Comparing Low-Top Legends: Nike Dunk Low and Air Jordan 1 Low
Two sneaker legends head-to-head, get the lowdown on which pair suits your sneaker game best.
Picture this: It’s the ’80s, and high-top sneakers are the kings of the court. But lurking in their shadows are their cooler, more laid-back siblings—the low tops. Among these, the Nike Dunk Low and the Air Jordan 1 Low, gearing up to steal the show.
History with a Twist
Nike Dunk Low (left), Air Jordan 1 Low (right)
It’s 1985, a year that not only gave us the iconic Air Jordan 1 but also its doppelgänger with a twist, the Nike Dunk.
The Air Jordan 1 skyrocketed in popularity, buoyed by Michael Jordan’s legendary feats. Less than half a year later, a similar-looking yet vastly different high-top sneaker hit the shelves. That was none other than the Nike Dunk, presented in the now-iconic “Be True To Your School” (BTTYS) colorways.
Nike Dunk was however overshadowed initially, especially with MJ doing his thing with newer Air Jordan silhouettes every year. It wasn’t until the late ’90s that the Dunk found its true calling—not on the basketball court as intended, but on the feet of skaters taking to the half-pipes.
Fast-forward to recent years, and the Dunk is experiencing a renaissance, propelled into the limelight by pop culture icons like Travis Scott, and many coveted Nike SB Dunk Low releases.
With similar looks, these shoes are like siblings! But like all siblings, they’ve got their quirks and unique traits.
Nike Dunk Low vs. Air Jordan 1: What sets them apart?
As each of these legends have walked a path peppered with endless variations and special editions, it is important to note that we are focusing on the general release models of both the Nike Dunk Low and the Air Jordan 1 Low here.
Design and Aesthetics
The Dunk Low is a masterpiece of simplicity and retro charm. It’s celebrated for its clean lines and signature color blocking that’s a nod to its 1980s heritage. The Air Jordan 1 shares many similarities in this aspect too, probably where the confusion begins.
Nike Dunk Low (left), Air Jordan 1 Low (right)
The Dunk Low boasts a lower profile, making it ideal for showcasing trendy socks or simply letting your ankles breathe. From a visual standpoint, the Dunk Low also carries a slightly more rigid aesthetic, aligning well with current fashion trends as a casual sneaker.
In contrast, the Air Jordan 1 Low exudes a more sleek and athletic appearance, standing slightly taller than the Dunk. The upper usually sports a more curvy outlook down to the toe box, with more panels and stitching compared to its sibling.
The Nike Dunk Low (left) boasts a slightly lower profile compared to the Air Jordan 1 Low (right)
The Dunk Low also features the classic 1980s tongue, complete with the iconic Nike logo on a separate tab. This detail not only adds a vintage touch but also distinguishes it from its sibling. The tongue is usually thinner and shorter than the AJ1 Low’s.
While most general releases of the AJ1 Low bears the Jumpman emblem on the tongue, do note that “OG” and “Retro” versions of the AJ1 Low may sometimes bear the Nike Air branding.
The Nike logo on the Dunk Low (left), and the Jumpman on the AJ1 Low (right)
Most Dunks carry two extra eyelets at the top, which are embedded on the midfoot overlay that surrounds the heel of the Dunk. The Air Jordan 1 Low on the other hand, typically features fewer eyelets, contributing to its more streamlined, aerodynamic look.
Another distinguishing factor are the two extra eyelets on the Nike Dunk Low (left)
A big difference between the two comes in the form of the midsole, where the Dunk’s cuts in midfoot accentuating an hourglass shape.
The Nike Dunk Low (left) has a more pronounced indent at the midfoot than the AJ1 Low (right)
The easiest way to distinguish the two is through the branding elements. The AJ1 Low is instantly recognizable by the iconic Air Jordan “Wings” logo stitched on the heel—a clear departure from the Dunk’s more understated branding.
The distinct branding elements on the heels of the Nike Dunk Low (left) and the Air Jordan 1 Low (right)
• Nike Dunk Low: Lightweight foam padding, heritage pivot circle, but no “Air” tech, so expect a firmer step.
• Air Jordan 1 Low: Air technology midsole for springy comfort, a rubber outsole for grip, and functional perforations for breathability.
That being said, modern-day Dunks and AJ1 Lows don’t always follow this rule. There have been many instances whereby Air-infused soles are added to a Dunk Low (especially with the SB Dunks), and vice-versa with the AJ1 Low.
