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Best Nike running shoes

Best_Nike-Running-shoes-2020

This article has been updated with current models for October 2020. The Nike React Miler, Pegasus Trail 2, and Zoom Fly 3 are new additions. The Nike Pegasus 36 Trail and Vaporfly Next% have been removed.

So far, 2020 has been a year of minor updates for Nike running. Wait, what about the Nike Pegasus 37 and the React Miler? Aren’t those brand-new introductions? Sure, they are.

But this is Nike we’re talking about, and none of the ‘new’ models in 2020 (so far) have the far-reaching effect of products like the Vaporfly. And that’s ok. It’s simply not possible to have ground-breaking tech each year. And if you’re wondering about the Alphafly Next%, it doesn’t count because it is in very short supply.

What Nike is doing instead is to ‘trickle-down’ the Vaporfly and Epic React aesthetics (and now the Alphafly) to the rest of its assortment. For example, the Pegasus 37 adopts a form factor that is in line with the Vaporfly’s visual character. The Zoom Winflo 7 – the annual update to Nike’s popular budget trainer – also gets a sleek exterior that is inspired by Nike’s pinnacle model.

The React Infinity Run Flyknit is nothing but an evolution of the Epic React. Less expensive models like the Renew Run and the Revolution 5 are also inspired by the hero React model.

So that’s what you’ll see on this curated list. A meld of the new and the old. The list may change by the year-end, but for now, this is it.

Last year, we excluded the Nike Free collection because, frankly, both the 2019 Free 5.0 and 3.0 did not feel like true Nike Frees. The 2020 edition of the 5.0 isn’t any better. That said, Nike was smart enough to keep the popular Free RN 2018 – both in its mesh and Flyknit avatars. So this article features one of them.

Medially-posted stability shoes are now out of trend so we originally assumed that Nike will no longer be updating the Structure. We were wrong; the Structure 23 will be released this month.

For now, the Structure 22 offers a unique selling proposition and is still available for sale. Its firm ride is nothing like the softer running shoes that dominate Nike’s assortment. We’re assuming the 23 will be a lot softer.

We made it clear in our Vomero 14 review that the shoe was very average. The word is that the upcoming Vomero 15’s midsole is part-Zoom X, so we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.

Nike’s trail running category got an upgrade last year with the Kiger, Wildhorse, and Pegasus trail. Both the Kiger and WH have been refreshed for 2020, and the Pegasus Trail 2 has just dropped into the market.

Inquiring minds may want to know – why pick the Zoom Fly 3 over the Air Zoom Tempo Next%? That’s because on paper, the Zoom Fly 3 is a better running shoe with legitimate – and proven – performance credentials. Whereas the jury is still out on the Tempo Next%.

The Vaporfly Next% used to occupy a spot on this guide, but it’s out of stock on Nike’s website. Why recommend something that isn’t easily available? The same goes for the Alphafly Next%. It may be a brilliant running shoe – and it is – but was sold out within minutes of release. Solereview was lucky to get its hand on a pair at brick-and-mortar store but most people won’t be so lucky.

We’ve excluded the just-released Air Zoom Tempo Next% because we have no wear-test miles on that shoe yet. It takes cues from the unicorn shoe that is the AlphaFly Next% and swaps the Carbon plate and ZoomX foam with a Nylon plate and React. The feel of the forefoot Zoom bag(s) is similar to the Alpha, but the ride and fit quality differ significantly.

The shoes on this listed are prefixed with their use-cases. This is in no particular order.

1) Daily neutral trainer: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

This year’s Pegasus is nothing like the 36. Or the 35. While it remains a very comfortable neutral running shoe, the softer ride makes it a less versatile running shoe. It’s best used for long-distance runs and daily training at easy paces. That’s because the heel is made entirely of React foam whereas the forefoot has a Zoom Air bag. This set-up delivers plenty of ride comfort but at the cost of versatility.

The upper is ok. The fully-sleeved upper makes it very smooth on the inside; the toe-box is a bit snug but secure.

There are other Pegasus variants too. There’s a lace-less Pegasus FlyEase edition that is designed for easy on and off. The Pegasus Trail V2 also hit the shelves recently; scroll down for more information on that model.

2) Daily neutral trainer: Nike React Miler

Many runners (including Solereview) did not think much of the Pegasus 37 update. If that describes you, give a thought to the React Miler instead.

The React Miler is a well-behaved daily trainer with a comfortable ride. The React foam midsole delivers a consistent and smooth character without being mushy.

