Nike’s Best Lightweight Running Shoes for Speed and Performance
Whether you’re looking for a pair of shoes to wear on race day or just prefer to run unencumbered, here's the rundown on Nike's lightweight running shoes.
New technology and innovation have enabled Nike to make lightweight running shoes that still have plenty of shock absorption, but runners who need more support and cushioning may want to avoid lightweight running shoes. Here’s what you need to know, along with our top picks for lightweight running shoes — whether you're a long-distance runner or someone who prefers shorter runs.
Should I Buy Lightweight Running Shoes?
If you’re accustomed to wearing running shoes with stabilizing support, you should be careful as you transition to a lightweight running shoe, and opt for a maximalist shoe that still has plenty of cushioning. Otherwise, the change in your foot strike could put stress on weaker muscles you don’t typically use. It’s also recommended that you consider the following factors if you’re going to try out lightweight running shoes:
- Weight: A study from the University of South Australia found that runners who weighed more than 85 kilograms (about 190 pounds) were more than three times more likely to get a running-related injury when wearing lightweight running shoes as opposed to traditional running shoes.
- Overpronation: Many runners do well with a neutral shoe, but if you have flat feet, you might overpronate — in other words, your feet roll inward when you run — so much that it causes knee pain or shin splints. If that’s the case, you’ll want to opt for a stability shoe with a firm midsole.
- Plantar Fasciitis: If you’re experiencing pain along the bottom of your foot when you run, lightweight running shoes may do you a disservice. A stability shoe with extra cushioning will likely be your best bet for reducing the pain.
What to Look for in a Lightweight Running Shoe
There’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing the right pair of running shoes for you, and the selection of styles can often feel overwhelming. When narrowing down your options, focus on the following:
- Fit: Look for running shoes that fit snugly at the heel without rubbing and still have plenty of space in the toe box. See the Nike foot size guide for more tips.
- Function: Consider how you’ll be using the shoe. If you plan to go trail running, you’ll need a lightweight running shoe that is still durable and provides traction.
- Feel: Some lightweight running shoes allow you to feel the ground, while others are designed to absorb shock with every step. Ask yourself, "Are they comfortable and breathable?," whichever Nike shoes you choose.
Nike’s Most Lightweight Running Shoes
1.Best for a Barefoot Feel
If you’re the type to run barefoot on the beach and enjoy the feeling of the ground underneath your feet, consider the Nike Free Run series. These shoes include some of Nike’s lightest running footwear options with a selection of flexible upper styles. Choose a FlyKnit upper for a breathable, supportive, sock-like feel. The outsole of these lightweight shoes is designed to adapt to the movement of your foot, providing flexible cushioning.
As an added bonus, wearing a minimalist running shoe like the Nike Free RN has been shown to improve foot strength, according to a 2019 study. Just be careful when switching from a maximalist shoe, since you’ll be working different muscles as you run.
2.Best for Shock Absorption
For athletes who want to inject an energetic spring in their step, the Nike Pegasus collection delivers lightweight, responsive React foam and a Nike Zoom Air unit for added bounce. While these are heavier than the Nike Free RN series, they’re great for absorbing impact. And though Nike Pegasus shoes are neutral with regards to stabilizing features, the midfoot webbing allows you to tighten the lacing for extra support. Trail styles are also available for trail running, though the durable materials used for trail shoes add some weight to the shoe.
3.Best for Speed
If you’re ready to shed a few ounces on race day, the Nike Vaporfly series includes Nike’s most lightweight running shoes. Fitted with Nike ZoomX foam for the best in energy return and a full-length carbon fiber plate for a responsive feel, they’re designed for multi-surface traction and have enough support and cushioning to get you through a marathon. While lightweight enough to use as a racing shoe, the Nike Vaporfly series is also durable enough to work as an everyday road running shoe, so you can fly through your training sessions without the extra weight. The cushioned running shoes are even customizable to pair with your favorite running outfits for race day.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Advantages of Lightweight Running Shoes?
Running in lightweight running shoes requires less energy expenditure, so you can go faster without increasing your heart rate. It also encourages a forefoot or midfoot strike, which puts less stress on your knees and hips. But running long distances may require more cushioning, and some people with foot issues may require stabilizing support not typically found in lightweight running shoes.
What Are the Best Lightweight Running Shoes with Support?
Nike Vaporfly shoes are Nike’s most lightweight running shoes and still offer the secure feel of forefoot reinforcement. However, if you require a higher degree of motion control in your running shoes, you may be more comfortable with the stabilizing features in Nike Structure shoes or Nike Miler shoes. While these are heavier than our top picks for Nike’s most lightweight running shoes, they may prevent pain in people who overpronate or have plantar fasciitis.