There is no single shoe brand more iconic than Nike’s Air Jordan. The brand launched in 1985 with the Air Jordan 1 selling for just $65. Did Nike know then what they were on the verge of? Probably not. But Nike’s gamble clearly paid off, as the company is now worth billions, thanks in large part to the success of the Air Jordan shoe line.
Here we take a look at all 33 versions of the shoes. We rank them from worst to first with the criteria including aesthetics, technology, performance, and historical significance.
Whether or not you consider yourself a sneakerhead, you’ve seen these shoes. You know the brand. Maybe you get the hype and craze associated with the shoes. Maybe you don’t. Either way, flip through this list and see what you think.
33. Air Jordan 2010
The obvious place to start with these is the shiny perforated circle in the middle of the shoe. What is that thing? Is it supposed to be a disco ball? Is it a speaker-box at a drive-through restaurant? No, I would not like fries with that.
The most likely answer is that some designer got too clever and modeled it off of a microphone. This overly-clever designer sat in their office and thought up a tag line that read, “If your game can’t speak for itself, maybe the shoes can.”
Whatever the inspiration, they’re terrible.
32. Air Jordan 2012
The biggest indictment of these black and white disasters is that the look like Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaq’s” (failed) shoe line. When you’re trying to set the global standard for shoe culture, an unfortunate comparison is Shaq’s discount brand kicks.
Beyond the design issues, the colors are all wrong. Black and white work together on tuxedos and penguins, but not on basketball shoes. Basketball is a sport inspired by hip-hop and rap, colorful genres of music. Don’t extinguish that with black and white; throw some color on there!
31. Air Jordan 2009
Are these basketball shoes cosplaying as shoes on-board a spaceship on Star Trek, or Star Trek shoes cosplaying as basketball shoes? Honestly, they’re like if a person in the 1950’s designed what they thought a shoe in the year 2000 would look like.
These are similarly dull in color scheme, but even the one pop of color appears to be inspired by a journey through space. On the side of the shoe, there is a small aqua-colored diamond that looks like something that could be found on a faraway planet but is the key to sustainable energy on ours.
30. Air Jordan 2011
These Jordan’s bring back images of the beloved ‘90s classic, Free Willy. Look at those things. The blue watery bottom, the giant rubbery black patch cresting out of the water, and the white foamy tops. That’s a Free Willy shoe.
But who would want to wear a shoe inspired by an unlucky orca? Those things are mean, when not aided by the magic of Hollywood, but back to the shoe. The only redeeming quality of these things is they came equipped with two different cushioning systems. So your feet will feel good while looking bad.
29. Air Jordan 22
Supposedly these kicks were based on the F22 Raptor fighter jet. Knowing that these shoes make a bit more sense, but even so, these are some weird looking shoes. The strange mix of textures and patterns is making our brains hurt trying to process what all is happening.
They appear to come with a lace locking system that means they never need to be tied. Just tighten them across the middle and you’re set. Or so they would like you to believe. Also easily overlooked is the titanium plate that strengthens the soles of the shoes.
Titanium? Who are you playing hoops against that you need a titanium-reinforced shoe?
28. Air Jordan 15
The blackout look is cool, but what on earth is going on with the rest of the shoe? Does this shoe have a Flock of Seagulls inspired haircut? Don’t get that reference? Google it; you’ll see.
We are left to assume that the purpose of the cresting wave at the top of the shoe is so you can pull on the shoe. You see, it has no laces. So the designers at Nike sacrificed the laces in favor of that? Not a good choice.
The rest of the shoe isn’t bad. The mixing of textures is interesting, and as mentioned before, the all-black look is pretty slick.
27. Air Jordan 19
So while the previous entry didn’t have laces at all, this entry has a giant cover that can be strapped over the top of the laces. What is it with the laces, Nike?
