If you’re a fan of the Swoosh and are thinking of investing in a pair of the best Nike running shoes, we don’t need to tell you that the choice is overwhelming. Since Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman started experimenting with shoe designs in 1964, Nike has had one goal: to help runners go faster and further than ever before. From the carbon fiber plates worn by Eliud Kipchoge to the Pegasus running shoe your running friend swears by, knowing where to start, especially when shopping online, can be the first hurdle to a more comfortable run.
Let’s start by saying, there’s no such thing as the best Nike running shoes. Like choosing one of the best running watches or finding the perfect sports bra, it’s a personal choice and depends on how you run, your foot shape, and the ground you’re covering. That said, there’s a reason why Nike is one of the biggest brands in the world — love them or loathe them, they know their stuff when it comes to creating exciting shoes.
Read on to find our top picks from Nike. Each of the shoes on this list has been put through its paces on a number of different sessions — from long, easy miles, to faster tempo runs, and have each covered at least 50 miles.
The quick list
The Pegasus is a workhorse — you can wear it for a marathon, your first 5K, and pretty much everything in between. It’s a versatile running shoe, suitable for every level of runner.
Best for race day
Best for race day
The Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 is an extremely versatile race day shoe, that’ll help you pick up the pace. It’s fast, and more stable underfoot than the Alphafly.
Best for recovery
Best for recovery
If you love a max-cushioned shoe, it doesn’t get plusher than the Nike Invincible 3. With a thick wedge of ZoomX foam, you’ll feel like you’re bouncing along with this.
Best for support
Best for support
The Nike Infinity Run 4 is a supportive running shoe that’s best suited for easy miles and long runs. A decent choice for beginners and more experienced runners alike.
The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 is the best trail running shoe to buy if you’re running from your door to the trails. It’s comfy, grippy, and looks great, even when covered in mud!
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Best for speedwork
Best for speedwork
This shoe might not be legal for race day (its stack height is over World Athletics regulations), but it’s a fantastic training partner for the Alphafly or the Vaporfly.
Best Nike running shoe overall
For a shoe to be on its 40th iteration, it must be doing something right and with the Pegasus, you're buying reliability. The Nike Pegasus 40 is pretty similar underfoot to the Nike Pegasus 39. It's still got two Zoom Air units — one under the ball of the foot, and one in the heel, for a responsive feel. It's also had some slight tweaks to the fit to make it more comfortable.
It’s important to note, this shoe is still, by no means ‘pillowy’ (if you’re after a super-cushioned ride, scroll down to the Nike Invincible Run 3); it’s still got that somewhat firmer snap the Pegasus has always had. It’ll get you around a marathon, or a 5K with ease and will perform well mile after mile. The 10mm drop is good for runners who don’t want to feel the pavement beneath their feet, but equally don't want a huge wedge of foam between them and the road.
All in all, this is a brilliant shoe for the runner who only wants one pair of shoes in his or her closet. It's also our favorite version of the Pegasus yet. If you're on a budget, now is a good time to snap up a pair of the Nike Pegasus 39, as they are likely to be on sale now the newer shoes have been released.
Read our full Nike Pegasus 40 review here
Best Nike running shoe for race day
From the moment Nike launched its Vaporfly 4% running shoes in 2016, with the claim they would help runners run 4% faster, pretty much every shoe brand out there has experimented with carbon fiber plates. The Vaporfly Next% 3 is the fourth iteration of the shoe, and it’s become one of the most popular marathon running shoes on the market.
The Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 is designed to be more stable underfoot, and you can see this with some of the design changes Nike has made to the shoe. While the stack and drop are the same, the Vaporfly 3 has a new upper, a tweaked midsole, and a different outsole. Nike say this is to improve stability and increase energy return in the racing shoe.
The Vaporfly Next% 3 has a redesigned midsole, with more ZoomX foam underfoot. It also has a tweaked upper, which has a lot less structure to the tighter upper on the Vaporfly Next% 2. Finally, the outsole has had an overhaul on the newer Vaporfly Next% 3. As Nike has added more ZoomX foam to the midsole, it looks as if the brand has removed some weight from the outsole by making it a little thinner. Check out all of the differences between the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 here.
If you’re looking for a shoe that looks and feels fast, and that’ll give you that extra confidence to run a PB, this is it. They are by no means cheap, but if you can afford them, you won’t regret it.
