Best Nike running shoes for women

by Solereview editors


This article has been updated with current models for December 2020. The Downshifter 9, React Phantom, Pegasus 36, Structure 22, Terra Kiger 5, Winflo 6 and the Wildhorse 5 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Vaporfly Next% is a new addition. The Vaporfly 4% and the Pegasus 36 Trail have been removed.

Here’s the catch; there aren’t any women-specific running shoes in Nike’s assortment per se.

By gender-specific, we refer to running shoes that have a different last (which defines the fit) or cushioning. Nike running shoes do not offer that and follow the common practice of selling feminine colors in a narrow ‘B’ last and smaller sizes. There’s nothing wrong with that; most shoe brands do that.

So if you’re looking for a pair of women’s Nike running shoes, you’ll come across familiar names like the Pegasus and the Winflo. They have the same build and function as the men’s version but in different colors and a narrower fit. On a related note, the React Phantom Run Flyknit 2 is a women’s only model but we doubt that it is based on a women’s last.

When compared to men’s footwear, the sub-categories do not change either. There are road, trail, and affordable sub-$100 shoes to choose from, and that’s how we’ve split this guide.

Though we have been huge fans of Nike’s Free assortment in the past, the recent models aren’t as great. Perhaps things will change in 2021, but that’s a bridge to be crossed when we come to it.

We also have a separate guide that curates a list of women’s running shoes. Some of them (like the ones from Altra) have women-specific lasts and cushioning. Go have a read.

A) Women’s road running shoes

1) Nike React Infinity Run Women’s

Though Nike markets the React Infinity as a running shoe that reduces injuries, we view the shoe as a cushier and more comfortable version of the Epic React Flyknit.

Here, not only has been the React foam been reformulated to make it softer, but it is also packed into a higher volume midsole. That makes the React Infinity one of the softest shoes in Nike’s current line-up.

By itself, the Infinity is a very comfortable running shoe with plenty of high-mileage cushioning. The outsole is also split into segments so that it works seamlessly with the midsole to enhance the cushioning experience.

The heel has a raised (and firm) TPU clip that adds a touch of stability to the soft ride.

2) Nike React Phantom Run Flyknit 2 Women’s

The first edition of the React Phantom was a lace-free, slip-on version of the regular Epic React. Instead of laces, the bootie upper made of elastic Flyknit mesh held the foot in place. All said, it was a very simple and lace-free version of the Epic React Flyknit.

The React Phantom Run Flyknit 2, on the other hand, has a couple of new tricks up its sleeve. The soft upper has additional support in the form of elastic cords that wrap around the midfoot for a conforming fit. Like the V1, the heel clip stabilizes rearfoot landings and transitions.

The React midsole has a higher volume than the Phantom V1 for a cushier ride.

3) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Women’s

The Pegasus 37 is not like the Pegasus 35. Or for that matter, the 36.

Instead of the firm, consistent ride of the 36, the latest Pegasus has a soft heel and relatively firmer and responsive forefoot. That’s because the rear is all-foam whereas the front has an extra-large Zoom Air unit. This split personality of the midsole leads to divergent ride outcomes and decreased versatility.

But as long as the Pegasus 37 isn’t put under a lot of strain – for example, blazing quick runs and such – it’ll prove itself to be a comfortable daily trainer and high-mileage cruiser. The upper is ok – it fits true to size with a little bit of snugness in the toe-box.

4) Nike Air Zoom Structure 23 Women’s

And we thought that the Zoom Structure was dead. It is, and it is not. Let us explain.

If you’ve never tried the Structure before, just know that it was an extremely stiff and stable running shoe with a medial post. That’s not what the Structure 23 is. At all.

The new Structure 23 is a lot softer and plusher overall. So much so that if Nike slapped a Vomero sticker on the shoe-box, nothing would seem amiss. Even the upper matches the ride softness, with lots of collar foam, soft mesh, and such.

In short, the Structure 23 is a supportive neutral that’s good as a daily trainer and long-distance runner.

The high sidewalls cup the foot and deliver a higher than average under arch support, and that’s all the stability one needs. The Structure 23 is like the Lunarglide reborn, just softer.

5) Nike Vaporfly Next%

The Vaporfly Next% is the updated version of the Vaporfly 4%. Just like the VF, a full-length Carbon fiber plate resides within a soft and responsive ZoomX (Pebax) foam.

The said design produces an extremely lightweight running shoe with a unique springboard feel. The plate is anchored under the forefoot but ‘floats’ under the heel, thus creating a spring-like cushioning feel.

The soft and responsive ZoomX keeps the feet fresh during those high-mileage runs. All this comes without compromising the transition quality. The rigid forefoot helps with fast roll-overs whereas the quick rebound of the foam and plate keeps the transition lag to a minimum.

