10 Best Nike Running Shoes in 2021
Nike needs no introduction.
The brand offers some of the widest selections of highly-rated running shoes for both beginners and seasoned runners.
We have tested over 70 Nike running shoes in our lab to help you narrow down the choices. If you are easily satisfied with the best, here are our top picks in different categories.
And if you’d like to learn more about various Nike collections, skip to our guide below the shoe reviews.
Overview of this guide
- 1. How we review Nike running shoes
- 2. Best overall
- 3. Best budget shoe
- 4. Best for race
- 5. Best for trail
- 6. Best for speedwork
- 7. Choose the right Nike running shoe: Road or Trail?
- 8. Nike shoes for daily running vs. competition
- 9. Arch support in Nike running shoes
- 10. Additional features in Nike running shoes
- 11. Nike Vaporfly Models: Marathon Dominance and Controversy
How we review Nike running shoes
Nike is a serious brand. But RunRepeat shoe testing lab is even more serious.
We purchase Nike shoes with our own funds to stay unbiased while testing every new release. Here is what we take each shoe through before claiming the best ones:
- We cut, slice, and measure all Nike shoes in our lab to test them on more than 30 different parameters like durability, breathability, flexibility, and others.
- Our testers run 30-50 miles a week to provide extensive feedback on each Nike model.
- We also reflect thousands of expert and user reviews in our scores for a more comprehensive overview.
As a result, each Nike shoe receives a CoreScore, a number from 0 to 100, which helps us define the best Nike running shoes on the market.
A shoe that’s it’s nearing its 40th iteration definitely does something right. But we still had to make sure by putting it through some rough wear tests and comparing it to over 200 other Nike shoes.
And the Nike Pegasus still beats them all!
If you are looking for just one go-to for all your daily runs and walks, this is the one. Slower runs, tempo sessions, treadmill, and even some light gym workouts - this is your workhorse.
We find it surprisingly well-fitting for a Nike shoe (most tend to run narrow) and offering a little bit more toe room than the previous versions. We love its fully gusseted tongue that locks you down so well.
Its cushioning has a fantastic combination of softness (18% softer than average) and responsiveness (thanks to the Zoom Air unit). Together they make you feel so agile that you wouldn’t believe that this shoe is slightly heavier than the average.
Those extra 0.7 oz actually bring the benefit of durability. There was zero wear on the outsole after 30 miles and our lab tests show above-average rubber thickness and stiffness. The Pegasus will serve you well for at least 500 miles.
We are amazed at everything that Nike Pegasus is able to pack for its moderate $120 price tag. This is the GOAT not only among Nike shoes but also made it the top pick of our best running shoes!
If you forgot what it feels like to have fun on your runs, get the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run. This insanely bouncy trainer literally made us jump for joy!
You get the best possible cushioning unit from Nike (ZoomX foam) which is also used on their elite racing shoe (Vaporfly). “Bouncy” is not enough to describe it. And it’s 47%(!) softer than foams on average.
Although it is not the lightest trainer (9.65 oz compared to the average 9.8 oz) it actually feels weightless thanks to all that lively cushion.
It will be most suitable for people with stronger feet and ankles as the bouncy foam can get “too fun” and feel a bit unstable on corners.
But if a pair of trampolines is what you want to feel under your feet, there is no better option than the Invincible Run!
Best budget shoe
Nike Winflo 8 packs so much comfort into a $90 running shoe you wouldn’t tell it apart from a more expensive one!
We chose this shoe above 60+ other budget Nike’s as this is the closest that a cheaper shoe gets to the more advanced models. If you are looking for a stylish Nike shoe that you can take on daily runs, casual walks, or athleisure, this one will exceed your expectations.
The shoe feels so light and breathable that it makes a perfect pair for warmer weather (up to 80F!).
With its supportive cushioning you can go up to 10K at a time or even wear it all day long. We haven’t noticed any bottoming out of the sole after hours of running and walking.
For the style-oriented runners out there, the shoe is an eye-catcher with its visible Flywire on the top and the sculpted midsole underfoot.
It doesn’t get any better for $90!
Best for race
If you set out to run a marathon in less than 2 hours, this is THE shoe.
The first Vaporfly turned the world of running shoes upside down by introducing a speed-boosting carbon plate and shattering all the previous records. And we have tried and tested the second iteration thoroughly only to make sure that it is still the absolute winner.
This elite racer is insane! It is a speed monster that keeps you on your toes all throughout the run. The carbon plate sets your feet flying while the unbelievable amount of Nike’s best cushioning foam (ZoomX) will bounce you off to a new PB.
Incredibly lightweight, the Vaporfly is among the lightest racing shoes in history. At 6.9 oz it weighs close to a racing flat while packing a crazy 38.6 mm of cushioning in the heel.
