It’s no secret we’re big fans of Nike trainers here at Who What Wear (comfort, style, colour options galore, what’s not to love?). But as with most sneaker brands that have been pumping out iconic shoes for some years now, knowing your Air Max 1s from your Air Max Theas and your FlyKnits from your Epic Reacts can take some serious sneakerhead knowledge. Especially if you want to get in on the latest trainer trends that are popping up all over Instagram. So to help you tell one Nike style from the other and find the shoes that are right for your vibe (minimalistic Air Prestos or chunky Huaraches?), we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the Nike sneakers you need to know.
From the styles influencers are loving right now to the classics that’ll be in our wardrobes forever, keep scrolling for Nikes 101.
Nike Air Max
First up, the OG Nike trend: Nike Air Max. This is a pretty substantial sneaker category in itself. The original Air Max 1 debuted in 1987 with the brand’s famous air-cushion technology and has since inspired so many iterations of the original springy shoes that it’s hard to keep count. The Air Max styles loved by influencers, however, are undoubtedly Air Max Theas (Olivia Palermo has a pair), the Air Max 97s (which you’ll likely see non-stop on Instagram) and most recently, Air Monarchs—Nike’s best-selling chunky sneakers.
Though Nike’s Cortez style is a streetwear classic these days, the revolutionary track shoes were designed in 1972 by Olympic athletics coach and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman. They’re built for comfort and speed, and we love them for being lightweight and comfortable. The Cortez style also comes in a ton of sleek colourways.
In 2017, Nike took its air cushion tech one step further, reinventing the original concept of the classic Air Max to create the futuristic Nike Air VaporMax. Runners love them because the shoes promise super-light, bouncy cushioning with increased flexibility. Fashion influencers, however, know that the air-bubble soles look super cool with everything from jeans to dresses.
If you love chunky trainers, then you may well already be au fait with the cult Nike Air Huarache style. They originally made their debut in 1991 as game-changing running shoes that “hug” your feet thanks to their built-in neoprene-and-spandex socks. Originally created by Nike’s number one designer, Tim Hatfield, the trainers are now heralded as iconic among sneakerheads and a go-to chunky style for streetwear lovers.
A new favourite among minimalists is the Nike Air Presto style, which first came onto the scene in 2000. Prestos hit the sweet spot between pared-back fashion sneakers and all-day comfort. The sole is a little thicker than typical “not for workouts” trainers (meaning you get some extra cushioning), while the flexible neoprene upper keeps everything looking slick.
If you love Converse, then you’ll need to add a pair of Nike Blazers to your closet. Originally high-top basketball shoes that were launched 1973, Blazers have since transitioned through a retro-skater phase and are now loved by street stylers with a laid-back back approach to fashion. Whether you’re opting for high-tops or a low-cut style, these sneakers are for casual, easy dressing.
If you’re into hybrids, then Nike Flyknits are for you. The style is less about the shoe’s shape and more about the super-light knitted fabric they’re made of. You can also find the knitted texture on updated Epic React, Zoom, VaporMax and Air Max Thea styles. If you like to feel the breeze between your toes, look to a pair of these.