It's no surprise that Nike makes some of the best running shoes on the market. The company was founded by a track-and-field coach. Almost 80 years later, it's still the brand you'll see runners wearing most.
With that said, you're not going to see the exact same pair of Nikes on every runner's feet. No single design works for every foot shape, running style or terrain. The deep traction that keeps you stable on a muddy mountain trail will slow you down on a road or home treadmill, for example.
Best shoe for daily training or recovery runs: Nike Pegasus 40
The Pegasus line has been a staple among runners for decades—40 years to be exact, as this Nike Pegasus 40 marks the 40th anniversary since the first Pegasus came out in 1983. From the beginning, it's been built as a balanced, daily running shoe that delivers comfort and support but still adds a little extra bounce to your step.
The Pegasus 40 does that with a layer of Nike's signature React foam in the midsole. React foam is soft enough to cushion your foot when it lands but durable enough to spring back into shape when you lift off again. That spring back into shape helps provide a little extra lift in your stride. You also get two Air Zoom units, one in the heel and one in the forefoot. These small air capsules act kind of like a bouncy ball for a little extra propulsive power with each foot strike.
Overall, it's the ideal balance of support and responsiveness that runners look for in a daily trainer or for slow to medium-tempo runs and recovery runs. The daily trainer is available in men's and women's sizes. Regularly priced at $130, you can find some colorways on sale for up to 30% off during Nike's Back to School -- or you can splurge on a custom design all your own for $160.
Key features of the Nike Pegasus 40:
- Made with Nike React foam for a smooth, responsive stride.
- The Air Zoom units in heel and forefoot provide extra bounce.
- Its midfoot strap molds to both high and low arches.
Pros: The shoe has a balanced, supportive design that works for a wide range of foot shapes and running styles. It's available in both regular and wide sizes.
Cons: The Nike Pegasus 40 is a bit too heavy and stiff for racing or speed runs. This shoe lacks the traction you'll need for off-road runs.$130 at Nike
Runner-up shoe for daily training: Nike InfinityRN 4
If you want a daily trainer with a little more speed, try the Nike InfinityRN 4 (available in men's and women's sizes). The curved outsole helps your foot glide from heel to toe and the ReactX foam delivers 13% more energy return than the Nike React foam used in the Pegasus line so you can build up some speed without wasting energy. But it's still stable and supportive enough to be your daily trainer.$160 at Nike
Best shoe for race days and up-tempo runs: Nike Streakfly
Come race day, runners need to be totally unencumbered. That means wearing a shoe that's so lightweight it almost feels like you aren't wearing any shoe at all. It should also be extra flexible so it can bend with your foot and allow you to get a good feel of the road beneath you. That's exactly what the Nike Streakfly does.
This is Nike's lightest racing shoe and it's built to help you reach your top speed. You get a full-length ZoomX midsole, which is Nike's lightest and most responsive foam. The grip pattern on the outsole is designed to provide traction on the heel and toe so you get a stable foot strike and toe-off but a smooth glide from heel to toe so you can build up speed.
The racing shoe is available in unisex sizes ranging from Men's 3.5/Women's 5 all the way up to Men's 15/Women's 16.5. The regular price is $160, but some colorways are on sale for up to 40% off during Nike's Back to School sale.
Key features of the Nike Streakfly:
- Shoe is made with a full-length ZoomX midsole for extra springiness and low-profile foam for a better connection to the road.
- Offset lacing relieves pressure on the top of the foot.
- Its grip pattern is optimized for high-tempo runs.
Pros: The Nike Streakfly has an extra wide size range. It's super lightweight, while still providing traction and cushioning where you need it.
Cons: The toe box is on the narrower side, so go half a size up if you have a wider foot.$112 at Nike
Runner-up shoe for races: Nike Vaporfly 3
If you prefer a racing shoe with a little more stability and support, try the Nike Vaporfly 3 instead (available in men's and women's sizes). The slightly stiffer, bulkier racing shoe has a wider toe box and a thicker midsole for a more stable and cushioned foot strike. But it's made from the same extra bouncy ZoomX foam as the Streakfly. A full-length carbon fiber plate also adds to the stability while acting like a springboard to propel you forward.$250 at Nike
Best for trail running: Nike Wildhorse 8
The Nike Wildhorse 8 is a dedicated trail running shoe, made for the toughest of terrains. This latest version is a complete redesign that ditches the bulky rubber heel and gaiter collar around the ankle that were added to the Wildhorse 7 to make a lighter, nimbler running shoe that still offers plenty of cushion and stability.
It's built with the same responsive React foam found in the Nike Pegasus 40s above but adds a rock plate in the forefoot for extra cushion when running on rocky or uneven trails. On the outsole, you'll find deep, tread made from high abrasion rubber to help give you a solid grip on the trail, even when you're running up or down steep inclines.
These details make it a great daily trainer for trail runners: they're supportive, comfortable, and stabilize your footstrike so you can run safely on rough terrain. The durable trail running shoes are available in both men's and women's sizes. They're regularly priced at $130 but you can get 20% off right now if you use the code SCHOOL20 at checkout.
Key features of the Nike Wildhorse 8:
- High-abrasion rubber on the outsole for maximum grip
- Rock plate in the forefoot to protect your foot from rough terrain
- A midfoot saddle to support the arch and prevent movement inside the shoe
Pros: The Nike Wildhorse 8 provides tons of grip and stability. It's lightweight and responsive for a more efficient stride, with cushioned support to keep you comfortable on longer trail runs.
Cons: The tread will wear down if you take them on roads, so they aren't a good pick for mixed-terrain runs. The design prioritizes comfort and support over speed, so it's not the best choice for trail races.$130 at Nike
Runner-up trail running shoe: Nike Pegasus Trail 4
For a trail running shoe that's a little better at handling mixed terrain, go for the Nike Pegasus Trail 4 (available in men's and women's sizes). The tread isn't as deep as the Wildhorse 8 so it won't wear down as much from road running. It's missing some of the stability and cushioning of a dedicated trail runner, though.$140 at Nike
Shop more top-rated running shoes on Nike:
- Most supportive running shoe: Nike Invincible 3, $180
- Most responsive running shoe: Nike Alphafly2, $275
- Best waterproof trail running shoe: Nike Pegasus Trail 4 with GORE-TEX, $160
What sets Nike running shoes apart from the rest?
Nike has developed some of the best running shoe technology on the market. Most of its running shoe lineup features either React or ZoomX foam. Both are Nike-exclusive foams, each catering to a slightly different purpose and runner.
React is designed for maximum cushion and responsiveness. It absorbs impact when you land and springs back up to add a little lift to your stride. ZoomX, on the other hand, is all about speed. It's a lightweight but stiffer foam that's great for gliding from heel to toe and getting even more lift than React offers.
Beyond the foam, you'll come across designs boasting Zoom Air units or carbon fiber plates. Zoom Air units are small air-filled capsules that go inside the midsole. They not help absorb impact and help propel you back up when they spring back to their original shape.
Carbon fiber plates, meanwhile, are usually found in combination with ZoomX foam. The stiff plate adds some stability without adding extra weight. It also acts like a springboard, launching you forward with every stride.