Nike Air Zoom Elite 9 Running Shoe Review
Mileage in Nike Zoom Elite 9
Meaghan: 89 miles
Thomas: 120 miles
Meaghan: There’s nothing better than a fast-day shoe. Technically the Nike Zoom Elite 9 is just a low-profile, lightweight neutral trainer – but I like to consider it a racing flat. I kept this shoe on the rack unless I was heading out for speed work or tempo runs. I also wore it for my last marathon, so spoiler alert: I’m a big fan.
This is the first iteration of the shoe that I’ve tried, so I cannot compare it to previous models but I hear it’s a pretty big change. The Zoom Elite 9 is built on the same last as the Zoom Streak 6. However, I didn’t size-up. The shoe seems to have a wider build, especially through the forefoot. I really liked the fit. The upper is a single piece of lightweight, breathable mesh with asymmetrical lacing that’s offset to help relieve pressure from the top of your foot. It doesn’t seem that off-centered, but it works just fine.
The midsole foam is made up of Cushlon which is a mix of Nike’s Phylon and rubber. It’s light and fairly flexible. There’s a Nike Zoom Air unit in the forefoot that gives the shoe a nice snappy ride. And the outsole is a thin layer of rubber that runs the whole length of the shoe with a waffle-tread that provides some nice traction. The thin outsole and minimal upper combo make the Elite 9 super lightweight. My W7.5 weighed in a 6.5oz.
Thomas: The feel of the upper is special. Other than the sizing issue (see The Bad) the shoes fit beautifully. The engineered mesh is flexible, breathable, and comfortable. Flywire helps lock your foot in over the arch, the heel counter is padded just enough to gently lock it down. The thin tongue is part of the second layer under the engineered mesh extending to the sides of your foot and the toebox. It’s like a tongue sock.
Nike Elite 9‘s midsole and outsole worked so well to deliver the cushioning and grip I like for faster days. Even though it is a stiffer shoe the midsole flexed well throughout my stride and the ZOOM delivers an extra pop. The outsole is almost completely covered in knobby rubber. The feel from the midsole-outsole combo helped push the pace. With 120 miles on the shoe, the ride still feels fresh.
Nike’s design aesthetic is aces. The Elite 9 looks fast sitting still. Mark Twain wrote “Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” I don’t know about naked people, but wearing the Elite 9 made me feel like I could influence my psyche to crank out faster-paced miles.
Meaghan: The only negative thing I have to say about this shoe is that the laces didn’t stay tied for my first few runs. It’s particularly aggravating when you’re trying to keep a pace. I ended up triple-knotting these bad b0ys for the marathon and they worked just fine.
Thomas: Size up! I should have known this! The same last as the Streak 6 was used for the Elite 9. I went up a half size in the Streak and it was perfect. While the Elite 9 felt a little tight around the toes, I didn’t have any issues during training. The marathon was a different story. I lost one toenail and have one black nail remaining. SIZE UP!
Meaghan: It’s hard not to love a shoe that gets you a marathon PR and an overall win. I wore the Nike Elite 9 for the DONNA Marathon last week and they performed perfectly. If you’re looking for a new race-day shoe that isn’t too minimal, the Nike Elite 9 is a really great option. For $120, you can feel hella-fast (and look pretty great, too).
Thomas: I love this shoe. This and the Nike Streak 6 are my favorite fast shoes to run in. Both shoes have a deadly combo of enough cushion in a super lightweight package. The Nike Elite 9 weighed a scant 8.3 oz for a size 10.5. So what is the difference? The Nike Elite 9 has more cushioning and an additional AIR ZOOM unit in the forefoot. The extra ZOOM makes a difference, you can feel that extra pop in toe-off. I reserved both shoes for speed days, they were a treat for my feet and got my head in the right space for taking on challenging workouts. The Elite 9 has enough cushion underfoot that I would be comfortable using them as a daily trainer. I highly recommend this shoe.
By NYC Running Coach Matthew Imberman
The Zoom Elite 9 fits really well, even on my caveman feet, and unlike most other Nikes, I didn’t have to size up. Perfect hold in the heel once laced properly, toe box nice and wide but still feels precise, including through the midfoot which conforms really nicely to my arch-less foot.
The midsole disappears. As opposed to a bouncy shoe, like the Saucony Freedom, which I find causes foot fatigue on longer workouts, the Elite 9 just gets out of the way. I feel protected from the pavement, but not robbed of proprioception. It’s a fairly rigid shoe, especially compared to the Freedom, or something like the Salming Distance 4, but I still felt very comfortable on an easy 3 with my wife (talking 11:00’s here).
The most similar new shoe I’ve used recently is probably Skechers GoMeb Razor. The fit on the Elite 9 feels better, it transitions better, has better grip, and feels less-dead at slower miles. Don’t get me wrong: I like the Razor a hell of a lot, but I think the Elite 9 is a notch above.
It really gets after it at faster paces. There’s noticeable grip from the outsole (both because of the pattern and type of rubber) and I will definitely be taking this on shorter trail outings. I purposefully ran over some rocks to see how it felt, and nothing poked through. I also did a kinda lazy 3 x 1 Cruise Interval workout and was left smiling by how well they handled the bursts of speed.
Let me put it this way: if I had to pick one shoe for a marathon–road or trail–tomorrow, I’d pick the Zoom Elite 9s.