The Nike Jordan brand has been around for decades due to its production of stylish, good-quality sneakers. Inspired by Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time according to the NBA, the first Air Jordan sneaker was released in 1985. The sneaker has seen multiple celebrities wearing them, such as Drake, Will Smith, Travis Scott, Kanye West, and other NBA players. Even Rihanna has been seen sporting a pair of Air Jordans. In addition, Eminem has collaborated with the Jordan brand on multiple occasions, with some of the rarest sneakers under his belt. The brand has grown incredibly large, with the sneakers making it off basketball courts and into the hearts of many fans, celebrities included. Therefore, it should be no surprise that many sneakers have been manufactured since then, some exploding onto the scene with popularity. The most popular are the re-releases of older Jordan designs that retain the OG look and feel of the sneakers. If you are curious as to which are the best retro Jordan sneakers in the line of releases so far, then read ahead to find out:
The list will contain twenty-six entries of the most popular retro Jordan sneakers and list them from worst to best. This is not to say any of the sneakers included are necessarily better than the others, as the fashion and style behind the designs are subjective. Also, remember that retro Jordan sneakers are re-releases of previous shoes, so classics will not be included on this list. So, without further ado, here is the list of the most popular and best retro Jordan sneakers ranked from worst to best:
26. Air Jordan Retro XII (12) Rising Sun
This Jordan is called “Rising Sun”, and the Japanese flag inspired the all-white design. The insole sports a beautiful red and white design wherein the sun rises, further referencing the flag. The Jumpman logo is found in the centre of the design. The subtle hints of red in the overwhelming white perfectly depict the flag in a shoe. The shoe was released in 2009, making it 14 years old in 2023.
25. Air Jordan Retro XII (12) Nubuck
This Air Jordan XII is another 2009 release inspired by the Japanese flag. Furthermore, it is a trademark of women’s sneakers, considered a unique colourway. Previously, the shoe could only be found in leather until this retro brought upper nubuck with quilts lining the black outer walls of the design. An inscribed ’23’ can be found at the shoe’s heel. The shoe has Carolina blue accents and is a refreshing take on the original 2003 design.
24. Air Jordan Retro XIII (13) Altitude
This was a surprising re-release of the 2005 colourway inspired by Michael Jordan’s ‘Black Cat’ alter ego. The shoe was unique in its texture, sporting faux stingray leather on its uppers. This was a unique limited-edition Jordan 13 that sported lurid green accents. Additionally, the shoe came with a holographic logo that wore the Jumpman symbol on its tongue. This was a 2017 release that remained true to its original colourway design.
23. Air Jordan Retro I (1) White/Grand Purple
There were countless iterations of the original Jordan 1’s released since the first sneaker’s debut. However, the White Grand Purple was an iteration that never made it to the U.S. The sneaker sported a white leather base with purple accents and the original Jordan Wings logo. The shoe has a rubber sole with an air sole built on top of it, creating a beautifully rounded front with good traction. The tongue is made of breathable nylon, with a Jumpman logo at the top, making for another rare 2009 release.
22. Air Jordan Retro IV (4) Black Cat
This pair of Jordans was another rarity with a $115 (R2000) retail price and an all-black colour scheme that stays true to its OG 2006 predecessor. The shoe’s name was spawned from Michael Jordon’s nickname and is considered one of the best colourways for its unique monochromatic silhouette. While the shoe brought some new features, nubuck leather and graphite matte finishes, it also brought back features from the OG sneaker, such as hard-shell moulds and breathable netting.
21. Air Jordan Retro IV (4) Eminem
Based on the original 2004 release, this special edition Jordan sneaker was made specifically for Eminem and his closest friends/family while sporting a Detroit-style theme. The shoe was created to celebrate the release of the rapper’s Encore album in 2004, with only 50 pairs made similar in style to that of the UNDFTD Air Jordan IV (4). The only difference was the colour and the fact that it was never retailed in-store.
20. Air Jordan Retro IV (4) Rare Air Laser
Sporting tonal laser-etched designs, this sneaker sports some unique design elements. The design includes semi-translucent eyelets and a woven tongue sporting the Jumpman logo. The shoe also sports a second Jumpman logo alongside a grey Nubuck heel tab. Additionally, it was a new take on the 2005 classic silhouette, bringing red laces and a 3m back panel that marked it as a rare shoe.
