Every year sneakerheads around the world eagerly anticipate the arrival of March 26th, and not because it’s Puma founder Rudi Dassler’s birthday. No, the 85th day of the year is all about the Swoosh: March 26th is Air Max Day, Nike’s yearly celebration of their most iconic technology.
And the lead-up to Air Max Day is almost as good (if not actually even better) than the day itself. In the weeks and months prior, Nike typically pulls out all the stops to build hype for Air Max Day with marketing, storytelling, and great releases like 2017’s “Anniversary”, “Master” and “Atmos” Air Max 1’s, and the now-iconic Vapormax.
Air Max Day is more than just great in-line releases though. Last year’s “Vote Forward” contest, in which 12 designers were given the opportunity to create their own unique Air Max silhouette with the winner’s (voted on by the general public) design actually being put into production was the talk of the sneaker world for weeks on end. Round Two’s Sean Wotherspoon wound up taking first place in the contest, and the ensuing hype around the shoe he created made it one of the hottest releases of the year when it was made available to the public in extremely limited quantities back in November/December.
How’s Nike following up the enormous success of 2017’s Air Max Day this year? The best way they know how: with a slate of great releases, featuring iconic OG pairs as well as fresh new silhouettes.
So far in 2018 there’s been nothing quite as crazy as last year’s contest, but since all the releases have been officially announced we figured now’s as good a time as any for one of our infamous KicksOneTwo lists. We’ve ranked all 7 shoes releasing as part of Nike’s 2018 Air Max Day collection, from the good to the bad to the ugly. Alright. More air, less chatter. Let’s get right into it.
7. Air Max 270
Release Date: February 2nd, more colors March 3rd
Although many a sneakerhead is hyped about Nike’s brand-new Air Max 270, the first Air Max designed exclusively as a lifestyle shoe that features the largest heel Air bag on any Air Max yet we’ve gotta play devil’s advocate: We’re not fans. The large heel bag is an interesting concept and the colorways that have been unveiled are nice … but they look a little too much like a shoe that you can walk into any Foot Locker or Finish Line in America and purchase right now (anyone who’s worked in one of those stores knows exactly what we mean). They’re not that bad, but don’t kid yourself: they’re not that great either.
6. Air Max 93
Release Date: February 2nd
A model that seemingly gets lost in the plethora of great early-1990’s Air Max releases, the Air Max 93 finally makes its return to the spotlight in February. The first Air Max sneaker to offer an Air Max bubble with more than 180 degrees of Air, the 93 became known as the “270” before the Air Max 270 was even a twinkle in Nike’s eye. The high neoprene collar offered yet another twist in Nike’s running shoe design, and although the 93 isn’t quite as much of a head-turner as some of the other shoes on this list, it’s a solid, wearable retro runner.
5. Air Vapormax 2
Release Date: TBA
It’s hard to follow a classic. The original Vapormax is one of Nike’s best new silhouettes of the last 5 years (not up for debate), and although the Vapormax 2 is a clean silhouette that draws just enough inspiration from its first iteration it’s not quite the shoe that the first Vapormax was. We love the crystal-clear Air bubble, but we’re still not 100% sold on the heel cage, toe cap, pull tab, and smaller swoosh. Much like when Didi replaced Jeter at short for the Yankees, the second coming is good (and could very well become great) … but right now it’s just not the same.
4. Air Max 180
Release Date: February 2nd
The Air Max 180 holds a unique distinction in Air history: it’s the first sneaker with Air Max cushioning that was directly exposed to the ground, bringing a whole new meaning to the term “walking on air”. The 180 straddles the line between simple and flashy perfectly, and the “Ultramarine” colorway pictured above has grown to become one of Nike’s most recognizable color schemes over the past 20-plus years. We’ll happily give this classic silhouette a warm welcome back to the forefront of retro running cool.
Release Date: TBA
One of Nike’s most sleek Air Max silhouettes of all time gets brought forwards into a new age with the addition of a Vapormax sole. A design that was ahead of its time upon its initial release in 1999 and still looks futuristic now more than 20 years later is pushed even farther forwards with the addition of a Vapormax sole. We’re extremely excited to see what other colorways of the Vapormax 97 will be brought to the table, but one thing’s for certain: if they’re as good as the “Volt” one, you just may see these jawns on our annual best-of list this December.
2. Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 97/1
Release Date: TBD
What more can really be said about Sean Wotherspoon’s corduroy hybrid Air Max 97/1 that hasn’t been said already? Even though we still maintain that Wotherspoon’s design robbed Artemy Lebedev’s 97/Vapormax hybrid of the “Vote Forward” victory it deserved last year, the unique shoes have established a firm place in street culture. With a retro-inspired corduroy upper that frays and scuffs with wear giving the shoe even more character and a plethora of celebrity co-signs and hype building, the fervor for these when they release in earnest to the general public will be off the charts. And we’ll begrudgingly admit it: they’ve grown on us. Plus, they’ll be available in toddler sizes. How can you not love that?
1. Air Vapormax Plus
Release Date: January 25th (available now!)
Let’s keep it a buck: not all “fusion” sneakers work. Taking a classic upper and mashing it together with a new outsole is a fickle recipe, one that’s not always destined for success. Thankfully it’s a recipe that was cooked to perfection with the Vapormax Plus, a shoe that’s bound to be a favorite of roadmen and sneaker tech junkies alike for years to come. By combining one of the most striking, innovative uppers ever seen on an Air Max (the Air Max TN, originally released in 1998) with a comfy, lightweight Vapormax sole, Nike’s managed to make a new classic that’s the #1 shoe on our list with a bullet.
What’s your favorite shoe from 2018’s slate of Air Max Day releases? Do you agree with our list, or would you re-orgainzie a few pairs? Sound off in the comments or hit us up and let us know on Twitter!
Editor’s note: All graphics in this article are courtesy of Nike.