Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1

A dark blue and red pair of Nike Dunk Lows with white midsoles on the left. On the right, someone in jeans wearing a pair of all-white Air Force 1 Lows.
Credit: Thanin Chaiyawan & Maria Pissioli


A dark blue and red pair of Nike Dunk Lows with white midsoles on the left. On the right, someone in jeans wearing a pair of all-white Air Force 1 Lows.
Credit: Thanin Chaiyawan & Maria Pissioli

Comparing the Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 is a challenging task due to their status as two of Nike's most iconic sneakers. However, it is essential to consider their similarities and differences when deciding which one to purchase.

To help in making a decision, we have created a comprehensive guide that compares the price and design evolution of these two amazing sneakers over the years.

Additionally, we have delved into the historical significance of the Air Force 1 and Dunk, providing an insight into how they achieved their immense popularity to the point where they're still being made to this day - take the new "Valerian Blue" Dunks and "Bronzine Gold" Air Force 1s as examples.

So, whether you are looking to bolster your collection with a pair of the best Nike Dunks or Air Force 1s, our guide provides all the necessary information to aid you in your decision-making process.

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.

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 Force 1 didn't have an easy start in life though, despite now being one of the best Nike shoes ever made. Although Nike used 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.

The retailers eagerly embraced 1,200 pairs of sneakers, adorned in a striking combination of white and Royal Blue, as well as the refined pairing of white and Chocolate Brown. This collection, later renowned as the "Colour of the Month" series, played a pivotal role in rescuing the Air Force 1 from obscurity and propelling it toward the status of an enduring classic.

Nike Dunk poster of 8 college-themed high-top sneakers.
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Credit: Nike

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.

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, thus making them one of the best skate shoes on the market.

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.

Price

Now that you have learned a bit more about the history of Dunks and Air Force 1s, you may be considering getting a pair for yourself. If that's the case, you might be wondering which of the two models is cheaper.

As of now, both Low and High Air Force 1s are generally more expensive compared to some of the best low-top and high-top Dunks, including the majority of SBs.

To illustrate this, you can purchase a pair of "Racer Blue" Dunk Lows at a lower retail price than a comparable pair of "Pecan" Air Force 1 Lows, which were released around a similar time.

A brown Air Force 1 Low featuring an off-white midsole, black Swoosh, and blue laces above a blue and white Nike Dunk Low.
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Credit: Nike

However, it is worth noting that Dunks and Air Force 1s often have similar resale prices. Certain Dunks though, such as this CLOT "Fragment White" collab, can exceed the retail price of a pair of Air Force 1s, which is an important factor to consider when deliberating between the two options.

Design

From a design perspective, it's not surprising to find numerous similarities between the Air Force 1 and the Nike Dunk, considering that both models were introduced during a golden era of basketball, around the same time.

The main distinguishing factor between these two sneakers lies in the Air Force 1's utilisation of Nike's Air technology within its midsoles, a feature notably absent in the case of the Dunks.

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.

Nike Air technology original drawings and designs.
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Credit: Nike

In terms of appearance, there isn't much that sets apart the two models, making Dunks some of the closest relatives to the Air Force 1 model. Both shoes showcase prominent midsoles, large Swooshes along the sides, and a comparable panel layout, although the colour combinations may vary slightly.

However, one noticeable distinction lies in the size of the midsole, with the Air Force 1 generally featuring a larger midsole due to its incorporation of Air technology. Furthermore, Air Force 1 Highs typically come equipped with ankle straps, while Dunk Highs often lack this feature.

Overall, these designs share several similarities, making it somewhat challenging to distinguish between the two models on certain occasions.

Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1: Which is best?

Choosing between the Nike Air Force 1 and the Nike Dunk is a tough decision. Both have a great look and a rich history of innovation.

The Air Force 1 is the older of the two, which gives it a deeper background and a longer legacy. It's also slightly more comfortable, thanks to the Nike Air bubbles in the midsoles. As an owner of Air Force 1s, I can personally attest to how comfortable they are.

By contrast, the Nike Dunk has a rich history too and even has a dedicated Dunk SB range for skateboarding. This means choosing between them will come down to personal preference since they're both fantastic sneakers that are hard 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.

And that's it! Hopefully, with this guide, you can figure out which shoe to go for out of the Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1.

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