Comfort and Performance
• Nike Dunk Low: Focuses on traction, stability, and protection. The cushioned tongue and collars, and a foam insole, provide a snug fit and comfortable cushioning plus a more spacious toe box than the AJ1 Low.
• Air Jordan 1 Low: Equipped with an Air-Sole unit embedded in the heel, offering a soft, cushioned feel with each step and comfort on longer wears. The AJ1 Low also features a Nike FlyEase closure system in certain designs, which includes a strap and zipper for ease of wearing.
In summary, while both the Nike Dunk Low and Air Jordan 1 Low are icons of sneaker fashion and have features aimed at comfort, they might not be the first choices if your primary concern is enduring comfort for all-day wear. Their strengths lie in their style, history, and occasional comfort, perfect for those who value a blend of fashion and functionality.
Comfort differs from person to person, but in our experience, the Nike Dunk Low provides a snugger, easy-to-wear fit. Based on the simplicity of the silhouette, it’s a more versatile sneaker to put on daily, and often carries a greater selection of colorways and collaborations.
The AJ1 Lows, however, offers a soft, cushioned touch with each step. While it’s not immediately apparent, you’ll feel the difference after wearing both for an extended period. That’s not to say the AJ1 Low is the most comfortable Nike shoe ever, but it’s definitely an improvement over the Dunks if you’ve walked in one for an entire day.
Cultural Impact and Popularity
• Nike Dunk Low: A staple in skate culture and street fashion, frequently seen on celebrities.
• Air Jordan 1 Low: Monumental impact, intertwined with basketball, hip-hop culture, and fashion.
Looking for street cred and trendiness? Dunk Low’s your guy. Craving iconic status? AJ1 Low’s the legend.
In recent years, the Nike Dunk Low has received a resurgence unlike anything else we’ve seen in the sneaker and fashion industry for many, many years.
It has become the crème de la crème for the Swoosh, aided by constant celebrity appearances and collaborative projects over and over again. It’s struck a chord with the general consumer populace as a sneaker that can fit anyone in any situation. Bar a few special projects such as the Travis Scott AJ1 Lows or Zion Williamson’s “Voodoo”, the AJ1 Low’s popularity just doesn’t quite match up to the Dunk Low.
That being said, the AJ1 Low is no slouch as a sneaker itself. It continues to live on as a basketball and hip-hop-infused silhouette that runs deep with its legion of hardcore Jordan fanbase, especially when the iconic “Chicago”, “Bred”, or “Royal” colorways return for another run.
Both the Nike Dunk Low and Air Jordan 1 Low have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around US$135.
• Nike Dunk Low: While the MSRP is consistent, market prices can swing widely due to the variety of releases, from standard to highly coveted editions. Expect to see prices ranging from US$80 to above US$150, depending on the specific design and demand.
• Air Jordan 1 Low: Similarly, the AJ1 Low’s market prices may vary, especially for special editions, typically, you’ll find them between US$90 and US$170.
During the peak of the Dunk phenomena just a year or two ago (or if you want to call it, “Panda-monium”), Dunks were far and few in between. There were far more limited-edition Nike Dunk Lows than Air Jordan 1 Lows, which often leads to a higher aftermarket price for the Dunks.
With the same retail price point, it depends on what you’re looking for. Are you chasing the latest streetwear and sneaker trends? Then the Nike Dunk Low is your best bet.
Are you looking for a more comfortable sneaker that has a long-lasting legacy? Then the AJ1 Low’s calling your name.You can also find limited-edition and under-retail pairs of both the Nike Dunk Low and the Air Jordan 1 Low on the SNKRDUNK App. You’ll be surprised at some of the deals you can find, no matter which you prefer!
The Nike Dunk Low and Air Jordan 1 Low each have their unique charm. While the AJ1 Low may score points for its iconic design and tech, the Dunk Low stands out with its commitment to quality materials. Both are more than just shoes; they’re stories told through design, performance, and cultural impact.
So, which one do you lean towards? The tech-savvy sophistication of the AJ1 Low or the versatility of the Dunk Low? Tag us on socials if you happen to share your thoughts and come back for the latest sneaker news and explore the SNKRDUNK App’s expansive catalogue! And if you do want to see and try them for yourself, feel free to check them out at our flagship store!
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