popular consensus, the AM97 is not modelled on the bullet train but on the radiating ripple effect from a drop of water. Taking Milan by storm in the late 90s, the AM97 tied together sprawling cultural narratives, from Milan’s underground graffiti artists to crowds of gabbers (for a complete oral history of the AM97 check out Lodovico Pignatti Morano’s Le Silver). Yes, for this little Italian/Aussie, the Air Max 97 still embodies the impossible notion of ‘La Bella Figura’ that my father desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried to impart to his three children. Madone!
Ged – Nike Air Max 90 ‘Spruce Lime’
It can be hard to picture this, but the Air Max 90 was once the footwear of choice for serious runners. And while you’re unlikely to see anyone chasing their PB in a pair of AM90s these days, that performance pedigree is an important part of the model’s proud history. For me, the ‘Spruce Lime’ colourway sparks strong memories of the AM90’s early days as a pavement pounder, especially considering its poster boy was my childhood hero Steve Moneghetti. The Australian long-distance runner left a lasting impression when he dashed past me and my sister as we left an athletics meet that we’d just watched Moneghetti race in. Still running after the race? My mind boggled.
Personal anecdotes aside, the ‘Spruce Lime’ colourway stands up all these years later, despite often hiding in the shadows of its higher profile OG combos of ‘Infrared’ and ‘Laser Blue’. Having last received a retro in 2008 as a JD-exclusive in the UK, the ‘Spruce Lime’ was blessed with another retro earlier this year, looking as striking as ever with its distinctive colour-blocking, and green and gold vibe. I couldn’t resist. The Air Max 90 ‘Spruce Lime’: still running all these years later, just like my old mate Moneghetti.
Simon – LAIKA x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Susan’
I am a huge fan of LAIKA, time and time again they use innovative techniques to create unique stories, striking visuals, and a style all their own. The exact same could be said of their Nike colabs. While I would love to get my hands on a pair of the highly coveted ‘Paranorman’ Foamposites, it’s the Air Max 1 ‘Susan’ that would be my all-time LAIKA grail. It’s both whimsical and dapper, with patterns and colours that should clash, but somehow actually work together.
Seb – Nike Air Max 97 ‘Silver Bullet’
When I was a kid, I worked at a pizza joint, and one Thursday night this old guy came in rocking the freshest pair of Air Maxes I’d ever seen. They were entirely silver, with piping all the way around, beautiful red mini Swooshes and Air Max scripted along the rear heel pull-tab. I couldn’t stop looking! I had just gotten paid that day, so I walk up to the him and offer my whole pay check for his shoes. He turned to me, slightly confused why this 14-year-old was asking to buy his dirty old sneakers, and politely declined, saying that they were too special to give up.
As soon as I got home, I jumped onto my Dad’s computer and started Googling. Of course, the Nike Air Max 97 ‘Silver Bullet’ pops up, and I’m instantly in love. A few years later, they re-release and you bet I woke up early AF to line up in front of my local to scoop up a pair. With a size 10 secured, they still remain in my rotation to this day.