10 Nike Air Max Sneakers You Better Have in Your Collection

  • Nike Air Max 90
    Nike Air Max 90

    A classic from the moment it dropped nearly 25 years ago — though it went by the Air Max III at the time — the AM90 is forever iconic because of those hits of Infrared. Since its release, it has gone on to become a worldwide staple of sneaker fashion because of perhaps one specific change from the previous two models. With a more bulky shape and thus a more pronounced Air Max unit, courtesy of that Infrared, this was a shoe that could toe the line between performance and style perfectly.

    BUY NOW: Nike Air Max 90

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  • Nike Air Max 95
    Nike Air Max 95

    Prior to this sneaker, if you had told me that Nike and designer Sergio Lozano were going to draft the next Air Max shoe from the human body, I would’ve told you they were nuts. The spine. The ribs. The tendons. How could that ever create a classic silhouette? And to top it all off with hits of neon? It fascinated people, and fans of the shoe loved it so much they almost overlooked the fact that this was the first sneaker to feature two Air Max units. When your outer shield is so incredible, no one even bothers to look inside.

    BUY NOW: Nike Air Max 95

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  • Nike Air Max I
    Nike Air Max I

    No matter how far a legacy goes, you can never overlook the original. It’s the foundation where everything starts. In 1987, that was definitely the case here. Mark Parker and Tinker turned conventional wisdom inside out. Literally. The first to actually show a sneaker’s inner workings with the invention of the Air unit, they took inspiration from the Centre Georges Pompidou by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini and it doesn’t take a genius to see the resemblance between the two.

    BUY NOW: Nike Air Max Lunar I

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  • Nike Air Max2 CB 94
    Nike Air Max2 CB 94

    Forget just basketball shoes, this is still one of my favorite silhouettes of any shoe ever. Slightly heavy, Charles Barkley’s greatest sneaker makes up for it with a snug fit that doesn’t waver — and the iconic Air bubble. That straightjacket inspiration comes through throughout the shoe and incorporates one of the coolest lacing systems I’ve ever seen. This colorway, in particular, stood out as next level, the black and white contrast coming in perfectly with the small purple splashes. Releasing as a retro on multiple occasions, this one never fails to get me hyped.

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  • Nike Air Force Max
    Nike Air Force Max

    Okay, perhaps this shoe wasn’t necessarily a standout in terms of outward design. But because it will always be associated with the Fab Five, the Air Force Max couldn’t help but become a legend. With that being said, this silhouette did feature some really nice subtle improvements — building off the Air Max 180 with the bigger air bag, a lower cut, and larger ventilation holes.

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  • Nike Air Max Penny I
    Nike Air Max Penny I

    Ah. Any basketball player who grew up and first started playing in the mid-to-late ’90s knows about this shoe. Worships this shoe, in fact. Penny Hardaway‘s first official signature sneaker, this one released in ’95 and was a catapult for Hardaway’s Nike line becoming one of a handful that have lasted longer than a decade. It featured the new One Cent logo just above the Air unit as well as gorgeous Swoosh branding. This particular colorway might be one of the 10 greatest basketball sneakers ever made, perfectly replicating the awesome Orlando uniforms with a pinstriped tongue.

    BUY NOW: Nike Air Max Penny I

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  • Nike Air Max Penny II
    Nike Air Max Penny II

    Very rarely does the sequel even come close to the original, but if there was ever such a thing as a Godfather 2 sneaker, this is it. My personal favorite from the Penny line, Hardaway’s second edition sported a monster Air unit, along with pops of 3M and that perfectly executed ribbed midsole that is probably the defining characteristic of this shoe. That thing helps make this a go-to for any point in the calendar year, shorts or pants.

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  • Nike Air Griffey Max I
    Nike Air Griffey Max I

    One of the few baseball players with enough style and swagger to crossover beyond the diamond, the Kid might’ve gone down as the best ever if he hadn’t slowed due to injuries. Showcasing multiple Air units, along with a strap and unique branding on the toe box, Junior Griffey’s first sig trainer is still getting retroed to this day, an amazing feat for a baseball player. The Mariners colors — traditional greens, teals, and whites — definitely helped, too.

    BUY NOW: Nike Air Griffey Max I

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  • Nike LeBron 9
    Nike LeBron 9

    One of LeBron‘s best shoes ever, and also the pair that he won his first title in — okay, technically it was the LeBron 9 P.S. Elite — the 9 was next level stuff, helping jumpstart the now infamous tradition of James having a smorgasbord of all of Nike’s best technology in his signature sneakers. Under the support of a gigantic Air unit, these shoes sported Flywire and Hyperfuse, the first time they’d ever been combined. LeBron loved them and so did the fans, gobbling up the myriad of colorways at alarming rates. The shoe also released as the aforementioned LeBron 9 P.S. Elite, a slightly streamlined version of the original.

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  • Nike Air Max2 Uptempo

    No one liked Duke during the mid-90s. But that didn’t stop them from loving and respecting this shoe. Featuring Air Max2 tech, this silhouette screams 1990s because of the super-high cut and that outsole that nearly looked like a work boot. You don’t see that on basketball sneakers anymore. Sporting some of the same lacing found in Charles Barkley’s line, I couldn’t help but love these. It didn’t age as well as some of the other shoes on this list, and no doubt some readers will be angry that the Air Max Uptempo, Air Max 93, and Air Max 180 didn’t make it on this list, but to me these are a quintessential Air Max shoe.

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  • Nike Air Max 90
  • Nike Air Max 95
  • Nike Air Max I
  • Nike Air Max2 CB 94
  • Nike Air Force Max
  • Nike Air Max Penny I
  • Nike Air Max Penny II
  • Nike Air Griffey Max I
  • Nike LeBron 9

The Nike Air Max 2015 officially released to the public earlier this month and the response has been quick and assertive in the sneaker community. Everyone loves it. The addition of Flywire took it to another level. More padding atop a lighter frame is a home run. And in the end, the shoe just LOOKS better than last year’s counterpart. Add in some swaggy colorways, such as today’s Premium and Reflective Silver editions that are dropping at Champs Sports, and you have to figure this silhouette is really going to jump off once 2015 hits. We rated it one of the sneakers to watch in December, but it’s an even better performer than we anticipated.

Behind the genius of Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker, the visible Air technology debuted with the original Air Max I in 1987, and it completely changed the game. From there, it showed up on classics in almost every category, from trainers and runners to basketball shoes for the world’s biggest and best athletes, coming in all shapes and forms (Air Max, Air Max2, Total Air, Tuned Air). All along, Nike thought of the tech as something more than a shoe. It’s since become an institution, resulting in over 50 sneaker models for athletes like Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Jackson, and Charles Barkley. The original question marks were answered. No one was asking whether the shoe would fall apart or how would the technology work or omg there’s a hole in that shoe no way can it actually be good. Nope. Eventually everyone realized Air Max was legendary preciously because it was revolutionary. That legacy is continuing right now with Nike’s latest edition.

Cop the new Air Max 2015 today and while you’re at it, check out 10 Nike Air Max Sneakers You Better Have in Your Collection. In the end, everyone needs these kicks…doesn’t matter whether you’re playing ball, running, or just plain stunting.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney