Are Nike Air Max Good For Running? Which Air Max Is The Best For Performance?


If you own an Air Max and you’re wondering “are Nike Air Max good for running?”, we’ve got you covered.

I can’t just say yes or no because there are a lot of Nike Air Max models and each shoe is designed differently.

So, to give you an accurate answer, I’m going to tackle each Air Max model separately.

I’m going to talk about…

  • Nike Air Max 90
  • Nike Air Max 270
  • Nike Air Max 270 React
  • Nike Air Max 2090
  • Nike Air Max 98
  • Nike Air Max 97
  • Nike Air Max 720

Let’s get right into it…


Are Nike Air Max Good For Running?

Nike makes a lot of great running shoes that were originally designed for performance running including the Air Max, the Vaporfly, Alphafly, Pegasus, and Vomero.

But because there are a lot of Air Max models, here’s what I can tell you:

  • Air Max 90 is good for running.
  • Air Max 270 is not good for running.
  • Air Max 270 is not good for running.
  • Air Max 2090 is good for very short distance-running.
  • Air Max 98 is not good for running.
  • Air Max 720 is not good for running.

What are Nike Air Max Good for?

The Nike Air Max shoes are a perfect fusion of comfort and style. With their innovative design and visible Air units, the Air Max provide excellent support for your daily activities, whether it’s running, walking, or simply stepping out in style. It’s not just footwear; it’s a tailored experience that combines performance and fashion to suit your unique preferences.

Allow me to delve into more specifics now…



Are Nike Air Max 90 Good for Running?

Yes. The Nike Air Max 3 is a running shoe because it was designed as a running shoe. It might be not classified as one right now in terms of the innovative midsole foams, carbon plates, and things like that, but certainly, back in the day, it was.

So, can you still run in the Air Max 90? Yes, you can, but I’ve got to point out I’m not going to go running any serious distance in this one because it’s really heavy.

A lot of people might say the Nike Air Max 3 is not a running shoe. Well, it very clearly is a running shoe. I mean if it’s good enough for Steve Moneghetti, then it’s good enough for me.


So, the more experienced runners out there, do you ever remember using the Air Max line for running?

Jump down to Air Max 270

There are some staple design features that have not disappeared from Nike’s running shoe lineup over 30 years.


We rarely see such tooling on running shoes these days. There’s a leather piece that looks kind of like a bit of a mudguard, I suppose.

That mesh material upfront is unbelievable. Actually, the flexibility is really welcome and it does feel really plush and interesting.

There are some extra eyelets at the top of the lacing system intended for the runner’s knot.

The padding in the heel, collar, and tongue is quite considerable and there’s a considerable heel counter as well.

It’s quite enlightening to see the development and advancement of running shoes. Maybe with the forthcoming Vomero 15 and that Zoom X Invincible as well we’re returning to a more padded heel collar and tongue.



There’s no Zoom X in the midsole. The shoe has the iconic exposed Air unit in the heel and I was interested to find they’ve put an additional encapsulated Air bag in the forefoot.

The foam is much more rigid and far denser. I mean you could probably run with this midsole. The famous 6 times world triathlon champion Steve Moneghetti was using this shoe to train in.

I think that’s certification enough that this is a running shoe.  

Nike says it’s using Phylon in the midsole, but it definitely feels vastly different though to the stuff that was used in Nike’s recent reissue of the Tailwind 79.



The rubber in the forefoot is actually quite a sticky sort of rubber as opposed to the orange rubber which isn’t anywhere near as tactile.

So, comparing the Air Max up against a more modern shoe, the differences are actually very striking. Certainly, the weight is the biggest thing.

Where to buy (not affiliate)
NikeFoot Locker 


Are Nike Air Max 270 good for running?

The Air Max 270 is a good running shoe for short runs. However, its design leans more towards an everyday sneaker rather than a dedicated running shoe, making it less suitable for longer distances such as 5ks or 10ks.

Although the Air Max 270 has a very athletic kind of look to it, it’s just an everyday sneaker and something you can just pull off with pretty much most outfits.

The upper has a thicker mesh material, which is not the same kind of lightweight and breathable mesh you would see on most running shoes.

