If you want the quick and get to the point version of this article, then I would say of the Nike Air Max family there are only two models that are good for running. These are the Nike Air Max 90 and the Nike Air Max 2090. Of these two the 90 is better for overall running, and the 2090 is good for shorter runs. Please continue reading for our detailed analysis.
If you’re wanting to kickstart your fitness journey and take up running, you need to make sure that you have a pair of good running shoes that are suitable for long and short distances.
The Nike Air Max line is one of the most popular sneakers available and with a variety of different styles, you may have considered purchasing a pair for your running adventures.
However, it’s important to know which kind of Air Max shoes are good for running and which ones should be avoided. In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about each kind of Air Max as we will be going through each kind individually.
The Air Max designs that we will be looking at in this article are the Nike Air Max 90, Nike Air Max 98, Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Max 270 React, Nike Air Max 720 and the Nike Air Max 2090.
Table of Contents
Nike Air Max 90
The Nike Air Max 90s is one of the most popular types of Nike Air Max available thanks to its iconic design. What is great about these shoes is that you can absolutely run in them as they were originally designed as a running shoe.
However, there are some changes in the design over the years that have added some extra weight which can make it heavy for some people.
The Nike Air Max 90 has been a favorite among many runners over the years including long distance runner, Steve Moneghetti. It is because of its great performance that has seen the Nike Air Max 90 remains a staple in the Nike Air Max line.
Here are the design properties of the Nike Air Max 90:
When it comes to the upper of the Nike Air Max 90, it has been constructed like a running shoe. Combining a leather piece with some mesh material makes it highly flexible while also ensuring that there is enough breathability when going on long distance runs.
There are extra eyelets at the top which is ideal for tying up the runner’s knot for security while padding in the collar, tongue, and heel means that there is a lot of support for the heel making it comfortable to run in.
Over the years the padding has been reduced slightly but for those who need that extra support, this is a great choice for you.
The midsole doesn’t have any Zoom X for the support but they do have the iconic Air unit that is exposed in the heel with an additional Air pocket located in the forefoot.
This provides a lot of support in the mid-level structure of the shoe. The foam in the shoe is extremely dense and rigid which means that it will soften over time the more you wear it so it will become even more comfortable the more you run and train.
When it comes to the outsole of the Nike Air Max 90, the design of the rubber is more sticky than other kinds of rubber which make it less tactile. It may not seem too different initially but if you try a shoe made from tactile rubber then you’ll notice the differences immediately.
The rubber on the Air Max 90 makes it slightly heavier due to the stickiness but it’s something that you can grow accustomed to.
Nike Air Max 98
The Nike Air Max 98 is ideal for those who want a pair of Air Maxes for lifestyle use only. They are not suitable for running short or long distances as the structure is stiff and can take some time to break in for everyday wear.
If you want to purchase this pair for running then you need to make sure you take the time to properly break these sneakers in until they feel more comfortable.
Due to the structure of the sneaker, the weight of the Air Max 98 can be extremely heavy compared to other models and the midsole is extremely sturdy which won’t provide the support that you need.
Here are the design properties of the Nike Air Max 98:
The upper of the Nike Air Max 98 is unique compared to other Air Maxes as it has a completely different design.
There is a darker colored piece of nubuck leather running up the back which is then combined with a gloss leather that runs along the upper edge with 3m piping. This design isn’t for everyone but has many fans and it is great for those who want a shoe that looks different and has a pop of color.
The fit of the Air Max 98 tends to be true to size but it does go narrower at the front of the sneaker. If you have wide feet then you should go up either half a size or a full size depending.
If you are concerned that they may be too tight then try them on in store so you can get a pair that is completely comfortable for you.
The midsole of the Air Max 98 is made from the standard foam with the Air bubble that is exposed around the majority of the shoe.
As the Air Max 98 is all about aesthetics, you’ll find that there are many color combinations available when it comes to the Air bubbles including a gloss green which is great for those who want a pop of color.
