Are Air Forces Good for Running?

With their lightweight design and cushioned soles, air forces have become a popular choice of footwear for runners. But are they actually good running shoes? In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and downsides of using air forces for running.

The Benefits

Cushioning and Impact Absorption

One of the main advantages of air forces is the cushioning they provide. The air pockets in the soles act as miniature shock absorbers, absorbing some of the impact of each stride. This makes them much more comfortable and supportive than standard flat sneakers when running long distances.

The level of cushioning does vary across different air force models though. Generally speaking, the more air, the more cushioning and bounce you’ll get. So max air or air max styles tend to be most popular with runners.


In addition to cushioning, air forces are appreciated by runners for being lightweight. Less weight on your feet makes picking up the pace and maintaining momentum easier. It also reduces overall strain when running multiple miles at a time.

The stripped down, minimalist design of most air forces helps cut down on excess bulk without sacrificing comfort. Compare them to bulky running shoes which achieve cushioning through ample padding and support features.


Decent traction is provided through the classic waffle-pattern rubber soles on most air force styles. This helps ensure steady footing whether you’re running outdoors or indoors. Traction is especially important for trail running or unpredictable terrain.

It’s worth noting though that the level of traction can vary quite a bit across air force models. So if you primarily run trails or uneven routes, look for deep lugs versus shallow treading.


Beyond performance and comfort, style plays a role for many runners in choosing shoes. Air forces have an iconic old school look that appeals to fans of retro sneakers. They offer a classic gym shoe silhouette in endless color combos to match anyone’s tastes.

So if finding shoes to fit your aesthetic as well as your runs is important, air forces check both boxes for many.


Compared to premium technical running shoes, air forces are generally very affordable. The most basic styles can readily be found for around $90 or less. Even more cushioned models with advanced features are almost always under $150.

So air forces strike an impressive balance between functionality and price point that appeals to recreational runners. You get substantial features without the staggering cost of cutting-edge running sneakers.

The Downsides

Lack of Support Features

The minimalist design of air forces that contributes to their lightweight feel also means they lack advanced support features. This includes attributes like motion control, stability mechanics, rigid heel counters, medial posts, and proprietary guide systems.

For mild to moderate overpronators then, air forces may not provide enough correction. Similarly, neutral runners logging high weekly mileage would likely benefit more from shoes with clever alignment technology.

Durability Concerns

The soft cushioning that makes air force so comfortable for running also raises durability concerns for some wearers. Specifically, the air pods can rupture with intense usage over time. And the exposed air bag may be more vulnerable to damage than a standard EVA midsole.

These issues don’t impact all runners equally though. Durability depends heavily on your running frequency, mileage, gait mechanics, and weight. But it’s something to be mindful of with air forces versus more durable options.

Lack of Breathability

Ventilation and airflow are not strong suits of air forces, especially Max Air models. The upper tends to be cut from leather and/or synthetic leather rather than highly breathable mesh. So your feet may get uncomfortably hot and sweaty when running long distances in warm weather.

If cool comfort is a priority for you, look for air force styles emphasized as “breathable” in product descriptions from the brand. Or you may want to opt for a more airy running shoe specifically designed for hot conditions.

Insufficient Grip

While air forces offer decent traction for casual use, some report insufficient grip for intense running. This seems especially common among those who run trails and technical terrain versus roads.

The famously slick waffle soles struggle to stick reliably on loose surfaces like dirt and gravel. So trail runners may experience slips and loss of control in air forces in a way road runners do not.

Who Are Air Forces Good For?

Given the pros and cons detailed above, air forces seem best suited for these categories of runners:

  • Road runners
  • Recreational runners
  • Fair weather runners
  • Low/moderate mileage runners
  • Runner looking for style and comfort over performance

They provide a cushioned, carefree run for logging casual neighborhood miles. But lack certain features needed for advanced runners, daily training, long distances, intense paces, technical trails, or hot weather.

Air Force Running Shoe Recommendations

The exact model of air force that fits your running needs depends heavily on your individual gait, mileage, foot shape, and aesthetic tastes. But here are a few top rated examples to consider if you’ve decided to give air forces a try for logging miles:

Nike Air Force 1 ’07 LV8

  • Max Air unit heel
  • Minimal upper for breathability
  • Strategic traction pattern

Nike Air Force 1 Shadow

  • Padded foam midsole
  • Low profile design
  • Women’s color options

Nike Air Force 1 React

  • Full length React foam
  • Extra traction and reinforcement
  • Advanced cushioning

Nike Air Force 1 High ’07

  • High top ankle support
  • Padded collar
  • Iconic basketball styling

Ready to give air forces a try for your running routine? Stop by your local sneaker shop or athletic retailer to test out a pair. Getting properly measured and trying on different styles is the best way to find your perfect match based on fit, feel, and performance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Air Forces for Running

Here are answers to some common questions runners have about using Nike Air Force 1s and other air force models for pounding the pavement:

Are air forces good for walking?

Yes! The cushioning and support that make air forces comfortable for running also benefits walkers. Their lightweight feel and flexibility encourage a natural stride. Many wearers log miles upon miles in their Air Force 1s without discomfort.

Do air forces provide enough arch support?

It depends. Standard air forces likely won’t offer rigid arch reinforcement. But some editions do implement proprietary support features that boost contouring arches. Trying on different models is the best way to assess arch fit. Consider adding supportive insoles if you need extra stability.

How long do air forces last for running?

Mileage will vary based on usage frequency and your unique gait mechanics. But expect around 300-500 miles as a reasonable lifespan for Air Force running. Rotate two pairs to extend wear. When cushioning feels compressed or traction seems dull, it’s time to replace them.

What colors do air forces come in?

Iconic white-on-white is the classic. But today you’ll find Air Force 1 low tops and high tops in every color combo imaginable. Tonal black, triple black, black and gum soles offer sleek monochrome looks.

While floral motifs, abstract prints, metallics, neons and pastels capture bolder aesthetics. New colorways drop constantly so the options remain endless for self expression.

Should I size up or down for Air Forces?

This varies person to person based on foot proportions and preference. But many wear true to their standard shoe size. Size down if you prefer a glove-like fit or have narrower feet. Size up for wider feet that need more toe room. Also consider sizing up if you plan to wear thick running socks versus casual thin socks.

We hope this overview has helped explain the pros and cons of running in Nike’s iconic Air Force series. Let us know if you have any other questions!

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