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Air Max 101 & Nike Sizing Guide

The ultimate guide to Nike Air Max sneakers. Iconic Air Max shoes, legendary athletes, cleaning tips and an essential Nike sizing guide.

Posted January 4th, 2022
Words by Mr Daffa Danendra
Photos by Mr Jakob Owens, Pinterest & Courtesy of Nike

The Nike Air Max is one of the world's most famous sneaker models. In our ultimate guide to the Nike Air Max, we review the Air Max's roots, iconic silhouettes and legendary athletes or musicians that have stepped out in Nike Air Max trainers. We even include a Nike sizing guide and cleaning tips to make sure your Nike Air Max shoes fit well and always look their best.

The Nike Air Max is arguably the greatest sneaker line to have ever been dropped. Instantly recognisable worldwide, it has been a staple of our everyday lives for the past 3 decades. Imagine this, when the first Air Max dropped Bon Jovi had just released “Livin’ On a Prayer”, the Berlin Wall was still standing and The Simpsons had just made their first appearance.

NIKE AIR MAX SHOES IN A POOL BY JAKOB OWENS : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & NIKE SIZING GUIDE

ORIGINS OF AIR MAX

Technology Behind Air Max

To understand how the Air Max was conceived, we must understand its technology. Steps in Frank Rudy, an aeronautical engineer who left NASA in the late 60s to pursue his interests elsewhere. He wanted to explore innovative solutions for other businesses. One of his ideas was to put microscopic air bags in the soles of sporting shoes to reduce impact.

Submitting his concept to Phil Knight in 1977, the Nike co-founder took the prototype for a spin around the Beaverton campus and returned to his office impressed – Rudy's shoe had an unusually smooth ride.

The foundation of the technology relies on pressurised air being contained within a flexible strong bag. This is accomplished through a process named blow rubber moulding, which helps to maintain structure while being flexible. Nike uses thick gases that cannot escape from the bag’s polyurethane material to ensure that the gas does not leak from the Air units. This technology gave birth to Nike’s most enduring and iconic lineup of sneakers that continues to be revamped to this day.

Early Days Of Air Max

NIKE OFFICES & NIKE AIR MAX SHOES BY JEROME & WARREN JONES : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & NIKE SIZING GUIDE

Nike had risen to the pinnacle of sports design during the ’70s with a straightforward, utilitarian approach to product — all-purpose and high-performance shoes that had never been made before. At some point in the ’80s, that sort of plateaued. People were looking for something different, not just in what Nike was doing, but all around the world.

Tinker Hatfield

Tinker Hatfield, the man behind iconic silhouettes such as Jordans, Air Huarache and Air Tech, is the creative genius behind Air Max. During a trip to Paris, Hatfield was inspired by the architecture of the Centre Pompidou. He was captivated by the building’s “inside-out” design, which had its framework wrapped around the building’s exterior. He then set off back to Beaverton as a man with a mission, he was going to forever change the industry.

Of course, making the Air Unit visible wasn’t just for show. Having the air unit allows for the expansion and depression of the unit to respond according to the wearer’s motion. By utilising air, it also prolonged the sneaker’s life as it does not break down when compared to foam, which was the norm for sneakers back then.

Innovation Of The Air Max

NIKE AIR MAX 90 SHOES & BASKETBALL NET BY ADRIAN HERNANDEZ : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & NIKE SIZING GUIDE

Hatfield’s creative sparks resulted in advancements that paved the way for 30 years of reinvention of Nike’s cushioning platform, and, perhaps most crucially, for the first time properly integrated sport engineering and design culture.

Following the success of Air Max 1, the Air Units continued expanding.

The end goal was to completely eliminate foam from the process. Its successor, the Air Max 90 and 180 were the first designs to include an uninterrupted Air Sole unit to the outsole. This meant that there was no foam between the ground and Air Unit.

Achieving A “Foamless” Sneaker 2 Decades Later

BRONZE NIKE AIR MAX 97 SHOES BY MATHIEU BIGARD : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & NIKE SIZING GUIDE

As the search for a complete Air Sole persisted, a process known as blow-molding altered the game. It enabled Nike to build 3D Air Soles that did not rely on air pressure, as well as Air Sole that conformed to the forefoot. This was first seen in the Air Max 95.

