Nike’s marketing pitch: Maximum cushioning to support each mile.
Upper: Non-stretchy mesh, reflective trim. No inner sleeve.
Midsole: Full-length ZoomX foam with a 9 mm heel drop. 40 mm and 31 mm stack heights.
Outsole: Two-piece carbon rubber.
Weight: 310 gms/ 10.9 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 10/UK 9/EUR 44/CM 27.1.
Widths available: D - regular (reviewed).
Previous model: Nike Invincible 2.
Country of origin: Vietnam.
For this review, Solereview purchased the Nike Invincible 3 at full retail price; the proof of purchase is underneath. We do not accept free samples for our reviews.
In this review:
SUMMARY AND VERDICT
The Nike Invincible 3 is an easy-run cruiser; that’s the simplest way to describe this ultra-cushioned running shoe.
To us, an easy run is slower than 5:00 min/km (8 min/mile). Given how soft the Invincible 3 is, pushing it any further results in a sub-optimal experience.
On the other hand, the Invincible 3 is excellent for long-distance cruising within the recommended speed range. In short, it’s not a versatile do-everything shoe, but excels within its performance boundaries.
This shoe is max-cushioning personified; the soft and bouncy ZoomX foam makes up the entire 40 mm (rear) and 31 mm (front) thick stack height. We called the Invincible 1 the softest running shoe we had ever reviewed, and we’d say the same of the Invincible 3.
And just how different is the Nike Invincible 3 from the Invincible 2? We don’t think it’s objectively better or worse than the last model. Some will prefer the V2 over the V3; others will like the Invincible 3 better.
Our next section compares both versions at length, so you be the judge of which model works best for you.
THE NIKE INVINCIBLE 3 COMPARED WITH INVINCIBLE 2
First things first; the Invincible 3 continues to be a deeply cushioned running shoe that targets the same demographic as the Invincible 1 and 2.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the minutiae of the changes – starting with the midsole.
The new Invincible gains 3 mm of stack height over the Invincible 2, while retaining the same 9 mm heel-to-toe offset.
Nike claims that the midsole is wider, but we measured both versions across their widest point and there’s no difference. The sharper angle of the new forefoot design makes it look wider.
While the cushioning is deeper than the V1 and V2, adding a lasting fabric over the midsole mutes the sensation of ‘sink-in’ softness that the V1 and V2 had. The previous models did not have a textile layer over the midsole, thus allowing the foot to briefly ‘sink’ into the ZoomX core.
That no longer happens on the V3. The Strobel lasting restrains the foot from sinking downward, so while the cushioning is very soft and deep, there’s a barrier that limits downward travel.
As expected, the Invincible 3 has a higher level of stability than the V1 and V2. The ‘scooped’ midsole sidewalls are also new for this year, and those add some structure. Interestingly, the fabric layer also increases the bounciness by acting as a trampoline.
The fabric Strobel also influences the upper fit. We did not mention this in our reviews of the Invincible 1 and 2, but the lack of lasting caused the foot to travel downwards during footstrike or loading. This caused a mild sensation of heel slip; that doesn’t happen on the V3.
Like the previous model, the upper fits true to size. The V3 no longer has a sleeve, and also swaps the traditional heel collar with a Vaporfly-type design. The reflective trims on the forefoot have been removed, but in lieu, we get a heel loop with a larger reflective surface.
The ventilation is an improvement because of one less upper layer (the V2 had a full sleeve, remember?), so the Invincible 3 is a better marathon shoe during summer than the V2. As far as upper security is concerned, there’s no difference in how the midfoot fits. The V3’s tongue is softer than the V2, so it has more in common with the V1’s tongue.
There are fewer trims on the outside. The faux molding, inner Swoosh logo, and molded heel clip have been retired.
The midsole still has a plastic clip, but it’s designed like a thick piping without the raised sides and Nike logo. This pipe-like clip also extends further under the arch area than the V1 and V2, but doesn’t feel invasive or create a pressure hot spot.
Finally, the outsole is split into front and rear sections and gets larger lugs. The outsole under the big toe is now a separate piece, so the (extra) articulation is helpful during push-offs. The Invincible 3 also manages to shave some weight over the V2, but not by much – mere 7 grams.
Here’s the gist. The Invincible 3 is neither a step forward nor a step backward. How these changes are interpreted will depend on the individual runner.