Also, something else that’s kind of interesting is that the Air Max 270 is the very first Air Max to be designed solely for lifestyle wear. So for that reason, they were able to give this shoe a crazy amount of Air to make the heel extremely comfortable.

Jump down to Air Max 270 React



You’ve got this light bone mesh. I really like the way Nike went about designing this mesh because each one of these little perforation holes varies in size, which gives the upper a really nice texture.

For extra durability around the toe box, Nike added some black fused overlay accented by a Nike swoosh on the lateral side.

Even though this is technically a one-piece bootie construction, you do have a slightly different material on the tongue. It’s a little bit more padded so when you tighten the laces, it won’t really dig into your foot.



As for fit, the Air Max 270 does seem to fit true to size and that’s definitely what I’d suggest for you guys as well.

However, if you have the chance to try the shoe on first before you buy it, make sure you do that to make sure the sizing is right for you.



As for the heel cup, you’ve got the semi-translucent sort of hot punch TPU heel counter. I really like the fact that it’s semi-translucent so you sort of get this fade down into the Air bubble.

Even though that fade might make it look like the heel counter is one piece with the Air bubble from a distance, it’s actually two separate pieces attached by some glue.

Let’s move to the Air bubble which is by far its most signature feature…

Air Bubble

If you didn’t already know, this shoe is called the Air Max 270 because the Air bubble is exposed for 270 degrees around the sneaker.

I definitely prefer this shoe to the Vapor Max and that’s mainly because it feels more stable and isn’t as narrow.

Something else I really like about this Air bubble when you’re wearing the shoe is that your foot is actually sort of surrounded by the Air bubble rather than being right on top of it. This makes it feel more cushioned and more springy.



In the forefoot, you’ve got this white textured foam midsole. Even though the rest of the midsole is primarily foam, they did a really good job of transitioning the Air bubble to the foam so you don’t even feel it, which is incredible.



On the bottom of the shoe, you’re able to see the dual-density foam setup that allows for a much more comfortable ride.

Overall, the Air Max 270 is a really well-made sneaker. Even though most people wear their Air Maxes as primarily a lifestyle shoe, it’s nice to see Nike actually creating something specifically designed for that.

Where to buy (not affiliate)
NikeDicks Sporting Goods 



Are Nike Air Max 270 React Good for running?

The answer is no.

I would never wear the Air Max 270 React for any kind of sports and I would never run in this shoe.

Although the midsole is React which is the same name used on most Nike running shoes, this React was designed for lifestyle wear and it doesn’t feel as cushiony as the React in running shoes.

And combined with the Air bubble, the heel is stiffer and it won’t allow for a smoother heel-to-toe transition you would want in a running shoe.

But for lifestyle wear, even though the shoe feels different underfoot, it’s not unbearable and it’s still pretty comfortable.

Then, the upper has some kind of felt material that does provide the breathability needed for performance purposes.

Overall, the Nike Air Max 270 React is a great-looking shoe and a great-looking colorway, but I would not run in it even for one kilometer.

Jump down to Air Max 2090


Nike seems to be adding React to a lot of their sneakers like the Nike React Presto‘s which actually are very comfortable on foot.

I’ve got to say React is probably one of my favorite cushions, especially in their running shoes like the Nike Epic React or the Infinity React.

Nike gave us a generous amount of React in the forefoot which is very soft underfoot and then you also have a little bit of React on top of the 270 Air Unit.

Although the 270 Air Unit remains relatively unchanged from the previous 270 sneakers, it does feel kind of weird with the React layer on top of it.

The React is so much softer than the regular 270 and the whole front of the shoe just feels like a nice cushiony soft pillow and then in the heel of the shoe you get a little bit more of that “marshmallowy” feel with the React cushioning.

But then just beneath that when you push down a little bit harder, you feel like you’re on top of a slightly harder surface. It’s a really weird feeling because 270 is usually pretty soft underfoot.

In order to activate the 270 Air Unit, you really have to put a lot of weight on your heel. And if you’re not putting a huge amount of weight on your heel, it just feels like you’re standing on a kind of a hard surface.



Starting off around the edge of the toe, you’ve got this really thin felt feeling material. A lot of the panels in the upper of the shoe are made up of the same sort of material.

