The Swoosh reigns supreme as a footwear giant, but the brand can sometimes overwhelm consumers with a myriad of options. Ranging from current collabs to stand by silhouettes, the brand has a sneaker for just about every activity. Between new sneakers for hooping, to catching up on the most recent and popular styles, to must-have collaborations, we've rounded up the best Nikes to buy right now. Whether it's the Nike Flyknit Trainer ($337), the Nike Air Max 90 ($130), or the Nike Air Span II ($130), cash in on nostalgia and re-up on iconic styles with these can’t miss Nike styles.
The 25 Best Nike Shoes of All Time
Plus, where to buy some of their notable colorways
- Year released: 2000
- Notable colorways: Nike Shox BB4 Varsity Red ($172+), Nike Shox BB4 White Silver Navy ($195)
When you think of Vince Carter you might think of his legendarily long career, “The Dunk” in 2000, his epic throwback jerseys from Toronto, and of course his relationship with Nike Shox. A sneaker technology that dominated the Swoosh’s sneaker tech for the early 00s, was also one of the selling points that brought me close to the brand when I first started getting into sneakers. Nike recently retroed the Nike Shox BB4 and luckily for fans of Carter or just the 00s basketball sneaker, it’s available in a variety of colorways directly from the brand. Put some vintage boing in your step with the Nike Shox BB4.
- Year released: 2009
- Notable colorways: Nike LeBron 7 Black/White Metallic Gold ($400+), Nike LeBron 7 All Star ($187+)
While LeBron won't be done releasing shoes anytime soon (he has a lifetime deal with the company), the LeBron 7s seem to hold a special place in the hearts of both LBJ fans and sneaker lovers. Why is that exactly? We can't pinpoint a direct reason because it varies depending on who's asked. Some say it's because of the colorways that have been released. Others say it's the most comfortable shoe in the LeBron lineup, and some believe it's the best basketball shoe to play in. In our opinion, nostalgia also plays a role whether people want to admit or not as the first LeBron 7s were released circa 2009. Times were much simpler then, Bron was still early in his career (this during his first stint in Cleveland), we were all a bit younger...yeah, nostalgia definitely plays some part in the overall love of the 7s.
- Year released: 2010
- Notable colorways: Nike Kobe Proto Grinch 2020 ($745+), Nike Kobe 6 Protro Reverse ($236+)
If there's one shoe we believe is going to end up defining the legacy of Kobe Bryant longterm—it's the Kobe 6 Protros better known as "The Grinch" sneakers. Bryant first debuted the shoe around the holiday season in 2010, and while they made a splash then, the shoes were mostly associated with the Christmas season (hence The Grinch moniker). In the aftermath of Bryant's passing, however, The Grinch sneakers have gone on to develop a life of their own. They've been re-released, given a reverse model (which sees the shoes "flipped" in a red colorway with green laces), and are now worn outside of the holidays. An instantly recognizable shoe, you know "The Grinches" when you see them, and that's why they've become one of the most iconic Nike models in history.
- Year released: 2018
- Notable colorways: Jordan 1 Retro High OG SP ($2,283), Jordan 4 Retro "Cactus Jack" ($30,000)
Decades from now when we're reflecting on sneaker dominance in the part of the 21st century, Nike x Travis Scott is going to probably be considered one of the most lucrative to be established in that late 2010s period. Scott's massive popularity brings nothing but chaos to the sneaker community around drop time, and the value of shoes are some of the most expensive out there in the sneaker world as the Cactus Jack's we have listed above are currently running for $30k. With those types of prices being commanded, there isn't a doubt in our mind that Travis Scott's Nike's are going to end up being considered collector's items (if not already).
