Nike’s marketing pitch: Giving you bounce with every step.
Upper: Perforated engineered mesh, full inner sleeve.
Midsole: Full-length ZoomX (Pebax) foam. 9 mm heel-to-toe offset.
Outsole: Thin Carbon rubber with softer edges.
Weight men’s: 314 gms/ 11.07 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 10/UK 9/EUR 44/CM 27.1.
Weight women’s: 253 gms/ 8.2 Oz for a half pair of Women's US 8/UK 5.5/EUR 39/CM 24.5.
Gender-specific last or ride: Yes. The women's version has a 2 mm thinner midsole, and the fit is based on a narrower B width.
Widths available: D - regular.
The Nike Pegasus Turbo wasn’t perfect, but it was the best Nike running shoe with ZoomX-based cushioning.
The midsole wasn’t 100% ZoomX, but rather a React/ZoomX foam composite. The soft layer of lightweight Pebax foam served as a cushioned and responsive layer atop the firmer React base. The React layer added stability and made the transitions smoother.
The firm+soft combo was the near-perfect blend of distance-friendly comfort and speed-amenable ride character. Our next ZoomX pick is the Vaporfly Next%, a running shoe with its signature plate-in-a-midsole ride. Expensive, yes, but loads of fun.
So far, running shoes with ZoomX had a secondary or tertiary component, be it React foam, a Carbon plate, or in the Vomero 16’s case, a Zoom Air bag and compression-molded EVA foam.
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit is the first model with a midsole that’s 100% ZoomX. The shoe even lacks a proper lasting, and the insole is just but a thin layer of foam.
Thus, all the cushioning comes from the very bouncy and soft material that we’ve come to know as ZoomX.
The composition of the midsole isn’t the only thing that sets it apart. The Invincible Run has very high stack heights (37 mm rear, 28 mm front) and an ultra-wide heel and forefoot.
The rear, in particular, is exceptionally wide. So much so that the midsole spills outwards and has to be supported with a Urethane base plate. The outsole design is unusual – it’s a thin sheet of densely lugged rubber that not only completely covers the underside, but also rolls up the sides.
The upper is an exercise in no-expenses-spared design. The plushness is supplied in the right quantities in all the right places, and the trim levels are at par with the Invincible’s hefty price tag.
It is worth highlighting that this shoe weighs 11.07-ounces for a half pair of US 10. Though that’s much higher than the other ZoomX models, it’s also indicative of the Invincible Run’s intentions.
This isn’t your race-day shoe, nor is it a versatile daily trainer that feels at home doing higher speeds. This uber-cushy shoe is the one for easy runs or walking around town.
At a conceptual level, the Invincible Run is akin to the adidas UltraBoost 21. The ZoomX Invincible is a bridge (and a very bouncy one) between performance running and casual athleisure – and an enjoyable experience as long as expectations are managed.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an exceptionally soft sneaker for everyday use, your search should begin and end with the ZoomX Invincible Run.
THE RIDE EXPERIENCE
Nike has, over these long years, built most of its reputation on the promise of delivering footwear newness at an astounding frequency. In that context, the ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit doesn’t disappoint.
For a reviewer, the ZoomX Invincible Run is a very easy to read shoe. There are no complexities hidden from view; things like a Carbon plate, firmer React base, or a thick insole are conspicuous by their absence.
A copious amount of ZoomX foam is packed into a high-volume midsole, and the results are remarkable. The Invincible Run is easily the bounciest and one of the softest shoes we’ve run in.
We don’t say this lightly. We’ve tested hundreds of shoes for over a decade, and this shoe’s cushioning softness and responsiveness is unreal. The Invincible is bouncier than the adidas UltraBoost 21, the New Balance 1080V11, and even the Nike React Infinity V2. It’s not even a contest.
It would, however, be wrong to assume that there’s no precedent. The Reebok Floatride Run Ultraknit was conceptually similar. Except that Nike uses a wider midsole with a plastic stabilizer – a better choice than Reebok’s firm EVA rims.
