Nike’s attempts to play a finer balance, which go against recent trends, seem to be working. The 2024 iteration of its well-known Air Max portfolio, called the Nike Air Max Dn, is rationalising the use of the ‘air units’, instead of full-length implementations we saw over the years, including as recently as the Air Max 97, Air Max Plus OG and how can anyone really forget the VaporMax. Instead, it is now a smaller unit, focused beneath the heel area, which in theory should be better positioned to provide the forward push runners and joggers would need. That, alongside better materials all round, in theory makes for a modern-er evolution of a legacy line of sneakers.

For those who habitually run on softer sand tracks, the improvements are somewhat muted. (Official handout)

Instead of a full-length or multiple chambers of air beneath your feet, Nike’s implementation with the Air Max Dn is what they call a Dynamic Air Unit. This is a combination of four interjoined tubes, with pressurised air, which will react every time they’re compressed when a runner or jogger’s foot lands. That reaction is what Nike hopes would be appreciably more than before (that’s what generational upgrades are meant to do), because it’s a smaller but denser implementation. The tubes directly beneath the heel are filled to 15psi (or pounds per square inch; you’d be familiar, if you’ve ever gotten air or nitrogen filled in your car’s tires), while the two forward positioned ones are rated at 5psi. That’ll define the push forward support, which scientifically, you need more of from beneath the heel than near the mid or forefoot.

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In our testing on different surfaces, reaction and responsiveness varies. It is perceptibly helpful on harder surfaces (including running up the stairs, surprisingly), but for those who habitually run on softer sand tracks, the improvements are somewhat muted.

The other element to this is a sort of conventionality to the front half of the sneakers, which in theory should appeal to a wider demography. Not everyone is easy to convince about the air chambers underfoot. Joining the two differing elements underfoot is a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) clip, which adds a definite robustness down the middle. That’s useful for foot support inside, and overall structural rigidity during direction changes. It must be noted that Nike has used a phylon foam material as the outsole, which does seem to hold up well to the roughness and abrasions that harder surfaces tend to deliver. Good grip levels as well, and you can be less apprehensive (but always keep your guard up) about transitioning from a dry concrete surface to one with standing water.

The Nike Air Max Dn, though exact weight numbers haven’t been listed yet, isn’t the lightest shoe you can buy. Yet, it goes without saying that it is quite comfortable as a daily shoe too which you may wear for hours at a stretch. And the foot feels secure, yet not hemmed in at any point. The mesh upper is par for course, and much needed in warmer climes or the summer. The compressed air chambers which are now cylindrical in design, most certainly deliver better energy return, compared with traditionally shaped chambers. Also, anyone who’s followed Air Max sneakers over the years, would appreciate that additional level of suppleness, which when paired with weight reduction across the board, makes for smoother transitions. And not as if you’re lugging a brick each (hyperbole, but you get the point).

Nike’s Air Max positioning, including with the Air Max Dn, isn’t to say this is the fastest running shoe at this price point (this is priced around 13,995), or indeed the broader portfolio. Because it isn’t – you’d be looking at the Nike Pegasus 41 (around 11,895) or the likes of the Nike Vaporfly 3 (around 20,695) for that effect. However, the Nike Air Max Dn is a versatile sneaker that does the everyday bits of your week, very well. More than anything else, the Nike Air Max Dn is also a showcase of technology and what Nike can do with it. On both fronts, it is succeeding rather effortlessly.

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