Our verdict

The number of Nike Air Max variations is hard to count these days but it was the Air Max 1 that laid the foundations for the entire AM collection. Wearing this iconic sneaker filled us with confidence and even a little boost of self-esteem, to be honest. It is a sneaker royalty that has an unwavering appeal to every generation and social group. As a lifestyle sneaker, we found the AM1 to be amazingly comfortable and supportive for long hours on our feet - a quality so often neglected by other sneaker icons. Offered at a down-to-earth price point, this Nike sneaker can easily become a new mainstay in your closet.

Pros

  • Historical silhouette (first-ever visible Air Max)
  • Responsive Air Max cushioning
  • Comfortable for all-day wear
  • Very supportive construction
  • Extraordinary durable
  • Lighter than expected
  • True to size and fit

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Really stiff platform
  • Cheap materials (fake leather and suede)

Audience verdict

89
Good!

Who should buy

You can't walk past the Nike Air Max 1 if:

  • you are building an Air Max collection (this is a must-have)
  • you want an iconic sneaker that doesn't cut corners on comfort and support
  • you love the bouncy experience of Air Max technology
  • retro kicks are your fancy

Nike Air Max 1 review

Who should NOT buy

If you really want an Air Max silhouette but the shoe's fake leather-suede upper annoys you, consider getting a slightly more expensive Premium version of the sneaker (£160-160) or consider the Nike Air Max 95.

On the other hand, if you want to experience the Air Max cushioning in a more affordable package, we highly recommend the Nike Air Max Excee.

Nike Air Max 1 lab test

Breathability

It is easy to be misled by the shoe's seemingly breathable mesh upper. But in reality, it hardly lets any air in or out of the interiors.

Our smoke-pumping breathability test makes it very clear that the shoe's ventilation capacity is little to none. Its toebox fabric failed to expel any smoke, unlike the much more breathable NB 57/40 shoe on the right.

Our additional search for ventilation holes didn't retrieve any results either.

Even in our microscope test, the shoe's upper fabric proved to be incredibly tightly woven with no pores in between the threads.

Nike Air Max 1 Breathability microscope test

Thus, we couldn't rate the Air Max 1's breathability any higher than 2 out of 5.

This sneaker is not a good choice for warm summer days. We recommend looking into the Nike Zoom Vomer 5 among other top picks for summer if you are after highly breathable kicks.

Nike Air Max 1 Breathability upper material under microscope
Test results
Air Max 1 2
Average 3
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

Gone are the days when you could cop a genuine leather sneaker for £150. As the Nike Air Max 1 shows, you can expect nothing more than synthetic materials at this price point.

And if you want a touch of real leather or suede, you have to shell out £170 for the kick's Premium version.

We think that even an untrained eye can see the fakeness of materials on this Nike sneaker. But we still tested every major panel on its upper with the help of a butane torch.

Both "suede" and "leather" patches quickly caught fire and melted the moment we applied the torch, proving our assumptions.

Test results
Air Max 1 Fake suede

Toebox durability

The shoe's mesh fabric may lose points for breathability but boy its durability surpasses nearly every mesh sneaker we've tested!

After being exposed to sandpaper for 12 seconds at a 5K RPM speed, the fabric showed nothing more than a chafe!

Meanwhile, most kicks ended up with see-through holes like the one on the right.

Nike Air Max 1 Toebox durability comparison

On a 1-5 scale, we eagerly rated the Air Max 1's toebox durability as 4.

Nike Air Max 1 mudguard

In addition, the shoe's upper is protected by a large fake suede overlay around the perimeter. Proudly called the "mudguard" by Nike, it made us chuckle because it is actually a magnet for dirt and stains.

Test results
Air Max 1 4
Average 3.7
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Granted, the durability of the Air Max 1 surpassed our expectations.

Even such an easily damaged part of the shoe as the heel lining proved to be immune to our abrasive Dremel.

The textile remained nearly unscathed after a 4-second encounter with sandpaper.

Nike Air Max 1 Heel padding durability comparison

This is impressive considering that most sneakers in our lab end up with considerable damage (as the shoe on the right illustrates).

Such resistance to abrasion earns the Nike Air Max 1 a high score for heel lining durability - 4 out of 5!

Test results
Air Max 1 4
Average 3.4
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Last but not least, the rubber outsole of this iconic sneaker stood up to the challenge just as brilliantly.

Nike Air Max 1 Outsole hardness

It proved to be made of a rather hard compound which returned 90.0 HC on our Shore C durometer. As one of the hardest outsole measurements in our lab, it promises a great deal of longevity as well.

Test results
Air Max 1 90.0 HC
Average 85.1 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.3 HC

Outsole durability

To check if that's true, we raised the speed of our Dremel to the relentless 10K RPM and extended the drilling time to 22 seconds.

The Air Max 1 did not disappoint taking all of that abuse with minimal damage!

