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8 best Nike running shoes for every pace and distance

Whether you’re after stability, cushioning or a pair for racing, we’ve found the perfect style for you

Alice Barraclough
Wednesday 13 April 2022 16:39 BST
<p>We tried these trainers on runs between five and 18km</p>

We tried these trainers on runs between five and 18km

When it comes to running, nothing is more important than finding the right shoe that fits comfortably and will help you to avoid any unwanted niggles or injuries while working on your running goals.

Nike remains the biggest fitness brand in the world, with products and athletes across every sport you can think of, but running has always been right at its heart – after all, Nike was founded back in 1964 by University of Oregon track athlete Phil Knight and Olympic running coach Bill Bowerman.

The pair experimented with new running shoe designs, and that desire to create and innovate trainers that help runners to go faster and further has been at the heart of Nike ever since.

Yet with such a vast array of shoes for every kind of runner, it can be a bit of a minefield to figure out which trainer is best for you. Do you want an everyday running shoe or something for race day? For road running or hitting the trails? Soft and supportive or springy and neutral?

We put some of Nike’s most popular running-specific trainers to the test, looking at cushioning, stability, durability and speed. So whether you’ve just decided to start Couch to 5k or you’re lacing up in preparation for your sixth marathon, we’ll help you choose the right pair (or maybe even “pairs”) of running shoes to suit your mileage, preferred fit and run surface.

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How we tested

For our most recent round of testing, conducted in spring 2022, we took a fresh look at the newest models Nike has to offer. We tried the following trainers on runs between five and 18km, on pavements and trails, slow recovery runs and speedy tempo sessions. We looked at each of the shoe’s cushioning and ability to absorb impact, their fit, level of support, responsiveness, weight and style.

The best Nike trainers for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Nike air zoom pegasus 38: ​​£109.95,
  • Best for the trails – Nike air zoom terra kiger 8: £124.95,
  • Best for marathon race day – Nike air zoom alphafly next%: £269.95,
  • Best for chasing PBs – Nike zoomx vaporfly next% 2: £224.95,
  • Best for long runs – Nike air zoom vomero 16: £134.95,
  • Best cushioned shoe – Nike zoomx invincible run flyknit: £164.95,
  • Best for injury-prone runners – Nike react infinity run flyknit 2: £144.95,
  • Best for stability – Nike air zoom structure 24: £109.95,

Nike air zoom pegasus 38

Best: Overall

Introduced in 1983 as “the shoe for every runner”, the Nike pegasus has earned a stellar reputation in the running community as a trusted, dependable training shoe. The pegasus 38 includes a couple of very subtle upgrades to the previous model – including slightly more wiggle room in the toe box and a new individual midfoot webbing system (for a secure and snug fit when you tighten the laces). But with the same springy Nike react foam as the pegasus 37, you still get that cushioned responsiveness as its predecessor – so it’s perfect for hitting the tarmac.

From easy to tempo runs and speed sessions to races, the pegasus 38 is designed to handle everything – after all, it is pegged as “your workhorse with wings”. Plus, at £109.95, it’s also way more affordable shoe than the competition. If you’ve only just taken up running and are looking for a pair of decent shoes or you’re someone looking for more of an all-rounder training option to complement a lighter race shoe, then we think the pegasus 38 is a great value, trusty, daily shoe for everyone and anyone.

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Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 8

Best: For the trails

For those who prefer running down country lanes, woodland paths and muddy trails, the Nike air zoom terra kiger 8 is a great option for more challenging terrain, with the wide, relatively shallow, multidirectional lugs providing lots of grip. Although, if your run is going to be exclusively on boggy ground it’s perhaps wise to look at something with longer studs on the bottom.

The terra kiger is Nike’s top-of-the-line trail shoe, and we found it both fast and lightweight – delivering a breathable and secure feel as you race over rocky paths. The midsole is made from Nike react foam from heel to toe – which offers durability and responsiveness, while a zoom air unit in the forefoot helps return your energy to help guide you down the trail. In terms of a trail-specific shoe, it’s arguably one of the better-looking options on the market – we particularly like the light marine, baby pink, neon green and white colourway.

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Nike air zoom alphafly next%

Best: For marathon race day

Ask any runner what barrier-breaking shoes Kipchoge was wearing during his sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna, and most will know it was a prototype of the alphafly next%. This shoe, with its full-length carbon-fibre plate and large stack height, has become one of the most popular (and expensive) race-day shoes that runners can buy.

When we pulled these out of the box, we were instantly surprised both by how light they are and how monstrous they look. With thick Nike zoomx foam technology at the back and two visible zoom air pods at the forefoot to deliver “the most energy return of all [Nike’s] racing shoes”, there’s no denying how chunky they are.

When we slipped them on, we gained a couple of inches in height due to their platform-sized cushioning. And they certainly have a unique feel to them – the upper is made of atomknit, which feels quite coarse and less stretchy than flyknit material (it’s essentially like wearing a very stiff pair of socks). The midfoot and arch area also felt very snug – and we worried that the tightness could result in some nasty blisters on the inner side of our feet. But, to run in, there’s no bounce quite like it.

