Last year the Nike Air Max Kukini made a comeback and we finally got a pair to have a closer look and review its features. This is a retro model that was first released in 2000 as part of Nike’s Alpha Project which featured innovative designs created by Sean McDowell and it also included the Nike Presto, Air Zoom GP and Air Zoom Heaven. The design of the Kukini sneaker was inspired by the Olympic skier Picabo Street racing suit that he wore in 1998. The sneaker made a comeback in 2012 as a hybrid model featuring Nike Free soles and in 2020 in a collaboration with Stussy in another hybrid form where the soles were the ones from the Nike Air Max Spiridon Cage 2. 

How They Fit 

The pair we got on our hands is the sequoia and cargo khaki, one of the first ones released in 2022 when the OG was first retroed. If you’re an avid Nike fan and you’ve never seen these before, at first sight they really look like an experiment which can easily be a hit or miss. While we’ve seen before slip on seamless uppers, the Spider inspired plastic cage surely adds a distinct look to this shoe. They fit true to size, however I can only see this sneaker as a good fit for those with normal or narrow feet given how flexible the shoe is as you try to put them on. Those with high arches or wide feet should stay away from these. They are quite lightweight, with size 8.5 weighing just 10oz.

Nike Air Max Kukini Review 1

Nike Air Max Kukini green olive3


The upper is made of a neoprene like, dynamic fitted mesh material that is lightly padded with the elastic foot web going over it. It is a unique setup that you will not see at another shoe. The mesh is lightly padded and it stretches nicely to mold to your feet without being too loose. While we did this Nike Air Max Kukini review we took these to the gym and actually did some light running and they felt quite breathable. The plastic cage does a great job in adding support and a decent lockdown fit in the absence of laces. Moreover it adds a bold look to the shoe and for some models Nike made it glow in the dark for even more visual impact. The shoes also feature synthetic overlays in the front for protection and a support cage in the heel, both adding some needed structure and durability to the shoe. 

Nike Air Max Kukini green olive2

Nike Air Max Kukini green olive1

Sole Unit 

Nike kept the original setup from the 2000 version, at least for the looks. The Nike Air Max Kukini features an Air Max unit in the heel area, same as we’ve seen for all the models from that era. The foam used for the sole seems to be Phylon which works well with the Air Max unit to provide cushioning, shock absorption and a seamless heel to toe transition. As you put them on they do feel a bit stiff in the sole and they need a bit of a break in. That is mostly to the Duralon outsole that features a pattern good enough for casual wear, one that does not provide much traction for athletic activities. Given that these were originally performance running shoes they still do a decent job when you take them running for slow paced runs or in the gym where they offer pretty good stability. 

Bottom Line 

To resume our Nike Air Max Kukini review, this is one of a kind athletic shoe that would be enjoyed by more than sneakerheads. It is a versatile, comfortable and lightweight shoe that is easy to put on and off, take it on your errands, to the gym or just wear it casually. It is available in various colorways, from plain black or olive green to aqua and leopard prints. Given its rare appearance it is surely one for the collectors.