Air Max Day is drawing nearer and nearer … and the hype machine is chugging along at full power. We’re getting blessed with incredible releases like the OG Air Max 1 and the Atmos Air Max 1. We’re being ushered into a new era of Air with the Vapormax (a shoe that we think will have a great deal of cultural impact). And most importantly, Nike is hosting a unique design contest.

That’s right, a design contest. 12 “influencers” from around the world, from store owners to designers to DJ’s were given an opportunity to design their own completely original Air Max silhouette and then present them to the public, who’s been given the opportunity to vote for their favorite. At the end of the voting period (which runs through Saturday, March 25th), the shoe with the most votes will be announced, and will see an official release (we’re assuming sometime later this year, although nothing’s been announced yet).

The designs range from simple and clean to outlandish and whimsical, and everyone’s got differentiating opinions on which release is the best … so you already know what we had to do: have a heated staff discussion (it got INTENSE) and get an official ranking hammered out.

That’s right, it’s official list time. We’re ranking all 12 reimagined Air Max designs in order, and providing background on the inspiration behind each design. What Air Max is tops in our book? Read on and find out.

12. Tianzhuo Chen

If we were the cast of Toy Story and one of us was Buzz Lightyear, these would be #1 on the list by a long shot … but we’re not the cast of Toy Story, none of us are Buzz Lightyear and unfortunately these land squarely at the bottom of our list. Inspired by ski boots, bugs, plate armor, and the Kobe 9 Elite ( a lot of things that don’t have much to do with one another), these are somewhat of a jumbled mess.

11. Shangguan Zhe

Sometimes sneakers look better in a sketchbook than they do when they’re actually put into production … and sadly that’s the case with these. Inspired by a dragonfly wing, the idea is pretty cool (it reminds us of a mid-00’s concept shoe), but the execution is just not there, landing this dragonfly-inspired shoe (see what we did there?) at #11 on the list.

10. Clement Balavoine

There’s nothing really wrong with these. The combo of the Air Max 90 and 97 is well-executed, the simple colorway is very solid, and the numbers on the air bubble is a cool touch … but unfortunately there’s not too much to write home about on this pair, so it falls low on our list. When you’ve got the opportunity to make literally whatever Air Max you want and draw from Nike’s whole library, going with something that looks like the most basic Air Max possible isn’t the best move. Wearable? Yes, very. Head-turning? No, not really.

9. Fabrikr 

These appear to be a muted and simple shoe, but the design is much more clever than it may appear at first glance. This shoe is actually an original Air Max 1, wrapped in a clear plastic shell. What’s the inspiration from? The fog the designers witnessed on a recent visit to Portland … and sneakerheads wrapping their shoes in plastic (just like we do at Piff). We’re not sure about the wearability of these, but the concept is dope.

8.  Lourdes Villagomez

At first glance, this shoe may just appear to be a hybrid of an Air Max 1 and Air Max 90 with a wide swath of colors and patterns splashed across it … but it actually draws its inspiration from the Quetzal bird, a creature that lives in the forests of Central America. The color palate is nice, and the loud, in-your face design (which artfully toes the “too much” line) is solid for the warmer months.

7. Naotaka Konno

Inspired by Tokyo nightlife, these Air Max 97 hybrids feature a Flyknit upper covered with reflective material and a glow-in-the-dark Air Max bubble. These are a pair of shoes that’ll guarantee you stand out from the crowd, no matter if you’re out chilling on the streets or getting turnt in the nightclubs.

6. Kyle Ng

Kyle Ng of Brain Dead went for an unfinished look on these Air Max 1 Flyknits … and achieved it. They look sloppy (in the best way possible), and feature a circular logo on the heel encouraging the wearer to “Give a damn”, make their voices heard, and stand up for their community.

5. Venus X

When you started reading this list, we’d assume you were thinking that we’d be hating on any and all ultra high-tops. Understandable. The list did start off with two pairs back to back … but we really rock with the third pair of ultra-highs in this collection, and it would likely be ranked even higher if a few of our staff members weren’t sold on it. The combination of classic (the colorway has been used on many an Air Max Plus) and new (a zip-away, over-the-knee vinyl sock) plus the bold branding make for one of the more unique shoes on this list.

4. Alexandra Hackett

At first glance, Alexandra Hackett’s shoe may seem simple … but it fuses the most Air Max models (1, 90, 180, 93, 95, 97, Plus, 360, & 2015) into one extremely clean, well-thought out shoe. The triple swoosh is a dope touch … and the inside-out tongue design partnered with the pink laces adds just enough head-turning flair.

3. Bunyamin Aydin

Based in Turkey and inspired by Istanbul, these mid-top Air Max feature several Turkish rug-inspired patterns, and feature a mudguard that’s decked out in silver pony hair. The clean, silver colorway helps highlight the unique patterns to the fullest … and this is a great example of a conceptual shoe that really works when it’s translated to real life.

2. Sean Wotherspoon

Nobody on this list has a more rabid fanbase than Round Two’s own Sean Wotherspoon. He’s got a unique, vintage-heavy style, and he did a great job of translating his own personal aesthetic onto these shoes inspired by 80’s Nike hats. They feature a multi-color corduroy upper with frayed edges (so you already know they’ll break in wonderfully), a custom tongue pattern and a velour lining for an extra touch of luxury. They’re a great shoe, and missed the #1 spot on our list by the narrowest of margins. Some of the Piff staff is still hot about the decision, but 2nd place is nothing to sneeze at.

1. Artemy Lebedev

Set aside all the influences. Set aside the names of all the designers. Ignore the hype, if you can manage to for a few minutes. If you look at all twelve of the shoes without any preconceived notions … these Air Max 97/VaporMax hybrids are by far the sleekest, cleanest, sexiest, best-designed shoe out of the whole bunch. With a fully blacked-out reflective upper and a zip-up shroud to cover up the laces plus a translucent side panel to showcase the custom sockliners sitting above black VaporMax cushioning … these look like a sleek black sports car for your feet. Absolute, total, complete scalding hot fire … and our personal pick for best Air Max of the bunch.

So there you have it. A wide array of designs, styles, and inspiration. A design contest that truly offers something for everyone. We’ll remind you one final time: be sure to head over to the contest page and vote for your favorite shoe … you’ve got until the 25th!

What Air Max from the RevolutionAirs contest is your favorite? What do you like about it? Do you agree with our list, or would you switch the order around? Hit us up and let us know on Twitter, check our Facebook page for updates, and, as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram for all the fire pictures you can handle.

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