Nike Air Max Vs Air Force: Which Sneaker is Right for You?

Nike is the largest stockholder in the sneaker market. Nike had $42.65 billion in sales as of 2022, while Adidas had $22.51 billion. Nike’s Air Max and Air Force sneakers are among the most popular in the company’s product line. Their iconicity distinguishes them, which begs the question of what differences make either better for personalized taste. 

The most noticeable difference is their underlying concepts. Air Max is a line that is intended to be eye-catching and remarkable, whilst its counterpart has a subtle classic feel. However, focusing solely on design language would be erroneous because their distinctions extend beyond design to include technology. Their midsole technology is extremely distinctive. Nike Air Max soles include the breakthrough Nike Air technology, which is known for its superior cushioning and structural support characteristics.

Air Force shoes are not constructed on that foundation. A technological point of commonality is the use of superior cushioning, which elevates their standing as comfort wear.

nike air max vs nike air force

History and Background

Each sneaker has had its moment of fame as a revolutionary since its inception. The events that led to its development are etched in sports and fashion history as evidence of their impact. Nike debuted their first television commercial in 1987. 

The campaign revealed one of the most groundbreaking product lines in its history. Being one of the goods used by Nike to enter the new frontier of advertising, television, refers to Nike’s high regard for the products.

Nike Air Max

The Nike Air Max 1 was released on March 26th of 1987 and was featured in the promo. The Air Max 1 was notable not only for being in the company’s first broadcast campaign, but also for being the first to reveal the first air-cushioned sole technology. Tinker Hatfield is admired for many different reasons, including his move from architecture to sneaker design. The Air Max exists as a result of such change. 

Tinker’s design was primarily about demonstrating to the public that Nike did have the technology by using a visible air unit. The air unit, which is located in the heel, continues to act as the shoe’s signature. The great demand for the shoe has led to multiple re-releases and adjustments to create sub-varieties of the air-max. The adjustments include material changes as well as the introduction of new colors and color patterns.

nike air max

Nike Air Force

The Nike Air Force was inspired by the United States Presidential jet, known as Air Force One. However, unlike the Air Max, it was not invented by a single person. The individual most responsible for its development is Bruce Kilgore, but even he took over while it was still in the works. 

The shoe was first available for purchase in 1982. As an athletic franchise, the Air Force established Nike as an industry leader in basketball apparel by being the first shoe in the sport to incorporate air cushioning technology. It has been reasserting its supremacy on the court and on benches with fans since it first entered the sport. Most of the improvements that have fueled its decades-long domination have centered around design tweaks, material changes, and color changes.

nike air force

Design and Style

Nike Air Max

From its conception, the Air Max was designed to be eye-catching. Tinker’s design could easily be viewed as a proof of concept for Nike’s air cushioning concept. The shoe’s colors are often attention-getters with a long block on the upper section. The miniature exposed air unit on the shoe’s heel is however its most bodacious feature. At its conception, the Air Max was the first of its kind because it proved that the technicalities could also serve as integral to the target audience. 

The Air Max’s design evolution over the decades has not lost the visible air unit because it is the shoe’s defining feature. The incorporation of the visible air unit was a perfect blend of practicality and aesthetics. In Nike’s sneakers that used air cushioning, the air unit was purely for practicality by making the shoe lighter and more comfortable.

However, the Air Max changed that by using the air unit as part of what was seen, attracting and selling the sneakers to its audience. The underlying themes of its design manifest in its uses because for practical purposes, it is popular amongst athletes, and for aesthetic motives, it is popular among enthusiasts for casual wear.

Nike Air Force

Since the inception of the Air Force in 1982, it has undergone numerous transformations, all of which left its characteristic features intact. The shoe’s design is simplistic but, in its case, simplicity emboldened efficiency. The Air Force features a low-lying profile with a leather top. The shoe takes the shape of a half boot, often reaching above the ankle joint. Like a walking advertisement, the shoe boldly wears the Nike swoosh on each side. 

Unlike the Air Max, it does not feature a visible air unit in the shoe’s sole. However, it also employs proprietary technology coupled with other cushioning mechanisms for increased comfort and structural support. The sneaker’s design is simple, especially compared to the Air Max which tends to attract a specific niche of clients with its visible structural components. The Air Force’s simple technology is preferred by many because of its flexibility in use, especially in fashion styling. The Air Force is preferred among basketball players and enthusiasts, unlike the Air Max which is popular for running and jogging.