What’s also unique about the midsole is that nothing masks the ride quality. Take, for instance, the unusual lasting – or the lack of it. Nearly all running shoes have a fabric ‘lasting’ under the insole, a by-product of the Strobel lasting process.
Remove the insole, and we’re greeted with a peculiar sight. There’s no strobel sheet (here’s what it usually looks like).
That means that except for the thin sockliner, the foot has unfettered access to the ZoomX cushioning.
The adidas UltraBoost 21 has a perforated lasting over the Boost midsole, but the Invincible goes a step further and (almost) gets rid of it.
As evident from the stitching holes (pictured), it’s obvious that the upper was lasted conventionally. During the finishing process, the Strobel layer was detached. We guess that Nike used temporary stitching that was easy to remove once the shoe was finished.
The outsole, too, helps the midsole maximize its softness. It is a single sheet of thin rubber with a dense formation of lugs. The green sections at the toe and heel are thinner and softer than the rest of the outsole.
What’s also interesting is how the outsole ‘rides’ up the midsole. Whether by accident or design, the Invincible’s outsole geometry mirrors that of the Nike Aquasock Classic, a water-sports shoe that was all the rage in the 80s.
On the road, the outsole behavior was a tad unexpected. We assumed that the generous availability of small lugs would grip extremely well. Well, the traction is average.
In hindsight, the reason for that turned out to be very simple. The pliable outsole is affixed to a very soft midsole, so when pressed against the ground, the rubber lugs retract or telescope into the midsole instead of biting the road.
Noise is another unintended consequence of the soft midsole and outsole. The forefoot makes a whopping sound on contact, and portions of the ultra-wide outsole will, at times, catch (and grate) on the ground during the occasional misstep.
That being said, this is merely a minor sensory annoyance that most will get used to – just like background static.
With the Invincible Run, what you see is what you get. For example, in the case of the adidas UltraBoost 21, the rear midsole stack is lower than what it appears to be – thanks to its exaggerated sidewalls.
Nothing of that sort happens here; the visual bulk is the actual midsole. ZoomX is distributed not only vertically but horizontally as well; we’re talking about a very wide midsole here.
The Vaporfly 4% was the first ZoomX shoe that we reviewed on this website, and one of its flaws was its less-than-perfect heel stability. So here, the wide footprint is merely a workaround for the inherent lack of stability that using a soft midsole entails.
There are consequences of condensing so much foam into a midsole, and that too something like the ZoomX.
On one hand, there’s so much cushioning that it’s fun. Shift the weight to the heel, and the springy foam pushes upwards. Do the same to the forefoot, and the bounciness takes on a tangible quality.
It doesn’t need to be said that the Invincible Run is sinfully plush and comfortable under the right conditions.
And what may those conditions be?
The cushioning makes long-distance runs very forgiving; every step lands on a generous reservoir of responsive cushioning. As evident from the lack of a lasting fabric, very little gets in the way between the foot and ZoomX midsole.
Here comes the caveat. The Invincible’s wheelhouse is easy runs and nothing more. To be specific, a pace of 10 min/mile (6 min/km) and slower is the territory where this soft and springy shoe is at its best behavior.
To use a well-worn cliche, this shoe is the epitome of a ‘recovery’ shoe. It’s like a pair of ultra-cushy sandals, but shaped like a laced-up foot covering. Along with easy runs, this is an excellent walking shoe for paved surfaces.
Go faster, and that’s when the undesirable traits come to the fore. In particular, the loss of efficacy is noticed when the deep cushioning impedes the transition process.
Nike claims that the midsole has a ‘rocker’ shape, but that’s just an illusion. There’s no evidence of a rocker-shaped behavior in action. At all.
The heel does seem to have a prominent rocker shape, but most of that is coming from the overhang – the midsole extends way past the heel. Take that away, the heel spring will be nowhere as high.
Even runners with an acute heel-striking pattern will not use that as a landing zone. In the front, the toe-spring is average – not too high or too low. The forefoot is relatively inflexible, but there’s a limit to what it can achieve by itself.
