There's no doubt about it, the Nike Air Trainer 3 is a beautiful shoe. A resurrection of the 1988 Nike Air Trainer SC, Nike built this as a pioneering crossover for multiple sports. Today it's a piece of history and looks the part too. There are some minor comfort issues, but with it's durability, once worn in it'll last a lifetime.
Fits true to size
Durable leather construction
Retro styling is more a piece of history than a shoe
The Nike Air Trainer III is a blast from the past, with a bit too much past
The Nike Air Trainer III holds a special place in history. Sports historians out there will recognize it from the 1988 release of the Nike Air Trainer SC. One of its original colorways emulates the leather medicine ball that sporting legend Bo Jackson always used.
Since its birth in 1988, the Air Trainer III has had only three other releases, the most recent in 2019. The sneaker has held onto its history with retro colorways and an almost stubborn connection to its silhouette. While I love the prestige of a shoe like this, it’s a shame that they’ve not adapted parts of the construction for the 21st century.
With a construction that highlights the strapping and supports offered by a late 80s cross-trainer shoe, the Air Trainer III should and does fit true to size. The midfoot strap and lacing system wraps the foot into the shoe.
While it’s a nice touch, today no one is lacing this up to go and play in the NFL, but the shoe embodies the retro-elements and style that made the Air Trainer line popular back in the 80s.
Literally, every part of the shoe is visible, yes, including the air bubble. This was originally released only a year after Tinker Hatfield brought out the first Air Max with the visible bubble.
Bo Knows the beauty is in the details
Unable to get hold of a medicine ball colorway I picked up a pair in Black Deep Royal. Definitely a more understated colorway, it still holds the classic details from way back when. White leather upper with black plastic and leather hardware, a navy swoosh, and red accents.
The tongue is woven cotton and woven inside, the date 07.21.1989 (21st July 1989 for everyone not in the US), the date Nike launched its “Bo Knows” campaign with the Air Trainer SC. The Air Trainer III wants to be a part of history, and with this attention to detail, it very well maybe.
The Air Trainer III struggles to get comfortable in the 21st century
It’s this need to be a genuine sneaker from 1988 that is its downfall. With a stiff construction and not much focus on daily support, the Ait Trainer III just isn’t comfortable.
Even given time to be worn in, the leather upper creates a few hotspots, especially around the pinky and the forefoot is stiff. You also have to risk cutting circulation to your foot to keep the heel secure.
The Air Trainer III has brought sturdy construction with it
Having said that, if you can get comfortable in it, the shoe is really well constructed. The leather is durable and super resistant to abrasion. Back before mesh uppers or flyknits, ventilation holes were the way forward and you can tell with the Air Trainer III. It’s still a very breathable shoe.
It would also make a really good winter sneaker, although not waterproof their construction keeps most splashes out. The leather is hard to stain so should keep looking fresh, given some care, for a long time. Although, the same can’t be said about the cotton tongue.
Perhaps the Air Trainer III belongs on a shelf, rather than a pair of feet
As a part of sporting history the Air Trainer III-like Bo Jackson- belongs in the Hall of Fame, and as a retro-styled shoe, it definitely has a place in a wardrobe. But if you’re looking for the extreme comfort while looking great that is expected of sneaker releases in the 21st century, I’d look elsewhere.
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.