Measuring the depth of the dent created by the Dremel, our tread gauge showed only 0.8 mm. A bit shallower than average, it proves that this Nike sneaker has the potential to outlast most lifestyle sneakers in your closet.

Nike Air Max 1 Outsole durability test
Test results
Air Max 1 0.8 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We must also note that the thickness of rubber on the Air Max 1 comes in high at 5.7 mm. It further proves our point that it will take a while to blow through this kick.

Nike Air Max 1 Outsole thickness
Test results
Air Max 1 5.7 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
8.2 mm

Weight

We were amazed at how Nike managed to keep the weight of the Air Max 1 below average. Our scale shows a moderate reading of 13.3 oz (378g) in a men's US size 9.

Nike Air Max 1 Weight oz grams

It is lighter than both the Nike Dunk Low (14.8 oz/420g) and the Nike Air Force 1 07 (16.4 oz/465g).

Considering the shoe's stack height, the Air units, and the somewhat beefy upper design, it feels pretty light on the foot.

Nike Air Max 1 shoe weight

Test results
Air Max 1 13.33 oz (378g)
Average 14.18 oz (402g)
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
8.54 oz (242g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Loaded with a large Air Max unit under the heel, it is no surprise that the Air Max 1 has a taller-than-average stack height.

Our caliper returned 32.3 mm as we measured its thickness in the heel.

Nike Air Max 1 Heel stack

Treated to so much cushioning underfoot, we felt pretty comfortable spending a whole day in the Air Max 1.

It is not as cozy as the brand's walking-oriented shoes like the Nike Motiva but it is one of the few fashion-statement sneakers that are actually foot-friendly.

Test results
Air Max 1 32.2 mm
Average 29.8 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Heel stack
41.8 mm

Forefoot stack

Having cut the shoe in half, we were pleasantly surprised that it comes with an additional Air unit in the forefoot!

Nike Air Max 1 Forefoot stack

It is not as large as the heel unit but offered a very welcome touch of comfort and support for the balls of our feet.

It also added a couple of millimeters to the shoe's forefoot stack which showed 20.1 mm on our caliper.

Test results
Air Max 1 20.1 mm
Average 18.9 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
10.6 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

WIth a drop of 12.1 mm, the heel of the Air Max 1 is notably elevated above the toes.

Nike Air Max 1 Drop

However, once the shoe is loaded with the wearer's weight, the Air Max unit compresses and lowers the drop slightly.

In the end, this Nike shoe feels like most other sneakers, with the heel placed slightly higher on the platform to take the pressure off the Achilles.

Test results
Air Max 1 12.1 mm
Average 10.9 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
17.2 mm

Midsole softness

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

If you haven't experienced Nike sneakers with Air Max cushioning before, you might be surprised with the Air's somewhat firm nature. That's because it is basically a sealed bag with pressurized gas.

But when it's loaded with your body weight, the Air Max comes into play adding a bit of bounce to your step. And the great thing about it is that it doesn't compress over time like the cushioning foams do!

By the way, we also checked the softness of the midsole foam that carries the Air bubble. With a durometer reading of 21.1 HA, it is 45% softer than average!

Nike Air Max 1 Midsole softness

It adds a great deal of comfort to this Nike sneaker as well.

Nike Air Max 1 air bag

P.S. The Air Max unit of this particular iteration is smaller than it was in the original Nike Air Max 1 shoe from 1987. Nike decided to make it smaller in response to numerous complaints of the airbag cracking in low temperatures.

But if you prefer the look and feel of the larger Air Max unit, you might enjoy the Nike Air Max 1 '86 edition called the "Big Bubble." It was released in 2023 to commemorate the silhouette's 35th anniversary and recreate the authentic design. The retail price of this edition is a bit higher at £160-160.

Test results
Air Max 1 21.1 HA
Average 28.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 37 trainers
Number of shoes
15.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
46.4 HA

Insole thickness

The Air Max 1 features a pretty minimal insole that is only 3.6 mm thick. It makes the shoe feel less cushy but you get to experience the Air Max more closely in action.

Nike Air Max 1 Insole thickness
Test results
Air Max 1 3.6 mm
Average 5.4 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
13.9 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Despite its air-based cushioning, the Nike Air Max 1 doesn't feel wobbly one bit!

The shoe's sturdy platform with raised sidewalls offered a very firm containment, never letting our feet or ankles get out of control.

We think that this Nike sneaker might even suit people with moderate overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot).

Torsional rigidity

Our manual test proved that it is nearly impossible to twist the Nike Air Max 1 sideways.

We gave the shoe a solid 5 out of 5 in a torsional rigidity assessment. It makes the foot feel very well-supported and stable.

Test results
Air Max 1 5
Average 3.5
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

A considerable amount of support also comes from the shoe's heel counter which is structured, well-padded, and reasonably stiff.

Giving it a push-and-squeeze in our manual test, we assessed its level of stiffness at 3 out of 5.

