Nike Air Zoom Elite 8 Review

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Color: Total Orange/Ghost Green/Voltage Green-Black

Nike's marketing pitch: Powers your fastest miles with lightweight, super responsive cushioning.

Surfaces tested on: Road, synthetic track, ambient temperature of 20° C/68° F

Upper: Flymesh upper, Flywire cording based lacing. Internal semi-sleeve.

Midsole: Compression molded EVA midsole, forefoot Zoom Air insert. 8 mm heel to toe offset.

Outsole: Carbon rubber under heel, blown rubber under forefoot.

Weight: 294 gms/ 10.37 Oz for a half pair of Men's US11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29

Widths available: Single - regular (reviewed).

Same firm ride as last year, and the upper gets a completely upgrade. Is this a 'fast' shoe? Depends on what you're comparing it to.
adidas Boston 5 Boost, Nike LunarTempo, Puma Ignite
Transition quality, forefoot cushioning, consistent upper fit
Heavy for a shoe meant to go fast, zero reflectivity, heel cushioning is dead and unresponsive
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This shoe be a ‘reverse Pegasus’.

As you may recall from recent memory, we did a quick round-up/comparison of different models in our Pegasus 32 review. Back then, what we said of the Zoom Elite 8 was that it was a ‘reverse Pegasus’, accompanied by a brief explanation on why we named it so.

That pretty much sets the context for this review. Because, while the Pegasus and Elite share similar midsole aesthetics, that’s just about the only thing they have in common.

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Forefoot gets Zoom Air, like in the Elite 7. The heel? No bueno, señor.

Rest of the characteristics? The two shoes couldn’t be more apart. The Pegasus 32 has a cushioned heel with a Zoom Air bag; in contrast the Elite uses a forefoot only Zoom, resulting in a firmer heel. The Pegasus’s toe-box is snub-nosed and shallow; the Elite 8’s toe region is vertically more accommodating.

Predictably, it is a foregone conclusion that both shoes perform very differently when it comes to the ride and fit part. Today we’ll try and show you both sides of the coin; and why you should, or shouldn’t buy the Zoom Elite 8.

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Should you spend money on the Elite 8? Let’s frame the pros and cons into perspective, shall we?

You should buy the Zoom Elite 8 if you prefer forefoot striking over heel. You should buy the Elite if you like a firm shoe for quicker transitions, and hence faster runs compared to softer regulars. You should get the ZE8 if you like the idea of a snug fore-and-midfoot, but with a roomy toe-box.

And, the Zoom Elite 8 happens to be a good choice if you’re in the market seeking a medium weight neutral trainer, and yet like your shoe to be very supportive.

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Heel cushioning is firm and feels flat, so anybody looking for something special from the Elite 8’s heel – this shoe isn’t for you.

Conversely, you should ignore the Zoom Elite 8 if you prefer the heel to be cushiony. Because the heel happens to be firm (being bereft of Zoom Air does that), the feedback is dead and unresponsive in nature. This is also a shoe which makes itself useful only when running, and not for walking around town duties – which by the way, is where the Pegasus works well.

You should also skip the Elite 8 if you want a super lightweight shoe to go very fast without sacrificing cushioning. There are better shoes to do the job, like the Lunaracer 3 and Lunartempo, for example.

This condenses the shoe’s persona fairly well, and really, all what you need to know about the Zoom Elite 8. But if you want to know about the finer workings of the shoe, and how the ZE8 compares with the ZE7, then that’s what the rest of the review is going to lay out.

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One of Nike’s big four within the running category; the other three being the Pegasus, Structure and Vomero.

The Nike Zoom Elite 8 is a part of Nike’s five shoe ‘anchor’ assortment – models which are cornerstones of the brand’s performance running segmentation. In plainer words, these are five differentiated shoes which Nike sells the most in the $100+ price-band. The Pegasus is a cushioned neutral; and the Vomero is a more padded version of the latter. The Zoom Structure is a motion control/stability model, whereas the Zoom Elite is a firmer shoe meant to dial in a bit of speed into your workouts. The Lunarglide is somewhere between firm stability and motion control.

