A Look Back: 10 Nike Air Max Running Shoes You Probably Forgot About

A Look Back: 10 Nike Air Max Running Shoes You Probably Forgot About

Happy Air Max Month! A time when we look forward to fresh new releases from Nike and reminisce about the great Air Max running sneakers from years past. Personally, I love flipping through my old Eastbay catalogs to look for models most of us have forgotten about. The ‘90s and early 2000s were chock full of breathtaking new designs and colorways. There were so many great sneakers dropping, a lot were overlooked as the years passed by. I asked some friends what they thought of some of these models, and it’s clear I’m not the only one who would love to see some of these gems come back. Here’s a list of 10 you probably haven’t seen in a while. None have ever retroed, but hopefully we can change that over the next few years.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 2002

10. Air Max 2002

As time goes by, I find the Air Max 2002 more and more intriguing. Though the upper was nothing all that special, that Tubular Air sole was very different.  The Air Max 2002 was definitely polarizing, however.

“I’d love to see Tubular Air return somehow even if it’s just as a one-off. To me, it symbolizes a time where experimentation was at an all-time boom and Nike was pumping out some incredible looking models. The quality was there and most importantly, the care was there too.” – @airmaxarchives

“These were horrible then and horrible now lol The tubular Air was funky/cool, but those uppers always killed it for me. That entire early 2000s Air Max era was kind of rudderless in my opinion. I think many ignored that era, it’s funny but there are very scarce DS examples of sneakers from that era.” – Complex Associate Creative Director @kevonmylevel

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max Slip On

9. Air Max Plus Slip On (2002)

I don’t know why Nike hasn’t brought the Air Max Plus Slip On back yet, but it seems like a no-brainer to me.

“Slip-on TNs would go crazy. Those Stussy/Kukini/Spiridon hybrids ended up being one of my most worn pairs last year. It’s so good to have a slip-on with real cushioning/tech in the rotation.” – collector @jackzurier

I couldn’t agree more, especially since the Air Max Plus continues to be a sneakerhead favorite.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 2001

8. Air Max 2001

After switching to a Tuned Max sole for the Air Max 2000, Nike reverted back to the traditional dual-pressure, full-length Air-Sole unit for the AM 2001. The Air Max 2001 is definitely not one of the more memorable Air Max models. I completely ignored this shoe when it released, as I wasn’t really feeling the design. Seeing OG pairs 20 years later makes me wish Nike would have brought them back for their anniversary, though. The white/orange/silver pair would definitely stand out today. Maybe we’ll see them in 2026 for the 25th anniversary.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 2000

7. Air Max 2000

Talk about pressure. It’s 1999. Nike’s been crushing it with Air Max running designs for over a decade. Everyone is waiting with anticipation to see what they’ll come up with for the 2000th year of the Common Era and they drop….this? The Air Max 2000 was another underwhelming design with zero new breakthroughs. The only interesting feature was the fact they swapped out the Air Max sole for a Tuned Max one. As with all these models, I kind of like it now and would be intrigued to see how it would do in today’s market.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 98 TL

6. Air Max 98 TL

Whenever I post these on Instagram, they are by far the most beloved. This was my first pair of running shoes back in high school, and I was obsessed with them. So much so, I wore them to gym class and ended up severely spraining my ankle while playing basketball in them. Never play basketball in Air Max sneakers.

“The Air Max 98 TL has always been one of my absolute favorites. The colorways were bright, the Air unit was massive, and the mini swoosh always caught my eye. They always stood out to me at that time as the most comfortable pair of Air Max I had/that was out. Even the insoles were different and gave additional cushioning. I think these were overlooked at that time, making them a nice change from a lot of the more mainstream pairs. Need to push that pair, and we can’t settle for AM97 soles lol.”@lemon_diesel

Drew Hammell Look Back Nike Air Max TL 99

5. Air Max 98 TL (1999)

This sneaker is near and dear to my heart, as well, because I also owned this one. Nike pumped out three different Air Max models in 1998, and to make it super confusing, they all had the same name: the Nike Air Max. This particular model released at the end of ‘98 and during the first half of ‘99, but it is still known as the Air Max 98 TL (or Total Length). I wore this sneaker to school and during my shifts at Foot Locker back during my senior year of high school. I beat them into the ground, and I’m kicking myself for throwing them out years ago.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Air Max Tuned Precision

4. Air Tuned Precision (1999)

The Air Tuned Precision was the ladies’ version of the Air Tuned Max, which dropped in 1999. While we are definitely excited to see the return of the Air Tuned Max this year, it would be cool to see the Precision return as well. 

