It's really hard to find any faults in the Nike Air Max Plus Tn. For one, it's still one of the best, most unique-looking sneakers on the market. Aside from that, it's incredibly comfortable, durable, and weather-resistant. We're not saying it's the best Air Max in the dynasty, but we're not saying it's not!
Every time I review an Air Max, at least one that hits the mark, I’m tempted to suggest that model helped redefine sneaker culture. While many (many) Air Max silhouettes have had an impact on sneaker culture and fashion as a whole, none so much as the Air Max Plus.
Released in 1998, the Air Max Plus absolutely decimated any hopes the AM98 had of becoming a popular sneaker.
The Tn has been at the top this whole time
Appearing seamlessly from the mind of first-time Nike designer Sean McDowell, the Plus infused Florida sunsets, running innovation, whales, and fashion technology without breaking a sweat. Today it’s one of the Nike sneakers to hold the accolade of having no gaps in production, such is the popularity of the sneaker.
Regardless of such a huge welcome to the sneaker scene, the Tn (a moniker given for its Tuned Air status) is seen as the sneaker of the subculture. From Paris to New York, the Plus is given a reverential status among rap and grime artists, fashion photographers, and street culture.
Infused with innovative, natural design the Air Max Plus was always going to fly
It can be easy to forget that the sneaker began as a running shoe. At under 350 grams, it was stunningly lightweight by nineties standards, well under the AM97 and 98.
The reflective detailing on the front of the upper, McDowell explains, is because runners should run towards traffic. It’s also there, however, to suggest swaying palm trees in a Florida skyline. McDowell showed a depth of knowledge in design that surpassed the bare minimum that other brands were doing.
Perhaps the most recognizable part of the shoe, the supportive midfoot shank is built to resemble a whale’s tail. Like almost all parts of the shoe, this has been reclaimed by younger cultures in Europe to give the sneaker its nickname ‘The Shark’ in France and Italy.
Form and function pair perfectly
What makes the Air Max Plus stand out against arguably all other sneakers of the 20th century is this intense yet equal focus on functionality and aesthetics. The Air Max Plus broke ground on how different a sneaker can look, and it still does.
Two decades on and the Air Max Plus still feels like the future
Now, what’s it like to wear today? While Nike has released multiple versions (including the VaporMax Plus), the classic is still a classic. It’s still lightweight, especially against the current chunky retro craze, and fits true to size.
More than that, the Air Max Plus is comfy. It’s one of the very few Air Max shoes I can imagine running in (still, don’t run in these). The sneaker features twin forefoot and heel air pockets for cushioning. This means the foot is supported by pillar-like structures on the inside of the heel when landing, but the forefoot remains flexible and responsive.
The Plus was built to last, and it has
Where the AM Plus really surprises me is with the rock-solid construction. The TPU welded lines (not an easy construction to put on such a lightweight shoe), keep everything feeling supported while wearing them, and definitely help protect the upper from scuffs and marks. I will say, especially on the toe-cap, the plastic is prone to scuffs and marks, which is a shame, but better than fraying the fabric.
While lightweight and breathable, I think the Tn is a really good option for a winter sneaker. It’s not incredibly waterproof, but the high synthetic leather paneling and TPU toe-cap help protect from puddles. The fabric itself is hard-wearing if it does let water in. This does mean it dries quickly though, and in Scotland, where there’s really no avoiding getting wet feet, that matters.
Moreover, the high-quality construction and fabric leave the Air Max almost impervious to stains. With a synthetic weave, the upper cleans easily, meaning not having to worry about these looking battered and worn (if that’s your thing).
Almost too good to wear, but definitely too good not to
In total, the Air Max Plus (Tn) surfs the line between collector’s item as a piece of cultural heritage, and a versatile, stylish sneaker. It’s comfortable, hard-wearing, and comes in one of the widest arrays of colorways in the Air Max dynasty. It’s just been released from Foot Locker exclusivity, meaning it’s available from even more retailers now too.
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.