Our verdict

As the brand's first dedicated walking shoe, the Nike Motiva drew our attention with its exaggerated rocker and ridiculously squishy sole. We thoroughly enjoyed taking every step in this unique shoe, convinced that it is soon to be the new golden standard of walking footwear. We can't praise this Nike shoe enough at this price point.

Pros

  • Rocker makes for effortless walks
  • Audaciously plush cushioning
  • Out-of-the-box comfort
  • Very wide and stable base (for walking/jogging only!)
  • Durable and grippy sole
  • Amazing wear resistance in the upper
  • A Nike shoe that's NOT tight and narrow

Cons

  • Lacks breathability for hot weather
  • Sole develops wrinkles easily
  • Rocker takes time to get used to

Audience verdict

90
Great!

Who should buy

The Nike Motiva's unique design can be perplexing when you first see it. Having worn and lab-tested the shoe, we believe that it is most suitable for the people who:

  • want a fitness walking shoe that can easily transition into jogging
  • a rockered shoe that promotes faster and smoother heel-to-toes
  • a shoe with extra plush, bottomless cushioning

Nike Motiva review

Who should NOT buy

The Nike Motiva offers a bundle of benefits but not enough for overpronators. We think that people who need a stable and supportive platform with arch support would be better off with the Skechers Max Cushioning Arch Fit.

And if you specifically need a summer-ready shoe, the Nike Winflo 10 is a more breathable alternative.

Nike Motiva lab test

Breathability

Taking this Nike shoe out on a hot summer day is not the best idea. Even when we wore our thinnest socks, our feet ended up slightly damp at 80°F (27°C).

The shoe's lack of breathability was later confirmed in our lab. Using a smoke-pumping machine, we filled the shoe's upper with smoke and observed how quickly it would pass through the material.

Indeed, the Motiva's upper refused to release the smoke that easily. Comparing it to other walking shoes, we rated this Nike with a moderate score of 3 out of 5 for breathability.

To show you exactly how dense the shoe's upper material is, we hovered the half-cut upper over a light bulb. As you can see, there is not a single aperture that would let the light shine through!

Finally, we grabbed our microscope to investigate the knit mesh up close.

Nike Motiva microscope

What we've got here are rather thick and densely woven threads that are bound together into a solid one-piece fabric.

Nike Motiva microscope upper

Test results
Motiva 3
Average 2.7
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

But the good news is that this monolithic material is quite resistant to abrasion. We were amazed at how well the Motiva's upper stood up to our durability test with a Dremel!

We pressed the tool's sandpaper tip against the shoe's toebox material for 12 seconds at consistent pressure (3.2N) and speed (5K RPM).

And the result was stunning! Our Dremel didn't even cut through all of the threads, making more of a cosmetic mess. This earned the Nike Motiva a high score of 4 out of 5 for toebox durability.

Just look at what the same test did to a mesh upper on another shoe!

Nike Motiva Toebox durability comparison

We put a piece of white material inside the shoe to show the damage more clearly.

Test results
Motiva 4
Average 3.1
Compared to 22 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

For a not-so-expensive shoe, the Motiva keeps showing great quality of upper materials!

Drilling the shoe's lining inside the heel collar for 4 seconds, we saw a pretty moderate level of damage. On a 1-5 scale, we rated it with a well-deserved 3.

And if that score doesn't seem to reassuring to you, just have a look at what 1 out of 5 looks like in the photo below.

Nike Motiva Heel padding durability comparison
Test results
Motiva 3
Average 2.1
Compared to 21 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

With our expectations set high for this Nike shoe, we went on to check the durability of its outsole.

Pressing our durometer against the shoe's rubber outsole, it showed a very promising reading of 92.0 HC. Being 20% harder than average, it is also pretty likely to be more durable than average. 

Nike Motiva Outsole hardness
Test results
Motiva 92.0 HC
Average 75.7 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
50.1 HC
Outsole hardness
92.0 HC

Outsole durability

To our delight, this proved to be true!

Using the Dremel again, we turned it up to a higher speed (10K RPM) and pressed it against one of the shoe's rubber lugs for 22 seconds.

We measured the newly formed dent with a tread gauge and it showed only 1.2 mm of depth. We are happy to report that this is shallower than the average dent created by the Dremel!