And depending on how it goes, the newly launched Nike Zoom Odyssey might very well become the sixth addition to that family. We haven’t had the opportunity to start testing the shoe yet, but from the looks and sound of it, the Odyssey appears to be a hybrid between the Structure and the Vomero. If you ask us, the new model is somewhat of a spiritual successor to the highly acclaimed Nike Equalon 4, with a contemporary design and material treatment.

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It’s the Zoom Elite’s turn to get the Flymesh makeover.

As part of the 2015 update process, Nike has retained the same sole design from the Zoom Elite 7, while performing a slew of design updates on the new Elite 8 upper.

There’s also increased standardisation in upper design, as evident from the use of Nike’s new ‘Flymesh’ material and visual language. Originally seen on last year’s Structure 18, this new construction is now standard kit on the Vomero, the Elite, and also the Zoom Odyssey.

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The ZE8 features carry-over parts from the Elite 7. Shown here is the removable insole.

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Faux Ortholite type of foam structure.

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The foam lasting of the Elite 8. The hard cellulose board seems to be omnipresent, the absence of Zoom Air notwithstanding.

The midsole and insole set-up is exactly the same as that of the Elite 7, and so is the foam lasting/strobel with the cellulose board beneath. What’s interesting here is that Nike has used this cardboard-like material even in the absence of a heel Zoom Air bag.

This suggests that the design goal could be to increase overall stability and firmness, and not just as an agent keeping the Air Bag from popping loose.

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1) General layout stays unchanged 2) Extra piece of rubber added, updated on later production models of the Elite 7 too.

Take a quick look at the comparative picture of the outsoles above, and everything appears the same, barring one small change – and that too with a caveat. The medial (inner) side of the heel underside is now covered with rubber, whilst the Elite 7 left this part exposed. The caveat is that Nike made a running change on the Zoom Elite 7 last year, and updated the outsole design.

Which meant that if you bought your Elite 7 in late 2014 or early 2015, it is likely that it came with the updated (same as Elite 8) outsole design. Thus whether this outsole design counts as an ‘update’ depends on when you bought your Zoom Elite 7.

If you happen to own the early version of the Elite 7, know that this alters the ride quality of Elite 8’s rearfoot, and we’ll soon explain the why and the how of it. There is an infinitesimal weight bump over the Elite 7 (5 gm/0.2 Oz), logically accounted for by this extension of outsole rubber.

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Synthetic leather overlays? Bye-bye to that, with Flymesh making an entrance on the Elite 8.

The upper is completely new, replacing the no-sew design template which the last generation (Pegasus 29/30, Structure 16/17, Vomero 7/8/9) of the Nike running portfolio was based on.

And it is not only about the material swap to Flymesh – plenty of other structural updates take place too. In which parts? Well, almost everywhere.

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The toe-box gets a larger inner molding, much in thanks to the internal stiffener.

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Less pointy upper tip than the Elite 7, which means more space around the little toes.

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Reinforcement isn’t an ignored aspect. Eyestay gets a backing layer.

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Hard to see, but squint hard and you might see an near-invisible laminate lining up the eyestay edges. Right there, around the sharp ‘V’.

Take the front, to begin with. The toe-bumper takes on a broader sweep on the Elite 8, owing to an internal stiffener which lends that area a well demarcated, rounded shape.

Flymesh also means a complete lack of synthetic overlays, hence all the layering one saw on the Zoom Elite 7’s toe, eyelets, midfoot and heel have been banished into retirement. Areas which need structural support, like the eyestay for example, have been reinforced with laminates and backing materials.

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Midfoot support is provided by Flywire like in the Elite 7, except that the design is a semi-exposed type.

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Is double loop Flywire better than single looping? Yes, and yes.

