Here’s the thing; there aren’t any women-specific running shoes in Nike’s assortment per se.
By gender-specific, we mean running shoes that have a different last (which defines the fit) or cushioning. Most 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 snugger fit.
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.
Like all our guides, we’ll be updating the curated list several times in 2020. The first cut leaves the Flex 2019 RN out.
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 by the second quarter of 2020, but that’s a bridge to be crossed when we come to it.
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.
Nike’s marketing literature compares the React Infinity to the Structure 22, and this may lead some runners to think of the shoe as a replacement.
The React Infinity is nothing like the Structure. 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.
If you even have the faintest idea of the Structure’s super-firm ride, then it should be obvious that a comparison with the Infinity is a lost cause.
On its own, the Infinity is a very comfortable running shoe with plenty of high-mileage cushioning. The outsole is also generously split so that it works seamlessly with the midsole to enhance the cushioning experience.
The heel has a raised (and firm) TPU clip that is somewhat similar to the Epic React. The Flyknit upper is soft, true-to-size and has a more relaxed fit compared to the Epic.
2) Nike Epic Phantom React Flyknit Women’s
This is a lace-free, slip-on version of the regular Epic React, and has to be one of the easiest shoes to wear. The absence of laces need not worry you – the knit upper has sufficient tension to keep the foot locked down.
Just like the standard laced model, the Phantom React is a legit running shoe. Except for the missing laces, everything else is nearly identical. The React midsole has a smooth and lightweight ride. You also get the same heel clip that stabilizes rearfoot landings and transitions.
3) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Women’s
Nike’s do-it-all daily trainer sells in both men’s and women’s colors. The Pegasus 36’s firm cushioning is versatile enough for a wide range of runs – from daily workouts on the road and treadmill to the occasional speed day.
The sleeved upper fits true to size and runs warm due to the layered design.
4) Nike Air Zoom Structure 22 Women’s
With a dual-density midsole, the Structure 22 is the last in the line of Nike stability running shoes. What you get with the Structure is a firm and supportive ride along with a responsive forefoot cushioning because of the Zoom Air bag. If you know what you’re buying, the Structure 22 ends up being a versatile daily trainer in your rotation.
The true-to-size upper is more supportive when compared to standard trainers. A Flywire cord assisted lacing keeps the midfoot secure; thick overlays flank the heel and midfoot for structural support.
5) Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
Sometimes standard levels of midsole cushioning won’t cut it for marathon-distance running. In comes the Vaporfly 4%, a Carbon plate-equipped shoe with amazing levels of cushioning rebound and turnover.
The high-volume ZoomX foam midsole delivers mile-after-mile comfort for the long haul.
Affordable running shoes
1) Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6 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 Nike Dart days. The Zoom Winflo 6 illustrates this perfectly.
The midsole made of Nike’s Cushlon foam has not one, but two Zoom Air bags. In other words, the Winflo has a cushioned and responsive ride that is versatile enough for most kinds of runs.
The Winflo’s upper uses soft-touch materials along with a partial bootie for a comfortable fit without any tongue slide.
2) Nike Renew Run Women
If you think this shoe looks similar to the Epic and the Infinity React, 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 resemble that of the Epic.
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 Epic, even if the results are different. 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 9 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 the $60 Downshifter 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.
Women’s Nike trail running shoes
1) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail Women’s
The Trail version of the Pegasus features an outdoor-sey upper that shields the foot from the dust and debris during off-road runs.
The basic outsole geometry resembles the design seen on the road Pegasus – but it differs from the latter with its trail-oriented lugs and higher rubber coverage.
So which part of the market does the Pegasus Trail cater to? The answer is – view this as a dual-purpose soft-roader.
The outsole lugs aren’t very deep and are spread out evenly. This means that you can use them on roads as well as on dry, packed trails in the nearby Canyon. Unlike the road Pegasus, the Trail Peggy uses separate heel and forefoot Zoom bags. There’s plenty of ride comfort no matter how you land.
For Nike running shoes with stronger trail credentials, keep reading.
2) Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Women’s
The Terra Kiger 5 was upgraded last year with better technical terrain capabilities. The forefoot gets 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 offers plenty of ride comfort 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.
3) Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5
When compared to the Terra Kiger, the Wildhorse is a more protective trail running shoe. A solid, one-piece outsole and a standard rock plate protect the foot on the trails. The upper is swathed with fused overlays as well but has a relatively spacious forefoot and toe-box.
You won’t get the ride comfort of the Pegasus Trail or the Terra Kiger here. But if a protective trail running shoe with a spacious interior is what makes you happy, then the Wildhorse 5 is well worth its $110 retail price.
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 Women’s
The Zoom Streak 7 is a popular fixture in both the men’s and women’s running shoe assortment; this is an 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.