We love the Nike Vapormax here at KicksOneTwo.
Widely regarded as one of the best Nike silhouettes of 2017, the Vapormax took the premium running market by storm early in the year, wrestling away coveted top dog status from the played-out Adidas Ultra Boost (we’d like to mention: we called the Vapormax’s success early on). From its space-age Flyknit upper to the unique full-length Air Max sole, from clean general release colorways to sought-after collaborative releases with Comme Des Garcons, CLOT, and Virgil Abloh, it’s not a reach in any way, shape, or form to say that the Vapormax lays a strong claim to the “best new shoe of 2017” title, and its momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all in 2018.
There’s a swath of new colorways and unique fusion silhouettes both classic and futuristic on the horizon, and as more and more fashion-forwards sneakerheads both male and female work the shoe into their rotation, the vise grip the Vapormax enjoys on the running shoe market is tighter than ever.
And what do we do when we love a sneaker at KicksOneTwo? You guessed it: We rank it. Today, we’re ranking all 11 Vapormax silhouettes, both currently available and yet-to-release. This isn’t a list of the best colorways, the best collabs, or the most valuable pairs … this is strictly about the shoes themselves, and which silhouette is the dopest and most wearable. We’re pulling no punches either: if we don’t like a silhouette (and there are a few we’re not head over Air Max-cushoned heels for), we’ll tell you exactly why.
Enough talking. Get ready to catch some air.
11. Chukka Slip
Just like picking teams in gym class somebody’s always gotta be last, and the Vapormax Chukka Slip takes the bottom spot on our list. The high-top runner silhouette is an interesting idea in theory, but the neoprene sleeve that stretches over the forefoot and partially covers the slits in the ankle collar is far too busy for our tastes. Unfortunately it’s a negative connotation when we say the Chukka Slip looks like a pair of moon boots.
Dressing up a performance Air Max silhouette with a sueded leather upper to create a “lifestyle” shoe is nothing new for Nike. It’s been a staple of their running line for years, and although it’s not a bad look it certainly falls on the bland end of the Vapormax spectrum. The Vapormax LTR are a solid shoe, but they look more like something you’d see a referee wearing than a pair that you’d turn your head to get a second look at on the streets. The previous pair on the list was doing a little too much … these aren’t doing quite enough.
Replacing the standard Flyknit upper with mesh and synthetic textiles, the Vapormax CS does a slightly better job of making a premium runner a lifestyle shoe than the LTR but still leaves something to be desired, as the re-worked upper cheapens the premium look that the Vapormax is known and loved for. If you pay a premium price for a pair of kicks, you want a premium look … which isn’t something offered in spades by the CS.
With its innovative layered panels on the upper inspired by human anatomy and iconic gradient effect, the Air Max 95 is one of (if not the) most iconic Air Max silhouettes of all time. It seems only right that Nike would bless a classic with a brand-new Vapormax sole, doesn’t it? The first images of the Vapormax 95 just leaked recently, so there’s not a ton of info to go on yet but what we’ve seen so far has us feeling optimistic.
Following up a groundbreaking shoe with an equally-beloved second model is a challenge. It’ll always be met with resistance from die-hard fans of the original pair, and the silhouette never truly has the luster that it did upon its initial release. However, from the images we’ve seen so far the Vapormax 2 just might be up to the arduous task. Time will tell if sneakerheads gravitate towards the re-worked look featuring a crystal-clear air bubble (the high point of the shoe in our opinion), a heel cage, toe cap, and smaller swoosh (the parts we’re a little more spotty on).
If this list was based solely on hype, the “Laceless” Vapormax might just take the top spot due to the highly-sought after Comme Des Garcons collaborative pairs that released all the way back in February. They’re the most minimal, low-profile pair of Vapormax on the market today, without any unnecessary frills or embellishments, and an elastic collar that lets you slip them on and off with ease. Simple and plain certainly isn’t a bad thing when it comes to a laceless pair of Flyknit kicks.
Featuring a large midfoot band adorned with a big, bold Nike logo, the Vapormax Moc barely edged out the “Laceless” Vapormax for the #5 spot on our list. They’re sleek and minimal just like their laceless counterparts … but the midfoot band gives them that little extra bit of uniqueness and branded flair that the “Laceless” pair lacks.
Upon its original release, the Air Max 97 was instantly hailed as one of the most sleek, futuristic Nike shoes of all time. Fast-forwards 20 years, and the 97 is STILL one of the most popular models in Nike’s archive, enjoying a banner 20th anniversary year in 2017. A shoe as iconic as the Air Max 97 should be brought into the modern day by being fused together with Nike’s newest Air Max tech, right? There’s been no official launch date announced for these beauties just yet, but you already know we’re anxiously awaiting a release for this wonderful collage of old and new.
Yet another combination of a classic Air Max silhouette with a modern-day Vapormax sole, the Vapormax Plus is undoubtedly the best of the fused-together bunch. The neoprene upper adorned with TPU overlays and the OG midsole compliment the new-school sole flawlessly, and the “VM” replacing the classic “TA” logo on the shoe’s heel is another clever nod to the sneaker’s heritage. These may just become a modern-day roadman classic, much like the original Plus was at the turn of the century.
If you live in colder climates, the Vapormax isn’t the best shoe for you to wear year-round. It’s light and minimal, not designed for rugged terrain or inclement weather. Thankfully, that’s where the Utility comes in. With an extended ankle collar, unique lacing system, and extra Cushlon padding on the midsole, the Utility is tough enough to handle whatever you throw at it. Sleek enough for the summer, and sturdy enough for the winter: a winning combo in our book.
Much like Nas’s first album and Tarantino’s directorial debut, sometimes the first try at something is the best, and this is a statement that rings true with the Nike Vapormax. Although all the other designs on this list are unique in their own regard (even the ones we don’t care for), nothing tops the original Vapormax’s design and aesthetic. Almost a year after its original release, the clean Flyknit upper sitting on top of the re-invented Air Max cushioning system still offers an idiosyncratic look that can’t be matched. The silhouette that re-defined the premium running market is still top dog, and Nike will be hard-pressed to create something better than the original Vapormax in 2018 and beyond.
What’s your favorite Nike Vapormax silhouette? Do you agree with our rankings? If not, which shoes would you move around and why? Sound off in the comments or hit us up and let us know on Twitter!