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Skinny tongue no more. The Zoom Elite 8 gets a padded variety.

There is Flywire cording on the Elite 8, and it is now double-looped instead of the single strand version used before. Coming to the think of it, the lacing area is the place which comes saturated with changes.

Besides the Flywire update and removal of overlays, the Zoom Elite 8 uses a tongue design leaning more towards the traditional and padded territory, compared to the thin, Zoom Streak 5 kind of design which the Elite 7 relied on.

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1) Toe-box is less pointy 2) Lacing turns from asymmetric to symmetric 3) Tongue design change.

Perhaps the most noteworthy component of refresh is the lacing format. The Zoom Elite 7 had an asymmetrical design, meaning that if you were to look from the top (see above), you’d find the lacing rows skewed towards the medial side, as if someone had pulled the shoe upper to one side in the front.

The Elite 8 adopts a much more subtle approach to lacing, and it is now centered, like how the large majority of shoes are designed. By the way, asymmetrical lacing is a trick right out of Nike’s personal playbook; remember the 1995 Air Footscape?

Strangely, the Elite 8’s description page on nikestore mentions that it has asymmetrical lacing. We don’t agree with that, so perhaps a copy-paste typo from last year’s Elite 7 page? Looks like it.

Given all of the changes above, these should produce a corresponding level of fit difference between the Elite 7 and 8, then? Yes, of course.

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Runs true to size, this one, with a wee bit of allowance ahead of the toes.

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The revised toe bumper design creates more space around them little toes.

The sizing hasn’t changed vs. the Elite 7; the amount of room left over ahead of the toes is the same. Both the shoes run true to size, albeit with a generous margin which might have a small minority opting to buy a half size smaller.

Changes in toe-box fit come in form of increase space on the side of the big toe, and over the tips of the small toes. This is made possible by the use of a larger interior toe-backer, which lifts the upper material around the toes and thus liberating interior space.

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1) Reduced forefoot pressure over small toe (lateral) 2) Flywire cording and overall midfoot panel design change 3) No change in heel fit and feel

Forefoot fit is snug on the Elite and intentionally so. Running shoes meant for faster workouts generally run narrower, as the objective is to keep the foot pinned down for better efficiency.

So it isn’t surprising that the Zoom Elite 8 also has a snug forefoot fit; only that it behaves a bit differently than the Elite 7 due to the new Flymesh deal. Regardless of the visual similarity, the Elite fits narrower than the Structure 18, and more so when the shoe in question is the Vomero 10.

Compared to the Elite 7, the interior of the Zoom Elite 8 is smoother, and there’s less of a pressure point over the small toe. Medially, the Elite 8 continues to remain snug, and to be doubly sure, Nike has included one minor detail in upper construction.

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Reverse seam is used in the medial forefoot to tighten things a bit.

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There’s a turned seam on the rearfoot too.

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1) Forefoot more relaxed than Elite 7, but stays snug 2) No change in midsole 3) Smaller Swooshes, and still no reflectivity

Instead of the Flymesh being one single piece – as was the case on the Structure and Vomero – the Elite 8 uses blind seams alongside the medial forefoot and lateral heel.

This thickens/shortens the upper material around that area, and wings in that extra level of snugness.

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This is the way in which Flywire cords are tethered to the upper and midsole edge. Extends all the way down, and tacked tight.

The change to centered lacing regardless, lacing pressure goes down on the Elite 8. The inclusion of the padded tongue is what helps ease off the top-down tightness; in contrast, the Elite 7 had a thin tongue which let all the pressure through.

Midfoot still stays snug in fit, yet the double looped Flywire helps spread the pressure evenly instead of being sharp and focused like how the Elite 7 did it.

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A ‘delayed’ sleeve. Meaning it starts relatively later when measured from the tongue flap, when compared to other shoes such as the Vomero and Pegasus.

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Sleevy wonder here keeps the tongue from sliding.