Read our Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 review
Best Nike running shoe for recovery runs
Of course, there’s no one shoe for easy miles, but these are some of the most comfortable running shoes Nike has ever made. Think easy training miles when you’re working towards a marathon, or just want to relax and enjoy the view without worrying about your pace. The Invincible Run 3 is an extremely plush shoe thanks to the ZoomX foam. Yes, that is the same foam used in Nike’s speedier shoes, but in Invincible the ZoomX is responsive and cushioned in a way that’s designed to take some of the load off, rather than propel you to your next PB.
The midsole incorporates the rocker geometry we’ve seen in Nike’s faster shoes, but with no carbon fiber plate, this is far more gentle. The Flyknit upper is robust, built to help you feel supported over all that bouncy foam and the molded tongue is plush and cushioned, almost like those netball trainers you wore at school.
The third iteration of the shoe sees some tweaks to the heel grip, which is designed to keep the foot in place as you move. The design has also changed — Nike has moved away from the rubber-ring of ZoomX foam surrounding the foot, and instead, has positioned the foam more strategically around the forefoot and the heel. The upper is also slightly thicker. In a way, this shoe feels more grown up.
That said, it's still incredibly fun and incredibly bouncy. However, if you're a completely neutral runner, now is the time to save your money and buy the Nike ZoomX Invincible 2. It's also worth checking out our Nike ZoomX Invincible 2 vs Nike ZoomX Invincible 3 face-off here.
Read our Nike ZoomX Invincible 3 review here.
Best Nike running shoe for support
For the past few years, the Infinity has been Nike’s everyday running shoe, designed to give runners a decent amount of support underfoot. When Nike released the first iteration of this shoe, it came with the caveat that it would help runners avoid injuries. Now on its fourth version, the shoe has had a major redesign and has gained a whole new midsole foam.
The midsole of the Infinity Run 4 features Nike’s new ReactX midsole foam, designed by Nike to be more environmentally friendly. Nike says the ReactX foam cuts down its carbon footprint by at least 43% compared to the Nike React foam used in the Infinity Run 3. Nike says the ReactX foam increases energy return by 13%.
The shoe still has the same rocker geometry we’ve seen in past versions but is slightly squishier underfoot than the Nike React midsole foam. It’s still nowhere near as soft as the ZoomX foam used in the Invincible 3, but it does feel softer underfoot than the React used in the React Infinity 3. During testing, however, I did find that the Infinity 4 felt less cushioned in the forefoot than the Infinity 3.
If you’re a fan of the Infinity line, or you’re looking for a super-stable, easy running shoe, you’ll enjoy running in the Infinity Run 4. That said, if you’re a faster runner, or you want a shoe you can wear for long runs and tempo sessions, the Infinity Run 4 feels a little clunky. It’s obviously an excellent move from Nike to focus on their carbon footprint, but the ReactX needs a little tweaking, as it loses its responsiveness in this shoe.
Read our full Nike Infinity 4 review
Best Nike trail running shoe
The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 is the best trail running shoe to buy if you’re running from your door to the trails. It’s got all the comfort of the classic Pegasus road shoe, but with a grippier outsole to cope with muddy terrains. It looks great too, not that you’ll care once it’s covered in mud.
Unlike its road cousin, the Pegasus Trail 4 doesn’t have a forefoot Zoom Air unit, although it does have the same React foam midsole for a responsive, cushioned underfoot feel. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about trail running shoes — this totally replaces that old-school stiff midsole with something far plusher. You won’t feel the stones or the tree roots underfoot, you’ll bounce over them. The main difference between this and the road version is the outsole, which has a pattern designed to mimic mountain bike tires for a good grip on slippy terrains.
The main drawback with this shoe is the outsole, which some runners find just isn’t grippy enough on wet and muddy terrain. If you’re running on lighter trails, you should be fine in the Pegasus Trail 4, but if you’re off on a more technical adventure, you might be disappointed. It's also one of the best-looking trail shoes we've ever tested.
Looking for more inspiration? Read our best trail running shoes guide.
Best Nike trail shoe for race day
After a year of rumors, Nike’s first super-trail shoe has dropped, and it’s fast. The Ultrafly Trail is Nike’s first trail running shoe with ZoomX midsole foam and a full carbon flyplate, designed to help runners take on the trails at a rapid pace. For the first time, a Nike trail running show also has a Vibram outsole, with deeper lugs for a grippier run on uneven terrain.
I tested these running shoes on a number of different trails and terrains — from a forest track to a gravel path. I received the shoes in July, so things weren’t all that muddy and wet, but I was impressed with the grip I got from the Ultrafly Trail. In the past I’ve slipped when wearing the Pegasus Trail in wet weather, and I really hope the Vibram outsole features in more shoes in Nike’s collection in the future.