- Year released: 1989
- Notable colorways: Jordan 4 Retro Bred Reimagined ($295+), Jordan 4 Retro University Blue ($480+)
Depending on who you ask, some consider Jordan 4s to be the best basketball shoe that's ever been created (I personally know people who have only ever worn 4s). Released in 1989 in just four different colorways and designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, AJ4's have shown longevity in the sneaker community as one of it's most popular models. While there have been some technological updates and improvements over the decades, the 4s haven't strayed too far from its original appearance and customary design features. A Jordan 4 bares some resemblance to 3s in its chunky construction, and features the Jumpman logo branding along with the Air unit in the forefront part of the shoe. Whether it's the iconic Retro Breds or the memorable University Blue paying homage to Jordan's UNC alma mater, 4s remain a statement piece.
- Year released: 2012
- Notable colorways: Flyknit Racer Multi-color 3.0 ($178+), Flyknit Racer Triple Black ($68+)
The Nike Flyknit Trainer is a prime example of what happens when a smartly designed sneaker falls into the hands of the powerful influence of Kanye West. The sneaker originally debuted in 2012 and the OG black/white colorway holds a special seat in sneaker history as an under the radar sneaker that rose to popularity after West was spotted rocking the pair. Afterwards the silhouette skyrocketed in popularity, giving way to the almost equally popular Nike Flyknit Racer. The 2012 release date is important too, right at the beginning of modern-day athleisure, West choosing to go with the Flyknit Trainer gave a green light to the “sneakers with any outfit” trend that opened the door for the peak of trainer hype that the industry has experienced during the past decade.
The sneaker features a Zoom Air midsole with a Flyknit upper, a new Nike material that at the time rivaled the primeknit comfort from the brand with the Three Stripes. Be a part of sneaker history with the low-cut athletic look that helped bring forth the modern era in popular footwear.
The Nike Air Max 90, one of Nike’s best selling sneakers, almost went by the name Nike Air Max III. The sneaker designer, Tinker Hatfield, made a brand new window to show off the Swoosh’s Air Max technology and gave the sneaker bright color accenting to draw attention to the visible tech. The 90 has a bulky structure and even though it’s been replaced as an athletic sneaker it still helps lead Nike’s sales as a popular silhouette for casual wear and comfort while walking.
- Year released: 2018
- Notable colorways: Nike Air Span II Patta Infrared ($480+), Nike Air Span II Midnight Navy Tour Yellow ($927)
Among other high profile sneaker releases of 2018, the Swoosh snuck in a retro of the Nike Air Span II, a lesser-known retro silhouette that hasn’t been given its proper due. Heralding from the late 80s and early 90s, the sneaker is a boxy icon from sneaker days gone by and has made a full-force return in OG colorways and high profile collabs with brands like Patta. The sneaker is a personal favorite and a great addition to any rotation craving an injection of retro heat. The model received high praise from iconic sneaker journalist Gary Warnett whose passing in 2017 was recognized with an epic custom sneaker in his memory.
In the meme economy, a black Nike AF1 sneaker says a lot, and it's not good. Similarly so, a fresh and crisp pair of white Nike AF1s sends a different type of message. Despite what modern interpretations of the style suggest, the Nike Air Force 1 is one of the only truly “iconic” sneakers that exist. Low price point, impossibly and timelessly cool, the type of sneaker you want to buy every 6 months or so. Add a little bit of New York flair to the classic sneaker by buying the Supreme branded iteration which was rumored to restock every now and again to keep true to the ethos of the sneaker’s wearability and forever popularity.
- Year released: 2017
- Notable colorways: Waffle Racer "Electric Sky" ($193+), Waffle Racer "Electric Green" ($207+)
There’s very little that didn't and still doesn’t have the currently cool fingerprint of Virgil Abloh. The late LV designer and director of Off-White was not only the come to fruition prodigy of Kanye West, but always placed himself above minor celebrities with his collaborations. Directly placing him into the forefront of the sneaker world, his 2017 contribution to the culture can’t be overestimated and has been the talking point of sneaker style for the past few years.
Abloh also put his signature touch on other models like the Dunk Low SB and the waffle racer, a great silhouette that holds a sense of nostalgia for the brand’s humble beginnings.
