Most comfortable Nike running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The grooved sidewall of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 3.

This article has been updated with current models for April 2023. The Nike Invincible 2, Pegasus 39, Winflo 9, and Wildhorse 7 have been replaced with their updated versions.

So what exactly makes any Nike running shoe comfortable? Is it just ZoomX or React foam? Or is it a combination of Zoom Air and other midsole foams?

While a cushioning material like React or ZoomX usually increases ride comfort, there’re a few things to keep in mind.

The term ‘ride comfort’ isn’t the same across different categories

The tongue rubber label of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 3.

‘Comfort’ means different things for different shoes.

On an easygoing cruiser like the Invincible Run 3, more ZoomX is better.

However, this approach is counterproductive on the Vaporfly 3 or ZoomX Streakfly. The Streakfly’s race-day character would be diluted with too much ZoomX, and the Vaporfly’s snappy responsiveness won’t be the same with a bulky midsole.

The Nike Zoom Alphafly Next% is a good example. Even though the forefoot has a large Zoom Air bag, the shoe doesn’t feel as springy as the Vaporfly.

We have also excluded the Pegasus Turbo Next Nature, but for reasons related to the upper design. Despite the comfortable midsole, the thick upper isn’t a good fit for the cushy ride.

Lightweight is usually better, but not always

There are cases where the low weight of a running shoe is the result of using a superior midsole and upper materials. In Nike context, the Vaporfly 2 (now V3) is such a product.

However, at lower price bands, an ultra-lightweight running shoe is often sacrificing structural integrity.

A long time ago, Nike even sold a lightweight marathon racer that was aptly named the ‘Mayfly’. It was designed just to last a few training sessions plus a marathon, and then self-destruct.

It’s not just about a spacious upper, but rather how it fits

The interior comfort is a lot more than a spacious upper; it depends on how the upper interacts with the foot.

The upper of the Nike Free 5.0 and Vaporfly have a snug feel, but the lack of overlays or pressure hot spots creates a comfortable environment.

Solereview recommends: Nike Invincible 3

What happens when a midsole is made of nothing but Nike’s bouncy ZoomX foam? And it’s not just any midsole, but a wide and high-volume kind.

The result is an extremely comfortable running shoe, with a plush ride character that has very few rivals.

The heel view of the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 3.

The high-volume ZoomX midsole makes the Invincible Run 2 extremely comfortable, regardless of the distance.

In our detailed review of the last year’s Invincible Run 2, we heaped praise on the soft and responsive midsole.

From a cushioning standpoint, not much has changed between the Invincible Run 2 and 3. Whether it’s easy-pace running or everyday athleisure use, the wide base delivers a generous amount of underfoot comfort. The V3 is slightly firmer than the V2 – the new midsole now has a fabric lasting on top, thus diluting some of the softness.

Given its cushioning-first design, the Invincible 3 is best used as a long-distance cruiser, or a 4:00 hour (or longer) marathon. It feels out of its depth at tempo paces, and that’s perfectly understandable.

While optional widths are lacking, the standard fit will accommodate most foot profiles. The Invincible 3’s upper doesn’t feel as plush as the V1 and V2, so if that matters to you, the Invincible V1 or V2 is a better choice.

1) Comfortable everyday trainer: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 40

In 2023, Zoom Air feels somewhat redundant when compared to superior foam materials. But that doesn’t take away the fact that the Pegasus 40 is a comfortable everyday trainer.

The React foam midsole is soft, but doesn’t overdo it – thus making the Pegasus 40 cushy enough for daily miles or long-distance runs, while making it versatile enough for the occasional tempo run. The Pegasus 40 shares the same midsole with the 39, so our review of the previous model is still relevant.

The removable insole of the Nike Pegasus 39.

The soft footbed adds a layer of step-in comfort.

Like the Pegasus 39, the 40 has a dual Zoom Air bag setup inside a React foam core. A removable Ortholite footbed adds the obligatory layer of step-in comfort.

Besides providing dependable traction, the full rubber outsole also makes the Pegasus durable and transition-friendly.

The new upper carries over a few features from the Pegasus 39 while improving the midfoot fit. The Flywire cords have been replaced with speed loops for quick and efficient fastening.

Like the 39, the inner sleeve is made of spacer mesh, and the upper fits true to size without distracting pressure spots. The padded heel and tongue create a secure yet comfortable environment.

The Pegasus 40 is also available in an extra-wide size.

Also see: The Nike Structure 24.

2) Comfortable marathon racer: Nike Vaporfly Next% 2

If you think that the Carbon-plated shoe hype has reached a saturation point, the Nike Vaporfly is to blame. It was the first running shoe to popularize the Carbon-plate-in-a-shoe form factor.

But the Nike Vaporfly’s hype was merited. The S-curved Carbon plate produces a snappy springboard effect that makes marathon-worthy speeds possible. The said plate is embedded inside a soft and responsive ZoomX midsole.

The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 in a marathon.

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.

Thus, with the Vaporfly grew a new generation of racing shoes, where speed and ride comfort could co-exist. In our review, we explain what makes the Vaporfly Next% 2 great.

The thin upper weighs nearly nothing to the weight, and we all know that a lightweight shoe increases overall comfort.

