Generation after generation, the Nike Zoom Elite series has offered runners a versatile performance training option with a fair amount of cushioning. The shoe has lived within the Nike family as a slightly lighter and faster version of the Pegasus, but a closer inspection of specs and technology reveal the two shoes are not that much different. While past Elites have featured a defining forefoot Zoom Air unit as well as a slightly lighter weight and lower heel-to-toe offset, the shoe has yet to display any features that truly set it apart as a noteworthy performance trainer.
Now, with the release of the Elite 9, Nike offers a complete redesign that is built to pick up the pace in a variety of workouts while still maintaining the versatile cushioning the series has become known for. Here at Running Warehouse, we were extremely excited to hear about the revamp of the Elite, so we did not hesitate to put the shoe through some mileage in order to see what this new design brings to the table.
When I first saw the Elite 9, I was unsure what to expect. From a visual stand point, the shoe has a faster, sleeker look. Instead of looking like a lightweight Pegasus, the Elite now resembles a highly cushioned Streak 6 (Read our Streak 6 Review here). The new design gives the appearance of speed with versatility to go longer, but the real questions I had were with regards to performance. After putting in the miles, I can confidently say that this shoe redefines the Elite series.
With a faster, performance oriented design, I was quick to adopt the Elite 9 into my workout arsenal in order to see how it would handle a variety of paces. After using the shoe for a few key workouts, I quickly found the shoe shined on tempo day. The soft Cushlon midsole offered the cushion I needed to handle longer tempo distances while still retaining a responsive feel. The shoe has an effortlessly smooth ride when you dial in your pace, and the Zoom Air unit in the forefoot gives a springy sensation at toe off. The Elite easily has more underfoot material when compared to a traditional racing flat, but I found myself coming back to this shoe for the fast feel that didn’t leave my legs feeling beat the following day. With the larger amount of cushioning, however, I was skeptical on how it would perform during faster sessions on the track. From mile repeats down to 400s, I was very pleased with the shoes versatility. The shoe features the same last as the Streak 6, allowing your foot to feel locked in place when you hit the curves. If you’re really trying to hit max effort, there is no substitute for a lightweight spike or racing flat, but the Elite was easily able to perform at fast paces while offering plenty of forgiveness.
The Elite 9 seemed to prove itself in the speed category, but I was also curious as to how it would handle during daily training. After running slow recovery runs as well as moderate effort long runs, I found the shoe to be versatile enough to handle almost any distance. The shoe does not have the same level of cushioning as the Pegasus, but for the runner specifically seeking lightweight cushioning, this shoe can easily handle longer distances. Another reason the Elite is so versatile is the use of a sticky Waffle outsole. Compared to its predecessor, the Elite 9 utilizes more waffle lugs as well as reduced rubber in the midfoot to provide fantastic traction while keeping the weight down. With close to 200 miles on my pair, I’ve been pleased with durability and have not seen any excessive wear on the outsole.
While the responsive cushioning of the Elite 9 is a primary factor in its phenomenal performance, the fit is another contributing factor that gives the shoe its fast feel. One of my favorite aspects of the Elite 9 is its use of the Streak racing last. This last gives the shoe a racing flat like fit, so it felt fast immediately when I tried it on. The midfoot is snug and perfect for faster paces, but the toe box is a little more rounded for a more roomy fit then your standard racing flat. The Flymesh upper (also used in the Streak 6) gives the shoe a soft, yet seamless fit, and the dynamic Flywire finishes off the upper with a little added lockdown. From a sizing standpoint, I chose my standard shoe size. Though the shoe may be a hair shorter than my daily trainer, I did not feel it warranted sizing up. Runners who tend to like extra room may consider sizing up, but I personally do not enjoy having too much extra room in my performance shoes.
After using the Elite 9s for over a month, I have happily accepted them into my workout cycle. While there are several fantastic performance options on the market right now, the Elite 9 is currently one of my favorites. The shoe is versatile enough to be used for longer efforts yet fast enough to be used for tempo or track days. I personally find them to be extremely beneficial because I’m able to run in a fast feeling shoe on workout days, and it doesn’t sacrifice my legs during high volume weeks.
The shoe performs well over a variety of workouts but I will look forward to them most on tempo day. The smooth yet responsive ride makes them optimal when your maintaining a quick clip over longer distances. I would even consider these shoes as a potential marathon day shoe for runners looking for a little extra cushion over a traditional racing flat. A versatile performance trainer that fits between the Pegasus and the Streak 6, the Nike Zoom Elite 9 is a shoe that I would recommend that you consider adding to your training lineup.
Connor, aka The Face of Running Warehouse, is our resident footwear guru and helps us keep a finger on the pulse of running trends and current events. A member of the local HOKA Aggies running team, Connor walks the walk, or should we say, runs the run.