Nike has undoubtedly released some of the most popular and timeless sneakers of all time. Whether for sport, fun in the outdoors or casual wear, the Swoosh has consistently delivered.
Throughout time, Nike’s toughest competitors have dropped looks that have been disruptive, but it’s hard to argue that any have done it with the frequency of the Beaverton Ore.-based giant, releasing sneakers that have not only defined the moment they captured but also entire eras.
Here, renowned sneaker experts weigh in on the most popular Nike sneakers ever and the reason the shoes are all-time greats.
“The Nike Blazer is my all-time favorite sneaker. Clean, classic, can match any occasion, depending the colorway. I’m happy to see it having a great year with various rollouts. We started to see the seed planted when Virgil [Abloh] produced a great reinterpretation in his ‘The Ten’ collection, but the Swoosh has learned to keep the momentum up for that silhouette. Simple, clean, premium iterations like the ’77 Vintage pack make it easy to bring into the daily rotation as a timeless classic look. The strong collabs generate hype and really shows just how versatile you can produce a design. Something as simple as flipping the Swoosh with Slam Jam or really push the envelope and reinvent the silhouette via Sacai. I think it’s always been a sleeper in the pantheon of iconic Nike shoes, but hopefully the momentum it’s getting now will yield more promising releases.”
— Bernie Gross, creative director, Extra Butter
Nike Air Max 1
“The Pegasus is probably the highest selling franchise, but it’s probably not the most beloved. Most beloved would probably go to the Air Force 1, Air Max 1 or Air Jordan 1. I’m assuming most people will feel it’s the AJ1, as that’s the most on-trend silhouette in athletic footwear at the moment. In my opinion, the most beloved model domestically is the Air Force 1 and globally its the Air Max 1. Our business has sold an obscene amount of AF1’s over the years and that sneaker model went on to represent an era, a mind-set and a way of life well beyond what Nike had envisioned for it, I’m sure. [But the] AM1 has always been a favorite for me. I grew to appreciate them even more over the years. In my opinion, it’s the most important sneaker of all time. The visible Air unit kick-started a technology race and influenced progress and innovation in the athletic footwear game at a faster pace than ever before.”
— Ankur Amin, CEO of TGS (parent company to retailers, including Extra Butter)
“This shoe dropped in 1987 and introduced everyone to Air. Not only did this shoe shock the world with visible Air Max technology, it was also [introduced as] a red shoe, which was unheard of in those days. My first Air Max shoe was actually a pair of Air Max 90s, but when they retro’d the Air Max 1, I grabbed a pair and never looked back. I have bought the original colorway every time it has been rereleased over the years — sometimes even grabbing two to three pairs of them. I also buy all the other colorways and collaborations when I see one I like, which is once a month. It’s the one shoe that has stood the test of time for me. The shoe is great with jeans or shorts. It’s a versatile silhouette that fits any situation. Long live the AM1.”
— Derek Curry, owner, Sneaker Politics
Nike Air Max 90
“From my point of view, I would say Nike’s most popular sneakers of all time are the Air Force 1 lows, the Air Max 90s and SB Dunks. I feel like a lot of people would say the Air Max 1, which is fair, but it really depends on where you grew up. New Yorkers likely have multiple pairs of AF1’s while Cali kids likely have a pair — or two — of Cortez and SB Dunks in their collections. Maybe even some Blazers mixed in. The Air Max 90, for me, is one of the best silhouettes Tinker Hatfield cooked up outside of Jordan Brand. It has such a timeless design and yet still screams 90s to me. Every time I see a pair I am reminded of that little girl who grew up playing outside with the boys but was still forced to wear a dress by her mom, so she threw on sneakers with the dress so she could still run, catch, climb fences and hop on her bike to keep up with the boys. That girl was me. Still is in many ways.”
— Tamara Dhia, TV personality
Nike Air Force 1
“It’s a really tough call, but I’d say the Nike Air Force 1. That’s the Nike sneaker I’ve seen most in my life. As a young kid growing up in New York City that was the shoe — and it still is. In different cities, it may be a different sneaker, but where I’m from, white-on-white uptown’s are always in style — in the ’90s, the 2000s and even now in 2019. I think the longevity really matters, too. It’s one thing for a sneaker to be popular for a few months or even a few years, [but] it’s a whole other thing when a sneaker can be popular for 30 years. The Nike Air Force 1 did that. New York City forever.”
— Mr. Foamer Simpson, YouTube sensation
Nike Air Jordan 1
“Until the Nike Air Jordan, basketball shoes were primarily marketed to — and sought out by — basketball players. Air Jordan changed all that. As much of a standout on store shelves as it was on NBA courts, the first Air Jordan became a universal status symbol like no other sneaker before it. Jordan wore it, yes, but so did LL Cool J and the coolest kid in your class. This was when sneakers went from ‘want’ to ‘need.’ “
— Russ Bengston, sneaker media veteran
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