I feel like the reason they used this material on the upper is because they were able to create a lot of different layers without making the upper seem even bulkier than it already is.

To be honest, it does kind of feel cheap, but when you look at the shoe from a distance, you can’t really tell.

Beneath this layer, you’ve got this material which I believe is the base layer of the entire upper of the shoe and it has this sort of nylon almost papery feel to it.

Again, it feels kind of cheap, but it doesn’t feel terrible.

You’ve also got these black lace loops that hold the rope laces in place. Beneath the rope laces, you’ve got a somewhat well-padded tongue.



Moving inside the shoe, you’ve got this sock liner that has a little bit of padding around the ankle. And even though it is minimal, it is still pretty comfortable on foot.

As for fit, the Air Max 270 React does seem to fit true to size.



You’ve got a rubber outsole that seems to combine the bottom of a Nike Element React with the bottom of an Air Max 270.

Where to buy (not affiliate)
Foot LockerGoat 


Are Nike Air Max 2090 good for running?

The answer is yes and no. You can run in the Air Max 2090 but only for very short distances.

The Nike Air Max 2090 is extremely heavy, it isn’t cushioned enough, and the heel area is a little bit hard, which would create issues if you run for longer distances.

Also, the shoe doesn’t provide stability and you would definitely feel wobbly because it is such a massive stack on the back.

Jump down to Air Max 98

Every year on Air Max Day, Nike releases a few different Air Max models and also usually releases a new version of the Air Max silhouette. The Air Max 2090 is no different.

With the Air Max 2090, Nike’s doing one of the things that they do really well which is draw on their history.

As you may already be able to tell, the Air Max 2090 is heavily inspired by the Air Max 90 which originally released in 1990.

I would almost consider the Air Max 2090 the modern take on the Air Max 90 and I really do think that’s a good thing.

The Air Max 90 is so insanely popular for a reason and so by drawing on that sneaker, you really do get a lot of the great elements from that shoe on this new version of the sneaker.



The majority of the upper is covered in this clear plastic mesh. Underneath this clear plastic mesh, you’ve actually got this textile liner which goes right up against your foot.

Around the tip of the toe, you’ve got this fused overlay for added durability. Then as you move up on the shoe around the tongue cut out, you’ve got some more fused overlays covering up some blue stitching details.

Inside the shoe, you’ve got a sock liner around the heel with some really nice padding which genuinely does feel really nice up against your foot.

As for the actual comfort of the upper, it does feel pretty good on foot. You’ve got some really nice padding around the ankle area which feels really nice.



As you move back on the shoe, you’ve got a synthetic leather panel that runs along the midfoot of the sneaker, which is actually pretty reminiscent of the Air Max 90.

You’ve got this semi-translucent heel tab which actually bears a striking resemblance to the heel tab on the Air Max 90.

The Air Max 2090 is actually a pretty cool callback to the Air Max 90. It’s different, it modifies that design, but it still has the same shape and you still understand what it is.


As for sizing and fit, the Air Max 2090 does seem to fit true to size.

But even though the shoe looks like it has a separate tongue, it’s actually attached to an internal booty system. This means you can’t change up the sizing of the shoe that much so you want to make sure you’re grabbing the right size for you.

Let’s move to the namesake of this sneaker…


The Air Max unit is the best part of the sneaker. The reason I say that this is the best part of the shoe is because this is the only real part of the sneaker that really stands out.

The midsole has this super soft foam in the forefoot, which I think is React because they didn’t call it out on their website.

The Air Max unit in the heel is soft but it’s not too soft to where you feel like it’s too mushy.

The unit itself definitely seems to be larger and bouncier than that in the Air Max 90 and I really like it because it feels really great underfoot.

As for the forefoot, it has this super soft foam in there, which, again, I think feels like React.


You’ve got this really nice semi-translucent grey outsole.

The Air Max 2090 is a solid everyday sneaker. For Air Max heads, this is definitely a sneaker that you should pick up especially if you love the Air Max 90.

Is the Air Max 2090 a monumental improvement over any of the previous Air Maxes?

Not really. It’s definitely more of an iterative improvement but it’s one that I really like and one that I’m excited to wear.