“The Air Tuned Max is my favorite Air Max running model from the Alpha Project Era. Everyone is excited for the celery colorway, but I’m hoping for a retro of the firefly/storm grey colorway. Not to mention the shoe had one of the most controversial/memorable print ads of all time. The shoe is just criminally underrated, which speaks to the Alpha Project era in general.”@nikealphaproject

Drew Hammell look Back Nike Air Max Light

3. Air Max Light III (1997)

A sneaker that was highlighted in both the men’s and women’s colorways on the iconic Nike phone ads, the Air Max Light ‘97 has a cult following and would certainly do well if retroed properly. I always thought it was cool that the Air Max Light featured Zoom Air in the forefoot and an Air Max sole in the heel. It also has a similar upper to another favorite of mine – the Air Zoom Pounce, which was worn by tennis star Andre Agassi. In my opinion, this is the coolest Air Max Light that ever dropped.

Drew Hammell Look Back Nike Air Max Tailwind II

2. Air Max Tailwind II (1997)

A nice, clean runner with plenty of cushioning and a solid follow-up to the ‘96 Tailwind. Unfortunately for this model, it dropped the same year as the super-iconic Air Max 97, so it easily got overlooked. In the current dad-shoe era, I feel like the Tailwind II would thrive – especially in that crispy white/citron/black colorway. There was also a great matching track suit that paired perfectly with this model.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max Tailwind

1. Air Max Tailwind (1996)

I really have no explanation as to why this Tailwind hasn’t come back yet. Nick, aka @ogorbust had a pair and loved them.

“They were technically my first ‘Air Max’ I got for track. Previous years were always the Pegasus or Icarus. I was really excited to see larger open Air units and would push on them quite a bit lol. (I got them when) they were a year-old model and colorway in blue/yellow hitting the sales rack, but I loved them nonetheless.”

Also of note is that there is an iconic photo of The Notorious B.I.G. rocking them. So if Nick and Biggie were wearing them, you know they were dope.

Drew Hammell A Look Back

Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories

A Look Back: the Evolution of the Air Max 90

A Look Back: the Evolution of the Air Max 90

As sneaker social media continues to grow and evolve, the month of March has been dubbed “Air Max Month” by sneakerheads around the globe. The main reason for this phenomenon is “Air Max Day” on March 26 – a day Nike has chosen to commemorate the cushioning technology that changed everything. 

A single page of an old Eastbay catalog showing Nike Air sneakers, including the Air Max 90.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fan favorite Air Max 90. Thirty years ago, Nike launched a white, black, and bright red sneaker with a big Air Max bubble and a semi-covered Swoosh on the side. On the heel was a thermoplastic, heart-shaped tab with the patented NIKE AIR branding. Yet another stunning design by the young legend Tinker Hatfield, this third Air Max running sneaker quickly became a classic.

In 1990, the Air Max 90 originally retailed for $110 in several eye-popping neon colorways like ‘Laser Blue’ and ‘Radiant Red’. As the story goes, the sockliner featured an Air Max 1 outsole print debossed in it because Tinker Hatfield thought it was going to be the last shoe he ever designed. Like most of Hatfield’s designs, the sneaker was radical in every way and certainly was going to raise some eyebrows at first.

Over the years, Nike has re-released original colorways along with new AM 90s featuring a myriad of colors, different types of uppers, and a variety of sole swaps. Eastbay has always been the source for the Air Max 90, so here’s a look back at some of the colorways and model variations that helped make the AM 90 the cult classic that it is today.

After the initial drop in 1990, it took 12 years for the Air Max 90 to return. In ’02-’03, the AM 90 returned in the classic ‘Infrared’ colorway. Interestingly, the OG was never known by that nickname; it wasn’t until the first retro that they were referred to as ‘Infrared.’

In 2005, the Air Max 90 returned as part of the “History of Air” collection, which included the first official retro release of the AM 90 in the US. 

