What is the difference between the Nike Air Max 1 and the Nike Air Max 90?


Icons with unique differences

Nike’s Air Max series is an iconic line in the sneaker world, adored for its unique design and revolutionary technology. Two of the most popular models in this series are the Nike Air Max 1 and the Nike Air Max 90. Whether among collectors, athletes, or casual sneaker wearers, these kicks are highly sought after. For us, they’re two completely different sneakers. Yet, we often hear that people aren’t sure what sets them apart. Let’s break it down for you.

The birth of the Nike Air Max 1

Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Nike Air Max 1 hit the shelves in 1987. It was groundbreaking for introducing the first visible air cushion in the heel. Hatfield drew inspiration from Paris’ Centre Pompidou, a building that exposes its inner workings. He translated this concept to the Air Max 1 by making the air cushion visible—a revolutionary move back then. The Air Max 1 is sometimes referred to as the Air Max 87.

Nike Air Max 1 Anniversary OG Red (March release) (1)


The evolution to the Nike Air Max 90

Three years later, in 1990, Nike dropped the Air Max 90, also known as the Air Max 3. Fun fact: the interim Air Max Light (1989) hit the market as the Air Max 2, all designed by Tinker Hatfield. While maintaining the foundational visible air cushion, Hatfield made several changes to give the shoe a more robust and sporty appearance. The Air Max 90 boasts a larger air cushion and sturdier heel lining compared to the Air Max 1, providing enhanced cushioning and comfort. This model quickly gained popularity for its unique design and improved performance.

Nike Air Max 90 OG Infrared 15 43 1

Technical differences

Air unit / Bubble

The Air unit on the Air Max 1 is relatively small and subtly visible, complementing its more minimalist design. It offers a foundational level of cushioning, which was groundbreaking at the time but remains modest compared to later models.

In contrast, the Nike Air Max 90 features a significantly larger and more prominently visible Air unit. The bubble in the Air Max 90 is much bigger than that in the Air Max 1, with a larger window showcasing it. This delivers extra cushioning and increased comfort, a significant improvement over earlier models. The larger Air unit in the Air Max 90 provides a sense of heightened support and a softer walking experience.

While both sneakers showcase Air technology in their own way, the Air Max 90 takes a more robust and visible approach to the iconic Air bubble, while the Air Max 1 stays true to its original, understated design. The difference in size and visibility of the Air unit contributes to the unique look and comfort level of each sneaker.

Materials and construction

Both models use high-quality materials, but there are some differences in construction. The Air Max 1 often combines mesh and synthetic suede or leather, ensuring a lightweight and breathable design. The Air Max 90 employs sturdier materials with more layers and details, including TPU elements around the air cushion, enhancing durability and giving the shoe a more rugged appearance.

Visual differences

The Air Max 1 features a classic and simple design with a low ankle collar, while the Air Max 90 has a more robust design with a higher ankle collar. The shape of the shoes also differs, with the Air Max 90 having a slightly broader and more aggressive look. The sharper shape of the Air Max 1 makes it a more versatile and subtle sneaker option.

Collecting sneakers: limited editions & collabs

Both the Air Max 1 and the Air Max 90 have seen numerous limited editions and collaborations. These special releases introduce unique colors, materials, and design elements, making them highly sought after by collectors. The collecting market for the Air Max 1 appears to be significantly larger than that for the 90s. As a result, we’ve seen more notable collaborations with artists and stores over the years. The average market value of the Air Max 1 is consequently much higher. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the collecting market for the 90s either. Some memorable collaborations include designers like Virgil Abloh and brands like Off-White.

Shop here your Nike Air Max Off-white

Nike Air Max 90 Off White The Ten White Sail

Cultural impact

The impact of the Air Max 1

The introduction of the Air Max 1 drastically changed the sneaker world. The visible air cushion was a revolutionary innovation that drew a lot of attention. The Air Max 1 quickly became an iconic model and remains a favorite among sneakerheads to this day. The model has seen countless retro releases and collaborations, contributing to its lasting popularity.

The popularity of the Air Max 90

The Air Max 90 has gained a massive following in both the sports and fashion sectors. The larger air cushion and robust design made it a favorite among athletes, while the versatile colorways and collaborations made the model popular among fashion-forward youth. The Air Max 90 has grown into a cultural phenomenon and remains an essential part of Nike’s lineup.


Both models, the Nike Air Max 1 and the Air Max 90, are iconic shoes that offer their own unique features and benefits. Whether you prefer the classic design of the Air Max 1 or the rugged look and extra comfort of the Air Max 90, both shoes are excellent choices for sneaker enthusiasts.


Make a shopping appointment or questions about products? Let us know and we will answer you within a few hours.