Meanwhile, the Air Max 97 that was conceived a few years later had the Air Sole transformed into a single component from the forefoot to the heel, with a full-length 3D foam mould holding it together. The Air Max 360, which launched in 2006, was the first to have an entirely foamless sneaker, over 20 years after the Air Max 1.

Benefits Of Having Air Max Technology

Having a sneaker with air max technology could greatly improve your performance.

Without the extra weight of standard shoe cushioning, the lightweight Air technology helps you to move quicker and preserve more energy. Furthermore, the sneakers are very long-lasting, thanks to an extraordinarily well-constructed polyurethane bubble that withstands the strains of training and playing, thanks to NASA invention. Lastly, it’s gentle on the joints (and tendons and muscles). Running and leaping is much more natural when you have Air to soften your landing.

THE EVOLUTION OF VISIBLE AIR VIA PINTEREST : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & NIKE SIZING GUIDE

Air Max Today

ICONIC NIKE AIR MAX STYLES

It will be a crime if we did not acknowledge the fact that Air Max contributed to some of Nike’s most innovative colourways and releases. We’d bet anytime that if we ask you to name a few of Nike’s iconic sneakers, you’d have mentioned at least 1 Air Max model.

Air Max 1

The shoe that started it all, the Nike Air Max 1 debuted in 1987 and was first marketed as a running shoe. It has subsequently become one of the most iconic shoes to ever grace the Earth’s surface.

It was widely discussed that I had pushed it too far. People were trying to get us fired.

Hatfield said of the reactions to early Air Max sketches.

Air Max 90

Originally named the Air Max III, it is now fondly referred to as the Air Max 90. Named after the year it was first released.  Just like the Air Max 1, this was also designed by Tinker Hatfield. Building off its predecessor, the Air Max 90 had more air in the heel unit. Additionally, the design was much more technical featuring a bold Duromesh upper which gave the impression of a “Fast and Furious” pair of kicks.

Air Max 95

Sergio Lozano designed the Air Max 95, basing the design on human anatomy, with the spine of the shoe imitating the human spine and materials intended to symbolise skin, ribs, and tendons. This silhouette is the first in the Air Max line to utilise two air cushions in the forefoot and to use air pressure technology to match the wearer’s forefoot curvature. Providing greater comfort for those wearing it.

Air Max 97

Inspired by the high-speed Japanese bullet trains, the Air Max 97 made its debut in 1997. Taking a sleeker form and shape compared to previous iterations with an almost full-length visible air unit. Three luminous lines composed of 3M Scotchlite material that adorns the uppers are part of the pair’s signature look. This sneaker is the work of Christian Tresser.

Vapormax

One of the newer editions in the Air Max family but has since gone on to be a favourite amongst sneakerheads. It’s the first Air Max sneaker to not have any foam or rubber used in the mid or outsole. This was due to the design team favouring totally hollow air pouches that were not linked to one another and positioned in different areas based on where the wearer’s foot would naturally impact.

BEST NIKE AIR MAX COLOURWAYS

Air Max 1 White/Red

The most recognisable colourway of the Air Max 1, this colourway is the first-ever in the Air Max lineup. Tinker Hatfield made a statement with the brilliant red hue, as the usage of vivid colours in running shoes was uncommon at that time. Tinker’s rebellion paid off and it resulted in one of Nike’s most famous and identifiable looks.

Air Max 90 Infrared

The ‘Infrared’ colourway of the Air Max 90 is one of the most popular, having been released several times since the sneaker’s initial introduction. It is also the first-ever Air Max 90 colourway to be released. The upper is made of leather, suede, and mesh, with rubber parts on the eyestay and midfoot.

Air Max 95 Neon

Considered by many to be one of Nike’s greatest colourways of all time. This silhouette has gone through multiple re-releases and is still very much relevant. In fact, its latest re-issue was late last year!

Air Max 97 Silver Bullet

Rather than a silver bullet train as many had believed, the most famous Air Max 97 was inspired by “mountain bike components and mountain bikes at the time featured metal on metal finishes like aluminium and polished titanium” according to its designer. The futuristic design is accented with tiny red elements on the micro-Swooshes and logo, and the visible Max Air cushioning rests above a black outsole.

FAMOUS AIR MAX COLLABORATIONS

Nike Air Max 1 Elephant

The Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant” is a collaborative effort between the sportswear giant and atmos, a Japanese streetwear and sneaker boutique. Both pairs have had a long-standing cooperation with one another, going all the way back to 2001.