It’s so awful and dominates the whole shoe so there’s really not much to say about the rest of the shoe. Oh, wait, the giant cover literally velcro’s on around the back. What a ridiculous look for a grown man to be sporting.
26. Air Jordan 20
Do you know those Egyptian sandals that used to be really popular with the ladies? The ones where you have a sandal and then there’s a bunch of fabric that wraps around the ankle and lower calf. These are the basketball version of that.
If you wanted a shoe with “high top” like support from a basketball shoe, just go with the classic Converse Chuck Taylor’s. They worked for NBA players in the 50’s and 60’s, they’ll work for you too. These are just silly. Like that anklet is going to do any good anyway.
25. Air Jordan 2
It’s possible that with time these Jordan’s haven’t aged well. Maybe when they were cool when they came out back in 1986. Now, they just look like those shoes your grandpa wears because they provide him with good support as he walks to the mailbox.
The sleek color scheme is a plus for these. White, black, and red almost always go well together, and that is true for these shoes as well.
24. Air Jordan 21
Suede? Come on man, are you serious? Suede goes on a rich man’s loafers, not a shoe you plan on wearing outside or to play basketball in. Beyond that, the grey suede that dominates the design of the shoe just looks dull and uninspired.
Speaking of inspiration, the shoe is supposedly inspired by the Bentley Continental GT Coupe. Well, that is a beautiful automobile and this is a shoe no one should be seen wearing. Sorry MJ.
23. Air Jordan 30
These are pretty great shoes. These kicks are super lightweight and really comfortable. Any hooper would love to play in a pair of these. Off the court, they’re not bad either. The look is safe, yet stylish. There’s no superfluous stitching or material, just a good looking shoe.
There’s even a nod to the University of North Carolina, MJ’s alma mater, in the argyle weave pattern on the upper of the shoe. This shoe is a great example of what makes the Air Jordan brand so popular; the combination of performance and design.
22. Air Jordan 28
This is about a technology integrated as you can get on a shoe, without having an actual computer in the shoe. In order to reduce the need for foam, the designers of the shoe used carbon fiber. This, of course, reduces the weight of the shoe while strengthening it.
Talk about the intersection of performance and design. The zippered high top shroud could be zipped up for more ankle support of the court, or unzipped for a modern off-court look. The versatility of this shoe gives it it’s high ranking.
21. Air Jordan 18
Amazingly, if you bought a pair of these shoes, you didn’t just get the shoes. To go along with the shoes you were presented with a towel, a brush and a driver’s manual. Clearly, there’s a racing theme here that comes from MJ’s love of fast cars and the shoe’s Italian heritage.
Major points for the accessories that came with the shoes, but negative points for the shoelace covers. Everyone knows shoes have laces, it’s just what shoes have. People expect to see them, so when they can’t it’s jarring. But maybe we’re alone on this.
20. Air Jordan 17
So often on these shoes, we see a mixing of textures and patterns all over. Sometimes the effect works, and other times it falls flat. For this shoe though, the designers went with just one main look, smooth. Sure, there’s leather and plastic molding around the back but it’s all smooth.
This gives the shoe a sleekness that is sometimes lacking in some of these entries. Some versions of these shoes came with a cover that flapped over the laces but the version without the flap is much better.
19. Air Jordan 23
These beautiful shoes could easily be described as “fancy” or “elegant” if you wanted to because they are so refined. Start with the classy black and gold color palate. Next the upper is hand-stitched for quality and detailed touch.
Finish that off with MJ’s thumbprint on the inside of each tongue and you’ve got an inspired design. You and MJ, pulling these on together. It’s really beautiful footwear. Sleek, sophisticated, and just plain suave.
18. Air Jordan 16
This is the first Air Jordan release after MJ transitioned off the court and into the front office. The shoe itself reveals that transition in a really unique way. It’s the first time we see the laces shroud design on a Jordan shoe, a signal that a change has occurred.
