Jordan 1 vs Nike Dunk

Someone in a black, red, and blue pair of Jordan 1s on one side of a diagonal white line. On the other, someone holding a pair of black and white Nike Dunk Lows.
Credit: Ryan Plomp / Will Breen

Someone in a black, red, and blue pair of Jordan 1s on one side of a diagonal white line. On the other, someone holding a pair of black and white Nike Dunk Lows.
Credit: Ryan Plomp / Will Breen

Comparing the Jordan 1 vs Nike Dunk is tricky given they're both so beloved within the sneaker community, with sneakerheads filling out their collections with these iconic Nike models.

Despite being over 35 years old and originally starting life as some of the best basketball shoes on the market, both sneakers have become staples for everyday wear and are up there as some of the most popular footwear Nike has at its disposal. A testament to their popularity is the fact new designs are still being made to this day and feature among some of the best sneakers around.

We appreciate choosing which we prefer is subjective. However, we have taken great care to objectively evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of both models to make selecting between some of the best Air Jordans and Nike Dunks that bit easier. But we start at the beginning to give you a better idea as to how these two shoes revolutionized the industry...


The Jordan 1 and Nike Dunk both debuted in 1985, looking to take the world of basketball shoes by storm. Starting with the Jordan 1, whose story began following the 1984 NBA draft when a young Michael Jordan made a groundbreaking decision to sign with Nike over market leaders adidas and Converse.

During that period, Nike was still striving to establish itself in the basketball industry, lagging behind the aforementioned frontrunners. So, to sign this exceptionally gifted young athlete, Nike made an unprecedented move by offering Jordan a groundbreaking deal: instead of a fixed fee, they agreed to compensate him with 5% of the earnings from the newly launched Jordan brand. Such a gesture was virtually unheard of, particularly for a rookie player.

It was certainly a risk, but one that paid off. Nike debuted Jordan's signature shoe the Air Jordan 1 in 1985 in two colorways, the first a white and black "Chicago" design, the other in red and black which later became known as the "Bred" or "Banned" colorway.

The reason for the "Banned" label is attributed to the story that the NBA issued fines on Jordan whenever he wore those particular sneakers during games. This action was taken due to the shoes' violation of the league's uniform policy.

Despite the circumstances, Nike seized the opportunity and turned it into the focal point of their "Banned" advertisement. This, alongside Michael Jordan's remarkable displays on the basketball court, propelled the Jordan 1 into superstardom, making it one of the most coveted sneakers of its era and to this day.

Nike Dunk poster of 8 college-themed high-top sneakers dressed in colours like blue, red, yellow, and so on.
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Credit: Nike

Alongside creating the Jordan 1, legendary sneaker designer Peter Moore also applied his expertise to create the Nike Dunk. Similar in many ways to the Jordan 1, it too was designed to dominate on the court and be one of the best Nike shoes on the market at the time.

However, while the Jordan 1 was designed specifically for one of the brightest young talents in the NBA, the Dunk was marketed for the college scene. It was used as part of the "College Colors Program" which saw the shoe dressed in the tones of 12 of the top American basketball colleges at the time.

The Dunk took a backseat after the immense popularity of Michael Jordan and his signature sneaker throughout the 1985 season. Realistically, the shoe had to go in another direction. So, by the early 2000s, Nike created a slightly modified version of the Dunk known as the Dunk Low Pro SB which, structurally, was made with comfort and safety in mind while skating.

This initiated a whole line of SB Dunks which, alongside the original Dunk silhouette, is still thriving to this day, just like the Air Jordan 1.


When deciding between the two models, your initial consideration will probably be which one is cheaper. However, determining this may not be straightforward due to the extensive range of colorways available.

Some of the best Jordan 1 Highs, tend to be more expensive than comparable Dunks. Take the "Palomino" Dunk Highs as an example, which retailed for $125. By comparison, the "Palomino" Jordan 1 Highs cost $180 when they were released in 2023.

Nike Dunk High "Palomino" product image of a pair of white and dark brown high-top sneakers.
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Credit: Nike

However, the difference between the two is closer than you might think in some cases, particularly second-hand. For example, these "Bleached Aqua" Jordan KOs, arguably some of the best budget Jordan 1s, are a little cheaper than the average price of some of Dunks on the resale market.

Air Jordan 1 KO "Bleach Aqua" product image of a white and light blue pair of sneakers.
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Credit: Nike

If you look at the top end of the scale though, you'll find original Air Jordan 1s to not only be more expensive than Nike Dunks, but to be among some of the most expensive sneakers available today.

Designs and features

It should come as no surprise that these two shoes have many similarities in their designs, considering they originate from the same era and are produced by the same company.

Peter Moore created both shoes. However, while one was made for one of the hottest prospects in the NBA at the time, the other was targeted toward college students. In fact, the first Dunk designs were based on America's most renowned basketball universities in the '80s.

Nike Dunk "Deep Royal" product image of a white and blue sneaker.
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That being said, there are a few subtle differences to note. For example, as seen in these amazing high-top AMBUSH x Nikes, Dunks have fewer panels compared to Jordans, as well as less stitching.

The biggest difference between the two though is what lies underfoot. The Nike Dunk comes with a soft foam midsole. However, the Jordan 1 features Nike's Air technology. This should deliver even more comfort and protection if you plan on using them on the court.

Jordan 1 High Zoom CMFT 2 "Yellow Ochre" product image of a dark yellow suede, beige canvas, and yellow mesh pair of Jordan 1 high-tops, resting on top of white midsoles.
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Credit: Nike

Some Jordans go a step further, such as these "Yellow Ochre" Highs, and incorporate Zoom technology for extra cushioning and maximum support both on the court and during everyday wear, making them some of the most comfortable trainers on the market.

Jordan 1 vs Nike Dunk: Which should you buy?

To summarise, choosing between Jordan 1s and Nike Dunks will depend on personal preference and intended use. However, the Jordan 1 may be a better choice for both everyday wear and basketball due to its use of Nike's Air technology for added comfort and support, hence why some of the best Jordans for basketball over the years have been 1s. The Jordan 1 also carries a reputation and prestige due to Michael Jordan's iconic status as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

In terms of price, Jordan 1s and Nike Dunks are similarly matched, although Jordan 1s can sometimes be slightly more expensive. However, the price difference is minimal, and it may be worth spending a little extra to own a piece of history. Therefore, if you're interested in picking up a pair of 1s, check out our list of the best places to buy Jordans.

And with that, we're wrapping things up. Hopefully, our guide has pointed you in the direction of your next sneaker purchase!

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