This shoe is not for everybody. It is too narrow and unstable to make a daily trainer but it was never meant for that.
If you are looking for the most cutting-edge Nike shoe for going beyond fast, the Vaporfly Next% is the brand’s number one.
A runner-up to the Vaporfly is its maxed-out sibling, the AlphaFly Next%. This shoe embodies the future of running shoes, packing the most advanced technologies from Nike.
We were blown away by its marshmallowy soft cushioning which somehow manages to stay exceptionally bouncy for hours! And once you get on your toes, prepare to take off because the carbon plate together with two large Zoom Air units will make you believe you can fly.
It is a shoe for setting new records, both personal and world ones! It was the Alphafly prototype that took Eliud Kipchoge to the finish line when he ran a marathon in under 2 hours!
Beast of a shoe, it is also unbelievably lightweight. Given how much is going on under your feet, it weighs only 8 oz (16% lighter than the average).
Similar to the Vaporfly, it is not a stable shoe for daily training. Meant for the elite, it is the shoe that will shave off minutes (if not hours!) from your time on any distance from a 10K to an ultra.
Best for trail
Oh, how soft! Oh, so sexy! The Nike Pegasus Trail 3 won over our hearts and feet as one of the plushest, max-cushioned trail shoes out there.
There is so much joy in landing on these bad boys that it feels more like its cushy road brother (Pegasus 38). It also has a wider platform than other Nikes: our lab measurements show 116 mm (forefoot) and 92.6 mm (heel) compared to the average 112.8 and 89.3. Nice and stable!
It is also a lasting one. The shoe’s rubber outsole scores above-average on our hardness test, reaching 86HC over the average 79.2HC. It is not wearing out any time soon and we expect it to last as good 500 miles and beyond.
It is definitely a shoe for dry conditions and is also a great door-to-trail shoe. It’s going to feel comfortable even on a walk in a park when you take a break from trails.
If you want to stay away from the stiff, utilitarian off-road trainers, the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 is our absolute favorite. Its ultra-soft landings will make it love at first step for you!
If it is a trailblazer that you’re after, our top recommendation is the Wildhorse 7.
Having tested it on dirt roads, rocky trails, soft ground, and branches, we can confirm that this shoe “bites!” It’s all about the grip in this shoe. A variety of well-spaced lugs and dimples all over the outsole scream confidence and make you feel so secure on the trail.
We loved how the rock plate makes you forget about the obstacles below and focus on the fun. Even more, our feet never felt beaten up after the runs!
All the components in the shoe’s upper work so well together to make you feel locked in all throughout the run. Never once have we experienced slippage or foot shifting inside the shoe.
The semi-gaiters around the ankle are something. If you’re tired of catching debris and small rocks as you run, this thing will change your life.
Overall, the Wildhorse is not a shoe that will make you “walk on clouds” (that’s what the Pegasus Trail 3 is for). It is a workhorse that helps you go far and wide on your runs and hikes without thinking about the ground below.
Best for speedwork
Nike Zoom Fly 3 is the down-to-earth version of the Vaporfly elite racer. But once we put it through our tests, we found nothing “down” about this shoe.
It is a real speedster! It looks fast even when simply standing on the shelf. Visually it is very easy to confuse with the Vapofly.
Packing a similar carbon plate that’s used on the top-tier racers these days, we were impressed with how close it feels to the more expensive models. It sets you flying and at the same time feels stable enough to do your train runs for a marathon or a tempo workout.
This shoe is so versatile, we also find it by far the best value for money option from Nike. You get a hybrid of an elite racer for a price that’s slightly above-average for a regular training shoe.
This shoe passed our long-distance tests (10K) with flying colors that we can also recommend it for running a marathon.
So, if you are not yet ready to ride the insanely fast Vaporfly but want to start getting a feel for it, the Nike Zoom Fly 3 is the best starting point.
Another admirable option from Nike’s Next%-level running shoe collection, the Tempo is committed for a long haul.
This shoe “begged” us to take it on a long run straight from the box that we ended up going 13(!) miles at once! And what surprised us even more is that there was ZERO recovery time after running in this shoe. Your feet feel nice and pampered as if they just went on a light walk!
Not only does the Tempo Next% feel fast like its bigger brothers (Vaporfly and Alphafly), it is also unbelievably comfortable. There is no breaking-in needed with the Tempo Next%. It connects to your foot from the start.
We enjoyed the breeze coming from its paper-thin upper and the “swoosh” from its bouncy cushioning.
It IS a more expensive option for a speed trainer but it is also the most durable. Having logged 100 miles in the shoe, the rubber outsole is not even starting to show signs of wear. We find it the most heavy-duty shoe from the Next% collection.
Overall, if you don’t mind spending a little extra for that premium experience, you’ll get a lasting companion for going the distance and going it faster.