19. Air Jordan Retro V (5) Army Olive
This is one of the Jordan line’s oldest non-OG colourways, sporting a Jumpman logo with a translucent lace toggle above it. Furthermore, the shoe sports unique tones of green in suede form and a bright orange finish on the sneaker’s tongue. The short has a metallic silver finish surrounding its sole and an orange flame-like lick across the bottom. Its sprinkled pattern sets it apart from other shoes from this line.
18. Air Jordan Retro VI (6) Doernbecher
One of the highlights of 2009, the retro Doernbecher, is a collaboration between Nike and Oregon’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to create a special edition line called “Doernbecher Freestyle Collection. The child patients recreated the designs of OG silhouettes within the hospital, and one such design was the Air Jordan VI. The sneaker sported a blue suede upper, a bright orange finish, and a clear bottom sole.
17. Air Jordan Retro VI (6) Olympic
Inspired by the Olympics, this 2000 release sported a colour scheme of blue and white to honour the sports. This was done in a colour-blocking fashion while sporting full leather instead of the usual suede or nubuck you would find on other Jordan Air sneakers. The nod to the sporting event in the title gives the shoe a unique feel.
16. Air Jordan IV (4) LS Thunder
Honouring Michael Jordan’s motorcycle team, this beautiful design came with a matching jacket with the set retailing at $500 (R8500). The shoe was released in conjunction with its ‘Lightning’ counterpart (which will also be included on this list) and is known as the ‘New Love’ colourway. It sports a black and yellow colour scheme, with a yellow air sole. In addition, the shoe has a mesh netting over the upper yellow finishes and sports a Jumpman logo on its heel.
15. Air Jordan Retro V (5) Green Bean
How do you feel about reflective styling on shoes? Well, this colourway features a look similar to that of the Army Olive Jordan 5 but instead has green reflective finishes. The shoe’s Green Bean name stems from the distinctive and unique design that sets it apart from other sneakers. Sporting an embroidered Jumpman logo on its tongue and a green inner lining, the shoe cannot be easily missed.
14. Air Jordan Retro XI (11) Low Cherry
Released in more recent years, this 2016 model was inspired by its 2001 OG silhouette. This Jordan 11 sported a white and red colour scheme that is easily recognizable today. These design elements were executed correctly, making it one of the best Jordans of all time. With a simplistic look and a red rim above its white sole, this shoe is arguably one of the more popular colourways, even if it isn’t so easy on the eyes.
13. Air Jordan Retro II (2) Melo
As a signature shoe for Carmelo Anthony, this colourway sported a unique look that sets it apart from many others. The shoe wears a white and blue colour scheme with a Denver theme. There is a slight finish of yellow as the sneaker follows through with blue laces, lining, heel and sole. The yellow accents are included in the sole and above the heel logo at the back of the shoe. It definitely deserves a place on the best retro Jordan sneakers list.
12. Air Jordan Retro III (3) Mocha
In sneaker culture, the Jordan 3‘s was only a hit once they were reassessed. Now, with an overall white finish sporting a unique elephant print, the brand reimagined the shoe with a rubber sole and tan upper, including the 23 seal. Furthermore, with this updated colourway, the shoe now had a natural mocha feel, pertaining to the beautiful shades of brown the shoe now included and now lining up perfectly with the Jordan line signature style.
11. Air Jordan Retro V (5) Premium Wine
This Jordan 5 landed accompanied by its two other variants, the sail and elemental gold, nicknamed the Wine Edition in 2017. However, this Bordeaux design won out in terms of its colour scheme, sporting a beautiful deep, wine-red finish. Furthermore, the shoe can be considered high-end fashion due to its premium features. This includes a special edition box and a quilted lining within the shoe.
10. Air Jordan Retro V (5) Tokyo
As a personal favourite on this list, the Tokyo Jordan was designed to be bright and unapologetic. The sneaker was created for the Tokyo23 tournament at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park and can only be found in Japan. Made almost entirely from nubuck, the shoe is bright yellow in its entirety, with grey, white, and black finishes. As one of the rarer colourways pertaining to its OG releases, this shoe is one of the more unique models on this list.