The combination of elephant prints and brilliant jade accents was inspired by the atmos team’s passion for the Air Jordan III and the concept of an elephant swimming in water in the wild. Bringing elephant print to an Air Max was something Koji had wanted to achieve before working on the 2007 collaboration, which added to the idea’s inherent appeal.

Nike Air Max 97 Undefeated

In 2017, UNDEFEATED, a California-based streetwear label, teamed up with Nike to produce a one-of-a-kind Air Max 97. The shoe is imprinted with UNDFTD lettering and made of patent leather, foam, and a full-length visible air unit. The well-known collaboration was offered in two colourways: black/white and olive, with the latter being a ComplexCon exclusive.

Nike Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoon

The Sean Wotherspoon Nike Air Max 97/1 was created after he won the Nike Vote Forward competition in 2017. The shoe, a mix of the Air Max 1 and the Air Max 97, reflects Wotherspoon’s love of ’90s motifs, with a multicoloured corduroy top.

Nike Vapormax Off-White “The Ten”

The OFF WHITE VaporMax is a limited-edition collaboration between Virgil Abloh’s Italian fashion house and Nike. It was included in the “The Ten” anthology. The shoe’s design is identical to that of the other models in the pack, with explicit “AIR” writing and exposed stitching on the upper. A retro-style tongue with a large white embroidered Swoosh, orange accents, and a full-length blacked-out Air VaporMax sole complete the look.

Nike By You

Nike By You (formerly “NikeiD”) is a Nike service that allows customers to personalise and design their own Nike merchandise. The service is available both online through their webpage and at physical locations across the world (named Nike By You Studios). This feature is available for multiple Air Max models including the 90, 95 and 97.

WHO’S WORN AIR MAXES?

Tom Holland

ACTOR TOM HOLLAND AKA SPIDER-MAN WEARING NIKE AIR MAX 1 SHOES VIA PINTEREST : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & SIZING GUIDE

Tom Holland is an English actor who rose to international stardom portraying “your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” in the MCU. As a matter of fact, he donned the Air Max 1 while portraying Peter Parker.

Besides his work within the MCU, he’s also known for his work in The Impossible, The Devil All the Time & Onward.

LeBron James

BASKETBALL PLAYER LEBRON JAMES WEARING NIKE AIR MAX 95 SHOES VIA PINTEREST : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & SIZING GUIDE

LeBron James is an American Basketball player that is considered to be one of the greatest in the modern era. James, was a famed local basketball prodigy since elementary school, was crowned Ohio’s Mr. Basketball. He went on to win the NBA title four times and was chosen as the league’s MVP four times.

Off the court, James has amassed even more cash and celebrity thanks to a slew of sponsorship deals. Which includes a lifetime deal with Nike, which is reported to be the largest ever deal for any athlete in the company’s history. Despite having his own line of signature sneakers, he is not afraid to give other Nike sneakers a try, this includes the Air Max. In fact, he’s even had his own Air Max release this year.

Kanye West

RAPPER KANYE WEST WEARING NIKE AIR MAX 90 SHOES VIA PINTEREST : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & SIZING GUIDE

Kanye West is a rapper, record producer, and fashion designer from the United States. In the early 2000s, West rose to prominence as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, releasing singles for a variety of artists and pioneering the “chipmunk soul” sampling style.

Outside of his musical career, he’s known for his work in the fashion industry. In 2009, he collaborated with Louis Vuitton to launch a successful shoe collection that inspired enthusiasts all over the globe to accept sneakers as a part of mainstream fashion.

Later that year, the Air Yeezy line was developed because of a cooperation between West and Nike. However, Kanye West cut relations with Nike in 2013 in lieu of a $10 million agreement with Adidas. Adidas promised Kanye West full creative authority over the development of Yeezy sneakers in exchange for his signature, as well as a share of all revenues.

Odell Beckham Jr.

AMERICAN FOOTBALLER ODELL BECKHAM JR WITH NIKE AIR MAX SHOES VIA PINTEREST : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & SIZING GUIDE

Odell Beckham Jr., also known as OBJ, is a wide receiver with the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL). The New York Giants selected him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Beckham has been one of the most popular players in the NFL, both on and off the field since his debut. In 2016, he became the NFL’s fastest player to surpass 200 career catches and 4,000 career receiving yards.

Simple, Clean & Functional. Set the trend for future iterations.

