Best Nike running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 on the road.

This article has been updated for November 2022. This guide has been completely rewritten.

Some Nike running shoes – like the Pegasus 39 – come very close to being the one shoe to do it all.

However, it’s very difficult to recommend which Nike shoe is the ‘best’ overall unless there’s some context. For example, a Nike running shoe that’s an excellent everyday trainer could be a mediocre marathon racer. Similarly, a trail runner will feel out of its element when used as a road shoe.

So it makes sense to recommend Nike running shoes based on their use cases, which are as follows:

EVERYDAY TRAINERS

The Nike Pegasus 39 on the road.

From everyday runs to a half-marathon – the Nike Pegasus 39 can do it all.

These running shoes are extremely versatile, since they work equally well across different speeds and distances. While these shoes are not exactly what one would call tempo trainers, they don’t feel mushy either.

Usually, there’s ample cushioning comfort for up to half-marathon distances. Popular Nike models like the Pegasus 39 and Structure 24 are good examples.

In this category, our top pick is the Nike Pegasus 39.

LONG-DISTANCE CRUISER

The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 2 on the road.

The ZoomX Invincible Run 2 has your long-distance runs covered.

Most running shoe brands have a comfortable cruiser that prioritizes ride comfort over everything else. For New Balance, it’s the Fresh Foam 1080V12. The Saucony Triumph 20 is also excellent.

For Nike, that shoe is the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 2 – a plush running shoe that never seems to run of ride comfort. For a while, the React Infinity Run used to be that shoe, but times have changed.

(Related read: The most comfortable running shoes)

MARATHON RACER

The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 on the road.

The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 is the marathon shoe of choice.

Nike upended the marathon shoe landscape with the Vaporfly a few years ago, and it’s never been the same since. The Nike Vaporfly Next% V2 continues to be a crowd favorite – not just within Nike, but as an overall marathon shoe pick.

The Carbon plate of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

This simulated image gives us a pretty good idea of the Carbon plate’s position inside the ZoomX midsole.

That doesn’t come as a surprise. The PEBA foam midsole and Carbon plate produce a soft, bouncy, and speed-friendly ride in a lightweight package. While Nike also sells the Zoom Fly 5 and Alphafly Next% 2, the Vaporfly is the superior shoe.

(Related read: The best marathon shoes)

TRAIL RUNNING SHOES

The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 Gore-Tex on the trail.

Nike’s trail running assortment has grown stronger over the last few years, but two models stand out from the rest. The first shoe is the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 – a comfortable trainer that works equally well on the road and trail.

The second shoe is the Nike Terra Kiger 8 – a serious trail shoe that blends ride comfort with speed-friendly features. For the sake of brevity, we’ve left the Zegama and Wildhorse out.

(Related read: The best trail running shoes)

OTHER CATEGORIES

Some Nike running shoes work better for specific purposes. The Pegasus 39 Shield’s weather-resistant upper and grippy outsole makes it a great winter running shoe. On the other hand, the Flex Experience 12’s flexible midsole makes it ideal for gym workouts.

And if you don’t want to spend Pegasus 39 money, the less expensive Winflo 9 is a versatile everyday workhorse.

1) Best everyday trainer: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

Summary: A versatile neutral trainer for everyday runs. The two Zoom Air bags and React midsole make the Pegasus comfortable enough even for half-marathon distances.

The snap from the Zoom Air bags makes the Pegasus 39 good for tempo runs as well. The beveled outsole design helps with the landings and forefoot/midfoot striking.

How it fits:

The upper fit of the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39.

The tongue of the Nike Pegasus 39.

The Pegasus 39 fits true to size; the inner sleeve and Flywire lacing make the midfoot fit smooth and secure. The heel grip is excellent, and an optional 4E (extra wide) is available for wide feet.

What’s new? The Pegasus 38 had only a forefoot Zoom Air bag; the Pegasus 39 gets two. The new model fits better than the Pegasus 38 due to the Flywire midfoot lacing.

Ideal running speeds: 4:30 min/km (7:00 min/mile) and slower.

Pros: Versatile ride character, comfortable and secure upper, optional widths, outsole grip.

Cons: Lack of reflective elements, the tongue flap could be wider.

Similar shoes: Asics Cumulus 24, Brooks Ghost 15, New Balance 880V12, Nike React Miler 3, Saucony Ride 15.

