Nike Dunk High “Spartan Green”: Out of the Box
- Price: $110 [MSRP]
- Pros: Classic design with retro cues, affordable MSRP
- Cons: Lower quality materials compared to other retros, poor comfort
Nike Dunks, at least the low version, are having a moment in 2020. Prices for classic colorways are going through the roof, even surpassing many of the Jordan 1 colorways. This would have been pretty surprising to someone who was around when the Dunk was first introduced.
Originally envisioned as a more affordable alternative to the Jordan 1, which was released just a few months prior, the Dunk aimed for a price point that was low enough that colleges and college-aged kids could afford to purchase a pair to match their team colors.
Even at this lower price, the Dunks didn’t exactly fly off the shelf. In fact, they ended up sitting for so long – with prices dropping along the way – that skateboarders started picking them up knowing that whatever shoe they wore was going to get trashed so they might as well pick up something cheap. The connection was so prevalent that many associated the Dunks more with skaters than basketball – with Nike themselves using the Dunk as the initial shoe for their launch of the Nike SB (or Nike Skateboarding) brand in 2002.
Despite it’s collegiate name, the Spartan Green color is new colorway for 2020.
The Dunk High looks extremely similar to the Jordan 1, and that isn’t a coincidence. Designed by the same person, Peter Moore, the Dunk High and Jordan 1 both follow Nike’s basketball shoe style of the early a mid-1980s – with both of the shoes taking queues from the Air Ship line, the Air Force line, and other similar sneakers.
This pair is a simple two tone color blocking, with a Michigan State Green (officially “Pro-Green” on the box) making up the toe guard, lace reinforcements, swoosh, wings, outsole, and liner. The only other color is a pure white covering the midsole, toe box, vamp, collar, and tongue.
Unlike similar shoes from the era, the Dunks have a slightly molded sole, sewn onto the upper, with the line between the outsole and midsole raising and lowering around the shoe, and a bit more rubber in strategic places. The sole pattern follows that classic Nike traction pattern seen on other mid-80’s shoes; however the Dunk has a bit more of a curve around the heel of the foot.
The tongue is an old-school feeling nylon, slightly reflective, capped off by a nylon Nike tag. Nike made sure to include two trademark logos, just to be sure. On the other side of the lounge, a thick padded collar allows the lining to peak through just a bit. To finish off the back, with a green small pull tab in sewn in where the swooshes meet. Some decorative white switching just above the heel counter to pull it all together.
Fit & Comfort:
Compared to most sneaker brands, the Dunk High runs longer and more narrow, however the shoe does run a bit wider in the toe box when compared to most Nikes. As a brand, Nike tends to run very narrow in their sneakers. This means for a lot of people – myself included – the width of the shoe is what determines your size. Personally, I am a 13 in most Nikes, but a 12 or 12.5 in most other casual sneakers.
Knowing that, if you prefer a tighter fit you might want to consider going a half size down from your normal Nike size. That being said, for shoes that don’t have any real performance to them, I prefer something to be slightly more loose than slightly more tight so I went with my normal Nike size.
From a comfort perspective, these shoes are more than 35 years old and it shows. Unlike most of the contemporary Nike shoes of the era, the Dunk lacks any form of air unit beneath your heal. The only things keeping your foot from the ground is a few millimeters of rubber and an incredibly cheap feeling insole.
Further, while the padding around the throat is thick – close to an inch in most places – it is not very dense. Don’t expect it to actually cup your heel. This, combined with a tongue that has nearly no padding, leads to a shoe that doesn’t support your ankle much at all. This is a shoe Nike designed to be worn loose at the top.
One area that did stand out, especially when compared to other retro models, is that the leather is extremely soft. While a full wear test will be needed to make sure, this seems like the type of leather that will mold to your feet, providing a bit of give as you wear the shoe throughout the day.
While Nike is a bit cagey on what their retros are made of, which gives you a hint of what type of materials they are using, a quick examination shows that the green sections are a thin, soft leather with a plasticy/vinal coating on top. The white portions of the upper are a synthetic material that doesn’t feel nearly as nice as the green.
The midsole is fused to the outsole to create a cup, which Nike has both glued and sewn onto the upper. The stitching is structural which will keep you from seeing the upper split from the midsole the way Chucks or Vans will. Though, there were a few misplaced stitches. In terms of how long they’ll last, the midsole and outsole are both hard rubber.
Inside the shoe, Nike has used the rougher mesh lining that they started to phase out a few years ago on most retros. The newer material both feels smoother and like it will last longer – it’s likely that on a shoe with basic rubber outsoles the first place of real wear will be the back of the heel rubbing through. That being said, if you’re looking for a true retro feel then this will give you what you’re looking for.
Retail pricing for these was the standard Dunk high price of $120, however very few people were able to get them at that price. On the resell market, the going price as of writing ranged from $240 to $275, depending on size on StockX. Dunks have gone on a wild ride from a price perspective over the last year. Many styles that were going for well under retail are going for 4 or 5 times it now.
Looking at their release calendar, it’s likely that Nike is going to try and turn the summer of the Dunk Low into the fall of the Dunk High, so it’s possible prices could continue to climb – or that Nike will saturate the market and these will end up back at the outlets.
As with all retro sneakers, value here is highly subjective. From an objective standpoint, you can get shoes with better materials and better technologies for less money. And you can go and buy them right now from the manufacturer’s website. They are probably on sale.
That being said, shoes are not just about comfort and technology and to me the Dunk Highs have a lot going for them. One of the biggest, for me and others who have way too many shoes, is that unlike a lot of sneakers there isn’t much to degrade or fall apart. There are Dunks made decades ago you could still hoop in. Try finding an original Jordan 5 or Airmax 90 that can say the same.
Along similar lines, the reason many people like the look of the dunk is because it is so simple. Changing the design to add fly-knit or react would ruin the look of the sneaker. Just take a look at some of the retros where Nike has tried it.
Especially at retail, the value can be there as long as you know what you’re getting into. At resale? If you have to ask, it probably isn’t worth it. There will always be another drop, another colorway, or another silhouette a few days away.
In 1985, Nike wanted to make an affordable alternative to a Jordan 1. Its clear the Dunk High does just that. It’s slightly less comfortable, slightly worse materials, and a slightly less refined design that comes in at a slightly lower price (once the Dunk hype dies down).
However, until you put a shoe through it’s paces you won’t know for sure. I’ll be adding the Dunk High to my rotation. Keep an eye out on how these hold up compared to other retros.
Do you own a Dunk High in Spartan Green, or any other colorway? Do you agree with the above? I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say in the comments below.