THE MIDSOLE DESIGN AND RIDE EXPERIENCE
We’ve covered most of the basic specs and updates earlier in this review, so we’ll focus only on the Invincible 3’s on-road behavior.
It’s hard to build speeds when there’re a couple of foam pillows taped to your feet. Because that’s exactly what running in this shoe feels like.
Each footstrike is padded with the soft and springy cushioning of the ZoomX midsole. The thin insole is like a placeholder that has very little influence on the overall cushioning.
So why is running quicker than 5:00 min/km or 8 min/mile paces a struggle in the Invincible 3? There are other soft running shoes like the Asics Superblast that do not feel as lazy.
Well, there are a couple of reasons.
The Invincible 3 is softer and bouncier than the Superblast while also lacking a rocker midsole. The cushy forefoot has a low toe spring, so the ‘roll forward’ quality is absent. The foot needs to work through the 31 mm thick stack. And unlike the Vaporfly, there’s no plate inside the midsole.
A soft midsole, by itself, is not detrimental to higher speeds. We’ve seen racers like the Reebok Run Fast Pro and Nike Streakfly use soft midsoles and get away with it, only because they had low stack heights.
But the Invincible 3’s midsole is 40 mm tall in the back and 31 mm under the forefoot – and that makes all the difference.
During the gait cycle, it takes a brief moment for the foot to adjust to the deep softness of the ZoomX midsole. In other words, the Invincible 3 requires a significantly higher level of proprioceptive compensation than the Nike Streakfly.
Any running shoe with low proprioceptive adjustment is good for going fast. Case in point are racing flats that lose no time in establishing a ground connection. The same can be said of low-profile trail running shoes.
Many soft shoes use features like an internal plate, a rocker profile, or both, but none of those apply to the Invincible 3.
And that’s perfectly alright. The Invincible 3 isn’t supposed to be a fast shoe. It performs exactly as advertised – the deep midsole never seems to run out of ride comfort.
On the other hand, we recognize that not everyone will unanimously agree with our definition of comfort. The foot has to constantly micro-adjust to the cushioning softness with every footstrike, so some runners will find that tiresome.
But for most runners, the Nike Invincible 3 will be the ideal cruiser for high-mileage runs. A 5:30 min/km or 8:50 min/mile pace is the sweet spot for this shoe, with a 5:00 min/km (8 min/mile) speed being the threshold.
We also recommend the Invincible 3 for heel strikers over mid/forefoot strikers; after all, this is a 9 mm drop shoe with a generous midsole overhang under the heel.
We mentioned this briefly when comparing the Invincible 3 with the 2, but the cushioning bounce is more pronounced this time. The newly-added Strobel fabric acts as a trampoline over the ZoomX midsole, and controls the loading process versus letting the foot sink in.
The Invincible 3’s thicker stack and fabric lasting also prevent the midsole from ‘bottoming’ out under heavy loads.
Stability is a relative term, but for a max-cushion shoe like the Invincible, it’s decent. The wide midsole and outsole coverage certainly helps. That said, heavy runners who weigh more than 200 lbs/90 kilos will cause greater midsole compression during the loading cycle.
There’s plenty of outsole rubber coverage, except that the Invincible 3 switches to an articulated layout.
The front and rear sections are split into independent rubber panels, so the outsole doesn’t feel as slappy as before. Also noteworthy are the previously absent cut-outs that allow the outsole to flex (better) with the midsole.
The traction is good on dry surfaces, but not great overall. The combination of a super-soft midsole and perforated rubber outsole is detrimental to grip, as there’s not enough friction. Also, the rubber has a smooth plastic-like texture that fares poorly on wet sidewalks and paved trails.
A firmer foam layer (or even a thin plastic base like the adidas LEP) between the ZoomX midsole and outsole would have improved the grip.
The Invincible 3 being what it is, having a couple of rotation flankers makes sense. For quicker marathons, the Carbon-plated Vaporfly 3 or Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 are no-brainers. The previous gen Vaporfly 2 works just as well.
We’ve always gravitated towards low-profile running shoes such as the Nike ZoomX Streakfly or adidas adios 7 for short-distance (5K, 10K) races. The Asics Hyper Speed 3 is also worth looking at.
IS THE NIKE INVINCIBLE 3 DURABLE?