Read our in-depth review.

2) Best stability trainer: Nike Air Zoom Structure 24

Summary: The Structure 24 is a supportive daily trainer with a wide midsole base and secure upper. While the Structure 24 no longer has a medial post or wedge (as it did in the past), its firm EVA midsole offers plenty of support.

Only the forefoot has a Zoom Air bag, whereas the heel is made of EVA foam for stability. This is a capable daily trainer that works across a wide range of use cases.

How it fits: Snug, plush, and true to size. The upper is sleeved with a generous amount of tongue and heel padding. The strap-based lacing makes it easy to achieve a secure fit.

What’s new? Not much. The Structure 24 has the same midsole as the Structure 23. The upper has minor changes, but nothing that affects the overall fit.

Ideal running speeds: 4:30 min/km (7:00 min/mile) and slower.

Pros: Supportive ride character, comfortable and secure upper, optional widths, outsole grip.

Cons: Lack of reflective elements, the upper isn’t very breathable.

Similar shoes: Asics GT-2000 10, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22, New Balance 860V13, Nike React Infinity Run 3, Saucony Guide 15.

Given the shared midsole, our in-depth review of the Structure 23 is relevant.

3) Best long-distance cruiser: Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit V2

Summary: An uber-cushioned trainer that’s ideal for high-mileage cruising at relaxed speeds.

The lightweight ZoomX foam midsole never seems to run out of cushioning, so use the Invincible Run 2 as a recovery shoe. It even works as a comfortable shoe for 4:00+ marathons.

Upper fit:

The upper fit of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2.

The inner sleeve of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2.

A true-to-size fit with a sleeved midfoot and spacious toe-box. The heel collar is soft and grips well.

What’s new? The midsole is the same as the V1, but the redesigned heel clip provides more support.

Ideal running speeds: 5:30 min/km (8:50 min/mile) and slower.

Pros: Soft and springy ride, accommodating upper fit, reflective accents.

Cons: Not very versatile; the soft ride is a limiting factor during high-speed runs.

Similar shoes: Asics Nimbus 24, Hoka Bondi 7, New Balance 1080V12, Saucony Triumph 20.

Read our in-depth review.

4) Best marathon racer: Nike Vaporfly Next% 2

Summary: Easily the most popular marathon racing shoe in the market. So what makes it so special?

The Nike Vaporfly Next% V2 combines a soft and responsive ZoomX midsole with a Carbon fiber plate. The result is a comfortable ride character that doesn’t sacrifice speed.

Upper fit:

The upper fit of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

The interior toe box of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.

A true-to-size interior with a slim racer fit. The mesh shell is extremely breathable, and the Swoosh logo is reflective. Optional widths are not available.

Ideal running speeds: Between 3:00 min/km (5:00 min/mile) to 5:30 min/km (8:50 min/mile).

Pros: Lightweight and comfortable midsole that promotes high-speed runs and transitions, secure fit, breathability, reflective detail.

Cons: Low heel stability, price, lack of additional widths, average outsole grip.

Similar shoes: Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

Read our in-depth review.

5) Best trail running shoe: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 8

Summary: A low-profile trail running shoe with sufficient comfort and protection for most trail runs. A forefoot Zoom Air and React midsole add the necessary cushioning.

Under the heel, a segmented rock plate protects the foot from the rocks and roots. The low-to-ground midsole promotes proprioception, so the Terra Kiger 8 performs well during speed trail runs.

Upper fit:

Secure, breathable, and true-to-size fit. The speed lacing loops help lock the midfoot in. The toe bumper is reinforced with a fused layer and outsole rubber for durability.

What’s new? Except for the improved upper ventilation, the Nike Terra Kiger 8 and Terra Kiger 7 are nearly identical.

Ideal running surface: Technical trails, gravel paths.

Pros: A cushioned ride that also works well during quick trail runs, ground feedback, breathable and secure upper.

Cons: The outsole lugs could be longer and have wider spacing to minimize clogging.

Similar shoes: Saucony Peregrine 12, Nike ZoomX Zegama.

6) Best road-trail hybrid: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 4

Summary: The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 feels at home on the road as well as on flat trails. This is a running shoe with a soft ride, so the low levels of stability limit its trail capabilities.

But if you’re looking for a dual-purpose shoe with limited off-road capabilities, the Pegasus Trail 4 makes a compelling case for itself.

