The best black Nike running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The Nike Pegasus 38 Shield on the road.

This article has been updated with current models for December 2023. The Nike Infinity 3, Pegasus 39, and Winflo 9 have been replaced with their newest versions. The Pegasus Trail 4 is a new addition.

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.

The molded ribs of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

Since this is a Nike-specific product guide, let’s use the Pegasus 40 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:

Style versatility

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 are less demanding. 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 Pegasus 40

The Nike Pegasus is four decades old. At the heart of its success is a formula that works – the Pegasus feels dated, but it’s still a versatile running shoe with a wide range of talents. Be it everyday runs or a half-marathon, the Pegasus 40 does most things well.

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 40. Our full review is here.

Nearly all the details on the sleeved upper disappear on the black-on-black Pegasus 40. 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 7.

So what does one get for $70? 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 is more stable than the 11 due to 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.

Also see: Nike Revolution 7 – all black.

3) All-black shoe for winter runs: 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. A shield version of the Pegasus 40 does not exist (yet), so what you see is last year’s model.

The water resistant finish of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

The Pegasus Shield has a water-repellent upper mesh that beads liquid.

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 Storm Tread outsole of the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield.

The specially designed compound offers traction on wet roads.

Unlike the standard Pegasus, the outsole of the Shield variant uses a special ‘Storm-Tread’ compound for superior grip on wet roads.

4) All black everyday trainer: Nike Winflo 10

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’s placed 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 secure fit.

However, none of that is visible on this particular Winflo 10 color. All the details disappear into the darkness of the blacked-out upper, and so do the foam midsole and rubber outsole.

5) All-black 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) All-black 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) All black everyday trainer: Nike Infinity RN 4

Unofficially, React is now a tier 2 cushioning technology because of the lighter and bouncier ZoomX foam. However, that doesn’t change the fact that React offers mileage-worthy comfort for everyday runs. The Infinity RN 4 features an improved variant called ReactX that makes the ride softer.

The single-density React X midsole blends cushioning comfort with stability; something that any running or walking shoe should have.

However, buying the Infinity RN 4 comes with a caveat. It’s an average running shoe for its high $160 asking price; it’s a comfortable shoe but excels at nothing in particular.

The all-black iteration of this model marries a blacked-out knit upper with a tonal midsole and outsole. The Infinity RN 4 is also available in an extra-wide.

8) Black waterproof trail runner: Nike Pegasus Trail 4 Gore-Tex

On paper, the Pegasus Trail 4 is supposed to be a trail running shoe. Practically speaking, the Pegasus Trail 4 is a soft-roader – a running shoe that works equally well on road as well as mild trails.

The outsole of the Nike Pegasus Trail 4.

The Pegasus Trail 4 is a soft-roader – a running shoe for easy trails.

The soft React foam midsole adds all-day comfort on the road, but it’s not ideal for technical and challenging terrain. The soft midsole, shallow lugs, and the lack of a rock plate mean that the Peg Trail feels at home on gentle gradients and unpaved trails. Our review explains what the Pegasus Trail can and cannot do.

The waterproof version of the Pegasus Trail 4 is designed slightly differently than the non-waterproof model. It has a faux gaiter to prevent debris and moisture from entering. The Gore-Tex membrane is not foolproof, but does a good job of keeping the water out.

Our long-term ownership of Pegasus Trail 4 confirms that the outsole is extremely durable, even when the shoe is used mostly on paved surfaces.

Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this review by sharing your insights – submit a review here.

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