The Nike Air Max line continues to be one of the athletic brand’s most celebrated sneaker franchises and one of the many styles to stand the test of time is the Nike Air Max Plus.
Nike launched its Air Max line began in 1987 with the Air Max 1, a then-revolutionary performance running sneaker designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, which was the first shoe ever to feature the Air technology conceptualized by aerospace engineer Marion Franklin Rudy. As the years went by, Nike continued to employ new tech and cushioning systems, eventually leading to the debut of “Tuned Air” on the Nike Air Max Plus. The running sneaker, which was introduced to the public in 1998, was designed by footwear industry veteran Sean McDowell. (McDowell was hired by the brand a year prior and was tasked with working with Foot Locker to design a shoe implementing the aforementioned system.)
Despite the current popularity of the model, there were initial drawbacks to the radical design within the brand as it needed its athletic powerhouse retailer to co-sign. According to Nike, a few meetings between McDowell and Nike’s now-former CEO Mark Parker went by before a Foot Locker executive suggested an experiment on how marketable the shoe was going to be by putting it on shelves at the store right when public schools let their students out and see what happens.
Watch on FN
“Five or 10 minutes later, there were like 10 kids flocking to the shoe asking, ‘What is this? How do I get it?'” McDowell recalled. “The associates were looking around like, ‘I’ve never seen that thing before, I don’t know how much it costs, I don’t know where it came from,’ while the kids were running around like, ‘I want to buy this thing.’ They were almost frantic. I was beaming.”
Since then, the shoe immediately became beloved by an international audience. “I saw somebody who got their whole foot tattooed in the pattern of the Tuned Air. The bottom of their foot has the outsole,” McDowell said according to Nike. “The stripes and Swoosh on the sides, black all the way up the back with the Tn logo on the back. It’s wild.”
Prior to McDowell’s Nike Air Max Plus, the retailer had rejected more than a dozen proposed styles from established Nike designers until he was brought on. What set him apart from the rest of the designers, according to Nike, was a sketchbook that was jam-packed with Floridian sunsets and palm trees. Before his work at Nike, McDowell spent a vast majority of his time in Florida where he was able to sketch on beaches.
“I hung out on the Florida beaches and just thought and sketched — it was one of my most creative times,” McDowell said to Nike remembering a vacation he took with friends between jobs. “One evening, it was turning to dusk, so the very blue sky was starting to fade to dark blue, and the palm trees were blowing in the wind.”
The first Air Max Plus sneaker is best known for its Thermoplastic Vinyl Resin exoskeletal mesh upper that sits atop a Tuned Air-cushioned midsole, which is a molded air bubble combined with rubber that has been strategically placed in the sole giving wearers extra support with each step. An additional fan-favorite touch to the shoe includes the hexagonal “Tn” branding on the heel that’s now synonymous with the model. Although initially a performance shoe, as the years have gone by, the running-focused model has been revamped for lifestyle purposes.
There are additional aspects that contributed to the shoe’s unique design including the unusual Swoosh branding created in part to the designer’s lack of experience with the company in 1997. Up to that point, McDowell admitted he had never drawn the logo before and is slightly longer than the typical version.
“No one had given me any guidance because it was my first few days,” he said in an interview in 2018 with Nike. “The shape is a little bit off, and I put the border on the inside when technically all the brand guidelines say to go outside.”
The shoe debuted in a trio of colorways including “Hyperblue,” “Sunset” and “Purple” in an attempt to visually show how the colors of the sky transition from daytime. to nighttime. “We didn’t have color specialists, so the first three shoes are a really great part of the story,” said McDowell to Nike. “The first shoe was dusk, the second was almost all black with a little bit of red to represent stars in the night sky, and the third was bright orange and yellow to depict sunrise the next morning.”
The three color schemes are still the more popular Nike Air Max Plus shoes from the silhouette’s history given that it generally sells out within minutes each time it receives a reissue.
For the fans who are having trouble tracking down the styles and don’t know where to begin, FN is here to help. Below are a handful of looks that are available now including the original model, the updated Air Max Plus 3 and the most recent Air VaporMax Plus. Many of the offerings on the market today for retail pricing and select styles are on sale.
Nike Air Max Plus
This iteration of the Nike Air Max Plus was part of the “Parachute” pack that released alongside the Air Max 1, the Air Max 270 React and the Air Max Plus 3. It features a black mesh upper and multicolored accents throughout, along with text printed close to the heel. The shoe’s standout element is the parachute logo on the tongue to represent the collection and the springy Tuned Air cushions on the heel of the midsole. This men’s Nike Air Max Plus style retails for $170 but is currently on sale via Foot Locker for $160.
Nike Air VaporMax Plus
The brand took the timeless design of the white Nike Air Max Plus and combined it with its revolutionary VaporMax Air technology to create the Air VaporMax Plus. It’s also worth noting that the classic “Tn” logo on the heel has been altered to say “Vm” to celebrate the use of Nike’s new cushioning system. You can grab this “Triple White” colorway of the Air VaporMax Plus right now for $200 at Foot Locker.
Nike Air Max Plus 3
The blue Nike Air Max Plus 3 was the third variation of the classic Nike Air Max Plus but has been updated since its original launch. The shoe now features reinforced TPU overlays throughout the majority of the navy blue upper to provide a modern look. Tuned Air cushioning is still present on this model, which is branded on the forefoot and the majority of the heel connecting onto the midsole for lockdown and comfort. A full-size run of the shoe is available now on Nike’s website for a retail price of $190.
Nike Air Max Plus 97
The hybridization of the Nike Air Max Plus sneaker continues with the pairing of the Air Max 97 midsole and outsole fused with the upper of the Nike Air Max Plus. It’s dressed in a breathable white mesh that’s wrapped with navy blue TPU overlays, while silver accents cover the Swoosh branding on the sides and on the “Mx” emblem referencing the Max Air cushioning is seen on the heel. Although the style has sold out at retailers, select sizes are currently available on StockX with the lowest asking price at $100.
Nike Air Max 97 Plus
On the opposite side of the design spectrum, Nike has equipped the all-black mesh and leather upper from the Air Max 97 with a contrasting white midsole from the black Nike Air Max Plus featuring the “Tuned Air” cushioning in the heel. This stealthy colorway is available now on StockX and is reselling for around $188.
Air Max Plus TN Ultra
The Nike Air Max Plus TN Ultra is aesthetically a carbon-copy of the original silhouette but the runner has been upgraded with a more durable rubber in the midsole that also helps with reducing the overall weight of the shoe. The traditional TPU overlays have been transformed to create a seamless look on the mesh upper, while the recognizable “Tn” branding on the heel remains untouched. The “Triple Black” colorway is available on StockX and is currently reselling for around $342.
Nike Air Max Plus GPX Premium SP ‘Pool’
Unlike your traditional Nike Air Max Plus, this GPX premium version features a breathable one-piece mesh upper that incorporates a graphic that resembles the look of water flowing. The TPU overlays as also been removed but the outlines can still be vaguely seen including the subtle Swoosh branding on the sides. Capping off the look is an all-white “Tuned Air” cushioning setup for the midsole. Select sizes of the Nike Air Max Plus Premium style are currently available at Flight Club now for as low as $160 and up to $565.
All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.