The Nike Air Max 90’s original design and industry-leading technology has allowed the sneaker to stand the test of time.
As the Nike Air Max 90 celebrates its 30th birthday this year, we look back to see how the sneaker has evolved over time.
1990 was the year Tinker Hatfield and Nike graced the world with one of their most recognizable creations – the Nike Air Max 90. Originally named the Air Max III, the Air Max 90 was an evolution of the iconic Air Max 1. The sneaker debuted with huge improvements over the Air Max 1, including the addition of durable fabrics in the upper and a motion-focused design. Undoubtedly, Tinker and Nike created one of the most recognizable and timeless Air Max sneakers to date.
Staying true to Tinker’s aim of creating sneakers that evolve and improve over time, the Air Max 90 has received major updates over the last 30 years. Let’s step back in time and check out how the Air Max 90 has evolved over the years.
Air Max 90 “Infrared” – 1990
The original Air Max 90 was designed as a running sneaker. Its design cues and Air Max midsole were created to provides runners with better performance while keeping them looking fresh. With a combination of leather, mesh and soft plastics, Tinker gave the sneaker a distinctive look that would be appreciated for years to come.
Nike Air Max 90 360 One Time Only “Infrared” – 2006
This was the very first hybrid sneaker Nike ever made. It took the classic Nike Air Max 90 “Infrared” upper and placed it atop the Air Max 360 midsole. These dropped as part of the Nike “One Time Only” pack and is still regarded as a grail for many today.
Nike Air Max 90 Current “Kaws” – 2008
Another hybrid from Nike, the Air Max 90 Current is meant to provide runners with a better cooling system combined with the barefoot feeling of the Nike Free midsole. The forefoot now utilized Nike Free inspired cuts which made it much more flexible and adaptable to each of our unique foot strikes.
Nike Air Max 90 Flywire “TZ” – 2008
The Nike Air Max 90 Flywire brought Flywire tech into the mix. Flywire is Nike’s proprietary set up that enables for a narrower fit, better lockdown and overall lighter construction. It was an improvement that helped the Air Max 90 maintain its status as the choice running sneaker in 2008.
Nike Air Max 90 Hyperfuse “Independence Day” – 2012
The Hyperfuse variant took lightness up a notch by taking as much weight out of the upper as possible. This meant removing excess bits of leather, rubber, plastic, and mesh. To retain the same lockdown and design as before, Nike used its fuse overlays to reinforce the upper. The sneaker quickly became a must-have when Kanye West was seen rocking all three colorways from the “Independence Day” pack. Today, a pair will set you back over US$700 on the secondary market.
Nike Air Max 90 Engineered Mesh “Infrared” – 2013
Released as part of the Air Max OG and Engineered Mesh pack, the Air Max 90 EM received a full mesh upper. It retained the lateral leather panels and classic Air Max heel tab, but all else was constructed of Engineered Mesh.
Nike Air Max 90 SneakerBoot “Winter Bronze” – 2013
To make the Air Max 90 event more adaptable, Nike released the Nike Air Max 90 Sneakerboot in 2013. It included updates to the outsole to improve traction, a high cut for protection from the elements, reflective 3M accents for visibility and an upper made from rugged material for added durability.
Nike Air Max Lunar 90 3.0 “Infrared” – 2013
This was another hybrid sneaker created by Nike, this time adding Lunarlon technology to the Air Max 90. You can easily spot one of these sneakers by its wavy midsole pattern. The Lunarlon midsole helped improve cushioning while reducing weight – which of course allowed it to perform better, both as a running sneaker or a beater.
Nike Air Max 90 2014 Leather “Infrared” – 2014
In 2014, Nike attempted another sole swap. This time a full-length Air Max outsole replaced the classic midsole. The sneaker received a Quickstrike (find out what “Quickstrike” means and other sneaker terminology here) release through Atmos, which made it an incredibly rare sneaker.
Nike Air Max 90 Flyknit “Infrared” – 2016
Nike took lightness to the extreme with the Nike Air Max 90 Flyknit. The sneaker got the full Flyknit treatment, with nothing but a knitted upper. Through colored stitching, overlays and reinforcement, Nike was successfully able to recreate the original shape and color blocking of the retro sneaker.
Nike Air Max 90 Recraft “CS” – 2019
The Nike Air Max 90 Recraft is Nike’s love note to the 30-year-old sneaker. The Recraft will be the brand’s closest recreation of the original runner that everyone fell in love with in the ’90s. Using a combination of high-quality leather, mesh and suede, the Air Max 90 Recraft is a reinterpretation of a retro sneaker that’s great for a 2020 rotation.
Nike Air Max 2090 – 2020
Looking into the future, Nike has adapted key design cues from the Air Max 90 and merged them with the latest and best technologies at their disposal. The end result is the Nike Air Max 2090 – the Air Max 90 built for 2020, and beyond. The sneaker receives a much larger Air unit while retaining the mudguard, heel logo and cassette feature around the air unit we all know and love. It’s a respectful homage of the original sneaker while creating something absolutely new and fresh to rock in the new year.
You can check out the full range of Nike Air Max 90 sneakers on Nike.com. Prices range from S$144.99 to S$219.
Which was the very first Air Max 90 you ever copped? Share your pick up in the comment section.
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