The foam is soft and provides a great transition between the upper and the Air bubble layer beneath so you have plenty of support making it great for everyday wear.
Nike Air Max 270
Unlike other Air Max models, the Nike Air Max 270s are not a great option for running. They may boast an athletic appearance but they are not designed for long or short distance runs. This is because they aren’t made from functional or practical materials.
They have a thicker mesh layer but due to the thickness, it doesn’t have the breathability or flexibility that you would expect from a mesh material. What makes the Air Max 270 an interesting shoe in the line is that it has been purposely designed with lifestyle wearing in mind.
This means that while it has an athletic appearance and looks like a suitable running shoe, it is actually designed with everyday wear in mind.
Because of this, Nike installed a lot of their Air foam into the structure of the shoe to make it comfortable enough for long hours of wear.
Here are the design properties of the Nike Air Max 270:
When it comes to the upper of the Nike Air Max 270, there is a layer of mesh material that feels light to the touch.
What is great about Nike mesh is that it has perforation holes that vary in size which means that it provides a great texture. There is also a black fused overlay that provides more durability across the toe box which means that there is plenty of support.
The structure of the upper is made from one piece but the material of the tongue is slightly different as it is more padded meaning that you won’t feel any digging.
The fit of the Nike Air Max 270 appears to be true to size which means you don’t have to worry about running up or down a size.
However, if you can, you should try the shoes on instore to make sure that they feel comfortable and that they fit properly. This will prevent you from having to spend extra money sending the shoes back and waiting for a new pair.
The heel of the Air Max 270 is what makes it so popular thanks to the translucent design that means you can see the Air bubbles. At first glance, it appears that the heel is made from one piece but on closer inspection, you’ll see that it is made from two pieces that are attached. This gives it an athletic appearance without actually having practicality.
The Air Max 270 gets its name from the Air bubble in the heel which is exposed around the sneaker for 270 degrees.
This means that you can see a lot of the Air bubble which makes it great for those who want that athletic style. When you wear this shoe, the Air bubbles surround the shoe rather than you walking on top of it. This gives the shoe a more cushioned feel that provides a spring in your step.
The midsole of the Air Max 270 is made from a textured foam that provides plenty of support that becomes more comfortable and shaped to your foot the more you wear these shoes.
The thickness of this foam is important as you don’t feel the air bubbles as much while wearing these shoes. You only benefit from these two elements working together to provide comfort.
Lastly, the outsole of the Air Max 270 is built from dual density foam which means that the shoes are more comfortable to wear.
Most people purchase Air Maxes as a lifestyle shoe but having an Air Max that has been designed specifically for lifestyle wearing in mind means that this is the perfect choice as you don’t have to worry about using them for any other activity.
Nike Air Max 270 React
Following on from the Nike Air Max 270 is the Air Max 270 React which is another lifestyle shoe and not ideal for running at all. The name of the Air Max 270 React comes from the React midsole which has been designed for lifestyle use and is less cushioned than the React midsole used in Nike’s running shoes.
Combining the React midsole with the Air bubble means that the heel is stiffer and doesn’t have that smooth transition throughout the structure that you need from a running shoe.
This may not sound comfortable but they are comfortable enough to wear for everyday use and not for running.
Unlike other Air Maxes, the materials used to make the Air Max 270 React are different which still provide breathability but have a completely different wearing experience. They look great aesthetically but are definitely not suitable for running even short distances.
Here are the design properties of the Nike Air Max 270 React:
The upper of the Air Max 270 React is where this shoe is different from other Air Maxes as it is made from a thin felt material.
There are numerous panels in the upper of this shoe which is made from this material which provides breathability and the thinness of the material means that it doesn’t look bulky which can happen with running shoes.
Because these shoes have been designed with lifestyle in mind rather than running, the design team is able to compromise functional and practical materials in order to make the shoe look great.
Beneath the felt, there is a second layer of nylon which feels like paper and has a crisp.
