Our verdict

The Dunk Low is a basketball-inspired silhouette from Nike that needs no introduction. It has long become a closet staple for many people, including ourselves. We just couldn't get enough of this sneaker's retro aesthetics! The shoe elevated our style no matter what outfit we paired it with. Even though it's not our first choice for long walks due to its firm sole, this Nike sneaker earned us bonus style points on casual outings, social events, and even in the office!

Pros

  • Retro basketball aesthetics
  • Real leather (suede) upper
  • Excellent durability for the price
  • Low and grounded platform (loved by skaters)
  • Very stable and supportive
  • Surprisingly flexible in the forefoot
  • True to size and fit
  • Extra eyelets

Cons

  • Needs breaking in
  • Firm and rigid sole
  • Not for all-day wear

Audience verdict

91
Great!

Who should buy

We believe that the Nike Dunk Low deserves a spot in your sneaker stack if:

  • you appreciate basketball-inspired retro sneakers with the '80s vibe
  • you can't resist the iconic Nike sneaker designed by Peter Moore
  • you want to complete a clean look with a real leather/suede sneaker

Nike Dunk Low review

Who should NOT buy

Its rigidity and lack of cushioning make the Nike Dunk Low a poor choice for all-day wear. If you want to feel comfortable and supported for hours on end, we recommend the ASICS EX89.

You might as well consider the Nike Air Max 1 as it feels a bit softer and lighter on the foot.

Nike Dunk Low lab test

Breathability

For an all-leather sneaker, we were surprised to feel the airflow inside the Nike Dunk Low!

At first, we thought that the sneaker was ventilated through the toebox perforations. But as our smoke-pumping test revealed, most of the heat escaped through the gaps in the tongue area.

The perforations don't seem to help breathability as much. They are not very large and are lined with textile from the inside.

Nike Dunk Low Breathability microscope test

All things considered, we gave the Dunk Low a moderate breathability score of 3. It is not ideal for a hot summer day but is just right for moderate temperatures below 77°F (25°C).

Test results
Dunk Low 3
Average 2.9
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

The Dunk Low is one of Nike's classic silhouettes featuring premium leather or suede uppers (depending on the model). We are here to test the quality of the leather variant.

As usual, the brand didn't disappoint. Using a butane torch and a leather scratch awl, we made sure that the sneaker was indeed made of real leather.

We tested the primary upper panels, the Swoosh, and the top overlays - they all proved to be genuine. No melting.

Test results
Dunk Low Real leather

Toebox durability

A robust leather upper contributes to the lifespan of the Dunk Low.

It was one of the reasons why the silhouette became so popular with the skateboarding community in the late '90s. Hard-wearing leather (or suede) uppers with thick overlays on the sides stood up to the aggressive wear and tear of skateboarding.

We didn't get a chance to test this Nike sneaker's durability on a skateboard but we did have a Dremel with a sandpaper tip close by.

After 12 seconds of drilling the shoe's toebox at 5K RPM speed, we really liked what we saw.

Nike Dunk Low Toebox durability comparison

Nike Dunk Low vs. New Balance 990 v3

The tool left a minor scuff without affecting the sneaker's integrity. Comparing it to other kicks in our lab, we gave it a solid 4 out of 5 for toebox durability.

Nike Dunk Low flexibility

Our only gripe with this part of the Dunk Low is that it creases a bit more than other silhouettes. It is more of a cosmetic issue though.

Test results
Dunk Low 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The shoe's inner lining is not so frail either. We wouldn't worry about it tearing so easily.

As our 4-second Dremel test shows, the mesh lining inside the heel counter can handle the abrasion better than the average sneaker.

Nike Dunk Low Heel padding durability comparison

On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most durable, we rated the shoe's heel padding with 4.

Test results
Dunk Low 4
Average 3.5
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Stemming from basketball shoes, it is no surprise that the Nike Dunk Low comes with a very hard rubber outsole.

Nike Dunk Low durable outsole

Measuring it with an HC durometer, we got a reading of 90.3. It is harder than 92% of our lab-tested sneaker outsoles.

Even though hard rubber makes the shoe feel firmer underfoot, it's hard to beat when it comes to durability.

Nike Dunk Low Outsole hardness
Test results
Dunk Low 90.3 HC
Average 85.3 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.5 HC

Outsole durability

Setting our Dremel speed high (10K RPM), we drilled the shoe's rubber relentlessly for 22 seconds.

Even though the Dunk Low hasn't outperformed other sneakers, it still showed great results! Measuring the depth of the damage with a tread gauge, we got 1.0 mm which is the same as the average among sneakers.