An old page of an Eastbay catalog showing different Nike Air sneakers and boots including Air Max 90.

In 2006, Nike released a completely new version of the Air Max 90 called the Air Max 90+ with a Max Air unit in the heel. It looked nothing like its predecessor but went along with the concept of the Air Max 180+ and Air Max 360 which were also launching that year. Additionally, the Air Max 90 ‘One Time Only’ featured the AM 90 upper with an Air Max 360 sole.

From this point on, the Air Max 90 became extremely popular and featured tons of different colorways along with updated all-leather uppers.

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In 2008, Nike dropped a premium version of the AM 90 with an ‘Ostrich’ print. They also released the Air Max Wright, which bore a clear resemblance to the AM 90 along with an Air Max LTD sole. Additionally, Nike dropped the AM 90 Current Hybrid, which combined the popular aesthetics of the Air Max 90 with the popular Nike Free sole and a full mesh build.

In 2012, Nike revamped the upper of the AM 90 again with the ‘Hyperfuse’ and ‘Engineered Mesh’ models. Both utilized the same sole with a modern twist of the upper.

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In 2015, a full winterized sneakerboot version of the AM 90 emerged, which was perfect for the cold and snowy months. In general, Nike has given the sneakerboot treatment to plenty of classic sneakers. It worked well with the Air Max 90, but many people in the sneaker community believe this model was slept on.

In 2017, designer Virgil Abloh partnered with Nike to release perhaps the most popular Air Max 90 of all time as part of his Off-White “The Ten” collection. The deconstructed model featured premium materials and plenty of interesting details that made it a new grail for many collectors.

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This year, Nike has brought back several OG-inspired colorways along with a new FlyEase model that features a flexible heel that collapses to allow for easy on and off access. They are also launching a brand-new sneaker called the Air Max 2090, which is inspired by the DNA of the Air Max 90. 

Over the past 30 years, the Air Max 90 has been retroed and reinvented time after time, which shows how beloved the model has become for sneakerheads around the world. It’s exciting to see that after 30 years, the AM 90 is still as fresh as ever. And to think, Tinker Hatfield thought it was going to be the last sneaker he’d ever design.


Check out Drew’s other Sneaker History blog posts, and don’t forget to follow his @nikestories Instagram account for more sneakerhead content.

A Throwback to the Future with A’ja Wilson

A Throwback to the Future with A’ja Wilson

A'ja Wilson - Be strong.

Less than a year ago, A’ja Wilson moved from her home state of South Carolina to the desert lands of Nevada to begin her professional basketball career. Since then, she’s allowed nothing to deter her from rising to the top. Her journey has not been without struggle, but Wilson has learned to celebrate her successes along the way and use her experiences (both good and bad) to shape the future.

Respecting the Past

Although twenty-two-year-old Wilson is a new name in the basketball biz, she’s already rubbing elbows with elite basketball icons, broadcasting college games on television, and judging professional dunk contests. However, there was a time when she could barely get on the court to log any minutes at all.

“When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was absolutely horrible at basketball,” Wilson said. “My dad was the assistant coach, and I still didn’t get in.”

Though times have changed, Wilson remains grateful for those moments that shaped her into the athlete she is now. She fondly remembers the first time she made it off the bench with only 20 seconds left in the game.

“That was my defining moment,” Wilson said. “From that experience I really wanted to get more time on the court with my teammates. It motivated me to work hard and focus on my craft, and it’s helped me become the player I am today.”

But while her road to stardom was influenced by key moments on the court, her path to leadership was influenced by a specific person. Without hesitation, Wilson will tell you that her biggest role model and shero was her grandma.

“She was so special to me,” Wilson said. “And the beautiful thing is she never watched me play basketball, but she always had a listening ear and led me in the right direction. I hope I’m half the woman she was.”

Acknowledging the Present

Wilson’s college career with South Carolina ended in 2018 after making it to the quarter finals of the national basketball tournament. Although it ended sooner than she would have liked, it didn’t hinder her move to the pros. She was the first overall draft pick in 2018 and was selected by the newly formed Las Vegas team.

A'ja Wilson - Be proud.