Combine that with the combination of patent leather and full-grain leather for the first time and you’ve got definite ties to a more corporate and administrative look. He wasn’t down on the court kicking it with the kids anymore, he was the boss and the shoes reflected that.
17. Air Jordan 14
Did you know Michael Jordan likes Ferrari’s? Well after seeing this shoe you do now. This shoe is so inspired by the Italian sports-car they might as well have just put the Ferarri logo on the side. They practically did, only substituting the “Jumpman” for the stallion on the side of the shoe.
Who could blame them, Jordan is iconic and so is Ferarri. Also, many of Jordan’s shoes were designed and made in Italy, like Ferrari. It’s a match made in sports heaven. What we really like about these is the menacing deep red streaks on the side of the shoe. That pop of color seems as aggressive as MJ himself on the court.
16. Air Jordan 31
This version of the shoes is an homage to the original Air Jordan’s, but done with respect and subtly. They’ve done it perfectly too. According to the brand, it’s also the first time the swoosh logo, the “Jumpman” logo, and the original wings logo have been on the same shoe. It’s a simple design, yet clean and modern for today’s consumer.
Not only is the design right, but the performance aspects of this shoe are also off the charts as well, just like the original. These shoes feature Nike’s Flyweave construction for optimal performance.
15. Air Jordan 10
Apparently, these shoes are great because Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker still wears them to play in despite them being over 20 years old. That’s an incredible endorsement considering the advancement in sneaker technology over the years.
What’s most remarkable about this design is how minimalistic it was for a shoe released in the mid-90s. The shoe starts to get a bit wild near the bottom of the shoe but the restrained color scheme settles it back down.
14. Air Jordan 9
The story behind these shoes is incredible. The important historical detail of these shoes is that they were released while Jordan was on his hiatus from basketball and playing baseball instead. Despite that fact, these are the shoes that Jordan is wearing in the statue in front of the United Center in Chicago.
However, our favorite detail from the history of these shoes is that they were what Jordan wore to defeat the intergalactic all-stars known as the Monstars in Space Jam. How many other signature shoes have played against aliens?
13. Air Jordan 33
The 33’s are Jordan’s latest release and they sure went for it with these. Yes, the design is out there but maybe you’ll understand why when you hear about all the tech integrated into these. Another casualty in Jordan’s war against laces, these kicks are the first to include the new FastFit feature.
FastFit gets rid of laces and tightens the shoe via a cable system contained in the instep. Just one tug on the cable and you get a “360-lockdown from heel to the ankle to forefoot.” Ok, that’s really cool but what’s wrong with laces?
12. Air Jordan 32
These shoes are an homage to the 30th anniversary of the second-ever Jordan release. What most impressive about this release is that’s it’s so much better than the original. Maybe over the course of the last 30 years, they’ve had time to think about how to improve the design.
We love the original winged logo on the tongue and the subtly imposing red accent on the black upper. These are aggressive shoes. MJ himself must approve of these.
11. Air Jordan 7
Where the Jordan 10 shuns the loud aesthetic of the mid-90’s, the Jordan 7 embraces it. The geometric shapes and patterns that seemingly meaninglessly adorn the shoe are what make this shoe. Oh, that and the neon pastels that adorn the outer soles of the shoe. These scream the 90’s and we love it.
It doesn’t help that these shoes were sold by the 90’s icon Bugs Bunny himself in television commercials. Just try finding a kid in 1992 that wasn’t begging their moms and dads to buy them a pair. And if Bugs Bunny was selling them, how bad could they be?
10. Air Jordan 29
These Jordan’s are a favorite among NBA players these days, as the performance pieces built into the shoe are incredible. They feature Flightweave, a lightweight woven material designed in Italy for strength and performance.
One of the functions of the Flightweave material is that because it’s so tightly woven together it’s possible to print graphics over the top of the shoe, like the ever-popular “Photo Reel” design. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are just a couple of the many stars who have worn this shoe.