Comfort and Fit

As icons of industry, the Air Force and Air Max compare on various factors including comfort and fit. Sneakers are known for their comfort and fit despite their more practical uses in professional sports. Each of the sneakers in question satisfies a specific comfort and fit need.

Nike Air Max

The Air Max is preferred for professional use by athletes. The shoes provide superior comfort due to their cutting-edge cushioning and padding. The shoe’s comfort has not been consistent because some of its models reign supreme over other generations. An example is the Air Max 270 with a 270-degree visual of the signature air unit. 

The 270 is the tallest Air Max unit and is widely accepted as the most comfortable generation. The Air Max Genome is a 2021 version of the air max and is also regarded as one of the more comfortable versions. The air max’s sole has advanced to use lightweight material, contributing to their comfort. The air max comes with a variety of materials and designs which facilitates customization and personalization.

Nike Air Force

Besides being the perfect merge between practicality and simplicity, the Air Force is also known for its comfort. However, the Air Force achieves padding through better padding and less on the air technology. The padding provides excellent cushioning and structural support. 

On personalization, the Air Force is wider, making it the better choice for persons with wide feet. Like the Air Max, the Air Force also comes with varying materials and designs, which facilitates a sense of a personalized touch. The Air Force 1 Low is considered one of the most comfortable Air Force shoes. That generation features a classic look with its low-cut design, which helps with mobility.

Air MaxExcellent cushioning and comfortCustomizable fit with a variety of materials and designs
Air ForceClassic design with ample padding for a cushioned and supportive fitWider fit than the Air Max, better for those with wider feet

In the Air Force and Air Max, Nike achieved excellent performance coupled with comfort and fit. On comfort and fit, the decision narrows down to personal taste, preference, and the intended purpose of the shoe.


Nike Air Max

Nike is one of the highest-selling casual brands in the fashion segment. Its sales to that end speak of the comfort and fit of its products. However, the company is primarily a sports franchise and must, therefore, place practicality above all else. The efficacy of the sneakers on the pitch or track is the true determinant of the shoes’ worth. 

The Air Max’s design is built to boost performance on the tracks. The visible air unit serves to cushion and provide structural support. Its visibility is purely aesthetic. However, its existence is practical. The pressurized gas compresses when the foot applies pressure on the shoe while on the ground. When the foot is listed, it decompresses and regains its rigid shape.

Due to the compression and decompression, the shoe reduces the impact on the joints, especially the knee and ankle joints. With newer models, the size of the air unit has been increased, and lightweight materials introduced to improve its practicality among athletes.

Nike Air Force

Before it was popular on the streets, the Nike Air Force was introduced as a basketball shoe. Its practicality and popularity amongst basketball players propelled it as a classic sneaker whose legendary performance set it apart. The upper part of the shoe is made from leather which reinforces its durability.

The shoe also contains the air unit except unlike in the Air Max, it is not visible. Like in the air max, the air technology provides cushioning and structural support. The cushioning and extra padding make the air force more comfortable and popular as casual wear. The shoe’s height allows it to cover the ankle and allows for support at the ankle, which makes it more practical for basketball players. The air force’s performance and durability go beyond the pitch because its classic simplistic yet comfortable style allows it to double as everyday wear.

Price and Availability

Price, product, promotion, and place are termed as the 4 Ps, a revolutionary marketing concept. In the sneaker industry, the pricing remains relevant to consumers. As such, Nike’s pricing for the Air Max and Air Force is done in consideration of that marketing mix.

Nike Air Max

With the innumerable varieties of the Air Max, Nike utilizes a price differentiation model allowing different prices for different varieties of the sneaker. An example is the price disparity between the Air Max 90, 270, and limited-edition varieties of the Air Max. 

These varieties had a retail price of $120 and $170 respectively with the limited edition hitting a $1,000 mark in the resale market. As suggested by the latter’s name, the company can limit availability by design resulting in a quick stock turnover. The availability is often through the company website and select retail outlets. Fans of the brand and model are usually on the lookout for new releases through press releases and website updates.

