It's easy to forget that Nike was originally a running shoe company given the company's meteoric rise to global dominance and involvement in virtually every major sport. In the early 1960s, Phil Knight borrowed money from his father and ran a makeshift shoe store out of the trunk of his car, importing Japanese Onitsuka shoes (the company that would eventually become Asics).
Blue Ribbon Sports, the forerunner to Nike, was founded in 1964 when Knight partnered with Bill Bowerman, his coach at the University of Oregon. As communication broke down with the Japanese firm, they worked to perfect their own brand of running shoes. For quite some time, Bowerman had been experimenting with various shoe designs for his athletes in an effort to gain a competitive advantage. The Nike Cortez from 1967, the first official Bowerman-engineered design, was notable for its full-length foam midsole and the kind of technological advancement that has become the brand's hallmark ever since.
In 1970, Bowerman caught side of the family waffle iron while trying to figure out how to increase traction on newly designed track surfaces. Taking it to the garage for some tinkering, he managed to completely destroy the waffle iron but in the process invented the waffle sole, which is still in use today. The Air sole, an air-filled pod in the midsole that acts as an impact absorber, was introduced in 1978. Since then, Nike has introduced numerous improvements that have revolutionized the running industry. The 2017 Vaporfly 4%, the first racing shoe to include a full-length carbon fiber plate in the midsole to boost energy return, was a huge success.
Nike has always been dedicated to making shoes that help runners go faster, further, and more comfortably, and today they make some of the best running shoes available on the market.
Nike's Top-Rated Running Shoes for 2023
Our top picks for Nike running shoes, organized by running style. The entire collection of footwear has been tried and tested, with input from both the Runner's World team and our own group of wear testers. Our selection features not only the newest and most popular styles from the brand, but also trail running shoes, neutral shoes, and shoes for overpronators. You can read more about the unique qualities of each one down here.
- Air Zoom Alphafly 2% Flyknit 2 is the best shoe for long distance running.
- The Air Zoom Pegasus 39 is ideal for routine workouts.
- ZoomX Vaporfly Next%2 is the best choice for road races.
- The Air Zoom Vomero 16 is the best shoe for ultramarathons.
- The React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 offers the most stability.
- Nike's Air Zoom Tempo Next % Flyknit is the best shoe for sprints and tempo runs.
- Nike ZoomX Streakfly is the best shoe for 5K and 10K runs.
- The Pegasus Trail 3 GORE-TEX is the ultimate trail shoe.
- Air Zoom Winflo 8 is ideal for low-cost or novice runners.
Ideal for long distance races
Flyknit 2.0 Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT
Drop: 8mmWeight: 238g (M), 173g (W)
Click here for the women's section Click here for the men's section
In October of 2019, Eliud Kipchoge wore a prototype of these shoes when he ran the first sub-two-hour marathon in history. Indeed, that praise for the footwear in question cannot be topped. The faster you run, the more the shoe helps propel you forward. If you aren't a Kipchoge-level runner (and let's be honest, who are you?) Your personal best chances in any race, but especially longer ones, will increase thanks to the energy savings.
Adding a thin layer of ZoomX foam under the forefoot air pods and cushioned heel pods to the back of the shoe for the latest version. The outsole material, meanwhile, has been reduced in thickness while increasing in durability. This modification softens the impact of the forefoot on the ground and boosts energy return. The chassis's rear half has also been revised to increase the vehicle's steadiness. These improvements elevate an already dominant original to a new level.
A top pick for regular workouts
For the 39th time, Nike has released the Air Zoom Pegasus.
Men's weighs 283g and women's is 232g.
Currently Selling: Women's and Men's
The Pegasus, often called the "workhorse with wings," has been around for 39 versions for good reason: it gets the job done. One more Zoom Air unit than the previous version's 38 can be found in the midsole of the latest iteration. The heel cup is deeper than in the previous setting, providing a safer and more comfortable fit around the heel. The tongue has been upgraded with additional padding, and the mesh upper has been updated to feel more plush. The ride in the Pegasus 39 is sturdy and supportive, and the shoe has plenty of cushioning to make long runs comfortable. Even though it doesn't have the nimble feel of a shoe best suited for speed work, it is a great choice for everyday training due to its durability and comfort.
The Fastest on the Road
The 2nd iteration of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 4%
Weighing in at 196g (men) and 142g (women), with a drop of 8mm, respectively.
Buy now: Men's Buy now: Women's
There isn't a whole lot that can be done wrong when updating the world's fastest shoes. It's not broken, so don't try to fix it New to this iteration of the Vaporfly 4% is a modified upper for increased wearer convenience. The ZoomX foam in the heel and the carbon fiber plate in the forefoot work together to create a plush, cushioned ride with a spring of rebound at each footstrike; this is still the shoe's focal point and the place where the magic occurs. An engineered mesh upper has replaced the previous Vaporweave upper, a non-stretch nylon-like material. It fits securely without being too restrictive, and there is some extra padding at the top of the tongue to absorb the strain of the laces. Overall, it provides a brisk acceleration for brief sprints, and the increased comfort over the previous model is much appreciated over longer races.
