Nike are trying to stir things up with the Air Max 720
The Nike Air Max family has been a cultural anchor for the last 30+ years. From the original Air Max 1, the immortal 90s, and the unmistakable TN Air Max Plus. With a huge air pocket, wild colorways, and using nature as a muse, the Air Max 720 are Nike at their best.
So it’s tall, like REALLY tall
Their biggest air pocket ever, giving a heel height of 38mm, cushions the entire sneaker. It looks to me like they’ve taken a normal running shoe and packaged it for freight. The height and bounce take a bit of getting used to, even after wearing the previous record-breaking 32mm heel height of the AM 270.
The Air Max 720 have taken inspiration from the ground it “walks” on
The 720 utilizes supporting molds, built into the shoe, along with an internal wrap-around lacing system to keep your foot secure whatever you put it through. The support molds also form the basis of the upper patterns, which look like a Nike swoosh slowly being broken down and worn away.
It’s worth mentioning that, as well as taking strong inspiration from lava flows and natural shapes, the airbag is made from over 70% recycled materials, and 90% of the waste from production is recycled in-house by Nike.
The 720 is as comfy as it looks...for a while
It is comfy though, and the bag is far more durable than it looks. I wore them across 4 days including two full workdays on my feet. The lacing system is similar to the AM97, tightening straps that wrap around your foot to keep everything tight.
The fit is great, except for in the toe box. Because of the extreme stack height (the difference between height at the forefoot and height at the heel), the toes sometimes slide down to the end. This is made a bit worse by the plastic bumper on the toe box.
Continuing in a ‘lifestyle only’ direction might be an understatement
The Air Max 720s are part of Nike’s push to make AMs only for lifestyle consumers and not athletes. At first, I thought this was marketing sleight-of-hand; look at any Air Max from the past 15 years up against any other running shoe, they’re really not making them for sport.
But, after spending some time in them, and drooling over some of the iridescent, ice cream-esque colorways, I get it. There isn’t a piece of this shoe that says “run in me.” There are a lot of pieces that scream, “wear me out”, “to a club’, “to get coffee”, “be seen in me”, and (most likely) “self-isolate at home in me.”
One of the major indicators that the Air Max 720 are made as a ‘lifestyle only’ shoe is their stiffness. In my testing, I found that you’re always more likely to activate the airbag than bend the outer soler. There’s no focus on energy return or support from constant pounding the pavement/court/pitch.
Just because you can’t run in the Air Max 720, doesn’t mean you can’t float in them
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the shoe isn’t comfortable for long periods. The wrap-around air bubble that gives the shoe its (is can be seen at 360 degrees bother horizontally and vertically) name does almost all the standing for you.
Wider than the shoe itself, Air Max shoes finally give the same emphasis physically to the airbag as their marketing has given it for the last 30 years.
With colorways and materials to rival the AM Plus, Nike’s going all out on this shoe
Nike has also put more emphasis on the colorways and materials that make them than usual. I picked up the grey mesh, mainly for its cool tones, and not-quite-white base that is subtle, yet still draws the eye (probably the massive airbag).
While the grey mesh is one of the more toned-down colorways, it is also one of the few that boast jersey cotton mesh across the whole upper. Still constructed of flowing, geological lines, the jersey mesh provides a bit of much-needed breathability to the shoe. At my count, there are at least four types of material used across the mainstream colorways, which is more diverse than usual.
The Air Max 720 wants to stay fresh with you for a while
The 720 is also unsurprisingly weather and stain-proof. Not only holding off a fair amount of water through the upper, but you also get that pretty hefty vertical space between your socks and any puddles. The jersey-mesh is super easy to clean, yet another tick in the lifestyle-only category.
The jersey fabric also held up really well in terms of durability. The upper saw off my power drill with a tiny bit of fraying and not much else. They’ll definitely be a pair that can take some beating.
A promising start in what could be a new Air Max chapter
The variety of colorways and materials suggest that Nike is looking further into what the Air Max line can do culturally, than trying to make them relevant in today’s sporting world. Not a bad idea if you ask me, seeing as I don’t know anyone who’s considered doing any sport in an Air Max shoe.
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.