A hard heel stabilizing clip (reminiscent of the Epic React) cups the upper heel for rearfoot stability. The said clip is connected to a molded heel counter so the foot is cupped by the supportive upper.

The Miler’s upper has a lot going on. The midfoot is very busy, replete with variable distance lacing and a pair of speed loops that are joined to an internal wrap.

This makes the midfoot snugger than it needs to be. It doesn’t help that the flat tongue runs a bit shorter and leaves no space if heel-lock lacing is deployed. The forefoot is shallow, thanks to the external and rather large toe-bumper.

The upper fits securely and is for the most part, comfortable, but we wish it was a better match for the smooth and cushioned midsole that delivers its ride without any drama.

3) Daily, long-distance trainer: Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit

Nike pitches the React Infinity Run as a running shoe to reduce injuries. We can’t vouch for that claim, but what we can tell you is that the Infinity is a very comfortable shoe, the kind that makes long-distance runs easy on the feet.

There’s plenty of React foam packed into the midsole. The wide base of the heel and forefoot contributes to the cushioning volume as well.

The said ride experience is delivered in a non-mushy way. Accompanying the underfoot softness is a noticeable sense of bounciness. The outsole isn’t based on a solid one-piece layout; the grooves and exposed sections allow it to work seamlessly with the midsole.

It’s not the best shoe for tempo runs, or anything other than straight-line running. But if you’re looking for an easy-going and comfortable daily trainer for long-distance cruising, the React Infinity Run is a good place to spend your money.

The upper is standard Flyknit fare – reasonably secure with smooth interiors. Our full-length review covers this model in detail.

4) Daily, long-distance + tempo trainer: Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo V2

The Pegasus Turbo V2 is a lightweight but expensive neutral cushioned trainer. Though it’s an excellent running shoe (that’s why it’s on this list), we have mixed feelings about the Turbo.

On one hand, the ride feels great. The combination of Zoom X and React foam produces a ride quality that is comfortable for long-distance runs without any of the slowness.

There are a couple of things that we don’t like about the Turbo. The first is its price. The second is its lack of midfoot rigidity – something which we pointed out on the first version of the Pegasus Turbo as well. The V2 has the same midsole as the V1, thus resulting in an identical ride experience.

The Pegasus Turbo has a completely updated upper. The thinner mesh and the removal of the thick sleeve and Flywire create more room; on the other hand, the thin and shorter tongue doesn’t feel as comfortable. The heel also isn’t padded any longer so it doesn’t feel as secure as the original Turbo.

If the shallow toe-box of the original Turbo was not a concern, there’s no reason to upgrade.

5) Max-cushion trainer/racer: Nike Zoom Fly 3

In the absence of the Vaporfly Next% and Alphafly Next%, the Zoom Fly 3 is the next best thing. So here we are. The Zoom Fly is a derivative of the original Vaporfly and uses a Carbon plate instead of a cheaper Nylon part.

Though the firmer and heavier React foam midsole restricts the springboard effect of the Carbon plate, it results in better heel stability. Ride stability was an issue with the lighter and softer Vaporfly and is observed on the Alphafly Next% as well.

The Zoom Fly 3’s supportive ride is safer and easier to predict, thus making it appealing to a larger population of runners.

Simply put, the Zoom Fly 3 is the everyday version of the signature Nike models with a plate. The 11 mm heel-to-toe offset is Achilles-friendly, and the high-volume React midsole makes distances runs comfortable. There is a plate inside too, and that gives the Zoom Fly its signature ride quality.

The snug upper is very functional with a secure fit. The soft band wraps around the midfoot to lock the foot down, and the ribbon laces are quick and easy to cinch through the speed loops.

6) Comfortable budget daily trainer: Nike Renew Run

At the height of its popularity, the Lunarlon cushioning was everywhere in Nike’s running line. Today, it’s all about ZoomX and React, so where does Lunarlon go? Into shoes like the Renew Run, that’s where.

The Renew Run is a sub-$100 Nike running shoe that uses a Lunarlon core under the rearfoot. The rest of the midsole is made of soft EVA, and the densities of both the foams are very similar. This makes the dual-density cushioning smooth and consistent throughout the transition cycle.

The upper is pretty basic in its design, and yet the fused overlays and faux stitching makes the Renew Run look like a more expensive shoe. The upper fits a bit snug in its standard width, but guess what – Nike sells an extra-wide in this shoe.

All in all, the Renew Run makes for a competent – and comfortable – running shoe for daily runs. You also get a proper outsole with decent traction and protection.

