it really is not that hard to assemble a list of the best Nike running shoes. From the record-breaking Vaporfly series to the fan-favourite Pegasus line, Nike has always been at the forefront of innovation and created shoes that enable athletes to push their performance to their absolute limits.
Nike went from being a relatively small brand in the 80s – Michael Jordan famously wanted to launch his basketball shoe line with Adidas originally – to becoming an absolute juggernaut of fitness brand it is today. This is due to a number of factors but what made Nike running shoes popular in particular is the company's innovative approach to running footwear design.
Throughout its history, Nike always tried to push the boundaries of running performance by thinking outside the box; let's not forget how Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman used a waffle maker to create the Waffle Trainer, one of the earlier Nike models that became extremely popular.
This ethos continues even today. One of Nike's most popular innovations, the ZoomX, was derived from a foam traditionally used in aerospace innovation, applied for the first time in performance footwear in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite and 4%.
Below we listed what we think are the best Nike running shoes for training, racing, trail running and more.
The best Nike running shoes right now
Nike knows how to make gorgeous shoes, but when it comes to pure performance footwear, they tend to end up looking... peculiar. For me, this is the true testament of Nike's ethos: form should always follow function. No need to make racing shoes that look pretty but underperform when the time comes. I'd rather wear shoes that look odd but make me go as fast as humanely possible when I'm ready to break through my barriers.
The Nike Zoom Tempo NEXT% is one of these peculiar looking Nike running shoes. Funnily enough, it's not for racing, or more like it wasn't exclusively designed for racing, unlike its stupidly expensive counterpart, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.
No, the Tempo is ideal for – wait for it – tempo runs, but also racing to some degree. It might not be quite as fast as the Vaporfly or the Alphafly, but at least you get more functionality for your money here since you can use the Tempo at other times than just race days.
The Nike Zoom Tempo NEXT% would probably perform better if it were a bit lighter; it's actually way heavier than some of the thoroughbred racing shoes such as the Salomon S/LAB Phantasm or the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, listed below.
Despite the weight, I would choose the Tempo over many other shoes listed in this guide. Why? Because I like running fast, even on training days, and the combination of the React foam under the heel and ZoomX/Zoom Air units at the front enables me to do just that. Not to mention, it fits well too.
Never mind it looks ugly.
Want to know how the Tempo NEXT% fares against the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2.0? Find out all about it here: Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% vs Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2.0.
Running shoe reviewers love harping on about the Vaporfly/Alphafly duo, but the shoes you actually want to get is the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38. The former models are fantastic for sure, but for training, jogging and going to shop to get a snack, the Pegasus 38 is a much better option.
I was a bit harsh with the shoes in my original review. However, since then, I have put more miles in the Peg 38, and I'm happy to confirm that these shoes are indeed lovely and worthy of your attention. I still like the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37, but I warmed to the 38 and probably chose it over its predecessor now.
Better still, you can find excellent deals on the Pegasus 38, making the shoe more appealing than ever, especially for runners with wide feet. Overall, the updated mesh upper might not be as comfortable as plush shoes from other brands, but I'm sure many people will prefer to wear a Nike nevertheless. I wouldn't blame them.
I love the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, even though I appreciate they are not for everyone. These shoes will serve competitive runners who want to beat their PBs and don't mind spending extra cash on racing-only shoes.
For the money, though, you'll get running shoes that will unlock your full potential: the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is light and provides the best energy returns on the market, even in 2021.
The ZoomX foam feels soft underfoot as you land, and the full-length carbon plate provides plenty of propulsion at the toe-off point. The thick foam can feel a bit unstable at first, but it helps tremendously to give you a boost just when it's needed.
The Vaporweave upper is so thin it's practically see-through, almost translucent. Despite the lightness, the upper creates a near-perfect lockdown feeling, and once you fasten the thin laces, the world becomes your oyster, for real.
These shoes will make you go faster because they don't hold you back; you won't lose as much energy on landing, and toe-off will require less effort, too.
You can give the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 (Nike UK / Nike US) a try: it features an engineered mesh upper that's said to be more breathable than the Vaporweave the first-gen shoes use. There are also "pockets of padding" at the top of the tongue and the shoe has reinforced forefoot for durability in high-wear striking areas. In short, it's pretty similar to its predecessor.
It wouldn't be my first choice for running training, but the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit has many great features for people who appreciate cushioning and like a bit of extra support when they run. Heck, these shoes might even be an excellent choice for beginner to intermediate runners who prefer a bit of help and don't mind the extra bulk.
The ZoomX foam delivers a premium running experience; it's soft but not unstable and bounces without losing much energy in the process. The 'evolved' Flyknit upper closely follows the foot's contour, and the padded collar and tongue cradle the ankles beautifully.
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit might not be the cheapest running trainers, and I'm sure the chunkiness of the shoes will put some off, but if you like Nikes and have some money to burn, I'd recommend giving the shoes a try.
If Nike still sold the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail, I would probably recommend that as the best Nike trail running shoe. Since that's not the case, I must recommend the next best thing: the Nike Pegasus Trail 3. And to be fair, it's not the worst situation as the Pegasus Trail 3 is a brilliant trail running shoe that delivers an extraordinary running experience both on and off-road.
The main appeal of the Pegasus Trail 3 is the same as what made the Pegasus 36 Trail great: it's an excellent hybrid running shoe that feels fine on forest trails, mountain paths and even on the road. You probably shouldn't use it for technical courses or road racing, but anything between these two extremes, the Pegasus Trail 3 will perform just fine.
Another thing that sets the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 apart from the competition is just sexy this shoe looks. Whatever colourway you end up choosing, these shoes won't let you down. My personal favourite is the Total Orange/Wolf Grey/Obsidian/Signal Blue colourway: it has so much personality.
As well as looking good, the shoes also provide ample traction thanks to their "shockwave-like" outsole pattern that mimics mountain-biking tyres. This, combined with the resilient React foam, should give you enough propulsive force to make it through most running sessions you might have in the Nike Pegasus Trail 3.
Which is the best Nike running shoe right now?
The best Nike running shoe overall is the Nike Zoom Tempo NEXT%. It can be used for fast tempo runs and racing, making it one of the best value for money Nike trainers.
For jogging, we recommend the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38. This shoe has a generous toe box, plus the Air Zoom units provide some propulsion so that you won't feel sluggish either.
For pure racing joy, I would still recommend the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%. Now that the stock issues have been sorted, you can actually get hold of this fantastic performance shoe that will help you unlock your full potential.
Need some more support? Give the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit a try. this Nike running trainer provides a plush ride and will make every running session a joyride.
And if you prefer running off the beaten path, you won't find a better option than the Nike Pegasus Trail 3. Blurring the line between trail and road running shoes, the Pegasus Trail 3 can be used for gravel and tarmac sessions and as a bonus, they look pretty acceptable too.