Nike Dunk Low Outsole durability test

Test results
Dunk Low 1.0 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Measuring the shoe's outsole thickness with a caliper, we got a standard 5.7 mm of rubber.

It will most likely take you the same amount of time and effort to wear through the Dunk Low's outsole as it takes in similar kicks (more than one season, for sure!).

Nike Dunk Low Outsole thickness
Test results
Dunk Low 5.7 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
12.5 mm

Weight

Its sturdy leather upper and substantial cup sole make the Nike Dunk Low a bit more heavy-set than the average sneaker.

Nike Dunk Low Weight

Weighing it in a men's US size 9, we got 14.8 oz (420g) per shoe. It is lighter than the Nike Air Force 1 07 but a little heavier than the Nike Air Max 1.

Nike Air Max 1 13.4 oz 378g
Nike Dunk Low 14.8 oz 420g
Nike Air Force 1 07 16.4 oz 465g

Nike Dunk Low style

Test results
Dunk Low 14.82 oz (420g)
Average 14.22 oz (403g)
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
8.50 oz (241g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The Nike Dunk Low is a very grounded, low-profile sneaker. No wonder it became so popular for skateboarding!

Nike Dunk Low Heel stack

With a heel stack of only 23.1 mm, this kick is over 8 mm lower than average. It is also notably lower than the Air Force 1 07 (a kick it's often compared to).

Nike Dunk Low vs Nike Air Force 1 07 heel stack

Test results
Dunk Low 23.1 mm
Average 30.1 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Heel stack
50.5 mm

Forefoot stack

The Dunk Low also feels very close to the ground in the forefoot. Based on our caliper measurements, its forefoot stack is only 15.5 mm.

It made the balls of our feet quite sensitive to stepping on rocks and other sharp objects.

Nike Dunk Low Forefoot stack
Test results
Dunk Low 15.5 mm
Average 19.0 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
10.6 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

The lower difference in stack height between the heel and the forefoot also contributes to the Dunk Low's grounded profile.

We measured the shoe's drop at 7.6 mm which is lower than the average for sneakers. Normally, the heel is a bit more elevated in casual sneakers which gives added support to the heels and the Achilles.

Nike Dunk Low Drop
Test results
Dunk Low 7.6 mm
Average 11.1 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
22.6 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

If you want a sneaker that feels like walking on clouds or pillows, the Nike Dunk Low is NOT for you. The platform of this sneaker is quite firm and unforgiving.

Pressing our durometer against the shoe's half-cut midsole, we got 32.0 HA. It's not much firmer than the average sneaker but is notably harder than the Nike Air Force 1 07 (by 35%!).

Nike Dunk Low Midsole softness

Because of the Dunk Low's firmness and lack of shock absorption, we cannot recommend it for all-day wear. After walking for about 5 hours in this Nike shoe, our feet were begging for a massage.

Test results
Dunk Low 32.0 HA
Average 29.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 45 sneakers
Number of shoes
15.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
60.0 HA

Insole thickness

The insole inside the Dunk Low doesn't help the shoe's cushioning as much. We measured its thickness at only 3.7 mm which is less than the average.

Overall, cushioning is not this Nike Dunk Low's forte.

Nike Dunk Low Insole thickness
Test results
Dunk Low 3.7 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
14.2 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

But there is a bright side to the Dunk's sturdy midsole - it provides an amazingly stable platform!

In addition to being firm, the sneaker's stitched cupsole construction makes it feel more supportive too. In this setup, the upper is connected to the sole with 360-degree stitching. As a result, the foot ends up sitting inside the cupsole.

Nike Dunk Low logo

We think that even folks with flat feet and moderate overpronation will find enough stability in the Nike Dunk Low.

Torsional rigidity

A combination of its firm midsole, cupsole design, and hard rubber makes it nearly impossible to twist the Nike Dunk Low.

As our manual test shows, the torsional rigidity of this Nike sneaker deserves a high stiffness score of 4 out of 5.

You can rest assured that this kick won't let you roll the ankle so easily.

Test results
Dunk Low 4
Average 3.6
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The Dunk Low has a moderately stiff heel counter.

We found that it has a little give to it but not enough to let the heel and ankles shift around or slip out of the shoe.

On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the stiffest heel counter possible, we rated the Dunk Low with an average score (3 out of 5).

If you prefer a more secure wrap around the ankle, why not consider the Nike Dunk High?

Test results
Dunk Low 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Unlike many oversized kicks that are popular today, the Nike Dunk Low keeps its platform reasonably wide.