Upper fit:

The upper fit of the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4.

The Flywire cords of the standard Nike Pegasus Trail 4.

The heel gaiter of the Nike Pegasus Trail 4 Gore-Tex.

The regular and Gore-Tex versions fit differently. The standard Pegasus Trail 4 has a true-to-size (but barely) fit with an excellent midfoot fit and shallow toe box. You need to buy a half-size larger on the GTX upper, and the non-Flywire midfoot fit is sloppy.

The GTX upper had a heel gaiter, a feature that the non-waterproof model lacks.

What’s new?

The Pegasus Trail 4 is softer than the Pegasus Trail 3, and uses a thinner outsole. What the V4 gains in ride comfort, it loses in ride stability and protection.

Ideal running surface: Flat or mild-grade trails, gravel paths, road.

Pros: Ride comfort, midfoot fit (on the Flywire upper), heel gaiter (on GTX version).

Cons: React foam stiffens in freezing temperatures, no gaiter attachment D-ring, low outsole durability.

Similar shoes: New Balance Hierro V7, Hoka Challenger ATR 6, Salomon Ultraglide.

Read our in-depth review.

7) Best for winter running: The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 Shield

Summary: The Pegasus 39 Shield is the winterized version of the Pegasus. Except for the React foam and Zoom Air midsole, nothing else is shared with the standard model.

A water-resistant and insulated upper keeps the feet dry and warm during the colder months. The outsole also uses a special ‘Storm-tread’ rubber for grip on wet and slushy surfaces.

Upper fit:

The fit is accommodating and runs true to size. The lacing loops make the midfoot secure and easy to cinch; the insulated tongue and heel deliver a no-slippage fit. The layered upper is warm enough for cold-weather runs.

What’s new? A ride that is softer than the Pegasus 38 Shield, and improved reflectivity.

Optimal operating temperatures: -5 C (23F) to 10 C (50F).

Pros: Effective water resistance and insulation, outsole grip, ride comfort, reflectivity, accommodating fit.

Cons: React turns stiff in freezing temperatures, lack of widths.

Similar shoes: Saucony Peregrine ICE 3, Saucony Endorphin Shift 3 Runshield, New Balance 1080V12 Permafrost.

8) Affordable daily trainer: Nike Air Winflo 9

Summary: The Nike Winflo is a watered-down Pegasus of sorts.

Like the more expensive Pegasus 39, the Nike Winflo is a comfortable everyday trainer that uses an EVA foam and Nike Air midsole to deliver its cushioned ride.

However, its $100 retail price means that the Winflo sticks to the basics – the upper isn’t as plush, and the midsole lacks the nuanced cushioning of the Pegasus.

Upper fit:

The Winflo 9 has a true-to-size fit with a snug forefoot. Unlike the Pegasus, the Winflo doesn’t have an inner sleeve.

What’s new? A new midsole and Nike Air configuration. The redesigned upper has a similar fit.

Ideal running speeds: 4:30 min/km (7:00 min/mile) and slower.

Pros: Versatile daily trainer, secure upper fit, ride comfort, price.

Cons: Minor tongue slide, lack of widths and reflectivity.

Similar shoes: adidas Supernova 2, Brooks Trace.

9) Best running shoe for gym: Nike Flex Experience 11

Summary: The Flex Experience 11 is one of Nike’s most basic and affordable running shoes that is surprisingly versatile. It’s good enough for mild-intensity runs and casual use while being travel-friendly.

Its flexible forefoot and supportive heel make it an excellent gym shoe. The deep grooves under the forefoot is ideal for workouts like lunges and box jumps, whereas the heel is supportive enough for weight training. The low-profile EVA foam midsole works equally well on the treadmill.

Upper fit:

Narrow forefoot fit with a true-to-size profile. The narrow lacing width and padded heel deliver a secure grip. This is one of the few Nike running shoes with a collapsible heel – the upper doesn’t have a hard counter.

What’s new? The rear midsole loses the flex grooves from the Flex Experience 10, so the V11 is more supportive under the heel.

Ideal running speeds: 4:30 min/km (7:00 min/mile) and slower.

Pros: Flexible midsole, secure upper fit, collapsible upper heel, optional widths, price-value.

Cons: Average outsole grip.

Similar shoes: Nike Free RN 2018, Nike Free 5.0.

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