Nike Air Force

Of the two, the Air Force is the more affordable choice. The Air Force utilizes the same price differentiation model as the Air Max with different variants having varying prices. The Classic Air Force 1 low was priced at $90 while the ’07 LV8 had an offering of $100. 

Limited editions of the Air Force are restricted on availability with unique designs leading to relatively higher prices. The Air Force is also the more available sneaker with varying colors and design choices.

Nike Air Max SC vs Air Max 90

Two of the most popular varieties of the Air Max are the Air Max SC and the Air Max 90. Being members of the Air Max line-up, they are mostly similar but have key denotations.

nike air max sc vs air max 90
  • Price: The SC has a lower price range of between $55-$80. The higher-priced SC is for adult clients.
  • Design: The 90 takes a more classic design language characterized by a thick sole while the SC takes on a sleeker modernistic design. The air unit on the 90 is also more exposed compared to its counterpart.
  • Comfort: The 90s thicker sole facilitates more comfort, especially during extensive wear.
  • Durability: The 90 has higher quality material which justifies its higher pricing and beyond comfort, the materials make it more durable.
  • Target Audience: The 90 is popular among enthusiasts and collectors because of its classic design language and durability. The SC is designed for casual wear and is meant for everyday wear, especially in the fashion segment.

Nike Air Force 1 vs Air Max 90

The two varieties also have outstanding sneakers in their lineup. An example is the Air Force 1 and the Air Max 90. The two have a decades-long history as icons of the industry with multiple similarities and key disparities. Their design language is the point of greatest disparity because it defines their cushioning, comfort, and variety. The Air Force 1 is simplistic in design and has been virtually unchanged since 1982. 

With a more complex design, the Air Max 90 features a signature exposed Air unit and layers of color on the upper section. Both sneakers feature an air unit in the midsoles but it is only exposed in the Air Max. The upper materials in the Air Max 90 are mixed comprising leather, mesh, and other synthetic materials. 

nike air force 1 vs air max 90

The Air Force 1 is less mixed up, consisting of either original or synthetic leather. The Air Max’s materials improve aeration and flexibility while the Air Force’s upper is designed to be durable. Another component that sets them asunder is their colors. The Air Max 90 has had numerous colors over the years including the Infrared” and “Duck Camo” colorways. The Air Force also includes an array of colors and collaborations including a more recent one with Travis Scott.

Air Force 1Air Max 90
Simple and classic designComplex design characterized by visible Air unit
Concealed Nike Air technologyExposed Nike Air unit
Real or synthetic leather upperLeather, mesh, and synthetic materials upper
Variety of colorways and collaborationsNumerous colorways and collaborations

Both sneakers have stood the test of time with their grossly varying design languages. They provide excellent comfort and style and ultimately the choice is left at the mercy of personal preference.

Nike Air Max Excee vs Air Max 90

The Air Max Excee and the 90 also make for a good comparison, being two of the most iconic in the Air Max line-up. Each sneaker has its strengths and like all prior comparisons the decision narrows down to personal preference.

Design: The Air Max Excee follows the 90’s design language but has more modern modeling. It features a more streamlined aesthetic with a mesh on the upper section for more aeration. That is unlike the 90’s design which features a leather and suede upper. However, the Excee, despite having a mesh, does not compromise on cushioning.

Comfort: The 90 is famous for its superior cushioning, which the Excee borrows but with a more lightweight design.

Color Options:  Unlike the 90, the Excee has less color variety but that is not to mean its styling is limited.

Price: The 90 is one of Nike’s highest priced sneakers, and the Excee does not borrow a page from that book. It is less expensive than the 90 appealing to its goal as daily wear. The 90 is a classic sneaker and is not ideally meant for daily wear compared to the Excee.

nike air max 90 vs nike air max excee


Both the Air Max and Air Force sneakers have unique styling. The Air Max is designed for athletes with a visible air unit and well-cushioned sole. The Air Force is designed for the basketball community hence the longer vertical elevation. The Air Max has a more eye-catching design, unlike the Air Force with its casual and classic design.

The two sneakers have different target audiences and they incite loyalty among the enthusiasts. Given their superiority in their respective segments, the choice for either comes down to the purchaser’s preference.

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