Measuring the widest part of the Dunk Low's forefoot, our caliper showed 104.3 mm. It is a few millimeters narrower than the average sneaker. It is nearly identical to that of the Air Force 1 07 (104.0 mm).

Nike Dunk Low Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Dunk Low 104.3 mm
Average 109.0 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

Checking the widest part of the Dunk Low's platform in the heel, our caliper returned 80.9 mm.

Even though it is a couple of millimeters narrower than average, it was not enough to make us feel wobbly or unstable in this sneaker.

Nike Dunk Low Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Dunk Low 80.9 mm
Average 83.5 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

When we first got our hands on the Dunk Low, we honestly thought that it was going very impliable.

But to our surprise, this Nike sneaker offered just enough give in the forefoot to let our feet bend.

Measuring how much force it would take to bend the Dunk Low to a 90-degree angle, our gauge showed 22.2N. That's just about the same as the average of sneakers. And it relaxes even more after a few break-in walks.

Actually, The Dunk Low is even more forgiving than the Nike Air Max 1 and the Nike Air Force 1 07!

Test results
Dunk Low 22.2N
Average 24.4N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
60.5N

Grip / Traction

As a basketball shoe successor, the Nike Dunk Low inherited a very solid outsole grip. We didn't have any sliding hazards even on wet concrete.

Nike Dunk Low outsole

It even comes with the good old pivot point as a nod to the shoe's hooping past.

Size and fit

Internal length

We've got zero complaints about the Nike Dunk Low's sizing.

Getting the kick in our regular US men's size 9, it fits exactly as expected - true to size. In addition, we measured the internal length of the shoe at 268.9 mm which corresponds to the US 9 size in Nike's shoe size chart.

Nike Dunk Low Internal length
Test results
Dunk Low 268.9 mm
Average 271.9 mm
Compared to 51 sneakers
Number of shoes
265.3 mm
Internal length
280.1 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

The Dunk Low also offers an ample amount of space in the toebox.

Using a caliper, we measured the widest part of its forefoot at 100.2 mm. It is the normal, expected toebox width for an average sneaker.

Nike Dunk Low Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Dunk Low 100.2 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
91.6 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We were also happy to find that the shoe's toebox doesn't taper much towards the front.

With a caliper measurement of 77.4 mm near the big toe, the shoe offers just enough toe space to feel comfortable and not cramped.

Nike Dunk Low Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Dunk Low 77.4 mm
Average 74.8 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
63.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
83.0 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The Nike Dunk Low doesn't have any gussets on the sides of the tongue. But it's okay given the kick's retro appeal.

The good news is that the tongue doesn't slide as much anyways.

Nike Dunk Low Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Dunk Low None

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue of the Nike Dunk Low is very well-padded and is made puffier in the areas where it's most needed.

Using a caliper, we measured the thickest part of the tongue at 11.4 mm which is a bit thicker than average. Lace bites will never be a problem in this Nike kick.

Nike Dunk Low Tongue padding
Test results
Dunk Low 11.4 mm
Average 9.2 mm
Compared to 55 sneakers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
38.4 mm

Heel tab

There are no pull tabs on the Dunk Low.

Nike Dunk Low Heel tab

But we found it easy to slide in and out of the shoe thanks to its structured heel collar and easy-to-unlace setup.

Nike Dunk Low fit

Test results
Dunk Low None

Extra eyelets

We don't see this often in lifestyle sneakers, but the Nike Dunk Low features three additional pairs of eyelets for various lacing options.

Nike Dunk Low laces

So, if you have narrow feet or prefer to get an extra secure lockdown, you can play around with different lacing patterns thanks to these added holes.

Removable insole

You can further customize the Dunk Low by replacing the insole. We found the stock one to be so plain and basic that it wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Nike Dunk Low Removable insole
Test results
Dunk Low Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

There are no reflective elements on the original Dunk Low model.

Nike Dunk Low Reflective elements
Test results
Dunk Low No

Back to 1985

The Nike Dunk first came out as a high-top sneaker back in 1985.

It was brought to life by Peter Moore, an American designer famous for creating the Air Jordan 1 silhouette and the Jumpman logo.

Nike Dunk Low profile

To design the basketball-inspired Nike Dunk High, Moore pulled cues from the Air Jordan 1, Air Force 1, and the Terminator - all highly popular hoop shoes at the time.

Nike Dunk Low shoe pieces

The Dunk quickly caught fire on the market partially due to its upper paneling which allows for numerous color-blocking options. This made the sneaker very appealing to college basketball teams and fans as they had the option to choose the color schemes of their schools.

Nike Dunk Low background