Are Air Max 97 Good for Running?

The Nike Air Max 97 is one of the most iconic sneakers ever made. Designed by Christian Tresser and released in 1997, the Air Max 97 featured a revolutionary full-length visible Air unit that made the shoes instantly recognizable.

While the Air Max 97 has undeniable streetwear credentials, its unconventional shape and substantial Air bubble lead many to wonder – are Air Max 97s actually good performance shoes for running?

In short, the Air Max 97 can work for running but is far from an ideal or specialized running shoe. The main issues that make the Air Max 97 less suitable for running include the heavy weight, lack of stability and support, minimal cushioning and potential for blisters.

However, for short, casual runs, the Air Max 97 offers adequate shock absorption and traction thanks to features like the full-length Air unit and waffle-inspired rubber outsole.


At around 13-15oz per shoe depending on the size, the Air Max 97 is a relatively heavy sneaker, weighing substantially more than modern performance running shoes.

The heavy weight is partly due to the rugged layered upper and substantial Air unit along the entire length of the midsole. The heavy weight makes the Air Max 97 less suited to longer distance running where minimizing weight can help efficiency and comfort. For short, recreational runs, the weight is less likely to cause issues.


While the iconic full-length Air unit provides good shock absorption, the overall cushioning set up of the Air Max 97 is quite firm and minimal by running shoe standards.

The Phylon midsole and rubber outsole don’t do much to enhance the cushioning, especially compared to modern running shoes designed with cutting edge foam compounds strategically placed for responsive, well-cushioned heel to toe transitions.

The result is the Air Max 97 has adequate but minimalistic cushioning that works better for casual use than hardcore training.


With its substantial Air unit and minimal midsole material, the Air Max 97 lacks medial and lateral stability elements common in running shoes.

Features like firmer foam density medial posts, wide stable platforms and structured heel counters are missing, meaning there is a higher chance of the ankle rolling sideways during runs.

Once again, for moderate pace recreational runs this may not cause major issues, but stability is not a strong point of the AM97 design.


Traction is an area where the Air Max 97 performs well as a running shoe. The waffle-like rubber outsole pattern with grooves and indented squares grips surfaces nicely.

This makes the Air Max 97 suitable for both indoor and outdoor running where traction is important for safe foot transitions across changing terrain. The tread won’t deteriorate as quickly as foam-based outsoles either.


The layered mesh and synthetic upper of the Air Max 97 is reasonably breathable, allowing airflow to reach the foot. This helps minimize sweat build-up when running.

That said, modern knit and mesh running shoes with carefully placed ventilation are more breathable and suitable for intense training sessions. For casual pace running, overheating is less likely to be a major problem.


Finding the right fit is important for maximizing comfort and lockdown in any running shoe. The Air Max 97 fits on the narrower side, with its unconventional layered upper overlay construction and padded ankle collar restricting some movement.

When sized correctly, lockdown is adequate. But some may find the break-in period longer than typical running shoes and the odd shape can cause blisters or rubbing spots until fully broken in. So comfort may be an initial barrier unless you gradually break them in.


While the Air Max 97 has its limitations for pure performance running, it remains a reasonably versatile sneaker than can handle both casual wear and moderate pace running.

The ample Air cushioning absorbs shock effectively during recreational runs while the rugged outsole provides traction across urban environments. So they can put in double duty for the runner looking for casual style and the occasional run rather than a pure running specialist.

In summary, while viable for casual pace running and short distances, the Nike Air Max 97 falls short as a specialist running shoe option. The heavy weight, minimal stability elements and potential fit issues make hardcore training less than ideal.

But its iconic style, adequate cushioning and traction mean it can work for those not expecting top tier performance. So by understanding the strengths and limitations of the AM97, you can better decide if it suits your specific running needs and goals.

Similar FAQs about Running in Air Max 97s

How do Air Max 97s fit for running?

They fit on the narrower side with limited toe room. Getting the right size is important. Expect a longer break-in period than typical running shoes.

What is the best way to lace Air Max 97s for lockdown when running?

The unconventional layered upper can cause looseness. Try the runner’s loop lacing method for optimal lockdown by relieving pressure across the vamp.

Is the full-length Air unit good for shock absorption when running?

Yes, it provides good cushioning for casual paced running, although serious runners may want additional advanced foam cushioning.

Do Air Max 97s provide enough stability for runs?

Not really, the minimal midsole and high Air unit means mediocre lateral support for intense runs. Better for casual pace runs.

Are Air Max 97s comfortable for long distance running?

The snug fit and minimal cushioning make them less suitable for longer distances. Okay for short runs but not ideal marathon trainers.

What socks are best to prevent blisters when running in AM97s?

Due to potential rubbing, using anti-blister low friction socks from brands like Balega or Feetures can help.

So while the iconic Nike Air Max 97 can work as casual running shoes for recreational jogging, there are some definite limitations compared to pure performance trainers.

But its retro-modern style and adequate cushioning mean it offers flexibility for the runner who wants an old school look with potential for the occasional sprint. Just be aware of the key fit, stability, weight and cushioning constraints before committing to intense training.

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