What’s in a sneaker’s name? When it comes to the Nike Air Max 90—or is it Air Max 3?—the answer is: plenty. The original shoe, the third proper installment of the legendary Air Max line, has been renamed by the Swoosh not once but twice. And as the shoe turns 30 this year, this much is clear: people are going to wear one of the greatest sneakers of all time no matter what you call it.
Legendary designer Tinker Hatfield turned the sneaker world on its head with the release of the Air Max 1 back in 1987. The first Nike sneaker to feature an exposed Air unit, it quickly garnered two not-that-different follow-ups—the Air Max Light and the Air Walker Max—and a proper sequel in 1989’s Air Max 2, which featured jagged paneling and an EVA foam midsole to differentiate it from the original. But with the Air Max 3, that Hatfield added another classic to his resume and secured the long-term success of the Air Max line. The Air Max 3 featured a larger exposed Air unit than the 1—and, more importantly, a bigger window through which you could see it. It made the Air unit impossible to ignore, putting it center stage in the shoe’s design.
Much like the effect Hatfield’s work on the Air Jordan 3 had on the Jordan line at large, the Air Max 3 proved that lightning could strike more than once—and paved the way for a number of classics produced under the banner in the coming years, as with the Air Max 95 and 97. The shoe’s success might’ve had as much to do with its initial colorway as its design. Called the “Infrared,” it featured a flashy reddish pink neon accent around the window, immediately drawing the eye to the Air unit. Matching detailing on the heel, toe, and eyestays balanced the muted whites, blacks, and greys that made up the rest of the shoe. It’s hard to overstate the popularity of this first version. There have been plenty of killer colorways of the Air Max 3 since, but none have matched the original, which is now widely considered to be one of the greatest sneakers of all time. And now, for the first time in five years, Air Max die-hards and general wearers of dope sneakers alike will have the chance to pick up a pair of their own.
Since this year marks the shoe’s 30th anniversary, and Nike has spent 2020 paying homage. From the globe-spanning City Pack to classic old-school colorways to a plethora of flashy editions to commemorate the now-annual Air Max Day, there seems to be a new pair on the SNKRS app every other week at this point. And they’re closing out the year with the drop anyone who can put two and two together knew had to be coming: the Air Max 3 “Radiant Red” (more commonly known as the “Infrared”), the silhouette’s original release colorway and, to this day, its most recognizable.
First retroed in 2005 (at which point it was officially renamed the Air Max 90; these days, it’s back to being the Air Max 3), the original Infrared colorway has seen rereleases in 2008, 2010, and 2015. It’s always made for a pretty instantaneous sellout, though even well between releases the resale prices never tend to hit astronomical rates. StockX tracks the 2015 retro as peaking at just over $300—not cheap, but a far cry from the numbers other classic Nike and Jordan joints will hit on the market. But Infrared aside, most Air Max 3 colorways remain pretty easy to track down and are priced within an affordable range of their original retail rates.