Less than 10 games into the 2018 season, Wilson set a record with 35 points and over 10 rebounds in a single game (only the second rookie in league history to do so). By the end of the season, Wilson led her team in points, rebounds, and blocks making her an obvious contender to win Rookie of the Year, which she did. But despite the addition of the young superstar, the team finished in ninth, one spot short of the playoffs.

During that inaugural year, the Las Vegas team faced challenges adjusting to a new coach and a new city, but Wilson looks forward to the potential of the upcoming season.

“We know each other now,” Wilson said. “We know how each of us plays, and we can feed off each other, so I’m excited to see our chemistry in the game.”

Embracing the Future

Wilson’s past has impacted who she is today, but those are only the early chapters of her story. There are records to be broken and glass ceilings to shatter, and Wilson is prepared to forge her own way.

“I think mentally I’ve changed the way I approach certain things in life, not just on the court, but off the court as well,” Wilson said.

She’s looking forward to her future playing professional basketball and seizing opportunities to advocate for female empowerment.

“I didn’t understand the voice I had until I got to the professional league, and I saw how people listened,” Wilson said. “So, I’m not going to just sit here. I’m going to speak on empowering women because we deserve a change. There has to be a change.”

Wilson also looks forward to seeing her non-profit organization, the A’ja Wilson Foundation, grow and make a difference in the lives of kids struggling with learning disabilities and bullying.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia in high school, and I absolutely hated it,” Wilson said. “It took a long time for me to come to terms with it. Once I found the resources, they really helped me overcome the fact that I had a learning disability. So, I wanted to start the A’ja Wilson Foundation to ensure schools have those resources.”

The foundation is still young, but, working with her parents, Wilson is excited to be raising money and dreaming of the impact it’ll have down the road.

A'ja Wilson - Be you.

Wilson understands that the moments and mentors of her past have helped bring her to where she is now and that, by investing in the lives of the next generation, she can pass on the torch.

“The reason I play, and the reason I am who I am is because I want young kids, both boys and girls, to look up to me and say, ‘Okay, she did it the right way. She succeeded, and it can be done,’” Wilson said.

Wilson has only begun writing her story and making a difference in the world around her. And as she continues to be a leader, on and off the court, you won’t be able to ignore this superstar.

To shop A’ja Wilson’s looks visit eastbay.com.

Looking for more reads featuring Nike Air models? Check out these Air Max Month blog posts:
Release Report: Nike Air Max 720
A Look Back: Nike Air in the Early ’00s

A Look Back: Nike Air in the Early ’00s

A Look Back: Nike Air in the Early ’00s

Happy Air Max Month! Five years ago, Nike officially declared March 26 Air Max Day, and the entire month of March became known as Air Max Month. Since then, Nike has taken the opportunity to debut new Air Max technologies and showcase new takes on old favorites. Across the globe, Nike celebrates by hosting special interactive events for Air Max fans everywhere, with the highlight being March 26, the day the Air Max 1 first launched in 1987.

This year, I thought it would be fun to look back at Air Max technology from the early 2000s. Usually sneakers come back around and become popular again after about 20 years, but that hasn’t been the case for a lot of the early 2000 Nike running models. For whatever reason, the sneaker community is nowhere near as enamored with these models compared to those from the ’90s, which shows how truly special that decade was for sneaker technology. That’s not to say the early 2000s shouldn’t be revisited – in fact, in such a saturated sneaker market, it’s worth taking a look back at the beginning of the twenty-first century to see if there were any hidden gems that are worth a retro.

2000

The turn of the decade represented a turning point for Nike Air Max running sneakers. There were still some familiar lines, like the Triax series, the Tailwind, Air Max, and the Air Max Plus. Each continued to live on into the 21st century after a strong run in the ’90s. For easy shopping reference, Eastbay catalogs featured technical descriptions underneath every sneaker. For the runner’s information, the sneakers were broken up into different categories: Cushioned, Cushioned Support, Support, or Lightweight. There was also a tiny diagram that showed where the Air bubbles were located – either in the heel, forefoot, or both. For reference, when going through the old pages, Eastbay labeled the month and year in the top or bottom corner underneath the page number. For instance, “0400” stood for April 2000.