Both the Elite 7 and 8 come equipped with a semi-inner sleeve. Semi, because it starts a little later into the upper, or halfway through the tongue length. Regardless, this bodes well for a smooth fit around the midfoot, and also reduces tongue slide. The Elite 7 actually managed a slight sideways slide of its tongue, likely caused by its thinness and asymmetrical design.

The Elite 8’s traditional, center aligned tongue eliminates whatever little slide one experienced on last year’s model.

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Collar padding and material package is a direct lift from the Elite 7. Nothing to complain about, though.

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Heel connects to the rest of the upper with a flat-lock seam, keeping the innards smooth and (almost) seam free.

The heel area hasn’t evolved at all over last year. Both the current and preceding version of the Zoom Elite uses a molded, internal heel counter, and the same amount of foam padding.

Both model even share an identical mesh material, so there is no collar fit difference between the two.

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You won’t find low-light visibility bits on the Elite 8. For that matter, neither on the Elite 7.

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The Elite 8’s ‘made-for-television’ Swoosh logo becomes slimmer, while occupying significant upper real estate.

Reflectivity is entirely absent on the Zoom Elite 8, not even the tiniest hint. This act of omission also covers the Pegasus 32 and the Vomero 10 (non T&F editions), and there’s no apparent logic in doing so. Other models positioned for ‘fast’ running, like the Lunartempo, Lunaracer 3 and the Streak 5 have reflective parts in varying doses.

Of all brands, Nike should know it better. After all, they are in Portland, Oregon, a place where getting sunshine is like winning the climatic lottery. Ok, it’s not that bad, but you get the idea. There are more overcast and dark mornings than ones with blue skies and chirping birds.

Unless, this is Nike’s sneaky ploy to create a strong value proposition for their reflectivity laden (and water resistant) assortment, which they usually sell in the winters. Last year, they called it the ‘Flash’ collection. Before that, it was called the ‘Shield’ pack. But those shoes come with their own set of trade-offs, like a tighter and warmer upper resulting out of the use of water resistant lining/membranes.

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The front outsole is made of soft blown rubber (like the Vomero), and the small lugs grip well, both on track and road.

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There is a Zoom Air bag under the front, which makes for responsive landings. Heel strikers will find this feature irrelevant.

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This is what the Elite 8 forefoot (this picture is not) would look like if peeled open.

The ride experience of the Zoom Elite 8 is very, very similar to the Elite 7. This is a shoe which works best when one is forefoot striking; the Zoom Air bag+blown rubber compound in the front sees to that.

There’s a responsive snap when you land in the front, and the softer blown rubber (heel has harder rubber) pads the landing process. Grip is good too, with traction being delivered by a dense cluster of hexagonal lugs.

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Like the Elite 7 (left), the Zoom Elite 8’s heel cushioning feels very ordinary. Flat would be the right word.

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If there’s any sensation of softness, it’s coming from the squishy open-celled foam footbed.

Come to the heel part, and the cushioning feels firm, dead and unresponsive. Nike stacks together a firm, compression molded EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam midsole and a cellulose board, and that produces a very ordinary rear-foot experience.

If there’s any perceived sensation of softness, then it’s the insole (which looks like Ortholite, but ain’t) working its squishy magic. If you really need to know how the Zoom Elite 8’s heel rides like in isolation, just replace the Nike footbed with a thin Hoka Ortholite.

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The revised outsole design in the heel moves the cushioning sensation right under the center, as compared to a medially biased compression of the Elite 7. The outsole also features the twin ‘crash rail’ design, solid rubber strips which run parallel.

The additional placement of outsole rubber under the Zoom Elite 8’s heel creates a slightly different spin on the ride experience.

With no rubber glued medially on the Elite 7, that side of the midsole was easier to compress under weight, and resultantly softer than the lateral side.

With the Zoom Elite 8 covering that part with rubber, cushioning focus shifts towards the center. The vacant space of foam flanked by rubber on either sides tends to compress downwards with weight loading/footstrike, creating a mild cushioning sensation. This was the case on the Elite 7 too, only that the uncovered medial outsole delivered a biased form of cushioning.