This material looks cheap to the eye but feels comfortable to wear which is then surrounded by black lace loops that allow you to apply a rope lace knot. The upper is then rounded off with a padded tongue that provides comfort on the top of the foot.
The midsole of the Nike Air Max 270 React has been made with comfort in mind as they are designed with lifestyle wear in mind.
The cushioning in the Air Max 270 React is incredibly comfortable and for those who want a comfortable shoe to wear, this is definitely the option for you provided you aren’t planning to use them for running.
As expected, the midsole is made from the React foam which is located in the forefront and underfoot as well as on top of the 270 Air unit beneath. Due to the softness of the React layer, you can feel the Air bubble unit beneath which can take some time to get used to.
This is because the Air bubble unit is a little bit harder so when more pressure is applied, you can feel that toughness beneath the cushioned React surface. The best way to prevent this is by applying the pressure using your heel so you’re not feeling the hard surface on the bottom of the foot.
The inside of the Air Max 270 React is made from a sock liner that is padded around the ankle area. This may seem minimal but it makes the shoe extremely comfortable to wear for everyday use.
The fit of the Air Max 270 React is similar to the Air Max 270 in that it should run true to size. It’s best to try the shoe on in store if possible so you can be sure that you are getting the right size.
If you are purchasing online then you run the risk of having to spend extra money sending the shoes back and going up or down a size.
The outsole of the Air Max 270 React is made from rubber which sees a fusion of two iconic Nike styles as it combines the dual density of the Air Max 270 with the support of the Element React.
Nike Air Max 720
The Nike Air Max 720 is best suited for those who want an Air Max that has a more modern design. Its futuristic appearance means that it has the qualities of an Air Max but is great for those who like to add a bit of an edge to their style.
This is one of the only Air Maxes that have been designed for everyday lifestyle wear and cannot be used for running as the materials and structure will not give you the support that your feet need for long or short distances.
One aspect that makes the Air Max 720 unsuitable for running is that the Air bubble unit is extremely tall meaning that you’ll find it unstable to run in.
The thickness of the Air bubble unit and midsole mean that breaking in the Air Max 720 can take a long time but once you have broken them in, you’ll be able to wear them comfortably every day with no issues.
The wedge shape means that there is more height in these shoes so be prepared for that if you’re not used to wearing higher shoes. This can make it difficult to get used to these shoes so be sure that you are trying them on in store to prevent any disappointment.
Here are the design properties of the Nike Air Max 720:
The upper of the Air Max 720 is made with mesh that has been padded and features accented details to further exaggerate the athletic details of the shoe.
Since the Air Max 720 is a lifestyle shoe, the appearance of this shoe may seem sporty and suitable for running but the details are simply there for show.
However, you will find that the materials are more comfortable than running shoes as they are designed to be worn all day. The rippling wave effect of the textiles provide a natural padding that is more comfortable for the foot and the hidden lace loops mean that you can hide the laces if that is what you prefer.
There is also additional padding made from mesh on the tongue of the shoe to provide that breathability needed for longer periods of time.
The midsole of the Air Max 720 has an Air bubble unit that encases the entire bottom of the foot and gets thicker at the back of the foot. This helps to provide more support for the foot while also meaning that the height difference makes it unstable for running short or long distances.
The Air bubble unit is great for lifestyle wearing as they are supportive and comfortable and have a great transition between the midsole and bottom of the foot.
The fit of the Air Max 720 tends to be true to size as with the other Air Max models. These shoes have a narrow top meaning that if you have narrow feet, you can go down half a size for a more comfortable fit, and for those who have wider feet will benefit from going up with half a size or a full size.
The outsole of the Air Max 720 has a rubber ring that is translucent which provides extra durability and reliability making it great for those who want to wear their Air Maxes every day.
The center of the forefront is made from black rubber which provides more durability and traction which provides the bottom of the foot with plenty of support.
Nike Air Max 2090
The Nike Air Max 2090 is a design that is inspired by the Air Max 90 with a modern twist. Ideal for running short distances, these shoes are quite heavy and don’t have a lot of cushioning meaning that you won’t have the support needed for running longer distances.
