adidas and Nike both have large multi-category assortments. Understandably, some lifestyle products get mixed up with performance. Let’s be clear, this is no accident; selling lifestyle products disguised as running shoes has always been good business for brands.
Take the Nike running line for example. While Nike does a better job at separating lifestyle and performance, its assortment has a few examples of mediocrity.
The $190 Nike Air Max is an average shoe, and the identically priced Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit is another over-hyped product. The slightly cheaper Nike Air Zoom All Out is a better performer than the Air Max or the VaporMax, but falls short of running shoe standards.
Then there are others, like the Jordan Grind, Nike Free RN Commuter, the Nike Air Max Fury or the Air Max Sequent. We’ve also excluded different variants of the Nike Free.
While the Free line-up isn’t bad, they aren’t the best of the lot. In our opinion, the 2014-15 Free midsole and upper fit was perfect and there was no need to change it. The recent Nike Free models do not have the effortless glide and rounded fit quality of the 2014-15 version.
After removing the aforementioned models out of the equation, you’re left with a tight assortment of performance products. Most of these shoes have been around for over a decade in various forms, and with good reason.
These Nike running shoes are comfortable, durable and do as they promise. We’ve grouped them by category along with a brief description. Some of these shoes have been reviewed on this site in detail, so make sure you check this page for more.
|Cushioned Neutral||Nike Zoom Pegasus 34||Nike.com|
|Cushioned Neutral||Nike Zoom Fly||Nike.com|
|Firm Neutral Trainer||Nike Zoom Elite 9||Nike.com|
|Cushioned Neutral||Nike Zoom Vomero 12||Nike.com|
|Cushioned mild support||Nike Zoom Structure 21||Nike.com|
|Cushioned mild support||Nike Lunarglide 9||Nike.com|
|Lightweight racer||Nike Flyknit Racer||Nike.com|
|All-around trail running||Nike Zoom Wildhorse 4||Nike.com|
1) Neutral cushioning: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34
The fact that the Pegasus is the oldest surviving running shoe series is a testament to its versatility. It’s got a cushioned and responsive ride which works for all kinds of runs, and the sleeved upper has a comfortable interior. The outsole is durable so you get more value for the cash spent.
The Pegasus’s $110 MSRP is also proof that great running shoes do not have to cost a fortune.
2) Neutral cushioning: Nike Zoom Fly
The Zoom Fly neither has the Zoom Air bag nor the new ZoomX foam. But what it does have is an internal plate which makes your runs faster. For real.
Ideally, we would have recommended the Vaporfly, but that shoe’s availability is very limited. So the Zoom Fly is a good alternative; it has a similar thick midsole stack along with internal Nylon plate.
3) Firm Neutral cushioning:Nike Air Zoom Elite 9
Need something firmer for your fast training runs without beating down your foot? The Zoom Elite 9’s midsole provides ample insulation from the road while delivering a responsive ride.
The Zoom Elite works particularly well for forefoot strikers. There’s a large Zoom Air bag encapsulated inside the forefoot which produces a snappy ride.
4) Neutral cushioning: Nike Air Zoom Vomero 12
Think of the Vomero as a plusher Pegasus. Though the feature separation between the Vomero and Pegasus isn’t what it used to be, given the Pegasus’s newly acquired dual Zoom Air bags.
Even so, the Vomero has a plusher upper and a slightly softer ride.
5) Mild stability: Nike Air Zoom Structure 21
The Structure is Nike’s go-to shoe if you like the feel of a firmer midsole, especially on the inner/medial side. In this case, a firmer medial side doesn’t mean an unbalanced ride like some of the previous Structure models. The Structure 21 carries forward the 20’s midsole but has a brand new upper.
Flywire is (thankfully) restricted to the last two rows only, and most of the upper support comes from an internal arch band.
6) Mild support: Nike Lunarglide 9
The Lunarglide isn’t what it used to be. The new Lunarglide (including the last year’s model) is firmer and uses deep grooves on the midsole to create a slightly biased ride.
Most of the Lunarglide’s sole design is inspired by the Lunarepic, be it the sidewall or outsole design. The Lunarglide 9 rides similar to the Lunarglide 8, but very different from the Lunarglide 7 and earlier.
The Nike Zoom Span deserves a mention too. It is a lightweight training shoe with mild support – a watered down Structure of sorts.
7) Lightweight racer: Nike Flyknit Racer
You must be wondering – why did we choose the Flyknit Racer over the Nike Streak or the LT3? That’s because the Racer does everything which the other two can, and then some.
The Flyknit Racer is a 6-ounce shoe with an upper which disappears over the foot. There’s no ‘Zoom’ in the shoe’s name, but know that there’s a forefoot Air bag inside the full-length EVA midsole.
Why not the Streak or LT? The Flyknit Racer has a consistent ride and a more comfortable, disappear-over-the-foot kind of an upper. It is breathable, shape adjustable and fits well. There’s plenty of outsole rubber for longer life and superior traction.
It’s not surprising that the Flyknit Racer hasn’t changed a stitch in five years. Incidentally, the Racer was the first to feature the then revolutionary Nike Flyknit upper.
8) All-around trail running: Nike Zoom Wildhorse 4
It’s amazing how much value the Wildhorse 4 offers for its $110 retail price. There’s a rock plate and a heel Zoom Air bag within a relatively cushioned midsole. The outsole’s trail-oriented lugs grip well, and the semi-closed upper design keeps the debris out.
The Wildhorse is one product where the Flywire comes in very handy. The Flywire cords are partially laminated and stretch all the way to the forefoot. This helps keep the foot locked down while running on steep grades.