Are Nike Air Max 97 Good for Running?

The Nike Air Max 97 is one of Nike’s most iconic sneakers, known for its sleek wavy design and full-length air cushioning. But with its stylish look and casual styling, many wonder – are Nike Air Max 97s actually good for running? Let’s take a closer look.

Outsole Traction

The outsole of the Air Max 97 features a wavy pattern with small flex grooves that are designed more for casual walking than serious running. The waves allow some flexibility but there are no aggressive lugs for multi-surface traction like you see on trail running shoes.

On smooth surfaces like roads or tracks, the 97s perform fine. But the lack of an aggressive sole lug pattern means traction could become an issue on wet or uneven terrain.

Cushioning Comfort

Where the Air Max 97 really shines is in cushioning. The sneakers feature Nike’s max air technology with pressurized air units running the full-length of the shoes. This provides excellent impact absorption when walking or doing light activity.

The original 97 model had a polyurethane midsole which was comfortable but lacked responsiveness. Newer versions now incorporate a Cushlon foam midsole for a bit more bounce-back. Overall the cushioning remains optimized more for casual use than speed.


The Nike Air Max 97 ranks on the heavy side for athletic shoes, with men’s sizes weighing 15-16 oz and women’s sizes weighing around 12 oz. By comparison many performance running shoes these days weigh 8-10 oz.

The Air Max 97’s bulkier footprint is great for style and cushioning but again reinforces its better suitability for lifestyle wear vs competitive running. The heavier shoe weight could slow down runners over longer distances.


The upper of the AM97 features layered panels and a wavy synthetic and mesh overlay. Airflow from the mesh helps but the layered construction doesn’t make these sneakers the most breathable for warm weather running.

In cooler conditions the more closed upper offers welcome warmth and weather protection. For hot summer running however, the Air Max 97’s could lead to some overheating.

Ankle Support

With its cut low on the ankle, the Nike Air Max 97 offers fairly minimal ankle support and stability. It incorporates no structural overlays or straps to really lock in the foot.

For straightforward running on flat surfaces this presents no problem. But for trail running or activities requiring a lot of lateral motion, the 97s come up a bit short on keeping the ankle secure.


The Air Max 97 typically costs $160-180 USD at full retail price. Compared to performance running shoes in the $100-150 range, that positions the 97 at a slight premium.

You’re mainly paying extra for the shoes’ iconic heritage style rather than technical running innovations. From a price-value perspective they align reasonably well to their intended use as fashionable lifestyle sneakers rather than hardcore athletic shoes.

The Verdict

So are Nike Air Max 97s good for running? They can work well for casual running activities thanks to the comfort from that full-length Max Air cushioning.

But the bulkier design, wavy traction pattern and minimal ankle support don’t make them ideal performance shoes for logged miles or over uneven terrain. As iconic leisure sneakers with both retro and modern appeal, Nike AM97s remain a stylish lifestyle choice rather than a competitive running shoe.

If you want an Air Max model best suited for casual running and athletic activity, consider options like the Nike Air Max 270, Nike Air Max 2090 or Nike Air Max Pre-Day.

All feature modern Max Air units for cushioning along with more breathable uppers and sportier traction than the 97s. Or look at true Nike running shoes like the Nike Pegasus, Nike React Infinity Run or Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% to get best-in-class performance for logged training miles.

While nostalgic OG runners may still hit the road or track in their 97s, most will likely keep this stylish Air Max in the casual rotation. Because even if they aren’t the most technically proficient running shoe today, the Nike Air Max 97 stays winning in the looks and lifestyle department.


Are Nike Air Max 97 good for walking?

With the Air Max 97’s comfort and cushioning, they work very well as lifestyle walking shoes. The wavy sole provides good grip and support on most everyday surfaces. Just take note they run slightly heavy.

Can you run long distance in Nike Air Max 97?

With their suboptimal breathability, heavier footprint and lack of multi-terrain traction, Nike Air Max 97 are not the ideal choice for long distance running. You’d be better served choosing a dedicated performance running shoe.

How long do Nike Air Max 97 last?

With care, most wearers get 1-3 years of frequent use from Air Max 97s before signs of excessive wear. Their durability comes mainly from that rugged wavy rubber outsole rather than the upper materials.

Are Nike Air Max 97 true to size?

The Nike Air Max 97 tends to fit according to standard sizing conventions. Most wearers suggest ordering your normal shoe size for the best overall fit and comfort in the 97s.

In summary, the retro-styled Nike Air Max 97 makes an excellent choice as a lifestyle fashion sneaker. With its iconic waves and Max Air cushioning, fans love its look and casual wearability.

But most will still prefer traditional performance running shoes for logged miles and training. At the end of the day the 97s are inspired more by aesthetic innovation rather than technical. And there’s nothing wrong with a stylish shoe you can proudly display at the finish line.

Leave a comment