In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Our top pick: Nike Pegasus 39
- 3. Our top budget pick: Nike Downshifter 12
- 4. Best for winter runs: Nike Pegasus 39 Shield
- 5. Best for everyday runs: Nike Winflo 9
- 6. Best flexible trainer: Nike Free Run 5.0
- 7. Best flexible trainer: Nike Flex Experience 11
- 8. Best for everyday runs: Nike React Infinity Flyknit 3
We don’t have the data to back this up, but black appears to be the color of choice in athletic footwear. And we say black, we refer to the ‘triple black’ variants – not black shoes with a contrasting white logo.
A lot of them also happen to be running shoes. Having said that, we suspect that most of the people who wear black trainers don’t use them for running.
However, running footwear is the preferred silhouette for an everyday shoe. The same qualities that create a good running shoe also make it an excellent everyday shoe. And mind you – we’re not talking about Carbon-plated running shoes, but of a traditional kind.
Since this is a Nike-specific product guide, let’s use the Pegasus 39 as an example. It’s a versatile neutral trainer with a cushioned midsole and an inoffensive upper design. The midsole is shod with an outsole that grips well on roads, sidewalks, and artificial floors.
The ride comfort of a running shoe is higher than that of a fashion sneaker, so that’s very useful when walking to school or work. Many service industry and healthcare workers also wear running shoes because they’re comfortable enough to stand on all day.
And unlike Air Force 1’s and Air Jordans, the sleeker silhouettes of running shoes are a safe choice in toned-down colors.
And there’s no safer color than black. Besides being a workplace-safe color, black running shoes are immensely practical. We can think of many reasons why:
A black running shoe goes well with anything that you throw over it, as well as most skin tones. It blends in with grey sweatpants, black running tights, and even dark denim.
And if your work or school uniform includes dark pants, then a black shoe is a near-perfect match.
Ease of maintenance
Taking care of light-colored running shoes is a tedious chore.
On the other hand, black shoes exact a far lesser toll on the wearer. The uppers are not easily soiled, and products like the Pegasus 39 Shield even have liquid-resistant uppers. It’s not for nothing that our cold-weather choice is the Pegasus 39 Shield.
Ideal for service industry professionals
Service and healthcare industry professionals are on their feet all day, and black pants are usually a part of their uniforms. A black running shoe solves two design needs – that of a comfortable shoe capable of withstanding all-day abuse, as well as being easy to clean.
Luckily for us, there’s no dearth of Nike running shoes that sell in an all-black color scheme. For the sake of brevity, we have excluded black shoes with white midsoles or logos.
1) Our top pick: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39
Very soon, the venerable Nike Pegasus will be four decades old. At the heart of its success is a formula that works – which is to give the Pegasus a balanced set of attributes that makes it a versatile everyday running shoe.
Unlike the Pegasus 37 and 38 which only had a single Zoom Air bag, the Pegasus 39’s dual Zoom Air midsole leads to a marked improvement in the ride quality.
The React foam core adds cushioning comfort, and the Zoom Air bags add a responsive snap. This produces a ride character that works across varying mileage and pace levels. If you had to pick just one Nike shoe to do it all, it’s hard to go wrong with the Nike Pegasus 39. Our full review is here.
Nearly all the details on the sleeved upper disappear on the black-on-black Pegasus 39. The welded logo, Flywire loops, and lining are all in black.
2) Our top budget pick: Nike Downshifter 12
A few things have changed on the Downshifter 12. The $10 price bump marks it up to $70, so it’s no longer the price of entry into Nike running. That honor now goes to the Revolution 6.
So what does one get for $70? The answer is – a basic running shoe with a comfortable midsole and upper. The EVA foam midsole is cushioned enough for low-intensity activities, whereas the rubber outsole provides traction and ride stability.
The Downshifter 12 has a higher level of stability than the 11 because of the redesigned midsole. Whereas the Downshifter 11 had scooped sidewalls under the rearfoot, the V12 has rounded sidewalls and a higher volume midsole.