OBJ on Air Max

NIKE SIZING GUIDE

Nike Size Chart : Mens Footwear

UK 6 7 8 8.5 9 9.5 10 11 12
EU 40 41 42.5 43 44 44.5 45 46 47.5
USA 7 8 9 9.5 10 10.5 11 12 13
Length 25 26 27 27.5 28 28.5 29 30 31

*Size conversions are approximate. Length in centimetres (cm). UK, EU and USA sizes are shown. More Nike size charts here.

How Does The Nike Air Max Fit?

Generally, the line-up of Air Maxes does run a little small. Despite this, due to the sheer amount of catalogue at the series’ disposal, you’d have to look at it from a case-to-case basis. It all relies on the shoe’s cut. Nike Air Max 95, for example, has a broader cut than Nike Air Max 270. Depending on whether you have tiny or broad feet, you would either go up one size or stay true to your size.

WEARING WHITE & BLUE NIKE AIR MAX 1 SHOES BY STEPHAN SCHMID : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & SIZING GUIDE

FAQs

Popular Nike Air Max Sizing Questions

How does the Nike Air Max 1 fit?

The Nike Air Max 1, a sneakerhead must-have, features a standard true-to-size fit that makes it suited for all users. This applies to all versions, including Hyperfuse, Flyknit, and premium editions.

How does the Nike Air Max 90 fit?

The Nike Air Max 90 should fit true to size, therefore go for your normal selection. However, they do fit a little narrow, so to those of you who have wide feet, take a half size up to have a better time.

How does the Nike Air Max 95 fit?

The Nike Air Max 95 differs from the rest of the Nike Air Max series in that it has a much narrower appearance. Despite this fact, the Air Max 95 features a broader fit than the other variants. Depending on your preference, you can order your normal size up to half a size higher.

How does the Nike Air Max 97 fit?

The Nike Air Max 97 is one of the most comfortable shoes you can wear, and it fits true to size. Those of you with broad feet, however, should order a half size higher.

How do Air Maxes fit compared to other popular sneakers?

  • Nike Air Max fit vs Air Force 1: When compared to the Air Maxes, the Air Force 1s typically have more space. Therefore, for best fit, you’d want to go half a size up compared to the Air Forces. This should help with comfort as well.
  • Nike Air Max fit vs Vans Slip-On: Air Maxes would fit much looser than the Vans Slip Ons.
  • Nike Air Max fit vs Yeezy Boost: Generally, Air Maxes would fit bigger than the Yeezy Boost 350. Yeezys require a size larger since they run small, however, the Air Max lineup should fit true to size.

How To Clean Your Air Max Shoes?

DIRTY NIKE AIR MAX 1 SHOES BY LEVI ALVAREZ : NIKE AIR MAX 101 & SIZING GUIDE

1: Make Use of a Dry Brush

Firstly, you’d want to remove any dirt found on any part of the shoe, including the outsole and midsole. To clean the treads on the bottom of the shoes, use only firm-bristle brushes to avoid unwanted damage. If you don’t have a suitable shoe brush, a toothbrush is a good alternative; however, it might take longer. Remove the shoelaces after brushing.

2: Create a Cleaning Solution

Use warm (never hot) water and a small amount of mild laundry detergent or dish soap to get things soapy. Although there are multiple sneaker-cleaning solutions out there, each one results in a different user experience. As a matter of fact, Nike does not promote the usage of any particular cleaning solution. Rather, they recommend using light dish soap or mild laundry detergent.

3: Wash the Laces

Once removed, rinse the laces with soapy water by hand. Repeat this process until you are satisfied with its look. If it’s still dirty, you may repeat the process. When they’re clean, pat them dry with a cloth and leave them aside to dry completely.

4: Work on the Soles

Using the cleaning solution and a clean soft-bristle brush, clean the outsole and midsole. Brushing the former first before moving on to the latter. Repeat as necessary, then wipe dry with a soft towel.

5: Clean the Uppers

Here is where it gets tricky, you should take note of the different materials and clean them separately. Using a clean soft-bristle brush or a dry cloth, apply some cleaning solution to the surface. If dirt is hard to remove, scrub the area gently. Dry immediately after cleaning each spot with a clean, dry microfiber towel.

Not sure Nike Air Max trainers are for you then shop all sneakers.

Mr Daffa Danendra is the founder of The Urban Capsule, a platform focused on pushing and preserving Modern Culture. With a passion for sneakers, he is actively involved within the streetwear community in Malaysia.

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