Nike Motiva Outsole durability test
Test results
Motiva 1.2 mm
Average 1.6 mm
Compared to 21 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Nike also used a slightly thicker-than-average outsole for the Motiva. Seeing 3.0 mm of rubber on our caliper further convinced us of the Motiva's potential to last hundreds of miles.

Nike Motiva Outsole thickness
Test results
Motiva 3.0 mm
Average 2.6 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
5.9 mm

Weight

Given the amount of midsole foam and outsole rubber, we couldn't expect the Nike Motiva to be lighter than average. But it is far from being a heavy shoe too!

Tipping the scale at 10.8 oz (306g) in a men's US size 9, the Nike Motiva weighs exactly the same as other walking shoes with a heel stack of 34 mm and more. And it never felt like a drag on our feet either.

Nike Motiva Weight
Test results
Motiva 10.79 oz (306g)
Average 9.81 oz (278g)
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
6.17 oz (175g)
Weight
14.25 oz (404g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The Nike Motiva provides tons of cushioning for people who are just starting out running and tend to transition into walking a lot. At this stage, the wearer lands primarily on their heels which calls for better impact protection from the shoe in this area.

And the Motiva does just that. Measuring its thickness in the heel, our caliper showed a stack height of 34.9 mm. That's notably thicker than the average walking shoe, providing a very generous squish underfoot.

Nike Motiva Heel stack
Test results
Motiva 34.9 mm
Average 32.7 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
11.2 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The Nike Motiva's midsole also exceeds the average in its forefoot cushioning. Based on our caliper measurement, it is 25.6 mm thick under the ball of the foot.

That way, it's not just the heel that receives love in this fabulously cushioned walking shoe.

Nike Motiva Forefoot stack
Test results
Motiva 25.6 mm
Average 21.9 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
5.5 mm
Forefoot stack
31.2 mm

Drop

The difference in height between the heel and the toes gives us a drop of 9.3 mm. This is a standard heel elevation for a walking shoe as it adds support and takes the pressure off the Achilles.

Nike Motiva Drop
Test results
Motiva 9.3 mm
Average 10.9 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
5.7 mm
Drop
21.4 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The squish is real in the Nike Motiva. Not only is the foam itself very plush but the shoe's peculiar wavy sole and protruding bumps at the bottom also help to level up the compression.

We turned to our durometer to measure the softness of the foam underneath the heel. The tool returned a reading of 15.0 HA which is a whopping 70% plusher than the average foam!

Nike Motiva Midsole softness

Walking in the Nike Motiva was pure joy! The ride felt marshmallowy and luxurious for hours... But unfortunately, there is a caveat - the foam starts to crease almost immediately.

And for heavier wearers, we anticipate a quicker bottoming-out of the cushioning. 

Nike Motiva heel stack height

Test results
Motiva 15.0 HA
Average 24.9 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
7.8 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
32.9 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

Given the shoe's warm upper, we thought you might want to wear it in the colder months of the year as well. But does its cushioning remain just as soft when the temperatures drop?

It does!

Even though it's not one of Nike's super foams it certainly is a magical foam. After spending 20 minutes in the freezer, the shoe's foam did get 15.9% firmer but it remained 95% plusher than other foams in the same conditions!

Nike Motiva Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Motiva 15.9%
Average 32.2%
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Insole thickness

Given the shoe's exceptionally comfortable midsole, there wasn't much need for a super cushy insole. The latter is only lightly padded at 4.2 mm in the heel.

Test results
Motiva 4.2 mm
Average 6.2 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
3.5 mm
Insole thickness
16.9 mm

Rocker

But the star of the show is of course the Motiva's exaggerated rocker design. This feature has long established itself in the running shoe realm but there is no reason for it not to work in walking shoes!

If this looks all new and weird to you, a simple metaphor would be a rocking chair. As opposed to its flat counterparts, this chair has raised curvy edges that allow for quick and smooth transitions from front to back.

Same here. As you step on the heel, the shoe literally rocks your foot forward to the toes, encouraging you to take the next step more quickly.

Of course, it may take some time to get used to but we can assure you that it takes less than a day to fully adjust.

Stability

Lateral stability test

As you can probably tell by now, the Nike Motiva is fully attuned to continuous forward motion. We strongly warn you against taking this shoe to the gym or attempting any aggressive lateral movements in it.

The video below shows that the Motiva almost feels like standing on a fitness ball! It wants you to rock forward and not any other direction.

So, if you are someone with excessive inward rolling of the foot (overpronation) or other foot conditions, you may prefer a much more stable and supportive Skechers Max Cushioning Arch Fit.