There’s just so much softness for the foot to wade through; to be quite honest, trying to pick up the pace is a struggle. The sheer thickness of the midsole makes the loading process laborious.
It’s hard to feel the ground under all this bouncy foam, so the lack of proprioception is a greater concern than stability. For this reason, we’d keep the shoe away from the trails, tracks, and even the treadmill.
If you already own a pair and disagree, do this: take a transition-friendly shoe to compare. Even a lowly Kinvara 12 will do. The difference in the midsole behavior is like night and day.
With the Invincible’s cushy ride, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of complacency. Until one finds a superior yardstick to compare it with, that is. As the saying goes; comparison is the thief of joy.
The stability isn’t bad. Or at least, it’s better than expected.
First, the bad news. The overly soft midsole (not mushy, though) and the absence of a supportive top layer aren’t the ideal ingredients of a stable base. During runs, the heel tends to roll – yes, yes, like a boat.
But this is a nice $180 boat. The foam isn’t mushy but springy, so the Invincible is a self-righting boat. There’s a momentary loss of stability after which the heel is returned to its original (upright) position.
The kind of demographic that the Invincible Run targets is plain to see. It’s got a strong athleisure overtone that is reminiscent of the Joyride, but does a better job as a running shoe. This is all speaking relatively, of course.
Now, for the good part. The rearfoot has a large plastic clip that keeps the midsole softness in check. The internal heel counter on the upper also helps by cupping around the foot.
And there are certainly no complaints with the forefoot; the transitions may be lazy, but the foot feels supported because of the wide midsole flare. We’d avoid taking the shoe on the trails though.
When viewed from the bottom, the midsole appears to have a slim waist. While there’s no arch support per se, one doesn’t find anything amiss either.
And here comes the $180 question: how versatile is the ZoomX Invincible Run?
Not very, we’re afraid.
Without a doubt, the soft and springy cushioning punches above its max-cushioning class. However, its easygoing character means that the shoe’s usage range is limited to less-strenuous workouts.
Long-distance runs are perfectly doable but there are better choices if maintaining the pace is a concern. It’s not just about the cushioning but also a transition-friendly ride character – something that’s not the Invincible’s forte.
This shoe’s raison d’etre is being the new king of the cushioned and bouncy shoe universe, and that’s the only reason why anyone should buy a pair.
Given the Invincible’s limited versatility, we recommend another Nike shoe to rotate alongside. The Structure 24 is an excellent choice. It’s supportive, cushioned, and even manages to feel peppy. The Structure 24 has the same midsole as the 23, so our review contains a lot of relevant information.
A very expensive approach to a 3-shoe rotation would be to add the Vaporfly Next% 2 into the mix. This way, you get the ZoomX cushioning that’s also speed-friendly. But we think that’s excessive; why buy the Invincible if the NEXT% is a better running shoe?
If Nike still sold something like the Streak or Lunaracer, then recommending a 3 Nike shoe rotation would have been a breeze. Hopefully, that will change later this year. We see a lot of new spikes, so some of that should rub off on (upcoming?) racing flats.
There’re better and less expensive alternatives outside the Nike assortment. For example, the Invincible could be paired with the Saucony Ride 13 as a daily trainer and the New Balance 1400V6 as the speed go-to.
IS THE NIKE INVINCIBLE RUN DURABLE?
The wear and tear of the outsole ran contrary to our expectations. We assumed, wrongly, that the small protruding lugs would shred in the early stages of ownership. It does not; the lugs under the forefoot and heel remain unscathed after 50 miles.
How is that even possible?
The soft midsole is the reason why the lugs on the primary contact areas – namely the forefoot and heel – remain intact. Here, the lugs telescope or retract into the softness instead of taking direct hits, and this action lowers the rate of wear and tear.
Also of interest are the ‘pre-worn’ lugs on the outsole edge. The lugs in these areas do not have the waffle nibs, and they could be mistaken for early wear and tear.
