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Best Nike running shoes


This article has been updated with current models for June 2020. The Nike Pegasus 36, Terra Kiger 5, Wildhorse 5, and the Winflo 6 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit, Renew Run, Revolution 5, Free RN 2018 are new additions. The Nike Epic React 2 Flyknit, Vaporfly 4%, and Zoom Rival Fly have been removed. The introduction/preface is a complete rewrite.

So far, 2020 has been a year of minor updates for Nike running. Wait, what about the Nike Pegasus 37 and the React Infinity? 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 a ground-breaking tech every year.

What Nike is doing instead is to ‘trickle-down’ the Vaporfly and Epic React aesthetics 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 edition of our buyer’s guide. 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 assume that Nike will no longer be updating the Structure.

However, since the 22 offers a unique selling proposition, it is still available for sale. Its firm ride is nothing like the softer running shoes that dominate Nike’s assortment.

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 should follow later this year.

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

Though sweeping changes are plentiful on this year’s Pegasus, it continues to be a reliable daily trainer pick. The 100% React foam heel achieves a good balance between cushioning comfort and ride efficiency. The forefoot Zoom Air bag has a responsiveness that feels similar to the Pegasus 33 and 34.

It’s a good, all-round shoe for daily runs, slightly faster workouts, and the occasional long-distance run. While the 37 is a very different shoe than the 35 and 36, it retains the versatile nature. The 37 vaguely reminds us of the Pegasus 30, except that it’s a 2020 interpretation.

The upper is nothing like the past models. The tongue has no padding, and the midfoot strapping system gets speed-loops for quick and secure lacing. The conforming interiors run true to size, and the toe-box is very rounded – in a good way.

There are other Pegasus variants too. There’s a lace-less Pegasus FlyEase edition that is designed for easy on and off. Last year, Nike reintroduces the Pegasus Trail after many years. It’s got a split forefoot outsole, a more durable upper, and a sticker rubber for trail running.

2) 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 doesn’t a solid one-piece layout; the grooves and exposed sections allows 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.

3) 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 which 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 so you get an identical ride experience.

The Pegasus Turbo has a completely updated upper. The thinner mesh and the removal of the thick sleeve and Flywire creates 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 didn’t bother you, then there’s no reason to upgrade.

4) Max-cushion, lightweight trainer/racer: Nike Vaporfly Next% Flyknit

The Vaporfly 4% was the shoe that started it all. The Carbon plate-in-a-midsole movement, we mean. Today, most brands have their take on the spring-loaded midsole concept.

The 4% doesn’t seem to be a part of Nike’s current assortment, so what’s the next best thing? The aptly named Next %, of course. Just like the 4%, a Carbon plate is suspended inside a ZoomX midsole. This creates the familiar – and signature – ride experience we so loved on the Vaporfly 4%.

The ride is virtually fatigue-resistant, keeping the foot fresh over miles and miles of high-intensity runs. It’s not just the lively responsiveness of the ZoomX foam. The Carbon plate is sandwiched between the soft foam layers, so loading it creates a spring-like tension. That’s the characteristic snap that runners experience on the Vaporfly.

Instead of Flyknit, the Next %’s upper uses a thin material that Nike calls ‘Vaporweave’. It’s a lightweight layer of polyester that helps shave precious grams off the Next %. The fit is snug as it should be, and an asymmetric/slanted lacing eases the top-down pressure.

One might ask – the Nike Zoom Fly 3 is a nice shoe, so why isn’t it here on this guide? Though the Fly 3 is a good running shoe, it just doesn’t have the magical ride experience of the ZoomX foam. It uses React, so the ride isn’t as responsive and there’s less of the snappy, springy feeling.

However, the higher level of stability is what the Fly 3 has going for it. The Next %’s softer heel has a fair bit of travel, but the Fly 3’s firmer set-up doesn’t.

5) 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.

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.

6) Traditional Stability Trainer: Nike Air Zoom Structure 22

Motion-control or stability running shoes are 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 hasn’t updated the Structure 22 in a while, so it’s likely the Structure 22 is the last of its kind.

7) 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 everything that 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.

8) 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. There’s the exaggerated heel spring and the outwardly-curving Achilles lip.

And it’s not just the form. 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 in a full-contact layout. The heel crash pad functions independently from the rest of the outsole because of the deep groove. A transition channel also runs the length of the outsole. This helps with the 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 aesthetic detailing on the lacing eyestay enhances the Winflo 7’s visual appeal.

9) 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 that 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.

10) 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-marathons. 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 foothold. The well-ventilated upper sticks to the basics like a race-tongue with soft flaps and a marginally padded heel collar.

11) Road-Trail hybrid: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail

If your outdoor runs take place on packed dirt in the neighborhood park or open wilderness, then there’s no need to get a proper trail running shoe.

Get the Pegasus 36 trail instead because then you can also use them on the road. The raised lugs are good enough for off-road traction but not too aggressive for road running. This shoe doesn’t have performance trail-shoe features like a rock-plate so it’s perfectly capable of delivering asphalt-friendly cushioning and transitions. The set-up of twin Zoom Air bags adds a responsive pop to the ride.

The reinforcements on the upper make it more durable than the standard 36 while breathing well and having a just-right amount of room.

12) 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 it was 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 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 a 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 Rockplate like the 5.

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

The Terra Kiger 5 got a huge upgrade last year. It has 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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