This is because the shoe can be quite rigid and feel harder as more pressure is applied. Due to the large stack at the back of the shoe, the shoe can be quite unstable if you are wanting to train for long distance training.
The Air Max 2090 was designed with the Air Max history in mind which is why the Air Max 90 and Air Max 2090 look similar. However, as more people buy Air Maxes as a lifestyle shoe, the design team made the Air Max 2090 more suited for lifestyle wear rather than actual running.
Here are the design properties of the Nike Air Max 2090:
The upper of the Air Max 2090 is made from a mesh made from clear plastic with an underlayer of textile which sits against the foot. This provides breathability and comfort whilst ensuring that the foot isn’t overwhelmed by thick materials.
Around the toe area is a fused overlay which provides more durability for the shoe, making it great for everyday wear. The tongue features even more fused overlays which cover up the blue stitch details.
The heel features a sock liner which provides extra padding so your foot and ankle will feel soft against the shoe for longer periods of time. With the top of the foot and ankle supported, this is great for people who want a shoe that is primarily comfortable but don’t want to use it for long distance running.
The back of the Air Max 2090 features a panel made from synthetic leather that resembles the Air Max 90 and is located across the midfoot.
The heel tab is also reminiscent of the Air Max 90 as it features the translucent segment where you can view the Air bubbles. The shape of the Air Max 2090 is the same as the Air Max 90 but it is made from different materials that are suited for those who want a sustainable and animal friendly solution.
The Air Max 2090 fits true to size but bear in mind that due to the larger tongue, you can run up the size if you have wider feet. This is definitely a style that you should try on in store before purchasing due to the unique design.
This is because the tongue looks like it is a separate portion of the shoe but it is attached to an internal section of the shoe.
The Air Max 2090 has an incredibly strong and supportive midsole which is made from a softer foam in its forefront which appears to be made from the React material.
When you get to the heel portion of the midsole, the unit remains soft but it is larger than the Air Max 90 so you have even more support. This means that you will have the support needed if you want to run shorter distances.
Lastly, the outsole of the Air Max 2090 has the signature translucent Air bubble segment. This means that even if you use it for everyday wear only that the sneaker is identifiable as an Air Max shoe.
If you are in love with the Air Max 90 but want a shoe that is more geared for everyday use and has a bit more support in its structure then the Air Max 2090 is a perfect choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I run in Nike Air Max?
Nike Air Maxes remains one of the most popular sneakers on the market and it’s easy to see why.
The iconic style is easily identifiable and they are great for any kind of style. However, only a select few of them such as the Air Max 90 are actually suitable for running. Nowadays, the newer models are more suited for lifestyle wear.
What is special about Nike Air Max?
The Nike Air Maxes are special because of the translucent Air bubble layering that is located on the midsole and bottom of the shoe. They help to provide more cushioning and support by reducing the weight of the shoe while also holding up the foam midsole.
Do Nikes run small or big?
The Nike Air Maxes tend to run true to size but you can alter the size accordingly depending on what kind of fit you want.
Some of the models have narrow tips so if you have narrow feet and want a snug fit then you can go half a size down whereas, for those who have wider feet, you’ll probably want to go up either half a size or a full size for ultimate comfort.
As you can see, it’s not as simple as picking out any Air Max model and being able to run any distance.
Each Air Max has a slightly different design which means that while some models are great for running longer distances, others are great for everyday wear only.
If you are dead set on wanting a pair of Air Maxes for training and running long distances then the best option is the Air Max 90 whereas, for those who want an everyday shoe that looks the part without actually providing the functionality, the Air Max 720 is the best choice.
Make sure that you try the sneaker on so you can buy the correct size if possible while also ensuring that you know what you want to get from the sneakers.
As Air Maxes are costly, you want to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth from them in order to prevent any disappointment or damage from occurring if you get an Air Max that is wrong for your lifestyle.