However, it remains to be seen how the thin outsole holds up after several hundred miles. For now, we’ll assume a conservative estimate of 400 miles. Based on our experience, the ZoomX midsole will retain its cushioning over the life of the shoe.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The uppers of many brand-new Nike running shoes often feel like a beta software release, with several bugs that need ironing out.
The Invincible Run goes against the grain. Its upper is thoughtfully designed, detailed, and does not feel like a work in progress. The exterior is a good example of aesthetic and functional balance. Begin in the front, and there’s a set of reflective strips fused over a broad toe-box.
Under the engineered mesh lies a full inner sleeve, and it’s cool to see the two-tone effect on the surface.
As with all sleeved uppers, the insides run warmer than non-sleeved designs. In return, we get a smooth interior that wraps softly over the foot.
From a sizing perspective, the fit runs true in length. While no optional widths are offered at the time of writing this review, the forefoot fit is just right. It runs a mite snug over the small toe, but most users with regular width feet will find the fit comfortable and secure.
The midfoot gets a fully functional lacing with a padded tongue that filters any unwanted top-down pressure.
By ‘fully functional’, we refer to the correct lacing spread (5+1 rows) delivered by semi-stretchy flat laces. We must mention that the laces need to be cinched tightly; else they have the tendency to untie themselves midway during a run.
The tongue length is perfect, so the flap rests just where it needs to be without pressing against the instep. Thanks to the sleeve, the tongue stays in place during motion.
The heel collar and tongue are quilted with just the right quantities of foam. The inwards recess of the heel does a great job of keeping the foot locked in; the internal counter also helps.
The foam padding on the outside of the heel needs to be addressed. There’s clearly no functional need for the foam pockets; so why are they there? We don’t have an insight into Nike’s design process, but here’s our take on it.
The Invincible Run Flyknit has an unconventional profile for a running shoe. The midsole occupies a fair bit of visual real estate, so the shoe would have looked very odd without the aesthetic balance of the plump upper.
The padding also acts as a visual cue for comfort. It’s not the first time Nike has used foam for aesthetic purposes; there’s no better example than the Foamposite, the 90’s basketball sneaker. And if the Nike React Escape Run Women’s is any indication, expect other Nike models to feature this faux-padding.
And it’s not just the foam pockets. Other means of increasing aesthetic depth are employed on the shoe; elements like the molded Swoosh logo on either side, and even touches of small details like the mini-Swooshes over the heel. Nike did not hold back on the trims; the third piece of reflectivity resides over the heel.
The result is a shoe that looks very proportioned and stylistically appealing. We suspect that even the adidas UltraBoost 21 brought back the plastic cage for this very reason – to make the shoe look whole.
PROS AND CONS
As long as the Invincible’s limitations are understood, there are so many things to love about the shoe. The humongous ZoomX midsole is supremely cushioned and springy. The upper fits well, and the elevated styling is a bonus.
There’s loads of everyday comfort available to tap into. For easy runs and such, the Invincible is a great pick.
Among its shortcomings is the lack of versatility that has the shoe struggling at higher speeds, and the lower-than-average stability levels. The outsole can get noisy at times too.
We thought of calling out the 11.1-ounce weight as a negative, but then the new adidas UltraBoost 21 is nearly 3-ounces heavier. So make what you will of that.
SHOES SIMILAR TO THE NIKE ZOOMX INVINCIBLE
If one considers the demographic that Nike wants to sell the Invincible to, then the adidas UltraBoost 21 (our review here) is the closest match.
The high-volume Boost midsole provides a tried-and-tested cushioning experience under a stylish and snug upper. It’s a much firmer shoe, so both shoes are comparable but only in spirit. The adidas Ultra 4D also delivers a unique cushioning experience because of its latticed, 3D-printed midsole.
Other Boost variants are also worthy competitors. You know, models like the UltraBoost 5.0 DNA or the NMD R1 (review here). As a more ‘serious’ running shoe option, we have the SolarBoost.
Another place to find deep cushioning would be in models like the Hoka Bondi 7 or New Balance Fresh Foam More V3. The Mizuno Wave Sky 5 is also good for a plush and comfortable ride.
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