Holding the back of our foot firmly in place, the shoe's heel counter prevented any unwanted slippage or shifting.

Test results
Air Max 1 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The platform of the Nike Air Max 1 is neither too wide nor too narrow. It sits right at the average of most sneakers on the market.

Nike Air Max 1 Midsole width in the forefoot

Showing 107.9 mm in the widest part of the forefoot, it proved to be sufficiently wide to keep us surefooted.

Test results
Air Max 1 107.9 mm
Average 108.5 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

We also found the heel of the Nike Air Max 1 to be broad enough to provide stability.

Nike Air Max 1 Midsole width in the heel

It shows 81.8 mm in the widest part of the heel which is nearly the same as the average.

Test results
Air Max 1 81.8 mm
Average 82.8 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

With its substantial midsole and rigid construction, the Air Max 1 wasn't very eager to bend along with our foot. This was especially apparent at the toe-off.

The shoe's stiffness was also confirmed in our force gauge test. The latter showed that it takes as much as 30.0N to bend this Nike sneaker to a 90-degree angle. That is 30% stiffer than the average sneaker.

Test results
Air Max 1 30.0N
Average 23.0N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
51.8N

Grip / Traction

We rarely find ourselves in dire need of a strong grip in day-to-day life.

Nike Air Max 1 outsole

But the waffle outsole of the Nike Air Max 2 made us feel quite secure in common lifestyle situations like walking on wet stairs after the rain or stepping on tile floors of the coffee shop.

Size and fit

Internal length

The Nike Air Max 1 runs true to size based on our personal experience and lab measurements.

Nike Air Max 1 Internal length

Measuring the shoe's internal length in our men's US size 9, the ruler showed 271.8 mm.

This corresponds to the MM measurements in Nike's shoe size chart and is consistent with other popular sneaker from the brand, including the Nike Air Force 1 07.

Test results
Air Max 1 271.8 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

The toebox of the Air Max 1 also fits our medium-width feet to a T.

Nike Air Max 1 fit

It may seem a bit pointy but our toes had an ample amount of space inside the shoe.

Measuring the widest part of the kick's forefoot with a caliper, we got 99.7 mm which is on par with the average.

Nike Air Max 1 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Air Max 1 99.7 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
94.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Measuring the shoe's toebox width at the level of the big toe also showed a standard reading of 74.1 mm.

Nike Air Max 1 Toebox width at the big toe

These are typical dimensions of a D-medium width sneaker.

Test results
Air Max 1 74.1 mm
Average 74.8 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
63.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
82.7 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The tongue of the Air Max 1 does not have any gussets or other attachments to the rest of the upper.

Nike Air Max 1 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Air Max 1 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

The in-shoe padding of the Nike Air Max 1 is not overly abundant but it's not minimal either. We found it to be just right for keeping us comfortable.

Two foam pillows inside the tongue protected our feet from lace bites and pressure rather well.

Nike Air Max 1 Tongue padding
Test results
Air Max 1 9.0 mm
Average 9.3 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
38.4 mm

Heel tab

The Air Max 1 doesn't provide any loops or pull tabs to assist the on-and-off. You will need to fiddle with the laces a bit.

Nike Air Max 1 Heel tab
Test results
Air Max 1 None

Removable insole

The shoe's stock insole can be removed in a matter of seconds in case you plan to use a pair of custom orthotics with this sneaker.

Nike Air Max 1 Removable insole
Test results
Air Max 1 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

There are no reflective elements on the upper of the Air Max 1.

Nike Air Max 1 Reflective elements
Test results
Air Max 1 No

The origins of the Nike Air Max 1

The Nike Air Max 1 was not the first shoe to feature the revolutionary Air cushioning unit. It was the Nike Tailwing back in 1979. But the Air Max 1 did become the very first sneaker to put this technology on public display.

Nike Air Max 1 stye

In the '80s, Nike thought of conceiving a footwear design that would keep up with the stiff competition in the shoe industry. While vibrant hues and bold patterns ruled the market, Nike planned on offering a design that is still remarkable without the usually bright and audacious elements.

Nike Air Max 1 story

Tinker Hatfield, the brand's architect at the time, came up with the idea of making the Air unit visible during his trip to Paris. He was inspired by the unconventional design of the Centre Georges Pompidou which looked like the building was turned inside out with its girders and pipes all exposed.

The idea was originally met with resistance from Nike's marketing team and nearly cost Hatfield his job!

Nike Air Max 1 heels

And yet, the brand yielded and the very first Nike Air Max 1 came to prominence in March 1987. Did you know that in 2014 Nike declared March 26 the official Air Max day? Since then, the company has celebrated the OG annually releasing new editions and colorways of the shoe.

The AM1's visible Air technology turned the sneaker into an instant classic. Today it is available in countless collaborations and colorways appealing to all genders, ages, and social groups.

Nike Air Max 1 she pieces