Are you comparing shoes to find the right option for you? In this guide, we look at the similarities and differences between Nike Dunks and Air Jordan 1s.
Air Jordan


If you follow sneaker culture, you’re probably familiar with the continuous rivalry between Air Jordan 1 and Nike Dunk. Although it’s all in good fun, you might be comparing shoes to see which is the right option for you.

Don’t stress. We got you.

Both of these shoes are legendary for fashion enthusiasts and sneakerheads alike. You’ll catch different athletes repping their favorite, and some of your friends might be dedicated to one or the other. Well, let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between these iconic shoes so you can decide for yourself.

Brief History 

At first glance, these two shoes may not look so different. It’s only when you get down to the nitty-gritty that the differences are apparent. Before we bring the microscope out, let’s rewind the clocks.

Air Jordan 1 was released in 1985. This is about 17 years before the SB line was even introduced. This allowed nearly 17 Air Jordan models to be released before people even heard of Nike SB.

Air Jordans have made a name for themselves and were worn by some of the most popular musicians, actors, and sports figures in history. 

The Nike Dunk is the second-most-popular shoe to debut, and it was never intended to be a flagship model. Instead, it focused on being a college-centric basketball shoe. It was designed for NCAA athletes and their fans. 

Essentially, Nike wanted to capitalize on the college players growing appeal. However, this shoe quickly diverged from its intended audience and was welcomes by all types of subcultures. This was in the 80s and 90s, and the shoe continues to make waves.

Now, you may or may not be interested in the history of the shoe, but it’s an important aspect to know. Who knows, it could be the main factor in your decision-making. 


The Design

Alright, now we want to look at the design of each shoe. After all, style and functionality are two big elements you look for when it comes to footwear. Remember that the Nike Dunk‘s were made for college basketball players, while the Air Jordan 1 was the signature sneaker for Michael Jordan. 

That alone isn’t enough to help you decide, so let’s take a look at the differences between these shoes. 


Midsole Air

Ever wonder how the Air Jordan 1 got its name? Well, it’s because it contains air in its midsole. The Dunk doesn’t. 

It may sound simple, but it goes a little deeper than that. There has been a variety of Air Jordan 1 versions that use the Dunk outsole unit. You might have even heard of the very rare Nike Dunk with an air midsole. 

What exactly is an air midsole? That’s shoe technology that consists of pressurized air inside a tough yet flexible bag called the Nike Air sole unit. This is great for arch support, and of course, for shooting hoops.


Ankle Lace Flaps

Another big difference between these two sneaker styles is that the Nike Dunk features distinct ankle lace flaps. These can be optionally laced for extra support. However, if you’re a real sneaker collector, you know that it’s popular to leave these flaps loose, along with a popped tongue. 

The Air Jordan 1 has its ankle straps stitched into the upper for more structure, so you don’t get that same option to lace up. 


Small Differences

The toe box for Nike Dunks tends to be roomier than the Air Jordan 1, which is more tapered. The perforations are pretty much identical. When it comes to the eyestays, that’s a whole other story.

Eyestays are the part around the lace opening, and Nike Dunks runs its wavy eyestays up to the ankle, like the Air Jordan 1. However, the latter has an additional stiched panel that reinforced the front three eyelets. 

When you look at the back of the shoes, the heel counter and upper ankle panels of the Nike Dunk are joined by the Swoosh (the logo). The Air Jordan Swoosh meets the panels at their edges.

You’ll also notice that the Dunk has a notable absence of the wings logo, while the AJ1 makes it pretty prominent. 


When the Nike Dunk was released, it essentially tweaked the Air Jordan 1. The basic layout remains the same, using curved sections at the forefoot and ball for quick pivots. You’ll also notice the heel tread resembles a slanted grid, which is ideal for basketball movements.

The arch bridge for the Nike Dunk is a little narrower and taller, compared to the Air Jordan 1s wider look. However, you’ll notice that the latter has more detail to individual tread sections than the Dunk. 

The Dunk actually lifts the outsole pattern from the Air Jordan 1, but with some minor tweaks. The basic layout remains the same, using concentric curved sections at the forefoot and ball for quick pivoting. The heel tread resembles a slanted grid, which suits the repeated start-stop movements of basketball.

Now, we went pretty deep into these similarities and differences. This means you’re ready to start inching your way towards a decision. 


Comparing Shoes: Which Is Better?

Everyone is going to have their opinions, especially when it comes to style. You may be a bit indecisive when it comes to finding the best option. Two of the most popular sneakers are the Nike Dunks and Air Jordan 1s, and comparing shoes is the best option for making an informed decision.

The reality is, these are two iconic shoes. No matter what you pick, you’ll be part of a sneaker culture that has an impressive history. In fact, nothing is stopping you from buying both. 

Wondering where to buy Nikes? We’ve got you covered! Find Nike, Jordans, and all types of footwear at our store

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