The ZoomX foam is prone to deep creasing, so that will happen fairly early during the ownership period. Other parts of the shoe like the rubber outsole and foam insole will go through the standard wear and tear process.
All in all, expect at least 400 miles of useful life out of the Nike Invincible 3.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The Invincible 3’s fit has minor changes over the V1 and V2. It fits true to size like the previous version, but the upper tries a couple of new things.
The first change is the mesh – Nike claims to use recycled content as it did on the Pegasus Turbo Next Nature. The mesh is stiffer than the relatively softer textiles on the V1 and V2. The tight-knit mesh is not elastic.
However, the Invincible 3 breathes better and doesn’t feel as stuffy as the V2. The upper no longer has a full inner sleeve, so there’s one less layer of mesh over the foot. So while the upper doesn’t look as ventilated on the surface, it’s better at functional air circulation.
The tongue slide is barely noticeable. The Invincible uses a wide tongue flap, so it fills the gap on the sides. That way, there’s no space for the tongue to slide into. Mizuno used this trick on their Wave Rider and Inspire models before they got inner sleeves a few years ago.
Removing the sleeve makes the Invincible 3 a better running shoe for marathons. The lack of a second mesh layer decreases the chances of heat build-up during a long-distance run.
The lack of a sleeve doesn’t make the fit sloppy. The forefoot and midfoot fit securely while maintaining adequate toe-box height.
The padded tongue uses a softer lining than the V2 which does a better job at absorbing the lacing pressure. The new Invincible uses flat laces that aren’t as soft as the ones on the V1 and V2, but they make no difference to the overall comfort.
In the rear, the Invincible 3 gets a new heel collar instead of the traditional design of the V1 and V2. There’s a Vaporfly-inspired foam pod with knit edges.
Contrary to expectations, the heel fit feels more secure than the V1 and V2.
You see, the Invincible 1 and 2 did not have a lasting fabric under the insole. That made it easier for the foot to ‘sink’ into the soft ZoomX midsole. Comfortable as that felt, it led to a mild sensation of heel slippage during landings.
Adding the Strobel fabric prevents that from happening, so the heel no longer travels by a few millimeters. Like the last time, a stiff internal counter cups the heel.
When compared to the Invincible 1 and 2, the Invincible 3’s upper looks visually sterile. Both the V1 and 2 had fun elements that added character to the design.
Noteworthy omissions would be the rubberized Nike logos on the side, the faux molding detail on the upper, and the tiny Nike swooshes on the heel clip. Those trims did not affect the performance but added cosmetic flair.
The Invincible 3 removes the tiny reflective strips from the forefoot, and compensates that with a larger trim on the heel. The pull loop is new for 2023, and an useful addition at that – it makes the heel easier to slip on.
The Nike Invincible 3 has a very thin insole, so it is not compatible with most aftermarket footbeds.
If you replace the thin sockliner with a thicker aftermarket one, it will make the fit tighter and also affect the heel fit.
PROS AND CONS
It’s important to recognize the Nike Invincible 3 for what it is – an uber-cushioned running shoe that’s in no hurry to go anywhere.
The ample cushioning keeps the foot comforted during long runs, but the trade-off is versatility. Running at speeds faster than 5:00 min/km (8 min/mile) feels like a chore.
Its minor shortcomings includes the lack of widths and poor traction on wet roads.
SHOES COMPARABLE TO THE NIKE INVINCIBLE 3
At the time of publishing this review, there’s no equal to the Nike Invincible 3 as far as cushioning softness and bounce are concerned.
Having said that, there’s no dearth of soft running shoe choices.
Our picks would be the Asics Nimbus 25 and New Balance 1080V12 – both are soft running shoe with a higher level of versatility because of their rocker midsole profile. In other words, it’s possible to go relatively faster – which are speeds between 4:00 to 4:30 min/km (6:30 – 7:00 min/mile).
The Saucony Triumph 20’s deeply cushioned midsole has a muted softness, but it’s excellent for long runs and versatile enough for everyday runs.
Other alternatives would be the Hoka Bondi 7 and On Cloud Monster – both max-cushion running shoes with high levels of ride comfort. Finally, the adidas Ultraboost Light is the original performance-leisure crossover shoe. It’s not the softest nor the lightest, but it’s very comfortable, supportive, and durable.