7) Traditional Stability Trainer: Nike Air Zoom Structure 22

Motion-control or stability running shoes are a dying breed. But for whatever it’s worth, the Structure 22 is Nike’s go-to shoe if you like a firm midsole with a supportive ride. The forefoot is responsive and snappy due to the Zoom Air bag inside.

In this case, a firmer medial side doesn’t mean a biased ride but a balanced foundation – which is good. The Structure 22 carries forward the 21’s midsole with a brand new upper which features a Flywire cord based lacing and a longer tongue.

Nike hadn’t updated the Structure 22 in a while, so we assumed that the Structure 22 is the last of its kind. We were wrong; the Nike Structure 23 is on its way. But knowing how ‘Nike updates’ work, we’ll reserve our opinion till the time we have some road miles on the Structure 23.

8) Flexible daily trainer: Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018

Wait – this is a 2018 model, so what is it even doing on an article about 2020 shoes?

It’s no secret than the 2019 Free models – namely the strange-looking 5.0 and 3.0 – weren’t as successful as Nike hoped them to be. They lacked the carefree yet functional flexibility of the Free series.

So the Free RN 2018 exists in the shadows, and we’re glad Nike continues to sell this shoe. The Flywire-equipped upper and recognizable Free midsole creates a fit and ride experience that is pleasant and distraction-free. It has most of the traits that has made the Nike Free franchise successful.

The roomy Flyknit mesh upper feels light and breezy over the foot. In the rear, a collapsible heel prevents chafing without slippage.

Compared to the older generation Nike Frees (say the super-excellent 4.0 Flyknit), the 2018 RN has a softer ride. The hexagonal grooves make the midsole exceptionally flexible while providing plenty of ride comfort for daily runs or casual wear.

This shoe is the closest one gets to the fabulous Free 4.0 Flyknit, so that’s saying something.

9) Affordable daily trainer: Nike Air Zoom Winflo 7

The Winflo is Nike’s popular sub-$100 offering, and it’s back for the seventh time – with a few updates, of course.

The exteriors draw visual inspiration from the Vaporfly, and you can signs of it on the upper and midsole. To be specific, it’s the exaggerated heel spring and the outwardly-curving Achilles lip.

And it’s not just the shape. There are changes from a ride perspective as well. There’s more foam in the midsole, and while there are two Zoom bags like the Winflo 6, the forefoot unit is thicker to enhance cushioning responsiveness. The Winflo 7 is as much a forefoot striker’s running shoe as it is a heel-striking one.

The outsole doesn’t skimp on rubber. There’s a lot of it spread in a full-contact layout. Thanks to the deep groove, the heel crash pad functions independently from the rest of the outsole. A transition channel also runs down the length of the outsole to help with smooth rearfoot landings and turnovers.

The snug-fitting upper is pretty basic. The thin mesh shell has a padded tongue and heel for rear comfort, while the aesthetic detailing on the lacing eyestay enhances the Winflo 7’s visual appeal.

10) Affordable daily trainer: Nike Revolution 5

Of late, Nike has improved many of its budget offerings. Though you have the $90 Renew Run and the Winflo 7 on this guide, the Revolution retails at $65.

And what you get for that price isn’t bad at all. The Revolution EVA midsole is cushioned, supportive, and smooth. Three large slabs of outsole rubber are separated by flex grooves, so the layout is traction-friendly while allowing the outsole to bend under the forefoot.

The no-frills upper is very basic. A single-layer of mesh is reinforced with fused layers; the fit is smooth and snug. The tongue and heel are padded for grip and comfort.

Nike also sells an extra-wide for wide-footed runners who find the standard fit too narrow.

11) Road racer: Nike Air Zoom Streak 7

The Streak 7 has a lot of Streak 6 in it. As in, a carry-over midsole and outsole design under a breezy and no-nonsense upper. The Streak 7’s purpose and character stay true to the series – it is an excellent racing shoe without the metatarsal-jarring experience of true flats.

The 7-ounce package manages to accommodate a heel Zoom Air and a plastic shank into a foam midsole. As a result, there’s ample cushioning for up to half-marathon distances. The large rubber slabs on the outsole provide traction and additional protection from the imperfections on the road.

As typical of road-racers, the upper has a snug fit for an excellent lock-down. The well-ventilated upper sticks to the basics like a race-tongue with soft flaps and a marginally padded heel collar.

12) Versatile trail-running shoe: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 2

Since the Pegasus 37 was a much softer shoe than the 36, naming the Trail version after it wouldn’t have been such a great idea. The last year’s Pegasus 36 trail had a lot in common with the road version. If Nike did the same for this year’s Trail model, the outcome would have been disastrous. Nobody wants a trail shoe with mismatched midsole densities.