- Year released: 1989
- Notable colorways: Nike Air Max Goadome ($127+), Nike ACG Mountain Fly Low Gore-Tex SE ($91+)
Nike ACG has had some absolute hits, especially considering the recent gorpcore revival that has put heavy synthetic layering and complex technical aspects at the forefront of footwear and style in general. The ACG Dog Mountain is the perfect remedy for some post quar activity. For those itching to get outside and put their closeted outerwear to work, you’re going to need the right sneaker to get you there. The Dog Mountain takes on a heavy treaded outsole with a light Nike foam midsole and rather lightweight construction. The silhouette proves true for outside running as well as SOHO street style. The sneaker of course is dressed in Nike’s consistently cool, ACG color schemes of tonal earthy colors mixed with bright, punchy vibes of 90s outerwear.
- Year released: 2020
- Notable colorways: Nike Men's Air Zoom Pegasus 38 Running Shoe (
$90.87, $76), Nike Mens Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Running ($140.43)
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 is one of the newer iterations of Nike’s running prominence. The Zoom Pegasus line has been a consistent deliverable from Nike in terms of updated materials, running tech, and highly popular runner silhouettes. The most recent offering from the Pegasus line features more foam in the midsole for a neutral run fit for the masses. If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it’s that I crave a good outdoor run and by the time this is over, I’ll certainly be in the need for a good run and a new habit. The Pegasus 37 is the antidote for this nationwide involuntary solitude that has most ready to climb the walls to be back outside climbing hills.
- Year released: 2017
- Notable colorways: Nike PG1 Flip the Switch ($430+), Nike PG2 Mamba Mentality ($219+)
Update your hoop sneaker with the best from Nike’s recent basketball silhouette. With The Last Dance getting sneakerheads thirsty again for performance basketball silhouettes, the folks at Nike have the thirst-quenching formula -- served in the form of a Nike Paul George 4 that will have you back on the court faster than you thought. The PG4 is the most recent iteration from the PG signature line and when it comes to basketball sneakers, signature models from the Swoosh are always a reliable source for on-court performance. The silhouette features a full foam midsole, outsole made with fast, cutting movements in mind, and a full zip on the tongue for a locked-in feel. Play like Paul George with his fourth signature silhouette from Nike.
The Nike Cortez OG lives a double life as a west coast sneaker icon to a one-off from Forrest Gump. The sneaker has been seen in several colorways, a house shoe for Kendrick Lamar, and custom iteration for tennis legend Maria Sharapova, but it may never surpass its red, white, and blue colorway being given to Tom Hanks in the classic piece of Americana. Despite its many faces, the sneaker has long-running origins with Nike. It originally was a response to Adidas’ Aztec sneaker which prompted the father of the brand Phil Knight to ask the question “What was the name of that dude who killed all the Aztecs?” bringing Knight and others at the Swoosh to name their new sneaker “Cortez.”
- Year released: 2002
- Notable colorways: Nike SB Dunk Low Court Purple ($140+), Nike SB Dunk Low Fog ($139+)
Whether you’re a die-hard skater or not, the SB Dunk Low is a fan favorite. Utilized by skaters for its wide outsole and low top cut, the sneaker has found a rebirth in popularity with high profile collabs from Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, however, the sneaker has seen a round of GR releases which feature some solid colorways. The recent “Kentucky” and “Syracuse” colorways saw a hyped drop sans the high profile touch of Abloh or Scott – showing the brand can still pump out regular classics without the touch of a celebrity or influencer. Watch out for a non-Off-White round of SB Dunk lows dropping soon for those looking for a solid SB without the extra zip tie tags and novel lacing systems.
- Year released: 1997
- Notable colorways: Nike Air Zoom Spiridon ($617+), Nike Air Zoom Spiridon 16 Stash ($150)
The Nike Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2 collaborated with skate brand Stüssy back in April of 2020 and immediately sold out despite working with the early 00s silhouette instead of a skate sneaker. The popularity of the collab showed off the cultural prowess of Stüssy and their ability to successfully collab on the same sneaker in a variety of styles. The “Fossil” colorway features a soft look with a tonal beige colorway and a black textured Swoosh on the lateral side of the sneaker. The brand dug deeper into the aesthetic of the shoe with a black, white, and silver color scheme that spoke more to the gorp aesthetic of the mesh and technical mechanics of the sneaker’s design. Cop this collab for a hot new pickup that promotes both brands in a stellar fashion.
