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11 Best Nike Overall Running Shoes for 2018

Remember the simple days of the 1990s with Air versus Gel versus Foam? Or even the simple days of 2017, when Adidas had Boost, Saucony had Everun, Asics had FlyteFoam, and Mizuno had its mechanical Wave Plate? With Nike today, you get a whole industry’s worth of technological gladiatorial combat in just one company. In the battle to create the best Nike running shoes, the company’s engineers are building soles based on Cushlon, Phylon, Lunarlon, React, and ZoomX foams, not to mention carbon or nylon/carbon plates, while runners try to determine if the most comfortable upper is Flyknit or Flymesh (also known as Engineered Mesh), with or without Flywire. It’s not always obvious what type of Nike shoes are best for running, as beloved models like the Flyknit Racer are retired and replaced by namesake models (like the “Air Zoom Mariah Flyknit Racer”) that aren’t running shoes at all, but rather lifestyle sneakers designed for fashion and comfort.

Confused? Nike isn’t. They’ve got us runners right where they want us, desperately trying to find a pair of the hottest running shoes to appear on the market in decades. If you need some help separating running-shoe reality from the marketing hype, keep reading for a list of the top Nike running shoes as determined by a survey of over 11,000 runners.

Number 11

Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018

Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018

In the annals of the best Nike running shoes, 2018 may be a confusing year, but some traditions continue. Nike’s Free line of running shoes is still exceptionally lightweight, flexible, and close to the ground. The goal isn’t to be almost like running barefoot. Instead, the Free RN Flyknit is meant to let you exercise your feet in ways you can’t when they’re encased in a rigid shoe. Another continuing tradition is Nike’s trumpeting its newest technology in its model names. There’s no confusion about what kind of upper the Free RN Flyknit uses. As for which Nike shoes are best for running, for most people the Free works best as a periodic change of pace for your feet rather than a daily trainer.

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Number 10

Nike Air Zoom Elite 9

Nike Air Zoom Elite 9

Uptempo trainers like the Zoom Elite 9 are popular for their versatility. Their light weight makes them just right for road workouts or faster-paced running, while some runners even find them the best Nike running shoe for everyday use. Plus they’re light and responsive enough for racing. Runners especially praise the combination of Flymesh and Flywire guidance filaments in the upper for its snug fit and “lockdown”—the feeling of absolutely precise control over where your foot lands. If you’ve ever jogged over the course of your goal race a half-dozen times so you can memorize every bump in the road, lockdown is the difference between your foot landing on a pothole, and your toes landing on the front edge of the pothole so that you can push off against it. (Of course I’m not that obsessive about race courses. My friend is. I’m just telling you what he says. And he cares a lot about lockdown.)

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Number 9

Nike Air Zoom Vomero 13

Nike Air Zoom Vomero 13

If your idea of the best Nike shoes for running tends more toward soft padding and luxurious comfort, then the best option in a daily trainer might be the Vomero 13. A neutral daily trainer like the legendary Pegasus, the Vomero upgrades the sole with Lunarlon foam and dual Air bags under the forefoot and heel in combination with a Flymesh/Flywire upper.

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Number 8

Nike Free RN 2018

Nike Free RN 2018

If you’re wondering what are the best Nike running shoes for letting your feet expand and your toes flex, you’ve probably got your eye on the Nike Free line. If you’re intrigued by the light and flexible Nike Free Flyknit, but you’re wondering if a slightly different mesh upper is worth the extra price, you may want to note how many premium Nike models advertising luxurious comfort manage to do without Flyknit. The Nike Free RN 2018 may just have all the flexibility and natural ground feel you need for a more reasonable price.