There’s no more Flyknit on the Vaporfly. A thin, lightweight mesh creates a secure and smooth interior, while the asymmetrically skewed lacing reduces the top-down lacing pressure.

Also see: The Nike Alphafly Next%.

Affordable running shoes

1) Nike Air Zoom Winflo 7 Women’s

Premium Nike running shoes aren’t the only ones upping their game. Shoes priced below $100 have come a long way since the days of the $45 Nike Dart. The Zoom Winflo 7 is a case in point.

The high volume foam midsole has not one, but two Zoom Air bags. In other words, the Winflo has a cushioned and responsive ride that proves versatile enough for most runs.

The Winflo’s upper uses soft-touch materials along with a partial bootie for a comfortable fit without any tongue slide. Like most budget Nike running shoes, the toe-box runs shallow and pointy. An optional ‘wide’ sizing offers more room.

The Vaporfly inspired aesthetic doesn’t hurt either.

2) Nike Renew Run Women

If you think this shoe looks similar to the React Infinity, you’re not wrong. The Renew Run is heavily inspired by the more expensive React-based models. Though the Renew uses a lightweight and breathable mesh instead of Flyknit, the clean lines of the upper resembles the Infinity.

The midsole and outsole also borrow design cues from the React, except that the dual-density foam stack is made of Lunarlon and EVA foam.

The product intent is similar to the Infinity, even though the results differ. That the Renew Run is a comfortable trainer with lots of cushioning for everyday use.

The toe-box runs pointy, so you might want to half-size up on this one.

3) Nike Downshifter 10 Women’s

At times, a basic running shoe is all that you need. No fancy midsole foam or inserts – just a foam midsole and a rubber outsole topped off with a comfortable upper.

That’s exactly what this $60 shoe is. The upper doesn’t have any hot spots and secures the foot during runs. Under the foot, there’s enough EVA foam to make daily runs comfortable.

The Downshifter 10 arrives with substantial updates – and upgrades – over the 9.

The midsole has more volume for increased cushioning, and the upper has a cleaner aesthetic with a smoother fit. The switch from the round to flat laces is welcome, as they apply a lower top-down pressure. Like most affordable Nike running shoes, the Downshifter has a somewhat snug forefoot fit.

Women’s Nike trail running shoes

1) Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 6 Women’s

The Terra Kiger 5 was upgraded last year with better technical terrain capabilities. The Kiger 6 has the same outsole and midsole, so identical features get carried over, including the 4mm heel to toe offset.

The forefoot has a rock plate that isn’t designed in a solid, one-piece form. Instead, the plate is segmented so that you get ample protection without sacrificing ground feedback.

You get decent traction in the wet with the Kiger’s new outsole – as long as your runs do not involve mud and slippery roots. The React foam midsole and heel Zoom Air deliver ride comfort and responsiveness without adding excess weight.

The upper is durable and does a good job of holding the foot down. The low toe-box and the high heel collar is an acquired taste, though.

All in all, the Terra Kiger 6 is a versatile trail running shoe that works for most situations except when there’s mud or water involved. Between this and the Wildhorse 6, the Kiger is the faster shoe due to firmer and lower profile midsole. So yes, it’s more versatile too.

2) Nike Wildhorse 6

The Wildhorse 6 is very different than the 5. And different how?

To begin with, the Wildhorse 6 is a very soft running trail running shoe. The proof of that lies in the low-density foam and the thick midsole that has rear and front stack heights of 22.5 mm and 14.5 mm respectively.

That makes it an 8 mm heel-to-toe offset midsole with lots of cushioning; even the raised midsole ‘guards’ under the heel are soft. Unlike the Wildhorse 5, the midsole no longer has a Zoom Air bag or a rock plate.

The upper will be found wanting in protective details on rough terrain. Other than that, the closed mesh and high collar do a decent job of keeping the dust out. Inside, the Wildhorse 6 fits comfortably and true to size.

Women’s Nike road racing shoes

There aren’t many road racers in Nike’s line-up, but the unisex Streak 7 is a sensible pick for those fast days. If you need something lighter and more snappy, get the Streak LT 4 instead.

1) Nike Air Zoom Streak 7 unisex

The Zoom Streak 7 is a popular fixture in both the men’s and women’s running shoe assortment; this is a unisex product that runs in women’s sizes US 6 to 16.5.

As far as road racers go, the Streak 7 strikes a fine balance between racing flat minimalism and ride comfort. Its 6-ounce weight disappears on the feet during speed runs, while the heel Zoom Air and the EVA midsole add ride comfort.

Though the Streak has a 10 mm drop, it doesn’t feel like it. The low-profile midsole keeps things snappy and efficient through the gait cycle.

The super-lightweight mesh upper fits snug due to its last and the midfoot strap. The generously ventilated mesh keeps the insides from becoming stuffy.

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