- Year released: 1990
- Notable colorways: Air Jordan 5 Retro Burgundy ($173), Jordan 5 Retro UNC University Blue ($222+)
If not a lasting testament to the King-making and culturally important Michael Jordan, his ESPN docu-series has been a reinvigoration for sneakerheads. A reminder for how sneakers got to be so cool in the first place, MJ and his performance has proven to be one of the most influential devices in marketing sneakers. Since not being able to see Michael perform in real-life, the popular docu-series has sneakerheads hot again for the Air Jordan V “Fire Red.” The sneaker is a simple colorway of white and black with red accenting throughout, not to mention the silver touch on the tongue that truly brings the design concept together. A surefire cop for any ‘head, the “Fire Red” is a staple and no matter what anyone tells you, the sneaker DOES look good in shorts, after all, that’s how they were designed to be worn with.
- Year released: N/A
- Notable colorways: Nike ACG Air Moc Summit White Black ($95+), Nike ACG Moc Ocean Bliss ($45+)
With modern events in mind, more and more WFH’ers are opting for the slipper over conventional footwear and while there will soon again be a day to sport your new cops outside, the slipper life is the new go-to. While plenty of The Strategist articles will send you to the ultra-bougie and chic options, opt for the bonafide comfort and durability of the Swoosh and their ACG Moc 3.0 a slip-on “sneaker” with a lightly treaded outsole for light outdoor activity. An easy slip-on design meets with the ultra-lightweight feel of a modern Nike silhouette giving you an option for WFH footwear that you weren’t even aware of. Perfect for blogging inside and taking a small walk outside to maintain your sanity.
- Year released: 1998
- Notable colorways: Nike Air Max 98 Black Smoke Grey ($158+), Nike Air Max 98 Gundham ($411+)
The Nike Air Max 98 has had a long run as a go-to trainer from Nike and since a recent revival in 2018, it has been the highlight of some eye-catching collabs and notable GR releases. If you’re looking to experience the game-changing technology of Nike Air Max, the 90 and 1 might be your most hyped up option, but the 98 might just be the better silhouette to experience the comfort. Unlike those aforementioned models, the 98 took notes from the Air Max 97 and featured a full-length air max unit that was fully visible. The 98 features some incredibly aesthetically pleasing design lines and an upper made of leather and mesh. Splurge on the 2018’s “Gundam” colorway or cop some quality GR looks directly from the Nike site.
- Year released: 1979
- Notable colorways: Nike Daybreak Metallic Silver ($300+), Nike Metallic Daybreak ($176+)
The Nike Daybreak SP saw a recent moment in the spotlight courtesy of brands like Undercover and Sacai. Undercover played with the simple silhouette by adding a large addition to the heel of the sneaker. Sacai went in another direction with a “doubled-up” concept that should have been the sneaker of the year in 2019. Despite missing out on these higher-end iterations, the Daybreak SP is still a silhouette worth going after. The sneaker runs a little narrow but features the default Nike waffle outsole sure to stir nostalgia from the garage, shoe Dog days of Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. The personal recommendation is the “Lavender” colorway to add a little flair to the rotation, but other, more basic colorways exist for those looking for a classic Nike sneaker that’s sure to take it easy on the wallet.