There’s no doubt about it — the ZoomX foam and carbon flyplate make for an extremely fun underfoot experience. I felt like I was eating up the trails in these shoes, and I appreciated that there was enough underfoot cushioning to allow me to run from my front door to the trails on concrete.
Read our full Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail review
Best Nike running shoe for speedwork
Nike released the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% to replace the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 and to be a training partner to the Alphafly Next% (as in, you’d do your training sessions in this and race in the Alphafly). It’s got three different elements to help you power through your miles - ZoomX foam in the forefoot for a cushioned, responsive ride, React foam in the heel for extra cushioning, a full-length carbon composite plate and air pods in the forefoot for a snappy toe-off. It’s a brilliant shoe and it makes speed sessions fun.
The downside with the Tempo Next% is the stack height - it’s a whopping 46mm, which doesn’t feel unstable on the run, thanks to the knitted upper, but it does technically make it too high to wear at competitions. Current World Athletics regulations state that a shoe must have a stack height of 40mm or less, but unless you’re a super-speedy runner, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Unlike other shoes with high stack heights and rocker geometry carbon fiber plates, the Tempo Next% feels incredibly stable, even around corners. This is largely due to the Flyknit upper, which really cradles the foot, as well as the asymmetrical lacing, which helps keep the foot in place.
To conclude, If you don’t want to fork out for the Vaporfly Next% or the Alphafly Next% and aren’t likely to be on the podium, these are the next best thing.
Read our full Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% review.
Most innovative Nike running shoe
When Eliud Kipchoge became the first man in the world to run a sub-2 hour marathon, the world’s attention soon turned to his feet - what were those huge shoes, did they really have two carbon fiber plates and should they be banned? A few months later Nike launched the Alphafly Next% to the public, calling Kipchoge’s record the “ultimate test run”. A couple of years after that, the Nike Alphafly Next% Flyknit 2 hit the market, with tweaks to make it more comfortable, and more supportive for the everyday runner, not just the elite. Check out our Nike Alphafly Next% vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 face-off here.
While these definitely aren’t for everyone, we’d be remiss to not mention one of Nike’s most exciting innovations in a roundup of their best running shoes. This shoe makes you feel like you’re flying and it’s super-responsive on the sidewalks.
Like its predecessor, the Alphafly Next% 2 isn’t designed for easy, or slower running. It’s almost clunky at a slower speed, as the carbon fiber plate naturally rocks you forward as you run, making it a challenge to run slow. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — you don’t buy this shoe for jogging around the park. In fact, it's definitely not recommended you do so — the carbon in the plate doesn't last all that long, plus you shouldn't be doing all of your running in carbon shoes, as this can cause injuries.
If you can afford it, this is a wonderfully exciting, race day shoe, that'll almost definitely get you to the finish line with a PR. That said, a lot of runners prefer the lower stack height of the Vaporfly — check out my Nike Alphafly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 face-off here if you're undecided.
Read our full Nike Alphafly Next% 2 review here.
How to choose the best Nike running shoes for you
When it comes to choosing the best Nike running shoes, you'll need to think about how you run, how far you're going and the type of surface you prefer to do your miles on. There's no one-size-fits-all with running shoes, but certain shoes will be better designed for the type of run you have in mind.
For example, if you're looking to go fast on race day, you'll probably want to look at Nike's shoes with carbon fibre plates and ZoomX foam, designed to give you more efficient energy return as your foot hits the ground. If you're into trail running, a road shoe isn't likely to have enough grip, so you'll want a running shoe with deep lugs to ensure you don't slip as you clamber over rocky or muddy terrains.
Finally, getting the shoe that best suits your running gait is important. Nowadays, running brands are moving away from 'neutral' and 'support' shoes, but some shoes will offer more structure if you do overpronate when you run. The easiest way to test this is to head to a running shop and have your gait analyzed, but if that's not an option perhaps get a friend to video you, or look at the tread of your old shoes to see which part has worn away fastest.
How we test the best Nike running shoes
We run in them! Our team of dedicated experts head out in all conditions and put each shoe through it's paces, literally. From sprint sessions on the track to gentle miles on the treadmill, we do our homework so you don't have to.
What is Nike's fastest running shoe?
The Alphalfy Next% is seen as Nike's fastest running shoe, as it was worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he ran his 1:59 marathon on October 12, 2019, at a special time trial in Vienna.