3) Comfortable speed trainer: Nike ZoomX Streakfly

Contrary to Nike’s claim, we did not find the ZoomX Streakfly to be the ideal racing shoe for 5K and 10K distances. It’s too soft and cushy for that.

However, there’s one thing that the Streakfly does very well. The full-length ZoomX midsole is great for keeping the feet fresh during a 10K race. The soft and lively foam creates a comfortable ride experience that punches above its weight in the speed trainer category.

The forefoot grip of the Nike ZoomX Streakfly.

The Nike ZoomX Streakfly is a comfortable 10K shoe for speeds slower than 4:00 min/km.

The heel bevel of the Nike ZoomX_Streakfly

The breathable mesh of the Nike ZoomX Streakfly.

The single-piece mesh exterior has a smooth and secure fit without any chafing.

The soft midsole isn’t the only part that enhances the ride comfort. The lightweight upper does an excellent job of keeping the feet ventilated while reducing the overall weight.

The 6.0-ounce trainer also disappears on the feet during runs, and that too, adds to the sensory comfort.

4) Comfortable flexible trainer: Nike Free Run 5.0

This shoe has neither ZoomX foam nor an Air bag, so why is it featured on this guide?

Far too often, ‘comfort’ is reduced to a fancy midsole foam or upper material. But there’s a lot more to comfort than those two factors, and the Nike Free 5.0 shows us how.

The ultra-flexible midsole enhances ride comfort by eliminating stiffness. The foot doesn’t have to exert effort to flex the midsole. So isn’t a lack of exertion another definition of comfort?

The minimally-constructed bootie-upper also lacks stiff parts like a heel counter, and uses soft meshes, linings, and padding for comfort.

5) Comfortable budget trainer: Nike Zoom Winflo 10

If you don’t want to spend Pegasus money on an everyday trainer, consider the Winflo 10. Like the Pegasus, the Winflo 10 has Nike Air which makes it versatile enough for daily runs.

The midsole has ‘dot-weld’ Air – a full-length layer with small chambers of low-pressure Air. This layer is closer to the foot than the Zoom Air bag of the older Winflos, so the ride comfort is focused at a step-in level.

The Winflo doesn’t use React, but another Nike foam that was used on vintage Vomero models. It’s an EVA blend that Nike calls Cushlon – a midsole material that makes the ride comfortable. Cushlon is not mushy, so there’s adequate comfort for daily workouts as well as the versatility for higher-paced runs.

Though basic, the Winflo 10’s upper lacks for nothing. The midfoot uses speed loops to help achieve a better fit, and the smooth interiors fit securely without pressure spots. The heel and tongue flap are padded for a comfortable fit.

Both the Winflo 9 and 10 share the same midsole, so the ride quality is identical. The upper receives minor tweaks, but the overall fit hasn’t changed.

6) Comfortable road-trail hybrid: Nike Pegasus Trail 4

In our in-depth review, we described the Nike Pegasus Trail 4 as a ‘road-trail hybrid’.

The soft React foam (it stiffens in the cold, though) midsole is comfortable enough for both road and trail use. The Pegasus Trail 4 is even softer than the Pegasus Trail 3 because of the redesigned midsole and outsole.

The React foam midsole of the Nike Pegasus Trail 4.

The Nike React foam is sensitive to ultra-cold temperatures. It’s softer during the summer, and stiff below freezing.

The reinforced upper provides protection where necessary, but the rest of the exterior is soft and breathable. The outsole also forms the protective toe bumper, and the lacing panel is layered for durability.

There are a couple of things you should know about the Pegasus Trail 4.

The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 on a gravel path.

There’s a good reason why this shoe is known as a road-trail hybrid. It’s closer to a road shoe than a serious trail runner. It does best on flat terrain – like this gravel path, for example.

The outsole of the Nike Pegasus Trail 4.

The Pegasus Trail 4 is a road-trail hybrid – a running shoe for easy trails.

The soft ride means that the shoe lacks stability on serious trails, and the upper fits a half-size short on the Gore-Tex version.

On the other hand, the standard (non-waterproof) model also has a more secure midfoot (due to the Flywire lacing) and true-to-size fit.

7) Comfortable trail runner: Nike Wildhorse 8

With its noticeably soft heel, the Wildhorse 7 (and 6) was an outlier. It was a stark departure from the Wildhorse 5’s purposeful ride character; naturally, the 6 and 7 polarized opinions.

And just when runners were getting used to the status quo, the Wildhorse 8 showed up. And even though it lacks a Zoom Air bag, it’s closer to the Wildhorse 4 and 5 than the previous generation model.

The React midsole has a lower profile and firmer ride than the V6 and V7, so we get greater stability and ground feel. This also makes the Wildhorse 8 more versatile. There’s enough cushioning for frequent trail runs while being focused enough for quicker paces.

Useful bits like the heel rock plate and prominent outsole lugs have been retained, so the Wildhorse 8 bites well on the trail while being protective enough.

The reinforced upper locks the foot and does a good job of keeping the debris out. The speed loops make the lacing easy to fasten. We wish there was a gaiter D-ring and optional width, though.

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