To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
You might have heard from a friend, trainer, or a random person in the gym that Nike sneakers "aren't good for running," because they're not supportive enough for running long distances, or aren't constructed well for doing speed work. This is a common critique of the brand, and it's kind of ironic given Nike's rich track and field legacy and clout amongst professional runners.
This is something that even Chris Nuelle, a Nike EKIN expert, has heard before — and he says it makes his head hurt. "I think there was a time in history where maybe our innovation wasn't in line with where our runners were headed," he says at a launch event this week. "We're starting to get to the tail end of people who were affected by that." In the last year, Nike has developed a few running-specific innovations that may change people's perceptions, like the Nike Epic React. And most recently, they launched Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo, which is Nike's most advanced running shoe to date.
What's so special about these running sneakers compared to past models? Zoom X foam, which Nuelle affectionally calls "the unicorn foam," is the lightest, most responsive foam they've ever used in a shoe. (A shoe's "responsiveness" typically refers to its firmness, or how quickly it can respond to force.) That's a big deal, because with foam there's usually a tradeoff between weight and responsiveness: when a foam is light, it loses responsiveness; if it's responsive, it's usually heavier. "This foam does the opposite of that," Nuelle says.
The Zoom X foam was originally just used in elite racing shoes worn and beloved by some of the best runners in the world (Eliud Kipchoge famously attempted to break the two-hour marathon record in kicks made with Zoom X foam), because the material allows athletes to run quickly and efficiently. The Zoom Pegasus Turbo marks the first time Nike has used the Zoom X foam in a training running shoe for us normals, so it's pretty exciting.
I've been running in the Zoom Pegasus Turbos for a week now, and have been into them. I don't always stan Nike shoes for running, so one of my biggest questions was whether or not these would be as durable and cushioned as the shoes I usually run in. I'm not one to obsess over mile times when I go for a run, so speed isn't usually a factor when I'm choosing a shoe. These definitely feel "snappy" and are as responsive as the Adidas UltraBOOST, which I used to wear a lot. (In my less-than-scientific analysis, I did run slightly faster in these than the regular Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Turbo — but who knows why!) So, I could definitely see them being good for speed workouts or race day.
Compared to the Nike Epic React, these feel more supportive and cushioned, even though they technically have the same "offset," which is the amount of foam between the forefoot and heel, Nuelle says. In my experience, the Nike Epic React fell a little flat over time, perhaps because the sole is made of one piece of foam. The Zoom Pegasus Turbo, on the other hand, has better traction underneath the foot, which might make you feel like you have more support.
This is an exceptionally comfortable technical shoe for people at all levels, but time will tell if tapping technology from the pros will be enough to change Nike's reputation amongst runners. According to Shelley E. Kohan, assistant professor of fashion business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, collaborating with sports professionals and building products with the latest technologies will help to build their authority in the sports world. Equally important to driving their growth, though, is "listening to the customer base and adapting product to fit the needs of the market (both pro and non-pro)," she says. Who knows? Maybe those comments and criticism will pay off after all.
So, should you buy these sneakers?
If you're training for a race or specifically trying to run faster, these are a solid choice. The Zoom Pegasus Turbo retail for $180, and chances are these are going to sell out fast (Nike+ members can buy them today, and they go to retail on August 2nd). While that might be outside your budget, hopefully Nike will release other models of sneakers with the same technology soon.
*Nike provided Refinery29 with the product for testing purposes.
*A previous version of this story stated that Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon record in shoes with Zoom X foam. Kipchoge did not break the record during this attempt, but he did run the fastest marathon in history, clocking in a 2:00:25. This story has been updated for clarity.