Where to buy (not affiliate)
GoatKick Screw 


Are Nike Air Max 98 good for running?

The Air Max 98 is not for running. The Air unit is stiff and needs some breaking in for casual wear. For running purposes, this means it would probably cause damage waiting for this unit to fully break in and become more comfortable.

The Air Max 98 is also heavy and clunky and the midsole and Air unit feel pretty much on the sturdy side, which is absolutely a no-no for running.

Are the Air Max 97 good for running? No, for the same reasons above.

Jump down to Air Max 720


This is arguably the most popular release of the group is the South Beach Air Max 98.

However, the Air Max 98 was never really one of my favorite Air Maxes because I felt like it was just a lot going on at once.

The South Beach theme buries a little bit because you’ve got this piece of obsidian or dark navy nubuck running around the bottom of the upper.

Just above that, you’ve got this piece of semi-gloss leather, and running around the upper edge of that leather is silver 3M piping.

There are a couple of 3M hits throughout the sneaker that sort of add a pop when you hit it with the flash.


As for fit, I’d say this Air Max 98 fits true to size.

I will say though that they narrow off towards the forefront of the sneaker. So, if you do have wide feet, I’d say go half a size up.

Nike is usually pretty good about keeping their shoes true to size. But if you’re not sure, it doesn’t hurt to try on the shoe first in-store before you buy it to make sure the sizing is right for you.


Moving down the shoe, you’ve got your standard Air Max 98 foam midsole with an exposed Air bubble running along most of the shoe.

As with the South Beach Air Max 97’s, the pillars inside the Air bubble also come in gloss green.

Overall, I think the South Beach 98 is my favorite Air Max to release in the South Beach pack.

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Are Nike Air Max 720 good for running?

No. The Air Max 720 is not good for running.

Like the Air Max 270, the Air Max 720 is one of the only Air Maxes ever to be made specifically for lifestyle wear and not for running.

Not only that, but Nike also put the tallest air unit they’ve ever put in any sneaker into the Air Max 720, which makes the shoe a little bit unstable for running.

Because of the placement of the Air bubble on the heel and how just thick this Air bubble is, it’s a different walking experience and it’s something that you kind of have to get used to. But for running, this is going to hurt long before you get used to it.

Also, because this gigantic Air Unit has a wedge-like shape and because the back of the Air bubble is pushed out so far from the heel, I find that the back of the Air bubble actually hits the ground on strides before your heel does, which is kind of disconcerting like it’s definitely a weird feeling.


This Air Unit runs from the toe all the way around the bottom to the other side of the toe. It also starts to get significantly thicker the farther back in the shoe you get.

To be 100% honest, it almost feels like I have to change the way that I walk in this shoe and that’s not a good thing.

But on the other side of the coin, this Air unit is incredibly comfortable for lifestyle wear and I don’t want to hate on it because it just feels so great underfoot.


The upper comes in this padded mesh that’s actually accented by pressed details that almost look like ripples or waves.

This texture definitely contributes to the overall sort of organic design aesthetics that this sneaker has.

Continuing up the shoe, you’ve got these super subtle hidden lace loops that hold these flat laces in place.

Just below the laces, you’ve got some more padded mesh on the tongue.


As for fit, this shoe definitely seems to fit true to size. I have a narrow foot so I could go a half size down if I wanted a more snug fit. However, I definitely suggest going true to size.


Rounding off the sneaker on the bottom of the shoe, you’ve got this translucent rubber ring for durability. Then in the center of the forefoot, you’ve got this black rubber pod for added traction and durability. Surrounding that pod, you’ve got this black foam.

Overall, the Air Max 720 is an awesome sneaker. I love the way it looks and I love the way it feels. However, there are drawbacks.

Where to buy (not affiliate)

So, there you have it. Are Nike Air Max good for running? As you see there’s no one-fits-all answer. Every model is designed differently.

But the good news is the Nike Air Max 90 is actually the best Air Max for running.

See you on the next one.

About Eric Barber

Eric Barber is a happy father of two little angels, a husband, and a runner. He eats, sleeps, and dreams anything foot related: running shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, you name it. It all started when Eric was a shoe store specialist watching and fitting people's feet day in and day out.

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