The £270 price tag will feel extravagant for most runners – but if you’re serious about crushing personal bests and winning events, then Nike’s alphafly next% is a fun luxury you can look forward to wearing on race day.

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Nike zoomx vaporfly next% 2

Best: For chasing PBs

Nike’s vaporflys are arguably the most talked-about trainers in the world – and, honestly, they live up to the hype. Using data taken from the running app Strava, The New York Times reported that, yes, it was exactly like Nike claimed: runners wearing vaporfly’s ran three to four per cent faster than similar-pace runners wearing other shoes.

For anyone unfamiliar with Nike’s carbon plate shoes, the difference between the Alphafly next% (£269.95, and the vaporfly next% can be a little hazy. Both offer similar features – including Nike zoomx foam and the carbon plate – but they are somewhat different. Put simply: the alphafly is more cushioned, so better suited for longer distances like a marathon or ultramarathon, while the vaporfly is better suited to shorter races because it’s lighter and super-bouncy.

These speedy race-day shoes have changed running forever. And you too can get your hands on a pair for just over £200. Whether you’re lacing up to finish your first ever half marathon or aiming for a 5k personal best, these right race-day shoes can help you showcase all that hard training. Just remember, it’s important to break your race-day shoes in (not just around the house) to make sure you feel confident in them – but we do not recommend these for regular training runs or casual use.

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Nike air zoom vomero 16

Best: For long runs

Another customer favourite, the Nike air zoom vomero 16 has been updated with Nike’s responsive zoomX foam cushioning and a “zoom air” unit in the forefoot, so it feels (and looks) quite different to previous iterations – especially the vomero 14.

With a low-profile design that lets you sit a little closer to the ground, we found ourselves continually reaching for these when the words “easy long-run” popped up on our training plan. There’s plenty of stretch and ventilation through the upper on these – so they’re great for when the weather gets a little warmer, while the “flywire” cables help to prevent any in-shoe slippage. The flywire cables also lie nice and flat which helps to reduce the risk of any chafing or skin irritation on those longer runs. These shoes are way more durable than its predecessors too, with rubber covering the heel to help prevent any heel-strike trauma – we think it’s an ideal pairing for distance runners.

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Nike zoomx invincible run flyknit

Best: Cushioned shoe

You can tell this shoe is made for serious miles due to the thick, marshmallow-like, foamy cushioning (it’s even squishy to touch) and full-length waffle outsole for added traction. Super soft and surprisingly lightweight, we found this trainer to be very responsive and bouncy.

And there’s a reason why. The energy-return technology aims to absorb impact and then push it back out for a bounce-like effect, reducing any unnecessary use of muscle power, diminishing fatigue and enhancing performance. This shoe is designed to help reduce injury and make running feel easy.

You’ll also notice that the shape of the invincible run flyknit is slightly different to the other shoes on this list – with a square heel, it’s made to provide more support through your gait.

We really enjoyed running in the invincible – it’s a soft, bouncy shoe that’s great for easy miles (mainly thanks to that midsole). The only thing we’d change? Just a tad more room in the toes – but that can arguably be solved by going up half a size. Oh, and the price: for nearly £160 we’d be tempted to steer towards slightly cheaper options for more of an all-rounder.

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Nike react infinity run flyknit 2

Best: For injury-prone runners

Designed to help reduce injury and keep you on the run, Nike’s react infinity run flyknit 2 combines a refreshed, breathable upper with added “flywire” technology for support and stability. The aim of the game here is comfort. We found the extra cushioning on this shoe helped to absorb any unwanted impact (especially the padding around the heel), which made even the hardest of runs feel a little easier on our legs, mile after mile. We’d recommend this shoe for any extra support and protection on easy training runs – not for speed sessions.

What felt noticeably different about these trainers was the wider shape and higher stack height, which is great for any runners who tend to overpronate or need a little extra support. We also like the little loop of material at the heel for an easy on and off.

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Nike air zoom structure 24

Best: For stability

Now on its 24th iteration, Nike’s air zoom structure is an excellent supportive road running shoe. In this latest edition, Nike has worked on making the heel-to-toe transition smoother by improving the heel crash pad. While the new engineered upper features more breathable panels in the areas of highest perspiration.

This shoe didn’t feel as fast as some of the others on this list, but if you’re looking for a pair of secure and trusted running trainers that can also double up as an everyday pair of kicks for brunch dates or the weekly food shop, or if you need a shoe to combat overpronation, then the zoom structure is a great pick. Our feet felt pretty snug in these – the combination of the plush tongue with the woven heel kept our foot in place, anchoring the foot and reducing any in-shoe slippage. We found the amount of stability wasn’t overbearing and we also liked the honeycomb pattern on the outsole.

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The verdict: Nike running shoes

If you’re new to running or looking for one decent pair of versatile running trainers on a budget, then you can’t go far wrong with a pair of Nike pegasus. The very latest generation – the pegasus 38 – only has a few subtle updates in comparison to its predecessors. Expect responsive foam and a wider fit at the toes for even more comfort.

For those looking to smash goals and records in various upcoming races this season, we recommend investing in a pair of light and bouncy Nike vaporfly next% 2. The propulsive sensation of the full-length carbon-fibre plate is hard to ignore – and will most certainly help push you towards your personal best.

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