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Nike is undoubtedly one of the most popular sportswear brands in the market right now, largely due to its history of innovative footwear designs that continue to stand the test of time.
The Oregon-based company launched in 1964 and has provided decades upon decades of note-worthy sneakers, from the classic Air Force 1 and Cortez silhouettes to unique collaborations with luxury fashion labels, streetwear brands and big-time musicians like Travis Scoot and the Grateful Dead. Both its performance silhouettes and street shoe styles have earned a reputation for their comfort and durability. In fact, the brand has sponsored some of the world’s most renowned athletes (who sport Swoosh shoes during games and in their leisure time).
Now, let’s explore 15 of the most notable Nike sneakers of all time while readers can also add a few of these models to your closet. Whether you prefer a retro style or a modern rare design, there is a Swoosh pair for every taste.
Nike Air Force 1
Originally introduced in 1982 as a basketball sneaker, the Nike Air Force 1 remains a classic in modern day times but is more recognizable as a streetwear icon while retaining its roots thanks to its leather upper with springy Air cushioning in the midsole. The pair spans generations of style, from its release date to the current Gen-Z and TikTok crowd.
Nike Air Max 1
The Nike Air Max 1 is a trailblazer in the footwear sector thanks to the Air Max-cushioning featured on the midsole revealing the first-ever visible air unit seen in a sneaker and jumpstarting the Air Max line that has lasted for decades. The foam midsole includes an exposed Air Max unit for ultimate cushioning with mixed material uppers to create a standout look in any color combination, bringing you right back to the ’90s with every look.
Nike Air Max 90
Another classic shoe from the Nike Air Max line is the Air Max 90 designed by Tinker Hatfield and was introduced in 1990 and it stays true to its original running roots with a breathable low-cut upper complemented by the iconic Waffle outsole. The style includes an Air Max unit for cushioning and padded collar for all-around support. Though the model has been around for 20 years, the brand continues to stick to its trusted design with a durable leather and textile upper as seen in the first iteration released.
Nike Air Max 95
Continuing the Air Max lineage is the Nike Air Max 95 designed to represent the human body. The mesh upper is made to represent skin; the panels, muscles; lace loops, the ribs; and the midsole the spine. The shoe was originally developed for performance running back in the 1990s but has become a staple street style. A foam midsole and flex grooves offer flexibility on top of style, while a unique lacing system creates a locked-in feel.
Nike Air Max 97
Inspired by Japan’s high-speed Bullet Trains, the Nike Air Max 97 shook up the running world with its innovative full-length Nike Air unit featured on the midsole that takes comfort to a whole new level. The uppers combine mesh and synthetic materials in an inimitable layered design that gives off the look of constant motion. The design too includes pull tabs for easy on-off and is offered in an endless mix of colors to fully suit your personal flair.
In 1985 the Nike Dunk was born. It’s seamlessly translated to street style due to its minimalistic aesthetic and countless colorways that have released since its debut. The Nike Dunk Low Viotech, for example, dropped in 2013 and instantly became a classic in the sneaker world. Since then, the silhouette has been adapted for buzzy collaborations with Comme des Garcçons, Off-White, Supreme and more.
The Nike Blazer is traditionally known for its basketball roots, but has since turned into an everyday shoe thanks to its clean and simple design. Starting with an oversized Swoosh across both the lateral and medial sides, this high-top sneaker includes a state-of-the-art autoclave formation that fuses the outsole to the midsole for a fully streamlined appeal. Topped off with a vintage-style treatment on the midsole and exposed foam on the tongue, the style still looks straight out of the 1970s.
Debuting in the film “Back to the Future Part II,” the Nike Air Mag remains one of the most sought-after sneakers ever released. Only a limited quantity was available in 2011 and 2016 when pairs were auctioned off to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. The style is unlike any other Nike pairs you can find on the market with its futuristic construction and electroluminescent midsole. The mesh paneled uppers and ultra high-rise shaft turn this sneaker into one of the best on the market from the Swoosh brand.
Nike SB Dunk
Similar to the aforementioned Nike Dunk, the Swoosh has also created an alternate version of the sneaker that features modifications specifically for skateboarding, including a thicker padded tongue and Zoom Air cushioning in the midsole. Seen in sell-out collaborations with Travis Scott, Stussy, the Grateful Dead and more, the sneaker has become an icon within the world of sneakers and can be found on tons of celebrities and streetwear stars.
Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard
Back in 2012, Nike and artist Tom Sachs partnered to create the Nike Mars Yard shoe inspired by Sachs’ interactions with NASA scientists, which saw a re-release in 2017 with pairs only available to those that completed his unique “Space Camp” consumer experience. The shoe is currently priced at over $3,000 on resale sites. The uppers include innovative warp-knit tricot mesh and materials mostly utilized in their natural state, meaning they’re of dyes or artificial changes.
Nike Air Jordan 1
Prior to becoming its own entity, the Air Jordan line began with the Jordan 1. And even 30 years after its debut, fans can generally expect new styles to sell out instantly. Available in both mid and high-top silhouettes, the iconic basketball sneaker is regularly updated in fresh colorways and modern collaborations to keep it fresh. With its hidden Air-Sole unit and leather overlays, it’s no wonder this style has stuck around for decades.
A West Coast staple, the Nike Cortez started as a running silhouette but retained its popularity thanks to the classic pairing of a premium leather upper and rubber sole. Released in the 1970s, the minimalistic design is perfect for completing off-duty looks or adding a sporty edge to a tailored suit. Whether you prefer a classic black and white colorway or a patriotic red, white and blue take, the Cortez will quickly become a staple in your own sneaker closet, too.
Nike Air Huarache
Released in 1991, the Nike Air Huarache remains one of the most popular offerings from the brand. The shoe’s standout feature is the lining of the shoe, which is created to act as an exoskeleton for the wearer, molding to the shape of the foot and ankle. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, this sneaker took the running world by storm before it made its way to the basketball arena and street style rotation.
Nike Air Yeezy
Before forming an ongoing partnership with Adidas, Kanye West released the Nike Air Yeezy in 2009, which was the first-ever shoe to bear the Yeezy name. Developed over the span of two years, the collaborative design shook up the sneaker when it first launched and still has a legendary reputation to this day; it’s valued at an impressive $50,000 on resale sites like StockX.
Nike Air Yeezy 2
Kanye West and Nike followed up their inaugural Air Yeezy model with an even bolder Air Yeezy 2 in 2012. Many sneaker fans to this day still regard it as the best sneaker model that West has ever released (it resells for $7,000 or more on the average). The animalistic-inspired elements include netted overlays resembling scales as well as a rigid, tooth-like heel counter. It also features a transformed cross foot strap and subtle tributes to Egyptian culture, including references to Egyptian god Horus on the tongue and insole and hieroglyphics spelling of “YZY.”