One of the oldest classics on the market, the Nike Cortez is up for a review and a closer look this week. 

The History of Nike Cortez 

This sneaker is one of the first Nike shoes it was designed in 1966 in collaboration with Onitsuka Tiger, being an exclusive model sold by the brand (at that time still named Blue Ribbon Sports. The initial name was the TG-24 but in 1968 for the Olympic Games held in Mexico they decided to rename it “The Aztec” which did not sit well with Adidas who had a sneaker with a similar name. In that context Bill Bowerman, one of the co-founders of Nike decided to name it the Cortez, after the conquistador who conquered the Aztecs. The shoe was worn by several athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games and was regarded one of the most performant running shoes at that time. It was the year when the full name Nike Cortez was used for the sneaker. The shoe quickly became a cultural icon after celebrities like Farrah Fawcett, Elton John wore them and later on they were featured in the Forrest Gump movie. 

Nike Cortez Review 2

Why Was Nike Cortez Banned 

In the 1990s, Nike Cortez sneakers faced bans in certain areas, notably Los Angeles, due to their association with gang culture. These shoes, known as ‘Dopeman’s Nikes’ from the NWA song, became identifiers of gang affiliation through their colors; Bloods favored red, while Crips wore blue. Schools took notice and banned them for being “gang-related.” The infamous gang MS-13 adopted the Nike Cortez as part of their uniform, cementing the association. In areas with gang activity, law enforcement often presumed anyone wearing Cortez sneakers had ties to MS-13. The bans were a response to the shoe’s role in signifying gang membership, especially among youth.

How They Fit

We got our hands on a pair of Nike Cortez in navy blue and teal with leather upper which was a 2023 release. Out of the classic red Nike box they look as fresh and stylish as ever. They fit true to size, however they run narrow so those with wide feet may want to stay away. They also need a bit of a break in, especially for the leather version like the one we’ve got. If unsure about your size you can check out this size chart

Nike Cortez navy blue white1

Nike Cortez navy


The Nike Cortez comes in two versions, one with nylon and the other with leather upper. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, such as better breathability for the nylon one and more durability and weatherproof from the leather version. For this Nike Cortez review we tried a leather pair which is our favorite. The shoe has a reinforced toe box which adds some protection for your toes and an elongated lacing system which makes them easy to adjust, especially for those with a higher arch. Around the heel area there is just enough padding to add comfort and support. The shoes also feature a removable EVA insole that contributes to the initial cushy feeling you get when you first try these on. The design of the shoe is pretty simple which makes it easy to wear them with any attire when you want to sport a retro look. 

Sole Unit 

The sole unit of the Nike Cortez is quite simple with an exposed, dual density EVA foam that sits on top of a rubber outsole.  It is a classic setup that nowadays is great for everyday activities and less for actual running. The EVA box from the insole and the midsole tends to mold on the shape of your feet in time which means that they become more comfortable on the short run but on the long run they provide less arch support. If your feet are on the narrow side and you’re a normal pronator these will go a long way for you. Also we must note that since the shoes are on the narrow side they do not provide a whole lot of stability if you take them in the gym. 

Nike Cortez navy blue white3

Nike Cortez navy blue white2

Bottom Line 

To summarize our Nike Cortez review, they remain a symbol of enduring style and nostalgia. These iconic sneakers, with their timeless design and cultural significance, are not just a relic of the past but a versatile choice for modern fashion. While they may not be the ideal choice for high-intensity sports, they excel as everyday footwear, offering comfort and a retro aesthetic. They have a simple, stylish look that can be match easily with any attire, much like the Killshot 2. The Nike Cortez continues to be a go-to option for those seeking a classic, casual look that effortlessly complements a wide range of attire. In essence, they represent a bridge between the past and present, celebrating both their rich history and contemporary relevance in the world of fashion. 


Are Nike Cortez Running Shoes?

