Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1: Which Shoe Is Best?

Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1
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Two of Nike's most iconic sneakers, the Air Force 1 and Dunks, are perennially popular amongst casual and die-hard kicks fans.

Since their respective launches in 1982 and 1985, the Dunk and Air Force 1 have seen numerous iterations, with some silhouettes sold for thousands of pounds.

Initially starting as basketball shoes, the sneakers have forged reputations away from the court. But which is best?

Here at the Slingo lifestyle blog, we explore the different models and similarities between the Nike Air Force 1 and Dunk trainers to determine which is best so you can step out style.

A Brief History of Nike

Originally named Blue Ribbon Sports, Nike was founded in 1964 by Phil Knight and his track coach at the University of Oregon, Bill Bowerman.

The company originally imported the Onitsuka Tiger, a Japanese running shoe, before Nike began making their own sneakers.

Predominantly known for its running shoes, Nike launched its first basketball sneaker in 1973, the Blazer - a silhouette still made today. The introduction of the Blazer was a considerable step for Nike.

This brand has since become synonymous with some of the greatest basketball players of all time, with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James all having their signature Nike trainers.

It wasn't until the 1980s, however, that Nike started to cement its place as the sneaker brand of choice for basketballers, with one of the focuses of this guide, the Air Force 1, released in 1982, the Air Jordan 1 in 1984, and the Dunk following in 1985.

As of April 2023, more than 75% of all shoes worn by NBA players were made by a Nike-owned company (including Jordan and Converse), highlighting the brand's dominance.

Nike Dunk vs Air Force 1 - Which Should You Choose?

Design & style

There are lots of design similarities between the trainers. After all, they both began life as basketball shoes, with Nike initially making high-top versions of the sneakers. The original Air Force 1s featured ankle straps to reduce the risk of injury and maximise ankle support.

The Dunk, meanwhile, has extra eyelets at the top of the tongue. When used, these essentially act as a heel lock, offering more ankle support without using a cumbersome removable ankle strap.

One of the significant differences between the two trainers is that the Air Force 1 has a larger midsole. This is because of the air technology in the base of the shoe. These air bubbles effectively make for a comfier, lighter experience.

Although these high-top styles are still available today, their low-top versions are more commonly found and worn for their aesthetic appeal than basketball-based benefits.

The understated, classic design of the Nike Air Force and Dunk has made them a staple for sneakerheads worldwide.

Nike Air Force 1 score: 9.5/10

Nike Dunk score: 9.5/10 

As two pioneering basketball sneakers and, more recently, sought-after trainers for fashionistas, the Air Force 1 and Dunk have cemented their places in history - making this section of our comparison guide too close to call.

Quality

Regarding quality, the Dunk and Air Force 1 silhouettes are designed and made by Nike. Because of this, they will both go through the same stringent product testing processes.

Nike has built a reputation for making high-quality trainers look good and work well. Modern AF1s and Dunks may not be made for the basketball court anymore, but they're made to last.

That said, the popularity of a box-fresh Air Force 1 is hard to ignore. People go to great lengths to avoid the dreaded foot bends across the toe box; however, the issue is down to general wear and tear as opposed to problems with manufacturing.

Nike Air Force 1 score: 9/10

Nike Dunk score: 9/10 

As the same company makes the two trainers, they undergo the same quality control checks, finding a victor in this category is impossible.

Value

The retail price for Nike Dunks and Air Force 1s is around £110 for both trainers, so they're evenly matched in this category.

However, we've reviewed the rarer silhouettes to see how much they're worth and have sold for in the past.

The Air Force 1 is Nike's most iconic sneaker, so it stands to reason that this silhouette is a staple for collaborations. AF1 collaborations that have sold for top dollar include Louis Vuitton ($13,000), Tiffany and Co. ($40,000), and DJ Clark Kent ($35,000).

The most expensive Air Force 1 ever sold is the Louis Vuitton AF1 by the late Virgil Abloh, which sold for an eye watering $352,800. The proceeds of the sale went to Abloh's Post-Modern Scholarship Fund.

Similarly, the Dunk has become a go-to sneaker for collaborations, with everyone from Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream to Freddy Krueger being immortalised on pairs of Dunks.

The Nightmare on Elm St Krueger-themed trainers were created for the cast and crew of the film but allegedly had to be destroyed for legal reasons. Only a few pairs survived the cull and have fetched prices of over £25,000. Other rare Dunks include Jeff Staple's NYC Pigeon collaboration, known to sell for over £30,000.

Nike Air Force 1 score: 9.5/10

Nike Dunk score: 9/10 

It is another close category, but the Air Force 1 edges this due to the massive prices the shoes have fetched at auction.

Exclusivity

The Nike Air Force and Dunk are both widely available, and the AF1 is Nike's best-selling shoe ever, with approximately 10 million pairs sold worldwide every year.