Ideal for marathons and ultramarathons
Air Zoom Vomero 16 by Nike.
Drop: 10mm Weight: 309g (m), 257g (w)
Presently Offering Men's Quickly - Women's Clothing on Sale
The Nike Vomero has been the company's go-to neutral trainer with extra cushioning for a long time now. The latest version is the first to incorporate lightweight ZoomX foam in the midsole and an Air pod under the forefoot for enhanced cushioning and energy return. When you land and roll forward on the heel, the back half of the shoe is soft and pliable, but as soon as you move onto your forefoot, the platform firms up and stays stable. The upper is as plush as ever, and the heel collar is padded to give your heel a secure, comfortable fit. The shoe's tongue is padded for extra comfort. Overall, it's a great pair of supportive shoes for marathon training.
Flyknit version of the Nike React Infinity Run
The men's and women's drops are 9mm (m) and 8mm (w), respectively, and the weights are 302g (m) and 244g (w). 5mm (w)
Now Selling: Men's and Women's
The Infinity Run 2 is not what you'd call a "traditional stability shoe," but it's pretty close. The medial post in this shoe has been replaced by a clip that wraps around the outside of the heel, and the forefoot has a wider midsole for added support. These elements work together to provide support and stability without being bulky, heavy, or uncomfortable like some stability footwear. The midsole is constructed from the same Nike React foam as the aforementioned Pegasus. There is a rocker geometry in the shoe for a smoother transition at footstrike, and while it isn't quite as light as ZoomX, it is very durable and responsive. In the end, this design yields that rarity among running shoes: a daily trainer that provides a smooth ride for neutral runners while also providing adequate support for mild overpronators.
Ideal for interval training and tempo runs
Shoes: Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% Flyknit
Drop: 10mmWeight: 279g (m), 225g (w)
Check out the Men's and Women's sections right now!
The Air Zoom Tempo Next% is meant to serve as a more casual alternative to the more performance-oriented Alphafly Next%. The rear features the more durable and firmer React foam, while the forefoot features the more responsive and comfortable ZoomX foam. More rubber was added to the outsole to increase its longevity. To maximize energy return, the insole is made of a full-length composite carbon plate, and the outsole features Air pods in the forefoot and heel. The Tempo Next %'s wider forefoot and more forgiving composite plate make them stable in addition to lively, whereas some carbon plated shoes can give a feeling of instability with the rebound. They work wonderfully both during faster training runs and on race day.
Perfect for 5Ks and 10Ks
Nike Streakfly ZoomX
Males weigh 185g and females 155g.
The Streakfly is a lightweight road racer optimized for speed in distances of 5 kilometers and 10 kilometers. Almost like a classic racing flat, but updated for 2022 Offset lacing and a thin upper reduce weight, and the heel collar is minimal to prevent irritation. The 'barely there' sensation was praised by our reviewers, who also noted that the seats were sufficiently bolstered to prevent any wobbles from occurring even during high-speed cornering. The Streakfly is built with a Pebax plate (similar to that on modern track spikes) under the midfoot instead of a full-length carbon plate, and the midsole is made from the same lightweight and responsive ZoomX foam as the Vaporfly, albeit with a much lower stack height. The end result is a lightweight, low-profile, springy ride that will appeal to fans of traditional racing flats while providing additional protection thanks to the midsole cushioning. They are also suitable for use as a half marathon racer for those who are lighter in build.
Superior on the trail
New Nike Pegasus Trail 3 GORE-TEX
Mass: 309 g (men), 263 g (women), Fall: 9 5mm
Currently Selling: Men's and Women's
Expectedly, this 'hybrid' road-to-trail shoe fits and feels like the Pegasus 38 road shoe, but with waterproofing to keep your feet dry in wet and muddy conditions. In contrast to the road shoe's Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, the Trail 3 does not feature one in this version of the Pegasus. Other than those two similarities, the Trail 3 is identical to the previous iteration of the road shoe. Despite the fact that this results in a lower rate of energy return on the trail, it is typically not necessary due to the softer surface. Off- and on-road performance are both equally impressive thanks to the React foam, and the 4mm lugs on the outsole roll easily and grip the ground with confidence. The upper has a toe bumper and a gusseted tongue to keep out debris and protect the wearer's feet from impact. This is a fantastic option for Peg fans who are looking to explore off-road, though you may want something more aggressive for more technical or steeper climbs or extreme terrain.
The Finest Option for Beginner or Low-Budget Runners
Brand New Nike Winflo 8
Drop (in millimeters): 10mm (m), 9mm (w) Weight: 295g (m), 238g (w)
Right now: Men's Right now: Women's
The Winflo 8 are a great budget option for new runners or those looking for a reliable workhorse for regular runs at a pocket-friendly price, especially considering how hard it has become to find a good pair of running shoes for under £100. However, the Cushlon foam is still quite plush and smooth riding, and the Zoom Air units in the midsole provide more than enough responsiveness to make up for the lack of the lighter foams and carbon plates found in the brand's racier, more expensive options. Flywire cables under the lacing system guarantee a snug and secure fit, the upper mesh is breathable, and the Winflo has comfortable padding around the heel and ankle.