Verdict: The Nike Air Max 2090 is a sneaker that was born to be great. As a predecessor of the original Air Max 90 there's plenty of comfort in there to get excited about. Maybe the sneaker's biggest downfall is that it's up against the incredibly designed Air Max shoes that are also being released at the moment.
Elastic sock-liner fits like a glove
Flexible, easy to wear in
The futuristic look is a miss in our opinion
Plastic feel that isn't water-resistant in any way
Double-layered construction makes it hard to clean
4.5 / 5
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Nike made a “Shoe of the Future'' and I don’t like it.
It’s just that, as a 30th-anniversary sneaker to the legendary AM90 (from which it takes its name), it falls far short. The Air Max 2090 is a lot of things, it’s relatively comfortable, sturdy and some of the colorways are versatile. What it isn’t, in my opinion, is sleek.
In 2020, the 30th Air Max Day (a self-imposed holiday from Nike) came around and alongside a documentary about the original Air Max 90, Nike dropped this. Clearly taking some design queues from the legendary 90, 2090 has a subtle air bubble by comparison to some of their other recent shoes (the 270 and the 720).
Some throwback details are nice to see there as well, like the extra protection on the inside of the upper, and around the airbag to keep stains and mud off.
The Air Max 2090 loses focus in a modern world
It’s in the details that are new where I take issue with the 2090. There’s a hole in the tongue. I don’t know why there is, but there’s a hole in the tongue. It looks more like a coin slot for a vending machine than anything else.
The shoe’s a lot more flexible than its 20th-century counterpart, which for me is a good thing. I always found that the AM90 took a bit too long to wear in.
The detailing on the heel also gets to me. While I like the heel loop which helps get the sneaker on, the layered, radiator-esque heel detailing that helps the silhouette look “hyper-futuristic” looks like someone drew it in a bad 70s sci-fi film.
I never expected the AM90 reboot to be a lazy reboot
I hate to go in on this because it makes me sound like an old man. The detailing throughout the shoe seems like a few lazy attempts to make it ‘look’ futuristic. This isn’t what I expect from the place that gave us Tinker Hatfield, Air Mags, Huarache, Flyknit, React Foam, and Fly Ease.
There’s very little that’s special about the 2090 and it makes it feel like a gimmick. The upper’s synthetic-fabric, plastic construction really bugs me.
For a futuristic sneaker, the Air Max 2090 is ignoring our future
For a future-focused shoe, I would love to see some sustainability in their production model. There’s no hint of this thought when it comes to the upper or the foam. We know Nike can do a bit, we’ve seen their product recycled soles and I expect they could do more if they tried.
More than that, I really expected the upper to be at least somewhat resistant to water. For me, what’s the point in making something look like sheet plastic if it’s not going to give you protection from the rain? By no, it’s a plastic mesh covering fabric and gets just as much water in as if it weren’t there in the first place.
You’re met with the same problem when it comes to stains. Any wet stains (coffee, sauces, dirty water) go straight through the plastic, into the fabric below, and make it far more difficult to clean because you have to get past the plastic first.
So, as well as not being waterproof or stainproof, the Air Max 2090 manages to also be sweaty. While the plastic and mesh do let air in, I think the combination of materials between the foot and the air really doesn’t help it in the slightest.
In its defense, the 2090 fits like a glove, a robust, ugly glove
There are a few saving graces in my opinion. The shoe doesn’t just fit true to size, it has an elastic inner construction that huts the foot. This makes it really easy to wear the shoe without socks, which I suppose helps with some of the breathability issues.
The construction is pretty solid at least. The plastic and synthetic leather detailing stood up well to abrasion testing.
Maybe don’t look for the future in the Air Max 2090
It’s not what I would look for in an ultra-modern, futuristic shoe. The styling is plain odd, the details are off and it’s not as technically and structurally sound as we’ve come to expect from Nike.
Doug is a Scottish documentary and fashion photographer and filmmaker. Stumbling into the sneaker game later than usual, he started out behind a camera through long hiking expeditions around the world. Seeking a cleaner aesthetic, Doug now works mostly in fashion and sport, opting for outdoor locations rather than a studio.