The best Nike running shoes for every type of runner

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The best Nike running shoes for every type of runn

Now that Nike is a global powerhouse, involved in virtually every sport, it's easy to forget that they started out as a running shoe company. When Phil Knight decided to start importing Japanese Onitsuka shoes (a company that later become known as Asics) in the early 1960s, he did so with a loan from his dad and out of the back of his car.

In 1964, he partnered with his former coach at the University of Oregon, Bill Bowerman, and Blue Ribbon Sports, the precursor to Nike, was born. When the relationship with the Japanese company became tricker, they started to develop their very own running shoe designs. Bowerman had long been tinkering with the designs of his athlete's shoes in an attempt to get the edge on their rivals. The first official Bowerman-engineered design was the 1967 Cortez, which featured a full-length foam midsole – displaying the kind of innovation that has become the brand’s hallmark ever since.

In 1970, Bowerman – while trying to devise a way of improving traction on newly designed track surfaces – caught side of the family waffle iron. Taking it off to the garage to experiment, he ruined the waffle iron but eventually created the waffle sole, still in use today. Then, in 1978, followed the Air sole – an air-filled pod in the midsole designed to absorb impact. Since then Nike has launched a host of innovations, changing the face of running. None more so that the Vaporfly 4% in 2017, the first racer to feature a full-length carbon fibre plate in the midsole to increase energy return.

Throughout its history, the Swoosh has shown an ongoing commitment to creating shoes that help runners go faster, farther and more comfortably, and today Nike produce some of the best running shoes you can buy.

Best Nike running shoes 2023

Here are our picks of the best Nike running shoes, listed by type of run or runner. All of the shoes have been tested, with feedback from Runner’s World staff and our team of wear testers. Our choices include the brand’s latest innovations and flagship models, shoes for trail runners, beginners and overpronators. More information on the standout features of each of them can also be found below.

Best for marathons

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Flyknit 2

Weight: 238g (M), 173g (W)
Drop: 8mm
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When Eliud Kipchoge ran the first sub-two-hour marathon in history in October 2019 he wore a prototype of these shoes. And there surely can't be a better recommendation for a shoe that that. When you run, the shoe propels you forward – the faster you run, the more you feel it. Even if you can't run at Kipchoge pace – and who can? – the energy saving will maximise your PB chances over any distance, but particularly the longer races.

For the latest iteration, a thin layer of ZoomX foam has been added under the forefoot air pods, while cushioned heel pods have been added to the rear. The outsole material is also thinner but more durable. These changes makes the shoe more compliant when the forefoot hits the ground and improves energy return. The back half of the chassis has been reworked, too, improving stability. Such changes make the original world-beater, even better.

Best for everyday training

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

Weight: 283g (men's), 232g (women's)
Drop: 10mm

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There's a reason that the Pegasus is in its 39th iteration - the 'workhorse with wings' really does deliver. In the latest version, the midsole features double Zoom Air units, one more than the 38. Compared to the previous mode, the toebox is roomier, and there is a deeper heel cup for a more secure fit around the heel. There's also some more padding on the tongue and a new plush-feeling mesh. The Pegasus 39 offers a solid, stable and comfortably cushioned ride, and it's a shoe that can take a lot of mileage and a lot of pounding on the tarmac. While it may not feel nimble enough to be a speed-day shoe of choice, its durability and comfort make it a supremely reliable everyday training option.

Best for road racing

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2

Weight: 196g (m), 142g (w)
Drop: 8mm
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When you start updating one of the world's fastest shoes, there's not much you need to change. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! In fact, the changes the latest version of the Vaporfly Next% are in the upper, to add more comfort. The midsole is still the focus point, where all the magic happens - the combination of the superlight and springy ZoomX foam with the carbon-fibre plate creating that plush, cushioned ride but with the spring of rebound with each footstrike. The previous Vaporweave upper, a nylon-like material that didn’t stretch, has been replaced with an engineered mesh for a more accommodating fit. It's snug without being constrictive, and there’s also now a spot of extra padding at the top of the tongue to help relieve pressure from the laces. All-in, it delivers a turbo-charged ride when you push it hard over short distances, and if you’re racing longer you’ll really appreciate the greater comfort of this version over its predecessor.