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9. Air Jordan Retro XI (11) Space Jam
This shoe carries a bit of history regarding its design and release. This specific model was made famous by its appearance in the Space Jam film in 1996, which increased sales. That being said, the shoes were first worn by Jordan in the Bulls playoff series with the Magic. The shoes were believed to be bad luck as Nick Anderson stripped Jordan, which resulted in the Bulls having to leave the game early. That aside, the shoe sported a striking look with patent leather, an all-black rim and a white rubber sole. Additionally, the sneaker had a blue Jumpman logo embroidered on the back heel. It definitely deserves a place on the best retro Jordan sneakers list.
8. Air Jordan Retro V (5) Take Flight
This 2017 release was a more muted take on the classic signature Nike Air look. The shoe has an underrated blue finish along the soles. Sporting a completely suede material look and appearing in muted khaki, this was one of the colourways that deserved more exposure than it got for its simplistic design.
7. Air Jordan Retro V (5) Laney
Yet another re-release of a Jordan 5 that sports a unique white, blue and yellow colour scheme that is extremely nice to look at. The sneaker also has some backstory with its Buccaneer colour. This shoe references Jordan’s school days, specifically when the much taller Leroy Smith beat him after being cut from the varsity during his sophomore year. This was part of his motivation to become one of the greatest players in history and finally made its way into the shoe’s unique design.
6. Air Jordan Retro XI (11) Cool Grey
As one of the more underrated silhouettes on the sneaker market, this 2021 release is a great nod towards the Magic color sneaker from 2000. Similar in design, the shoe sports an all-grey monochromatic color scheme that brought about the various other grey iterations of the Jordan sneakers. With contrasting grey uppers and a suede grey rim finish, the shoe was a hit upon its first release. It definitely deserves a place on the best retro Jordan sneakers list.
5. Air Jordan Retro IV (4) University Blue
This beautiful sneaker deserves its entry this high on the list, sporting the University Blue from Jordan’s distinguishable brand. The specific design is a nod to Jordan’s alma mater, UNC and is identical to the hard-to-come-by Air Jordan 4 UNC PE. The shoe sports a beautiful low-cut design, mesh netting on its walls, and an extremely pretty sprinkled pattern along the grey finishes. In addition, the shoe has black eyelets and a black toe that considerably sets it apart from other designs. It definitely deserves its place at the top of the best retro Jordan sneakers list.
4. Air Jordan Retro VI (6) Chrome Metallic
Releasing in 2022 makes for one of the latest designs on this list. Reminiscent of the Low Chrome released in 2015, this design sports an upper nubuck with a monochromatic body that is jet-black. In addition, the shoe has an ice-blue outer sole that makes for a beautiful contrast between the two tones. It is simplistic but completely deserving of such a high placement as it was a hit with fans of the Jordan line.
3. Air Jordan Retro IV (4) Midnight Navy
Another 2022 release that took fans of the brand by storm when it changed out the classic Nike Air branding with the Jumpman logo. The sneaker was released in October last year and brought with it white leather uppers and a wholly grey and white color scheme. In addition, the shoe sported a speckled pattern across its grey finish despite being similar in design to the Fire Red colorway. This was a new take on the sneaker with a very simplistic and light shoe.
2. Air Jordan Retro III (3) Black Cement
Similar in design to its counterpart, the white cement retro Jordan sneakers, this 2018 release was one of the more significant Jordan sneakers to hit the shelves. It sported an iconic black, grey, red, and white colour palette that drastically bolstered its popularity within the sneaker community. The shoe sported a beautiful, entirely black suede body alongside a grey, white, and red sole. The heel of the shoe wears the classic Nike Air symbol and a mesh covering alongside the inner walls of the shoe. As one of the brand’s best-selling sneakers, the shoe had a similar design released the same year that included a leather body and incorporated more grey into the finish with the sprinkled pattern. This shoe deserves its spot in second place.
1. Air Jordan Retro I (1) High Yellow Ochre
You could have guessed that some iteration of the OG Jordan 1’s would make it to the top spot of this list. Released in 2018, the first thing the brand did was to make the shoe that much more enticing to viewers by having it be exclusive in a specific geographical area. The shoe can only be found in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America at select retailers within the respective regions. Second, the shoe sported a mix of leather, suede and rubber materials in its design. Third, the shoe rocked the original Jordan wings symbol in black on the yellow upper backdrop. Furthermore, the shoe was white with a black toe, yellow under the sole, Nike symbol, heel cut-out and upper. Finally, it sported black laces and found a special place in the hearts of fans. It definitely deserves its place at the top of the best retro Jordan sneakers list.