Air Force 1 vs Air Max 90

On one side of a white line, someone in green socks wearing a black and white pair of Air Force 1s. On the other side, someone in multicoloured Air Max 90 sneakers.
Credit: Nike & SNS

On one side of a white line, someone in green socks wearing a black and white pair of Air Force 1s. On the other side, someone in multicoloured Air Max 90 sneakers.
Credit: Nike & SNS

If you're a sneaker fan, you've probably wondered about the differences between the Air Force 1 vs Air Max 90. These two Nike silhouettes are still being made today, over 40 and 30 years after their initial release, respectively.

To help you understand how these awesome sneakers revolutionised the game, we've put together a guide detailing the history of the Air Force 1 and Air Max 90 while also comparing their price and design. Plus, we'll give our two cents on which one you should buy.

So, if you're torn between the two, then stick around for our comparison. While the Air Force 1 is versatile and timeless, the Air Max 90 offers maximum comfort and style. Either way, you can't go wrong with these iconic Nike sneakers. Let's take a closer look at the two...


Before becoming one of the most popular lifestyle sneakers on the market, the Air Force 1 was originally made to be one of the best basketball shoes on the market.

Designed by Bruce Kilgore in 1982, Nike actually took six of its most popular NBA players to kick off the Air Force 1 campaign in '83, targetting the high-top sneakers toward a basketball audience.

Nike 1983 Air Force 1 campaign with six NBA players dressed in white with the original Air Force 1s on feet.
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Credit: Nike

Despite the promotion, Nike discontinued the original #4190 design by '83. Nike's reasons for doing this are unclear exactly. However, demand was there to see the Air Force 1 return, with three stores in Baltimore, in particular, looking to stock the sneakers.

Nike agreed, but only if the retailers would take 1,200 pairs of the two initial colourways to which the retailers agreed, thus inadvertently retro-ing a pair of Nike's for the first time.

This collection of shoes became known as the "Colour of the Month" series, aka the sneakers which Nike credits as the saviour of the Air Force 1. In recent months, Nike has paid homage to the series by re-releasing Colour of the Month classics such as this "Forest Green" low-top, arguably one of the best Air Force 1s on the market right now.

Nike Air Force 1 Highs in red, brown, white, black, and blue on a table next to their original drawings.
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Credit: Nike

The Air Max 90 didn't debut until, unsurprisingly, 1990. It essentially became Nike's flagship sneaker, taking over from the Air Max 1 that arrived a few years earlier in '87.

The silhouette was designed by Tinker Hatfield, one of Jordan's lead designers credited for some of the best Jordan 3 colourways around. His initial imagining turned into the original “Infrared” colourway, a design that is hugely popular and highly sought-after to this day, making it one of the best Air Max ever made.

Nike Air Max 90 "Infrared" product image of the original 1990 design featuring a grey upper and black and red details.
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Credit: GOAT

This colour blocking set the blueprint for future Air Max 90 releases that have garnered a huge dedicated following ever since.


With the history covered, you may be inclined to pick up a pair for yourself. If this is true, then you are sure to be intrigued by the price difference between the two.

Comparatively speaking, Air Force 1s appear to be slightly cheaper sneakers on average. This is evidenced by "Triple Black" Air Force 1 low-tops which cost less than a comparable pair of "Black" Air Max 90s.

Nike Air Max 90 product image of a black sneaker next to an all-black Air Force 1.
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Credit: Nike

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 rise in popularity of the model, and the fact they're perhaps a little less accessible.


The Air Max 90 and Air Force 1 designs have one major and easily noticeable difference. The Air Max 90 comes with exposed Nike Air technology in the midsole, while the Air Force 1 does not. That said, both sneakers do feature Nike Air units, meaning both are well-padded and should be highly comfortable to wear for everyday use.

Another difference is that Air Force 1s are typically made from leather. By contrast, Air Max 90s tend to utilise an array of materials such as canvas, suede, and knitted fabric.

Nike Air Force 1 product image of a white sneaker close up.
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Credit: Nike

Overall, we'd say that Air Force 1s come with a rounder, slightly more bulky shape compared to Air Max 90s. However, the fewer panels give a simpler and sharper look, in our opinion.

Air Force 1 vs Air Max 90: Which should you buy?

Deciding between the two sneakers ultimately boils down to personal preference. However, it's worth noting that the Air Force 1 generally offers a broader range of options, making it more likely to have a style that caters to everyone's taste.

Moreover, the Air Force 1 has been at the forefront of some of the most notable sneaker collaborations, such as the ALYX 9SM "Black" and "White" designs, blurring the boundaries between fashion and various artistic disciplines. That said, the Air Max 90 has had its fair share of collaborations over the years, including the EA Sports x Nike Air Max 90 "Play Like Mad" colourway.

When you consider the price difference between the two as well, the Air Force 1s have a slight edge in this aspect, but the difference isn't massive.

In the end, the decision is yours. If you're uncertain, we recommend visiting a store to try on both pairs and determine which one suits you best.

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