As a sneakerhead, you’ve probably wondered what the differences are between the Air Force 1 and the Air Max 90.
Both silhouettes are some of Nike’s most beloved sneakers, which is why they’re still made today, as evidenced by the upcoming Air Max 90 Terrascape and the Billie Eilish x Air Force 1 collaboration.
To help you understand how these two Nike sneakers revolutionized the sneaker game, we’ve put together this guide detailing their history, while also comparing some of the similarities and differences between them.
We’ve also given our opinion on what we think you should; However, before we dive into that, let’s start by discussing how these two popular sneakers came to be…
Air Force 1 vs. Air Max 90 – History
Before becoming one of the most popular lifestyle sneakers on the market, the Air Force 1 was originally designed to be the ultimate basketball shoe.
Conceived by Bruce Kilgore in 1982, Nike actually took six of its most popular NBA players to launch the Air Force 1 campaign in 1983, targeting high-top sneakers towards a basketball audience.
Despite the promotion, Nike discontinued the Air Force 1 model in 1984.
Nike’s reasons for doing this are unclear, but fans of the silhouette continued to customize their own pairs to compensate for the lack of new designs, showing that there was still demand for the silhouette.
Nike recognized this and brought back the Air Force 1 in 1986, focusing more on everyday wear than basketball, leading to countless timeless designs such as the hugely popular Air Force 1 all white.
In contrast, the Air Max 90 didn’t debut until 1990, unsurprisingly.
It essentially became Nike’s flagship sneaker, taking over from the Air Max 1 that arrived a few years earlier in 1987.
The silhouette was designed by Tinker Hatfield, one of Jordan’s leading designers, credited with some of the best Jordan 3 colorways.
His initial imagination morphed into the original “Infrared” colorway, a hugely popular and highly sought after design to this day.
This color blocking set the pattern for future Air Max 90 releases which have since garnered huge success.
By the way, if you own a pair of these sneakers and are looking to keep them fresh, check out Pancake Protect and our guide to cleaning leather, suede or Air Force 1s here.
Air Force 1 vs Air Max 90 – Price
With history covered, you might be inclined to pick up a pair for yourself. If this is true, then you will definitely be intrigued by the price difference between the two.
Comparatively speaking, the Air Force 1s seem to be the slightly cheaper sneakers on average. This is attested by triple black Air Force 1 low-tops that cost less than a comparable pair of air max 90 black.
The reason behind this may, in part, be due to the technology included in a pair of Air Max 90s. It could also be due to the growing popularity of the model and the fact that it is perhaps a little less accessible.
Air Force 1 vs. Air Max 90 – Design
There is a major and very distinct difference between the two designs. The Air Max 90 features exposed Nike Air technology in the midsole, unlike the Air Force 1s.
That said, both sneakers feature Nike Air units, which means they are well cushioned and should be very comfortable to wear for everyday use.
Another difference is that Air Force 1s are usually leather. In contrast, the Air Max 90s tend to use a range of materials such as canvas, suede and knit.
Overall, we’d say the Air Force 1s have a rounder, slightly bulkier shape than the Air Max 90s; however, the fewer panels make for a simpler, cleaner look in our opinion.
Which should you buy?
Which two sneakers you should buy will ultimately come down to personal preference.
That said, we’d say there may be a wider selection of Air Force 1s out there, which means there’s a better chance that there’s an Air Force 1 style to suit everyone.
The price differences between the two should also be kept in mind, giving the Air Force 1s a slight advantage in this area.
Ultimately, the choice is yours though. If you’re really unsure, we recommend finding both pairs in a store and trying them on to see which of the two suits you best.
Read more: Best basketball shoes available now