How to Spot Fake Air Force 1s from a Real Pair of Nikes

If you're worried about accidentally buying a pair of fake Air Forces, buying some from the Nike store (whether online or at a store) is your best bet.


Jesse Sumrak
Updated 27 April 2021
How to Spot Fake Air Force 1s from a Real Pair of Nikes
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United States Counterfeit Goods Statistics


$1.3 billion in counterfeit items seized each year
$200 billion yearly loss to businesses

$959 billion (estimated value of the counterfeit market by 2022)

Source: Library of U.S. Congress

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Fake Air Force 1 Nikes?
  2. Where Do Scammers Sell Fake AF1s?
  3. 7 Ways to Spot Fake Air Force 1 Sneakers from the Real Deal
  4. Tell-Tale Signs to Identify a Fake Air Force 1 Nikes Listing
  5. What to Do If You Received a Pair of Fake Air Force 1s
  6. Where to Buy Real Air Force 1 Nikes
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

Scammers are notorious for selling fake Air Force 1 (AF1) Nikes to unaware buyers. However, it's not always easy to differentiate high-quality fakes from authentic luxury shoes.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tell-tale signs that'll give you the assurance you need to spot the fakes. Below, we'll give you the know-how to buy Nike Air Force 1 shoes with confidence, whether they're online or from a local Craigslist listing.

What Are Fake Air Force 1 Nikes?

Fake Air Force 1 Nikes are knock-off shoes made with low-quality fabric, materials, and stitching. These counterfeit shoes mimic Nike AF1 sneakers by attempting to replicate the Nike logo and style of the shoe.

Scammers take advantage of Nike's notoriety and the AF1's popularity to sell fakes at scale leading to thousands of fake AF1s worldwide.

Nike Air Force 1 shoes aren't cheap, which gives you all the more reason to confirm you're getting the legitimate, high-quality shoe you purchased.

Where Do Scammers Sell Fake AF1s?

Scammers sell fake AF1s across the internet, including local listings on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Be wary when you're buying from individual sellers on Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, and other e-commerce websites. Thousands of 5-star reviews are never a guarantee of a product's legitimacy—only buy from sellers you know and trust.

Scammers can sell fake Air Force 1s locally in-person, too. It's less likely that someone will try to scam you when an encounter is required, but sellers find ways to avoid this with drop-offs, pick-ups, and shipping. Unfortunately, due to so many fake Air Force 1 Nikes, a legitimate seller may be selling you fakes without even realizing it.

7 Ways to Spot Fake Air Force 1 Sneakers from the Real Deal

Authentic AF1s and fakes have a lot in common, but you can find several product details to differentiate the two. Below, we'll walk through each of the indicators to help you buy with confidence.

1. Metal Lace Tag

Original Nike AF1s have a metal tag on the bottom part of the laces. Regardless of your shoe's color scheme, this will be a thick metallic rectangle that says "AF1." The same tag can be found in all the shoe versions—any other variation other than "AF1" is a knock-off.

Metal tag on real vs fake Air Force 1s

2. Tongue

Nike stitches the Nike Air logo on the tongue of their shoes. Often, fakes will print rather than sew this logo onto the tongue. A stitched logo isn't a guarantee, though—look to see if there's an uneven thickness in the stitch or distortions in the logo. Real AF1s also use double stitching on the tongue and down the lacing, whereas most fakes don't.

Tongue on real vs fake Nike Air Force 1

3. Heel

The Nike AIR logo is also printed on the heel tab, but this logo is slightly different. The Nike logo on the heel has the Nike swoosh with "Nike" above it and "A I R" beneath it. Check to make sure all the characters are correctly aligned and spaced. Fakes may have disoriented letters or odd spacing between the "A I R" and the swoosh.

Real AF1s also have a flat tongue heel tab across the top that then dips sharply (at around a 45-degree angle). Fakes often have a rounded heel tab with no squared top.

Real vs fake AF1 heel

4. Toe Box

Fakes often use a mark on the center of the toe box to line up the fake perforations. You'll likely need a blacklight to find this indicator, but it's a tell-tale sign because real AF1s will never have the mark on the toe box.

Check to make sure the perforation holes' size is equal and follows the row pattern of 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 (starting from the bottom). Fakes often have uneven perforation holes that don't follow any particular pattern.

5. Insole

Nike Air Force 1's feature a shoe-specific insole with the Nike Air Force 1 logo—not the generic Nike swoosh logo.

6. Outsole

Real Air Force 1 Nikes have the Nike logo and swoosh on the shoe's sole with "R" registered symbols. Fakes will often forget to include the logo or neglect to use the registered "Rs" along with it.

7. Label

If you know what to look for, the label is usually the most obvious sign of any counterfeit product. Authentic Nike Air Force 1s have the inside label stitched to the side of the inside of the shoe—not the tongue. This label has the sizes as well as the Nike swoosh logo. Newer models include a QR code, too.

Real vs fake Air Force One tag

Tell-Tale Signs to Identify a Fake Air Force 1 Nikes Listing

Spotting a fake Nike product is essential when buying online or in person, but it's equally critical to recognize scam listings. Scam listings will often use real images of Air Force 1 Nikes—however, that's not the exact shoe you'll be receiving.

Fortunately, there are a few tell-tale signs you can look for to verify whether a listing is real or a fake:

  • Seller: Check the seller's name, location, and contact information to make sure it all checks out.
  • Reviews: Look at the user feedback on the product listing. Read bad reviews to see if they're selling fakes and be wary of fake 5-star reviews.
  • Copy: Scammers often sell to various countries, leading them to make simple grammar mistakes in other language listings. Misspellings, haphazard commas, and other grammar errors in a product listing should be an immediate red flag.
  • Images: Sellers should have pictures of the product that they've taken themselves—not from screenshots they've swiped from Nike's official website.

What to Do If You Received a Pair of Fake Air Force 1s

How to recover from buying a fake Air Force 1 will mostly depend on where you purchased the product. Different websites and e-commerce stores will have varying protections in place to protect you from scams, but there's no such assurance if you're buying off of Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace.

  • eBay: eBay doesn't tolerate counterfeit items. If you believe you've purchased fake Nike Air Force 1s, then contact eBay's Resolution Center as soon as possible to start your Money Back Guarantee process.
  • Amazon: Amazon is full of third-party sellers—even on Prime. Amazon has harsh penalties for those found to be selling counterfeits. First, contact the seller for more information. If you're sure the shoes are fake and aren't satisfied with the seller's response, return the product immediately. If that's not an option, reach out to Amazon customer service to file an A-to-Z Guarantee to request a refund.
  • Craigslist: Contact the right party via Craigslist's contacts to let them know what happened.
  • Authorities: Report internet crimes to the FBI's digital division.
  • Credit Card Company: If you purchased a fake pair of shoes with your credit card, contact your credit card company to request a chargeback.

Where to Buy Real Air Force 1 Nikes

Nike recommends always buying their shoes from Nike.com, a Nike store, or a reputable and trusted retailer to avoid purchasing counterfeits. Here are a few secure places online you can trust:

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if Air Force 1s are fake?

There are many tell-tale signs of fake Air Force 1 shoes, including sketchy tags, incorrect stitching, poorly designed in-soles.

Where can I buy real Nike Air Force Ones?

The best place to buy Air Force 1s is from Nike, either online or in a store. Other third-party retailers that sell legit AF1s include Footlocker and Dick's Sporting Goods.

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