The upper doesn’t have a lot going on. The all-mesh exterior has laminated reinforcement to make the insides smooth and secure; the tongue and heel are padded with foam for a comfortable grip.
Besides these two, we’ve curated a list of other black Nike running shoes.
All of them are recognizable names that have spent many years in Nike’s staple assortment of running shoes. They are relatively easy to buy – either in-store or online.
3) Best for winter runs: The Nike Pegasus 39 Shield
For cold, damp days, the Nike Pegasus 39 Shield is our top pick. The all-black variant has a subdued aesthetic that doesn’t scream Nike at all. The tonal logos blend into the upper, making it the most ‘un-Nike’ of running shoes.
The Peg Shield is also the easiest to keep clean. The mesh is treated with a water-repellent finish, so liquids bead off the upper. The synthetic mudguards and panels are also easy to clean as the material does not absorb water.
The tongue is mildly insulated, so we don’t recommend the Shield for summer use. The ride quality is identical to the standard Pegasus 39 due to the shared midsole.
Unlike the standard Pegasus, the outsole of the Shield variant uses a special ‘Storm-Tread’ compound for superior grip on wet roads.
4) Best for everyday runs: Nike Winflo 9
The Winflo has always been a ‘Pegasus Lite’ of sorts. It’s a capable everyday trainer, but everything is built to a lower spec. That’s quite understandable, given the price difference.
For example, the Winflo isn’t called the ‘Zoom’ Winflo anymore, because the midsole no longer has Zoom Air bags. There’s a low-pressure insole called ‘Dot-Weld Air’ that sits below the main footbed.
This full-length Air bag works together with the ‘Cushlon’ EVA foam midsole to provide cushioning comfort for everyday runs.
The lightweight upper uses lacing cords to support the midfoot and create a snug interior environment.
However, none of that is visible on this particular Winflo 9 color. All the details disappear into the darkness of the blacked-out upper, and so do the foam midsole and rubber outsole.
Also see: Nike Run Swift 2 – triple black.
5) Best flexible trainer: Nike Free Run 5.0
The Nike Free Run 5.0 has shades of the original Free 5.0. That’s a reference to the bootie construction without a separate tongue flap. So while it can be a bit challenging to get inside the shoe, the upper is comfortable and secure once the feet are inside.
Just like the vintage Nike Free models, the midsole of the Free Run 5.0 is generously grooved and flexible. The narrow grooves aren’t just under the forefoot, but extend to the heel too.
The result is a very smooth ride that also happens to be soft and comfortable. It’s also reasonably priced at an MSRP of $100.
This color of the Free Run 5.0 is completely blacked out, and that includes the Nike logo.
6) Best flexible trainer: The Nike Flex Experience 11
The Flex Experience Run 11 is just the shoe for mild-intensity runs, casual wear, and gym use. The Nike Free-inspired midsole cuts down on weight while producing a comfortable and flexible ride.
Unlike the Flex Experience 10, the redesigned model has a midsole heel without the deep flex groove(s).
This makes the heel more stable than before, so the Flex Experience 11 is a good fit for the gym environment. It’s comfortable enough for treadmill runs, while being supportive enough for weight-training sessions.
The collapsible heel counter makes the Flex Experience 11 easy to wear, and also minimizes the chances of heel irritation. This is the only shoe on this guide without a stiff heel.
7) Best for everyday runs: Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 3
Even though React has been relegated to a tier 2 cushioning technology because of the lighter and bouncier ZoomX foam, it doesn’t change the fact that it packs mileage-worthy comfort for everyday runs and walks alike.
Here, the React Infinity uses a single-density midsole with a TPU heel stabilizer for support. This results in a ride character that blends cushioning comfort with stability; something that any running or walking shoe should have.
However, buying the Infinity Run 3 comes with a caveat. It’s an average running shoe for its high $160 asking price; our detailed review tells you why.
The all-black iteration of this model marries a blacked-out knit upper with a tonal midsole and outsole.
The Infinity V3 has an accommodating upper for a conforming fit and also includes design improvements. The last two eyelets no longer feel stiff like on the Infinity V2, something that we called out in our review.