The Nike Cortez was originally designed as a running shoe, but today it’s primarily seen as a casual athletic shoe. Advances in sports shoe technology have led to specialized running shoes for performance. If you’re a serious runner, you’ll find more suitable options in the market designed to enhance your performance. Nike Cortez excels as a casual, everyday choice, retaining its iconic style and comfort.

Nike Cortez vs Adidas Samba

Nike Cortez and Adidas Samba are distinct in comfort and functionality. The Cortez is renowned for its lightweight design and cushioning, making it a top choice for everyday comfort. Its comfortable fit and responsive midsole provide an enjoyable walking experience, suitable for casual wear. In contrast, the Adidas Samba, originally designed for soccer, prioritizes support and durability, especially for active sports like indoor soccer. Its robust construction includes a gum sole for excellent traction on the field. Therefore, the choice between these two iconic sneakers hinges on whether you need daily comfort or require specific features for athletic performance.

Nike Cortez vs Onitsuka Tiger Corsair

Nike Cortez and Onitsuka Tiger Corsair offer contrasting comfort and applications. The Cortez, with its cushioned midsole and lightweight build, is perfect for daily wear. It excels in providing all-day comfort and ease of movement, making it an excellent choice for everyday activities. On the other hand, the Onitsuka Tiger Corsair, initially designed for running, focuses on delivering support and stability during athletic pursuits. Its durable construction, coupled with ample arch support, is ideal for those seeking a shoe optimized for sports or running. Thus, the choice depends on whether you prioritize daily comfort or specific performance attributes tailored for sports and running.

Nike Cortez vs Adidas Stan Smith

Nike Cortez and Adidas Stan Smith differ significantly in comfort and versatility. The Cortez offers cushioned comfort with its EVA midsole, making it a comfortable option for daily use. Its lightweight design and breathable materials contribute to its popularity for casual wear. In contrast, the Adidas Stan Smith provides a balanced blend of comfort and durability, making it suitable for a wide range of occasions. Its well-cushioned insole and premium leather upper ensure all-day comfort, while its classic design adds a touch of sophistication to various outfits. Therefore, your choice depends on whether you prioritize everyday comfort or seek a versatile sneaker that can effortlessly transition from casual to more formal settings.

Nike Cortez vs Adidas Superstar

Nike Cortez and Adidas Superstar present varying comfort and functionality. The Cortez offers lightweight cushioning, making it an excellent choice for everyday and casual wear. Its responsive midsole ensures a comfortable stride throughout the day. In contrast, the Adidas Superstar prioritizes durability and support. With its iconic shell-toe design and sturdy construction, it excels in providing long-lasting comfort and impact protection. The Superstar’s padded collar and responsive sole make it suitable for extended wear and various physical activities. Therefore, your choice should consider your comfort preferences and intended use.

Nike Cortez vs Nike Air Force 1

Nike Cortez and Nike Air Force 1 differ in comfort and purpose. The Cortez is lauded for its lightweight and comfortable design, ideal for daily wear. Its cushioned midsole and breathable materials ensure all-day comfort. On the other hand, the Nike Air Force 1 offers enhanced support and impact protection, making it suitable for extended use and a wide range of activities. Its chunky sole and added cushioning contribute to its reputation for long-lasting comfort, particularly for those seeking extra support during prolonged wear. Thus, your decision should revolve around whether you prioritize all-day comfort or require heightened support for various activities.

Nike Cortez vs Reebok Classic

Nike Cortez and Reebok Classic vary in comfort and application. The Cortez, with its lightweight construction and cushioned midsole, excels in providing comfort for everyday wear. Its simple yet effective design makes it a popular choice for casual use. In contrast, the Reebok Classic places a strong emphasis on well-padded comfort, making it an excellent option for those seeking extended wear with added cushioning. Its plush insole and supportive features make it suitable for long days on your feet. Your choice should consider whether you prioritize daily comfort or require extra cushioning for extended wear.