Torsional rigidity

But hear us out, if you're only using this Nike shoe for walking and jogging, we promise that there are no issues with stability here. Never once did we feel like our ankles were about to roll over the shoe.

If you try to twist the Motiva like we did, you will see how incredibly stiff it is laterally! On a stiffness scale from 1 to 5, we readily rated it with the maximum 5!

Test results
Motiva 5
Average 2.8
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The shoe's heel counter is not very stiff but it is amply padded to hold the heel and ankle securely in place. If 5 is the stiffest, we would rate this heel counter as 2.

Test results
Motiva 2
Average 2.3
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Of course, no shoe would not be fully stable without a wide platform with extended contact points. And the Nike Motiva takes care of this by offering some of the widest midsoles among walking shoes!

Measuring the distance between the widest points of the forefoot, we got 116 mm. A few millimeters wider than average.

Nike Motiva Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Motiva 116.0 mm
Average 111.7 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
98.8 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
124.1 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The shoe's platform widens again at the heel. Here, we measured the widest area at 96.6 mm, much wider than average!

A wide landing area in the heel is crucial when you're dealing with such squishy cushioning.

Nike Motiva Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Motiva 96.6 mm
Average 90.2 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
75.6 mm
Midsole width in the heel
104.0 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Because the Nike Motiva relies on the rocking motion so much, it is expected to be less flexible than a normal walking shoe.

Our in-house flexibility test fully proves this. Using a force gauge, we pushed the shoe to a 90-degree angle and measured how much force it took to bend it that far. For the Motiva, the reading was 29.2N which is 55% more than it takes on average.

Not a flexible shoe but it's not a problem.

Test results
Motiva 29.2N
Average 20.9N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
1.1N
Stiffness
52.7N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We were curious to see whether the Motiva would get even stiffer in cold conditions but it didn't! We observed a mere 4% difference in flexibility whereas most walking shoes stiffen up by 50-60%!

Nike Motiva Difference in stiffness in cold
Test results
Motiva 4%
Average 49.5%
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
139%

Grip / Traction

This shoe has an excellent grip for urban conditions, even wet ones!

Nike Motiva outsole

Featuring Nike's signature waffle outsole pattern, its traction is not only effective but also exudes Nike's retro shoe vibes.

Nike Motiva heel

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Nike shoes received numerous complaints for their uncomfortably narrow fit over the years. This must have led the brand to promise a "widened forefoot, arch, and toebox" in the Motiva.

Even though we never felt constricted in this walking shoe, it didn't seem like a particularly spacious one.

Measuring the widest part of the toebox, we got 97.5 mm which is just an average for walking shoes.

Nike Motiva Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Motiva 97.5 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
110.9 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We also measured the toebox width at the big toe mark to make sure that it wasn't too pointy. But with a caliper reading of 77.6 mm, we found that it is just the same as the average.

Nike Motiva Toebox width at the big toe

A nice bonus is that the shoe's upper material has a fairly stretchy nature and it accommodates the foot shape very well.

Overall, the fit is perfect for a medium-width foot but we cannot call it "widened" compared to how roomy walking shoes can be.

Test results
Motiva 77.6 mm
Average 78.3 mm
Compared to 23 walking shoes
Number of shoes
73.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
94.3 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The shoe's tongue is fully integrated into the upper, forming a bootie-like structure that holds the foot very securely.

There was no unwanted foot shifting or play inside the Nike Motiva which greatly contributed to our surefootedness.

Nike Motiva Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Motiva Bootie

Comfort

Tongue padding

The Motiva's tongue is substantially more padded than average, showing 11.5 mm on our caliper. It is twice as thick as a typical walking shoe tongue.

It does detract from the shoe's breathability but amplifies the in-shoe comfort.

Nike Motiva Tongue padding
Test results
Motiva 11.5 mm
Average 5.0 mm
Compared to 28 walking shoes
Number of shoes
0.3 mm
Tongue padding
11.5 mm

Heel tab

There is no pull tab or finger loop to assist in getting the shoe on. And given the shoe's bootie upper, so you will most likely need both hands to slide into it.

Nike Motiva Heel tab
Test results
Motiva None

Removable insole

The stock insole is easily removable in the Nike Motiva. In case you decide to level up the shoe's comfort or arch support.

Nike Motiva Removable insole
Test results
Motiva Yes