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Sneaker News NINE@NINE: Underrated Air Max Models

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Tonight, we introduce our new Sneaker News NINE@NINE segment, and what better topic to kick off with than the ongoing Air Max celebration. With March 26th marking the 27th anniversary of the Nike Air Max 1, Nike will commemorate the birth of Max Air tomorrow with a special Volt-midsoled release. In preparation for ‘Air Max Day’, Nike took us back to 1987 and gave a bit of a history lesson with all the major pairs from Tinker Hatfield’s first golden era running designs all the way up through the recently introduced Flyknit Air Max.

That list certainly touched on most of the biggest releases from Nike’s flagship running series, but hardcore sneakerheads would immediately see a compilation like that as an opportunity to think back on some of the more obscure pairs as well. So that’s our goal here – to go back over the timeline and fill in some of the less common pairs that represent fresh retro opportunities we’d love to see return alongside the recurring cornerstones.

NIKE AIR MAX 94

The Air Max 94 is probably the single most obscure shoe in the entire line. Factors contributing to the public’s forgetting this model include its similarities to both the Air Max 93 and Air Burst, the fact it hasn’t been retroed but the Air Max Triax 94 has, as well as the attention given to the Air Trainer Max 94.  Given the similarities to other more recently retroed models, will we ever see the Air Max 94 again?

NIKE AIR BURST

The Air Burst picked up on the Air Max 93’s 270-degree heel window, combining it with a more traditional tongue and an upper construction that could be seen to be influenced by the original Air Max 1. The Burst debuted in 1994, but its best known colorway to date is probably 2003’s Artist Series “Air Slim Shady”.

NIKE AIR MAX TRIAX 94

It’s probably better known than the Air Max 94 thanks to some low-profile retros in recent years, but the first Triax shoe with visible Air is still just outside the mainstream despite latter-day attempts to re-introduce it.

NIKE AIR MAX2

1994 was a big year for Nike Running, and along with the pairs mentioned above, they launched a new system with different Air pressure zones.  Some call these ‘Air Max Squared’, but the effect of the three heel windows was more of a 270-degree triangle.

NIKE AIR MAX 96

It was almost unfair. Any shoe following Sergio Lozano’s breathtaking Air Max 95 faced the impossible task of following perhaps the single most popular running shoe of the decade.  The Air Max 96 performed admirably in this role, but history has nearly forgotten its presence and we’re still waiting for a proper retro release.

NIKE AIR MAX 96 II

We’ve gotten used to multiple releases from one sneaker line in a single year, especially with the basketball signature series.  Nike started this concept back in the 1990s by introducing a revision to the Air Max 96 that rocked the same sole with a different upper construction. These have not returned in any form, either retros or as part of a new mash-up.

NIKE AIR MAX 98

Similar to the 95-96 scenario, the Air Max 98 had some huge shoes to fill following the sleek 97s.  The AM98 came out pretty similar, using the same full-length Max Air bag and overall silhouette. These are reportedly returning for spring 2014, so stay tuned for the latest developments.

NIKE AIR MAX TN

The original Tuned Air running shoe debuted in 1998, as the Air Max TN foreshadowed a future where we’d get countless colorways of each Nike runner with its unprecedented variety of first run releases. Nowadays, they call it the Air Max Plus over in Europe where it’s still thriving with new pairs arriving fairly consistently.

NIKE AIR MAX DELUXE

1999’s Max flagship hinted at the Presto line to come with its TPU molded sections adding stability to an otherwise almost entirely mesh upper. The Air Max Deluxe also had a good amount of 3M in the dashes radiating along the upper and also foreshadowed the current sneaker trend of all-over graphic prints. Sadly, we haven’t seen these beauties in a good while and there don’t seem to be any signs of a retro release in sight.