So in short, forefoot – 1, heel – 0. For forefoot strikers, the odds are literally stacked (Zoom+blown rubber) in your favor, and you should like the Elite 8 as a daily running companion regardless of the distance. The front feels responsive and snappy, with a firm overtone.

Because of how the cushioning is distributed in the Zoom Elite 8, heel/rearfoot strikers can do with skipping the Elite 8 altogether. Zoom Air’s benefits are highly localized, and rationed to the front-end only.

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Regardless of the grooved sidewall, the firm midsole ensures that there isn’t much bias.

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The midsole is generally supportive, and helped by elements like the swooping under-arch curve.

Unless. The only reason why a rear-foot striker should buy the Elite 8 is for its firm and stable ride, coupled with a supportive upper. The midsole has that lateral groove cutting along its length like how the Pegasus 32 does it; only in this instance, there is hardly any lateral midsole bias felt.

The foam density borders on hard, and that makes the ride very supportive. The Elite 8 also doubles nicely if one weight trains along with running. The firm heel is extremely effective as a weight loading foundation on gym floors.

The Zoom Elite 8’s raison d’être is its ‘fast’ character, and to a certain extent the shoe makes good on speed. The forefoot is cushioned with noticeable level of responsiveness, and the overall firmness helps transitions. The outsole design, like the Elite 7, uses the ‘crash rail’ twin strips, which helps smoothen things too.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Our pick for a Nike shoe which does great on fast and long miles. Disregard the pointy front.

Yet, if we had to pick a shoe to do fast runs or intervals in, we’d pick the Nike Lunartempo. The Elite 8 was tested on synthetic tracks, and while it felt good – the hexagonal forefoot outsole pods have a nice grippy quality to them – the LunarTempo performed much better. Two things which work against the Elite 8 are its weight and built-up nature, both of which are directly related to one another.

The Elite 8 tips the scales at 294 grams/10.4 ounces, which is slightly higher than that of the Saucony Ride 8, and only a mite lower than the Pegasus 32. And when placed alongside speedsters such as the Lunaracer 3 and Lunartempo, the Elite 8 is around 50% more heavier.

All this weight is a direct consequence of how much more building material the Elite 8 packs in, and that also gets in the way of going fuss-free fast. One needs to feel less, not more, of a shoe when putting on speed miles.

In uncomplicated language, the Lunar duo destroys the Elite 8 on speed and efficiency. There was a time when the Zoom Elite was relevant, but shoes such as the LR3 and LT are footwear equivalents of young upstarts bent on disrupting the status quo. The Elite is after all, a legacy model in its sixth iteration.

One could argue that Elite 8 scores on forefoot cushioning. Ok, but so does the LunarTempo, and on comes across as responsive and adequately cushioned too. It is also more balanced in cushioning spread, so if we had to recommend a speed training shoe regardless of foot-strike pattern, the Tempo will be our first choice.

Outsole durability is one definite area where the Elite 8 will score better, but really, how much of a difference can that be, considering that the latter uses softer blown rubber under the front?




The Elite 8 is a competent product, well put together and all that. One just needs to keep an open mind when Nike markets this shoe as ‘fast’, because when you broaden your perspective of product choices, you’ll discover that the Zoom Elite does not make a watertight case for itself.

(Disclaimer: Solereview got this shoe as a free media sample from Nike)

Looking to upgrade your older Nike Air Zoom Elite 7 to the latest version, but not sure how the 2015 model compares? We can help here. The following infographic is a ready-reckoner for what changes you might expect in the new model vs. old. To make this more fun, we’ve put in a system of percentage match, which calculates a weighted average for a set of attributes.

A higher or lower match percentage is neither good or bad. The % number just tells you how similar or distanced the new shoe is from the previous version. Total match % is a result of weighted averages.

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