Best for long runs

Nike Invincible 3

Weight: 310g (m), 258g (w)
Drop: 9mm
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You can read our full review of Nike Invincible 3, but in summary, it's a shoe that offers cushioning and comfort in abundance and for anyone looking for a daily shoe that is all about cruising about rather than crushing PBs, then these are the Nike shoe for you. The comfort comes from the large chunk of ZoomX foam couple with an oversized footprint, making them the perfect cushioned companion for long training runs.

Most stable

Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2

Weight: 302g (m), 244g (w)
Drop: 9mm (m), 8.5mm (w)
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It might not be categorised as a traditional stability shoe - but the Infinity Run 2 nevertheless is almost one by stealth. There is no traditional (though increasingly obsolete) stability medial post in this shoe - instead, there is a clip running around the outside of the heel to keep you stable, and under the forefoot, the midsole is wider. These features unite to offer stability and support, without being intrusive, heavy or clunky as can be the case with some stability shoes. As with the Pegasus above, the midsole is made of Nike’s React foam. While that's not quite as light as ZoomX, it is nevertheless very durable and responsive, and there’s also a rocker geometry in the shoe for a smoother transition during footstrike. Overall, this creates that rare thing – an everyday running shoe that both offers an unobtrusive ride to neutral runners, but also enough support for mild overpronators when they need it.

Best for speedwork / tempo runs

Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% Flyknit

Weight: 279g (m), 225g (w)
Drop: 10mm
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The Air Zoom Tempo Next% is designed as a kind of everyday version of the Alphafly Next%. It actually has two different types of midsole foam – in the rear, you'll find React (firmer and more durable) and up front, the ZoomX (softer and more responsive). There's also more rubber on the outsole for better durability. Inside the midsole there’s a full-length composite carbon plate and under the balls of the feet, you have Air pods for superb energy return. While some carbon plated shoes can give a feeling of instability with the rebound, with the Tempo Next%, the more forgiving nature of the composite plate and the wider forefoot makes them stable, as well as peppy. As well as being perfect for faster training runs, they’ll also do a sterling job on race day.

Best for 5K and 10K races

Nike ZoomX Streakfly

Weight: 185g (m), 155g (w)
Drop: 6mm

Designed for 5K and 10K efforts on the roads, the Streakfly is a lightweight racer built for speed. It's almost an old school racing flat, but with a 2022 update. The minimal heel collar and thin upper shaves weight, while offset lacing eases pressure on the foot. Our testers enjoyed the ‘barely there’ feel, but also felt there was enough support to mean no stability issues, even when cornering at pace. The midsole is made from the same light and responsive ZoomX foam as the Vaporfly, although with a much lower stack height, and instead of a full-length carbon plate, the Streakfly has a Pebax plate (similar to that on modern track spikes) under the midfoot. The result is a super-light, low-profile, springy ride to appeal to the traditional racing flat lover, but with more protection from the cushioning on the midsole. For lighter runners, they could also work as a half marathon racer.

Best for trails

Nike Pegasus Trail 3 GORE-TEX

Weight: 309g (m), 263g (w)
Drop: 9.5mm
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As you'd expect from the name, this ‘hybrid’ road-to-trail shoe fits and feels akin to the Pegasus 38 road shoe, but with waterproofing to keep your feet dry in wet and muddy conditions. Like the Pegasus road shoe, the trail version has a React foam midsole and a widened toebox compared to the previous model, but the Trail 3 doesn’t have a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot. After all, while that means not as much energy return on the road, it’s not really needed on the softer ground of most trails. The React foam performs just as well offroad as it does on, while 4mm lugs on the outsole roll smoothly and grip well. There’s a toe bumper to protect the front of the foot from impact while a gusseted tongue (attached to the insides of the upper) keeps out debris. For technical or steeper climbs or more extreme terrain, you might want something a bit more aggressive but this is a great choice for Peg fans who want to venture off road.

Best for budget / new runners

Nike Winflo 8

Weight: 295g (m), 238g (w)
Drop: 10mm (m), 9mm (w)
Shop now - Men's Shop now - Women's

Now we are at a point where it's increasingly difficult to find a pair of good running shoes under £100, 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. Sure, you won’t get the lighter foams or carbon plates of some of the brand’s racier, more pricy options, but the Cushlon foam is still pretty soft and smooth riding, and the Zoom Air units in the midsole offer a plenty of responsiveness. The Winflo is nicely cushioned around the heel and ankle, it's upper mesh is breathable, and the Flywire cables under the lacing provide a secure and snug fit.

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