Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 - What's the difference?

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Comparing the Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 is tricky given they are two of the most iconic sneakers Nike has in its arsenal. However, when figuring out which of the two to buy, we feel it's important to know some of the similarities and differences between them.

Therefore, we've done exactly that in this guide, comparing their price and their designs over the years to help you pick between them. We've also delved into some of the history surrounding the Air Force 1 and Dunk to help you gain a better understanding of how they grew to be so popular.


They're both so popular in fact, that these two classic Nike sneakers are still being made to this day, a point evidenced by the upcoming "Pale Ivory" Dunks and Billie Eilish AF1s heading our way soon.

So, when it comes to the best Nike Dunks and Air Force 1s, we've got everything you need to know right here.

Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 - History

Before transitioning into an icon of fashion, style, and comfort, the Air Force 1 originally debuted in 1982 as one of the best basketball shoes on the market, competing against the likes of Converse and adidas on the court.

It was the first shoe designed by legendary designer Bruce Kilgore whose forward-thinking design set the standard for basketball footwear for years to come and created a new wave in popular culture.

The Air Force 1 didn't have an easy start in life though. Despite Nike using six of its most popular NBA players to promote the Air Force 1 in '83 as part of the "Original Six" campaign, the original #4190 design was eventually discontinued.


However, consumers and retailers demanded it back, particularly three stores in Baltimore which lobbied for the Air Force 1 to return. According to Nike, the company agreed, but only if the retailers would take 1,200 pairs of two initial colourways.

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The retailers took on the 1,200 pairs dressed in white and Royal Blue plus white and Chocolate Brown which eventually became known as the "Colour of the Month" series, aka the sneakers which saved the Air Force 1.

You then have to fast forward to 1985 to see the debut of the Nike Dunk designed by Peter Moore who, at the time, was also credited with creating the original and arguably the best Jordan 1 colourway of all time - the "Banned" 1s.

As a result, you may notice several similarities between the Jordan 1 and Nike Dunk. However, while the Jordan 1 was designed for one of the top stars in the NBA, the original 12 Dunk colourways all took inspiration from America’s leading schools for basketball, thus aiming them toward the college market.

Where things really took off for the Dunk though was when Nike decided it wanted in on the skateboarding scene.


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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 added comfort and safety when skating in mind.

Today, both the Dunk and Dunk SB lines are thriving, with Nike releasing multiple new designs and collaborations throughout the year which celebrate both the model's history whilst also reinventing the silhouette to keep the designs fresh well over 30 years after their original debut.

Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 - Price

Now you know a little more about their history, you might be thinking about picking up a pair of Dunks or Air Force 1s for yourself. If so, then you're probably wondering which of the two models is the cheapest.

At the time of writing, both Low and High Air Force 1s are more expensive than low or high-top Dunks, including any SBs.

For example, you can pick up a pair of "Racer Blue" Dunk Lows cheaper at retail than a comparable pair of "Pecan" Air Force 1 Lows released around a similar time.

That said, Dunks and Air Force 1s tend to be closer in price on the resale market. In fact, some Dunks, like these "See Through" Highs, actually cost more than a pair of Air Force 1s brought at retail. This is something worth keeping in mind if you're trying to decide between the two.

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Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 - Design

Design-wise, there are several similarities between the Air Force 1 and Nike Dunk which is perhaps unsurprising given the two models came out around a similar time and golden period of basketball.

Arguably the main difference between the two sneakers is that the Air Force 1, as its name suggests, features Nike's Air technology in the midsoles and the Dunks do not.


Nike Air is essentially a collection of air bubbles which are designed to compress under feet to improve cushioning and, in turn, comfort. As a result, you may find Air Force 1s to be the slightly more comfortable of the two.

Visually, not much separates the two models as both the Air Force 1 and Dunk feature pronounced midsoles, large Swooshes along the sides, and a similar panel layout, although the colour blocking is usually a little different.

You'll probably notice though that the Air Force 1 has a larger midsole, too, due to the Air technology inside. Plus, Air Force 1 Highs tend to feature ankle straps, unlike Dunk Highs.

Ultimately, both designs are pretty similar though, meaning the models can be quite tricky to tell apart from one another at times.

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Which is best?

Choosing between the two is pretty tricky as, in our opinion, they both look great and they both have a long history of innovation.


The Air Force 1 is the slightly older of the two and, as a result, comes with a little more history. You may also find the sneakers to be slightly more comfortable as they come with Nike Air bubbles in the midsoles.

However, the Nike Dunk also has a rich history and arguably has more to offer thanks to its accompanying Dunk SB range designed for skateboarding.

Choosing which is best though will come down to personal preference as we feel they're almost impossible to separate.

If you are struggling to pick between them though, then we'd recommend heading to your local sneaker store and seeing if you can try on both models to see which of the two you prefer on your feet. Check out our list of the best places to buy sneakers as well as Dunks and Air Force 1s for more information.