9. Air Jordan 13
These shoes appear to mean business. The mixing of the fabric coming down around the front of the shoes like a ram’s horn, and the leather toe caps are intimidating. Underneath there’s a deep red pattern that bleeds onto the sole of the shoe.
These shoes just look like they would grip the court and not let go. Also, MJ won a title in these shoes so how could they not be high up on our list?
8. Air Jordan 8
The startling mix of colors often put together of this shoe makes it a certified icon. So do the straps that buckle you into your own shoe. IN fact, they are the only model to feature two crossover straps over the laces.
You probably wouldn’t want to play basketball in them, though. They were exactly as heavy as they look, which is really heavy. They don’t include any game-changing technology either. They just look really really cool, and that’s why they feature on our list.
7. Air Jordan 6
You never forget your first. And for Michael Jordan, these were the shoes he wore when he won his first title, so they hold a special place on this list. They’re a pretty solid shoe even without that distinction.
Amazingly, this design is one of the most popular retro-released designs on the market, with people still buying the shoe for its historical significance and its quality. It’s hard to go wrong with an all-black look highlighted but small, bright accent colors.
6. Air Jordan 12
Yes, these were the shoes Jordan won in the famous “Flu Game” and the 1997 Finals. Combine that with the incredible performance technology in these shoes and you’ve got a real legend in the sneaker game.
That technology is the Zoom Air fiber pressure, which was first used in these shoes. The classic Nike technology that featured low-profile cushions in the sole, has been used for over 20 years now. So essentially, that was a comfortable sneaker.
5. Air Jordan 5
This shoe had it all. 3M tounges, asymmetrical collars, translucent outsoles, and visible Air Units. This shoe was a juggernaut and literally, everyone had to have a pair. If you were a kid when these came out the most incredible thing was the visible air cushion.
You had seen the commercials touting the technology but now you could actually see it. And if your friends looked real close when you jumped they could actually see the air cushion at work. At that moment you were the coolest kid on the block.
4. Air Jordan 4
There’s a lot of really great sneakerhead features to these shoes so we’ll just run through a few of them. The Jordan 4’s featured mesh, plastic wings, and nubuck leather all of the first time on a basketball shoe. Of course, Jordan would lead the way in style, but all three things on one shoe? That’s not fair.
Combine that with the plastic heel, visible Air cushion, and a 5/8 cut, and you have one of the greatest hoops sneakers of all time. These were great on the court, but perfect off it.
3. Air Jordan 3
The legend is these are the sneakers that saved the brand. After lackluster releases with earlier Air Jordan designs Jordan was ready to bolt to Adidas if the Air Jordan 3’s were great. Can you imagine the world without the Jordan/Nike connection? It seems impossible for so many reasons.
Fortunately, we don’t have to live in that world as Jordan was wowed by the design of the 3’s. The design featured a mix of faux elephant skin and tumbled leather. The key to Jordan’s approval though was the drop in profile to a mid-top instead of a high-top.
2. Air Jordan 11
What’s incredible about the design of these shoes is how there has been an attempt to replicate this look so many times, by so many people but they just can’t match this original brilliance. Patent leather on a basketball shoe? Started here. Carbon fiber support frame? Started here.
Without a doubt, this is still the best performance shoe of Bulls-era Jordan’s. They were the best seller when they came out, and they still continue to be so many years later.
1. Air Jordan 1
The shoe that started it all. You just can’t top the original. Phil Knight took a chance on a kid who hadn’t even won a title yet and gave him his own shoe. The vision was incredible, and today it’s impossible to separate MJ from his brand. Together the brand and MJ became the most iconic element of sports history.
Beyond MJ, the Air Jordan 1 birthed sneaker culture. Without a signature shoe like this, there would be no “Lebron’s” or “Kobe’s.” It’s actually impossible to overstate the importance of this shoe release on basketball and shoe culture. And for that, it sits at the top of our list.