Both shoes' understated, clean stylings are the perfect silhouettes for designers and musicians to add their spin.

The exclusivity of Nike Dunks varies mainly on the colourway of the trainer. For example, the black and white 'panda' shoe is widely available and has seen a massive increase in popularity since being re-released in 2020.

By contrast, some extremely limited-edition Dunk and Air Force 1 trainers have been released. The Air Force 1 has seen many 'player exclusives and 'friends and family' releases - these are shoes gifted exclusively to sports teams or to project collaborators and their nearest and dearest.

While there have been many unique Nike Dunk collaborations and friends and family releases, the number is much lower than the Air Force 1. One of the most famous examples of a friends and family sneaker is the inverted colourway of the Tiffany & Co. x Nike Air Force 1, which sells for tens of thousands of pounds.

Nike Air Force 1 score: 9.5/10

Nike Dunk score: 9/10 

The consistent popularity of the AF1 amongst collaborators and friends and family releases means the Dunk misses out on this category.

Cultural significance

In the 1990s, with skateboarding experiencing a boom and Tony Hawk's Pro-Skater games becoming a mainstay of consoles worldwide, Nike pivoted the Dunk to become a skating shoe.

The Dunk had already become popular with skaters as it was sold at discount stores after its popularity dropped amongst basketballers. Skaters loved the cushioning, ankle support and how easy the Dunk was to wear with different outfits.

To cement the Dunk's place in skating, Nike updated the shoe to give it a thicker tongue and improve its structure. This new style became known as the Dunk SB - most famously worn by legendary skater Eric Koston.

Throughout the 2000s, the Dunk SB gained a cult following and was the centrepiece of significant collaborations with brands like Supreme, Stussy, and even hip-hop legend MF DOOM. This work has resulted in some Dunk colourways worth thousands on resale markets.

Nike re-released the Dunk SB in 2020, and the shoe has become a staple of wardrobes. The Panda Dunk, in particular, has become massively popular due to its wearability, understated stylings, and the features that made it popular among skaters and basketball players.

While the Dunk has a massive cultural reputation, it pales compared to the success of the Air Force 1. Since its introduction to the world in 1982, the AF1 has never been too far from the spotlight.

The classic all-white Air Force 1 is ever-present in the cultural zeitgeist, whether the shoes are worn by supermodels like Bella Hadid or mentioned on songs like Nelly's Air Force 1, which is said to have caused a shortage of the shoes in the US.

Even after over 40 years and countless other Nike silhouettes, the Air Force one remains the brand's signature style. The shoe has been the centre of massive collaborations with the likes of Jacquemus, Louis Vuitton, Travis Scott, Billie Eilish, and more.

The AF1's ultra-wearable style, comfortable air technology in the sole, and the fact it's the go-to trainer for so many celebrities and style icons mean the sneaker has never gone out of style and probably never will.

Nike Air Force 1 score: 10/10

Nike Dunk score: 9/10 

In another close round, the Air Force 1 won due to its seemingly eternal staying power and status as a staple trainer of sartorially inclined people all around the world.

Final Scores

The Nike Dunk and Air Force 1 are iconic sneakers that have built undeniable legacies and gained cult status from their humble beginnings as basketball sneakers.

However, due to the sheer popularity and exclusivity of some Air Force 1 trainers, the silhouette prevails in close competition.

Regardless of which shoe you prefer, the Air Force 1 and Dunk offer exceptional quality, comfort and wearability, so you can complement your outfits and keep your feet happy.

Nike Air Force 1 score: 47.5/50

Nike Dunk score: 45.5/50

Step into a life of luxury with Slingo

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Interested in high-end fashion and streetwear? We've plenty more where this came from - take a look below:

FAQs

Are dunks more comfortable than Air Force 1s?

Nike Dunks fit true to size, while the toe box of the Air Force 1 is longer, so the AF1 may be more comfortable if you have longer toes. Both trainers were created initially for use on the basketball court, so they feature additional ankle supports to reduce the risk of injury.

The Air Force 1 is built with air in the soles to maximise comfort and reduce the impact on the balls of your feet as you walk.

Both shoes are built for comfort and support, so it's a matter of preference which shoe you find a better fit.

Do Nike Air Forces fit the same as Dunks?

Although both shoes fit true to size, the main difference between how AF1s and Dunks fit is that the AF1 has a larger fit and more length in the toe box. This means that the fit will largely depend on the size and shape of your foot.

Are Nike Dunks good for everyday wear?

Yes, Nike Dunks are very good for everyday wear. The understated shape and stylings of the shoe mean they can be worn with many different outfits, while the cushioning of the tongue and additional ankle supports will reduce the impact on your feet.


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