In 2000, Air Max Plus technology took center stage with the massive hit Air Max Plus. Nike also released the Air Tuned Sovereign and Air Tuned Precision for women, and the Air Tuned Sirocco and Air Tuned Max for men. The Air Tuned Max and Air Tuned Precision were special because they were the first sneakers to feature full-length visible Tuned Air units. The goal of Tuned Air was to give the runner a more stable ride compared to other Air Max models without compromising cushioning.

The Air Max Tailwind line continued in 2000 with the Tailwind 5, which featured Tuned Air instead of an Air Max heel unit. There was also a visible Air-Sole unit in the forefoot, for the runner seeking great cushioning, durability, and support.

The Air Max 2000 running shoe continued to evolve with both better cushioning and support, and also featured a visible full-length Tuned Air unit. It was part of the Alpha Project – Nike’s multi-year strategy to advance technology and design in thoughtful and creative ways. The Air Max Tailwind 6 again featured Tuned Air in the heel and some pretty flashy colorways, like the glacier/navy/coast for women and the grey/maize/white/navy for men.

2001

The Air Max in 2001 started to look much different, with straight lines instead of the zigzag pattern seen on the AM 2000. Heading into its fourth year, the Air Max Plus continued to be a hit and Nike continued to release new colorways. That year, the Air Max Plus 3 made its debut, featuring Tuned Air in the heel. It was nowhere near as popular as the original, though.

2002

In 2002, we were introduced to the Air Max Glare for women, the Air Max Tailwind 7, the Air Max Plus 4, and the Air Max Plus Slip-On inspired by the OG.

2003

Out of all the models, the Air Max featured in the 2003 catalogs deserves the most attention and is most deserving of retro consideration. The introduction of visible Tubular Air gave the sole a dramatically different look, and while the Tubular Air didn’t catch on it transformed into the fresh and modern sole we know today.

Also of note in 2003 was the Air Max Bambino for women, with a price tag of just $89.99. The Tailwind also returned to Air Max cushioning in the heel as opposed to Tuned Air in ’03, and Nike released a fifth version of the Air Max Plus featuring a double-lasted stretch synthetic upper.

Throughout these catalog pages, it’s worth noting that Nike was not retroing any models yet. It was pedal to the metal, full steam ahead, with all new models every year (except for a few new Air Max 95 colors and the continuation of the successful Air Max Plus). We are definitely in an interesting time period right now, where sneakerheads crave the latest models, but also want sneakers from the past. Only time will tell if consumers will continue to want the old and the new – I’m hoping it’s both.

Release Report: Nike Air Max 720

Release Report: Nike Air Max 720

Forever fashion, never a fad: Nike’s released the newest Air Max model as a celebration leading up to the fifth annual Air Max Day on March 26.

Air Max 720

Remember the Name

The first Air Max sneakers were created in 1987 when Nike made a shoe with visible Air technology, allowing consumers to see the science inside the shoe. The name “Air Max” stems from the design. In order to increase comfort and decrease impact, Nike added the max amount of air into a bubble placed within the sole.

The number 720 is specific to this model and represents the degrees of the visible Air unit, 360 degrees horizontally and vertically.

Everyday Style

The Air Max 720 is the first lifestyle sneaker created with a full-length Air unit, in other words it runs from toe to heel. Although the Air Max 97 was created with a full-length unit, it was a performance running shoe rather than casualwear. The game has changed, but the name remains as Air Max keeps innovating.

All-Day Comfort

Air Max sneakers have always looked as good as they work, but now they feel as good as they look. The Air Max 720 is designed to give you ultimate comfort while walking. Whether you’re headed to school, to work, or out on the town, these shoes cradle your feet with Air giving you maximum comfort.

Big and Bold

This is not your parent’s sneaker; the Air Max 720 has the tallest air unit in the history of Air Max measuring 38 mm. The 720 also features bold color designs inspired by nature, check out the colorways like sunrise, total eclipse, and sea forest.

Better For You, Better For Your World

The Air Max 720’s air unit is made from more than 75% recycled materials, so you can feel good about looking good when you wear the newest kicks from Nike.

Head over to eastbay.com to snag a pair of these before they’re gone. And don’t forget to share a photo of you wearing them on Air Max Day, March 26, using #EraOfAirMax.