Are Nike Air Max 90 Good for Running?

The Nike Air Max 90 is one of Nike’s most iconic sneaker silhouettes. With its visible Air bubble in the heel and sleek, streamlined design, the Air Max 90 has secured its place as a classic. But how does this retro sneaker actually perform for running? Let’s take a closer look.

Outsole Traction

The outsole of the Air Max 90 features a waffle pattern that provides decent multi-surface traction on most surfaces. The zigzag waffle design gives reliable grip when running on roads, sidewalks, tracks, light trails, and at the gym.

However, the waffle lugs are fairly close together and shallow, so traction may suffer in muddy conditions or uneven terrain. The tread lacks aggressive lugs that can penetrate soft or slippery ground. So while the Air Max 90 outsole works well for casual runs, it’s not ideal for hardcore trail running.

Cushioning Comfort

The main claim to fame of the Air Max 90 is its visible Air unit in the heel. This contained air bubble absorbs impact and provides responsive cushioning during your gait cycle.

The Air technology helps prevent shock from hard landings traveling up your legs, knees, and hips over long distances.FRONTThe forefoot lacks Air cushioning, instead using an EVA foam midsole.

So you miss out on extra cushioning in the forefoot to absorb toe-off impact. This means comfort may decrease over long runs as impact builds up through the thinner forefoot foam. The latest Air Max 90 models do contain full-length Air units though for superior comfort from heel to toe.


The Nike Air Max 90 is not the lightest running shoe, even with visible Air pockets reducing weight. Most models weigh 11-13 oz depending on materials used.

While not overly heavy, there are lighter weight trainers out there built specifically for running longer distances comfortably. Extra weight over 5+ miles can start to drag your feet down and feel fatiguing. So while fine for shorter runs, heavy miles may prove tiring in the Air Max 90.


The Air Max 90 offers decent breathability thanks to leather paneling on the upper and an open mesh forefoot. Small perforations along the sides, toe box, and eyestays allow heat and sweat to escape.

Although not as breathable as engineered mesh of modern running shoes, the vintage construction still offers ample airflow for most runners. Just don’t expect quite as cool and dry of a ride as highly ventilated mesh models. Also know leather panels reduce breathability compared to woven synthetics.


One upside of the heavier weight Air Max 90 is good stability for moderate overpronators. The wide platform, full-length midsole and padded collar grip your foot securely from all sides.

There is also a stability plate embedded in the foam midsole to prevent excess twisting or ankle rolls. So while not a motion control shoe, the Air Max 90 offers decent stability for mild to moderate overpronators. Neutral runners can still enjoy secure traction without corrective features getting in the way.


Thanks to a beefy foam midsole and durable rubber outsole, the Nike Air Max 90 holds up well over high mileage. Expect the waffle outsole lugs and AirMax heel unit to retain integrity and bounce even after 300+ miles. The injected Phylon midsole foam also resists packing out or creasing.

So aside from some midsole foam softening over time, the Air Max 90 is built to stand the test of miles. The upper leather and mesh should also continue looking fresh with basic cleaning. Just watch for stitching coming loose over very high mileage.

Pros of Running in Nike Air Max 90s

  • Iconic streetwear styling
  • Visible heel Air units soften impact
  • Traction from waffle pattern outsole
  • Foam midsole provides cushioning
  • Stable platform for overpronators
  • Durable construction for high mileage

Cons of Running in Nike Air Max 90s

  • Heavier than dedicated running shoes
  • Lacks forefoot Air cushioning
  • Not enough traction for trails
  • Thick profile less flexibility
  • Runs hotter than mesh shoes

The Verdict:

The retro Nike Air Max 90 works surprisingly well as a daily running shoe for casual runners. The visible Air Max unit provides responsive heel cushioning and waffle outsole grips most smooth surfaces. Stability features also prevent excess ankle rolling for overpronators.

Just don’t expect feather light performance for faster speeds or races. The iconic leather/mesh upper also fits the bill for athleisure post-run style. For casual jogging and daily training, the Air Max 90 is a stylish, comfortable choice.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should I run in Nike Air Max 90s every day?

The Nike Air Max 90 can work for daily running thanks to responsive Air cushioning and durable construction. Just expect a heavier, thicker feel than modern performance trainers. Rotate them with lighter racers to avoid fatigue over high weekly mileage.

Can I run marathons in Air Max 90s?

We don’t recommend Air Max 90s for marathons or long distances over 10 miles. The heavy weight and thinner forefoot cushioning cannot provide enough shock absorption or energy return mile after mile. Choose dedicated marathon shoes for better comfort over 26.2 miles.

Are Nike Air Max shoes good for wide feet?

Many Nike Air Max models like the 90 fit wide feet thanks to generous toe boxes and thick midsoles. Try wide sizes and wear thin socks for comfortable mileage even with wider feet. Avoid lower Air Max models that have a narrow midfoot fit.

Are Nike Air Max shoes good for plantar fasciitis?

Certain Nike Air Max models provide excellent cushioning and arch support for plantar fasciitis relief. Look for Air Max shoes with maximum heel and midfoot cushioning like the Air Max 270 React or Air Max Plus 3. Avoid low or minimal Air Max models with less cushioning.

Are Air Maxes good for walking?

With soft visible Air units and foam cushioning underfoot, most Nike Air Max models offer extremely comfortable walking shoes. The Air bubble absorbs shock over miles while waffle outsoles maintain reliable urban terrain traction. Just avoid trail or rugged outdoor walking in Air Max.

So there you have it – the Nike Air Max 90 can make for a stylish, cushioned running shoe for casual joggers. Just don’t expect incredible speed or elite performance capabilities. For daily miles and weekend runs, the iconic retro runner gets the job done in comfort and classic streetwear flair.

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