- Year released: 1979
- Notable colorways: Nike Air Max Tailwind 4 Khaki ($297+), Nike Air Max Tailwind 4 Racer Blue ($179+)
Cataloging the best of Nike from the past couple years and the Air Max Tailwind IV was another great look at the Air Max dominance that once reigned supreme over the mail order glossy catalogs that used to appear in the mail. The Air Max Tailwind IV dawned the Supreme red and black for a one-off that caught some eyes and the super high price point of $190 for some red trainers. Despite your hyped feelings for the collab, the recent round of GR colorways has some notable standouts. Most noteworthy is the “Desert Ore/Campfire Orange/Court Purple/Team Orange” seen below which features a smooth gradient graphic on the upper which works super well with the sneaker’s vertical design lines. Another interesting thing about the sneaker is that if you have them on while you’re arrested in Australia it might actually be a good thing.
- Year released: 1979
- Notable colorways: Nike Blazer Mid 77 Jumbo ($50+), Nike Blazer Mid 77 Vintage White Picante Red Coconut Milk ($40+)
As a rule of thumb, a “Mid” height sneaker is usually a clunky, un-aesthetically pleasing version of a sneaker that would probably look better as a “low” or “high” top. Not so true for the Nike Mid Blazer 77. One of the Swoosh’s first hoop silhouettes, the simple leather and rubber construction was named for the Portland team of the same name. Even though the Blazer hasn’t seen the court since, like most retro Nike silhouettes it lives on in the scene, lifestyle world, ready to be repurposed for those who spend their time creating their magic on the internet instead of the court.
The Mid Blazer holds up as a part of Nike lore but also acts as a solid mid-height sneaker that’s available now in some good to go and simple color schemes. The most recent batch of Blazer releases sees the sneaker with a mostly white backdrop with a brightly colored Swoosh that pops off the upper.
- Year released: 2018
- Notable colorways: Nike Blazer Low Acronym Black ($125+), Nike Lunar Force 1 Low Acronym Bright Crimson ($1,957)
Nike is constantly collaborating with the coolest brands and influencers but a while back they tapped high tech brand, ACRONYM, for a new take on their Presto. The Berlin-based creative and design agency run by Errolson Hugh, came through on the Presto with their signature high tech touch and dropped a three sneaker pack in 2018 which featured the entire gauntlet of color schemes, from a simple black/grey to a light coral and neon green to a full-blown eye-catcher of blue, pink, and neon green accents. The Presto has been having a hell of a year back then (easily the best sneaker from the original Nike x Off-White “The Ten”) and is a great option for someone looking to add a dash of a high profile and high tech to their rotation.
- Year released: 2000
- Notable colorways: Nike Killshot Leather 2 Sail Oil ($66+), Nike Killshot 2 Leather Sail Gum ($69+)
Nike has a lot of iconic silhouettes, and for some reason, the performance/running brand holds a strange place in the hearts of those Goldman Sachs “every day is casual Friday” type guys with a special silhouette called the Killshot. The low top, the casual sneaker has proved to be a king of the relaxed fit and has been dominating the world of casual, low top sneakers. The Killshot 2 takes design cues from classic tennis sneakers and features modern updates in the form of leather and suede upper with a rubber gum sole that seems to really bring the sneaker together, not to mention the different colored Swoosh hits on the upper. Shop from a variety of colored Swooshes and try to find the J. Crew collab for an extra dash of “office casual.”
- Year released: 1985
- Notable colorways: Retro High Bred Banned ($355+), Jordan 1 Mid White Black ($96)
Slotting where exactly a Jordan 1 shoe should be on a best Nike sneakers of all time list is a bit of tricky process in the 2020s. We're more than familiar with the in-depth history of the sneaker as it has arguably the most extensive history of any of the shoes in the Jordan lineup. It's also the very first Jordan to ever be released, which means it's always going to be the most significant due to that reason. However, some sneaker enthusiasts feel that Jordan 1s have become a bit devalued in the sense that it has been overly associated with sneaker influencers who weren't/aren't true sneakerheads with an extensive sneaker knowledge and background.
To that point, you can understand why owning a Jordan 1 isn't as prestigious as let's just say twenty years ago, but it's iconic history, influence, and the path it paved for future sneakers (not just Jordans but in the sneaker world period) will always make it one of the greatest sneakers to ever be created.
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