Except for the storied name, the Pegasus Trail 2 shares nothing in common (ok, maybe React foam) with its road cousin.

So good call by Nike to drop the numeric suffix from the second version of the Pegasus Trail. This is a shoe that shares very little in common with the road-going 37. It’s also a very different shoe than the Pegasus 36 Trail.

The Pegasus 36 Trail was a winterized Pegasus 36 of sorts and behaved like a soft-roader – the kind of running shoe that’s intended for mild trails and regular paved roads. It was a comfortable trail-road hybrid.

In contrast, the Pegasus Trail 2 is closer to a true trail running shoe. The outsole, for example, completely covers the midsole instead of leaving grooves and channels exposed. The lugs are also larger and better oriented for unpaved surfaces.

Also, take note that the midsole is all React and no Zoom Air. Loosely speaking, the Pegasus Trail 2 is like the React Miler. We say that because it rides like one – cushioned and consistent from the heel to toe. It lacks the pep of the double-Zoom-bagged Pegasus 36 but there’s no dearth of ride comfort.

The upper is very busy and cluttered; a mishmash if you will. The heel collar has a Wildhorse 6 kind of a design that feels like the shoe equivalent of a turtleneck sweater. A loose fold of polyester wraps the ankles, whereas the actual collar padding is located a couple of centimeters below. The lacing is a mix of straps, Flywire-wish loops, and regular eyelets.

The midfoot strap extends towards the back and joins a heel strap, so that’s somewhat useful. There’s not much wrong with the fit itself. The sleeve makes the insides smooth and comfortable. The sizing fits true, and we like how the outsole rides the toe-box to form a functional and protective bumper.

While the Pegasus Trail 2 adds value to Nike’s trail running assortment by bridging the functional gap between the Wildhorse and the Terra Kiger, we miss the simpler product that was the Pegasus 36 Trail. If you see the latter on sale, grab ‘em before they disappear into the ether.

13) Versatile trail-running shoe : Nike Zoom Wildhorse 6

The completely redesigned Wildhorse 6 comes with a $20 price increase. That’s a lot over the outgoing Wildhorse 5, so what does one get in return? Considering that even the Wildhorse 5 was (already) a stellar and versatile trail running shoe?

Even before we get into the nuts and bolts, it’s hard to miss the Wildhorse 6’s very retro ‘ACG’ vibe. ACG, short for ‘All Condition Gear’ was a popular product category for Nike till the late mid-2000s. ACG hiking boots and outdoor products used to be a ubiquitous sight, till they were not.

Nike has recently revived the ACG category with a mix of lifestyle and performance products.

We see a lot of ACG DNA on the Wildhorse 6. The use of rounded edges, ripstop polyester, and over-sized midsole sidewalls are a throwback to the late 90s and mid-2000s.

Performance-wise, the upper fit and protection are similar to the Wildhorse 5. That isn’t without its changes, though. A sleeve-like collar wraps around the heel; the large pull tab is functional while adding a color pop.

The rest of the upper is similar to the V5. The gusseted upper has thin fused layers for protection, and the insides have a secure fit.

The midsole and outsole redesign will polarize Wildhorse loyalists. The V6 has a thicker, softer stack that no longer has Zoom Air – this is a React midsole throughout. Also, the extra 2.5 mm and the high sidewalls make the Wildhorse 6 heavier.

The 6 isn’t the focused tool the Wildhorse 5 was. The 6 is much softer with more foam separating the foot from the trail. Even the large sidewalls around the heel are made of soft foam. This elevates the protection and ride comfort levels over longer distances but makes the shoe soft around the edges. The V6 also doesn’t have a solid rock plate like the 5.

14) Trail running – Wet and Dry: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6

The Terra Kiger 5 got a huge upgrade last year. It evolved from being a general, all-purpose trail shoe to a more technical product. The headlining acts were the segmented rock plate (the Kiger 4 did not have one) and the tacky outsole with its aggressive lugs.

The Kiger 6 has the same midsole and outsole set-up as the 5. There are minor adjustments (heel and forefoot) on the upper, but the fit is identical.

The upper is not waterproof or even water-resistant; the focus here is on drainage and ventilation rather than keeping the moisture out.

The midsole is made of React foam for greater comfort over longer trail runs and races. A heel Zoom Air unit adds snappy responsiveness to the rearfoot cushioning.

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