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Number 7

Nike Zoom Fly

Nike Zoom Fly

For marathons, to determine the best Nike running shoes for men, review the most important features. The shoes should be comfortable and fit snugly with a breathable upper. The soles should be responsive and springy, with enough cushion to get you to the finish line. So before you start scanning down the rest of the list for “Vaporfly,” take a moment to look at the Zoom Fly. The sole uses dual density Lunarlon for responsive cushioning as well as a nylon/carbon propulsion plate similar to the Vaprofly’s. In addition, the Zoom Fly can actually be found in running stores and costs only (“only”) $150, which sounds pretty close to the best Nikes for running marathons.

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Number 6

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34

The Pegasus 34s are hands down the best Nike running trainers. The classic neutral trainer from Nike is a shoe that almost everybody has run in at some point. If you need running shoes for a ninth grader starting cross country workouts and races, the Pegasus 34 is a great choice. If you’re new to running and want one shoe for your daily running, faster efforts, and races from 5K to marathon, you can wear Pegasus 34s at any pace. The upper has been updated to Flymesh, but the Pegasus continues to be a phenomenally reliable shoe.

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Number 5

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

For marathoners looking for the best Nike running shoes, reviews of the Vaporfly 4% have ranged somewhere between gushing enthusiasm and religious ecstasy. If all you need is the best Nike jogging shoes, you’re in the wrong place: with its springy ZoomX sole incorporating a carbon plate for enhanced energy return, the Vaporfly 4% is the pinnacle of marathon shoe technology. Of course it’s not only technologically on top. The marketing hype has been over the top. And the on-again, off-again availability looks like it’s orchestrated from the top. Which all adds up to top sales for Nike’s top-priced shoe. Jaded, cynical runners who think they’re immune to hype are lining up for the chance to own a pair.

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Number 4

Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2

Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2

If there’s a LunarEpic Low, does that mean there’s a LunarEpic High? Actually it does: the LunarEpic Flyknit Shield is a lightweight weather-resistant racing shoe with a high-top collar for keeping water off your ankles and out of your shoes. (Why would anyone need a racing shoe for bad weather? Just ask the 26,948 runners who slogged through the Boston Marathon in 2018.) The LunarEpic Low does without the collar and other water-resistant features but retains the soft cushioning and smooth ride in an uptempo trainer that’s both flexible and moderately stable. And if you’re looking for the best Nike running shoes for women, reviews on the women’s side rate the LunarEpic Low even higher.

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Number 3

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4

The Kiger 4 is not named for the unholy offspring of Roo and Tigger, but rather for Kiger Creek in southeast Oregon and the local variety of wild mustangs that roam the Kiger Gorge and vicinity. If galloping through the wilderness sounds like your happy place, the Kiger might just be the best running shoes Nike can provide. Compared to other trail shoes, the Kiger is flexible and responsive with a low heel-toe drop, which might be just what you need for racing on trails.

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Number 2

Nike Air Zoom Structure 21

Nike Air Zoom Structure 21

While the Pegasus provides good stability for a neutral trainer, runners who need even more stability or are used to support shoes may find a better fit in the Structure 21. While the structure is going on its third decade as Nike’s go-to support trainer, the current model offers the same dual-density Phylon/Cushlon sole with a forefoot Air bag for cushioning, and mesh plus Flywire upper, as Nike’s newest models. The cushioning and superb stability of the Structure make it a good candidate for the best Nike running shoes for flat feet. The Structure also rises to the top of the list of best Nike running shoes for women.

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Number 1

Nike Epic React Flyknit

Nike Epic React Flyknit

We runners know what we want, and it drives shoe engineers to despair. We want our shoes to be ultralight, and durable enough for a year’s worth of marathon training. We want pillowy softness to cushion every step, and a responsive ride when we’re ready to run fast. Nike’s React foam may sound like the latest attempt at achieving perpetual motion, but in the search for the best Nike running shoes, reviews have been glowing. At just 7.8 ounces in a men’s size 9, the Epic React Flyknit is lighter than the Zoom Fly racing shoe, while it provides enough cushion for daily running. A premium sole matched to a premium Flyknit upper equals a premium price, but runners who have tried it have sent it to the top of the list of best Nike running shoes for men.

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