Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Nike Pegasus 36 Trail is an adaptation of one of the most popular Nike road running shoes now in its 36th iteration, the Pegasus. It includes a 10mm heel-toe drop with a raised heel counter that is noticeable but also very plushly cushioned with Nike Air pockets and certainly adds shock absorption for heel strikers and those who appreciate less repetitive stress. It has a light mesh upper that breathes well but also absorbs a lot of water when dunked in a stream, with a rubberized toe bumper that is not present on the road versions of this shoe. The outsole is decidedly trail-oriented but with enough surface area on the tops of the short lugs to offer excellent traction and durability on hard surfaces. Most of all, this is one of the most comfortable shoes we have ever run in, and it's hard to find a better endorsement than that. While it isn't the best choice for very technical trail or mountain running, for training on less aggressive surfaces, or if you live in a place where your runs are commonly a mix between trail and urban surfaces, these are an ideal shoe.
Nike also makes the Pegasus 36 Trail in a Gore-tex version for those runners who live in wet climates or like to splash through puddles. Expect to add about $30 to the price tag for the extra water resistance.
Despite its 28mm of underfoot cushioning in the heel, we feel as if this shoe is not the most protective that we have tested. The foam, with the Nike Air pockets trapped inside, does a good job of dampening the impact of stepping on sharp objects like roots or rocks, while still allowing a fair bit of sensation to get through. In this way, it supplies a nice balance between underfoot protection and sensitivity, while still also offering a springy bounce in your step as you flow through the running motion.
The upper is minimally adapted from the design of the road-specific version of this shoe, meaning that it is mostly light-duty mesh and does not offer much in the way of either foot protection from kicking rocks, nor many protective overlays that will prevent it from tearing and abrasion. If you commonly thrash the uppers of your shoes, you may consider buying something a bit beefier in that department.
While the lug pattern on the outsole of this shoe is far more aggressive than you would commonly find on a road running shoe, it is conversely much less aggressive than you will find on most mountain running shoes. The lugs are on the shorter side (~3 mm deep), and are arrayed on the sole in a variety of patterns. Multi-directional lugs on both the heel and forefoot do a nice job of providing a sharp edge for grip and bite, while the edges that are most likely to wear down quickly are rounded off, increasing durability. The outside edge of each foot has a row of deeper and more aggressively angled lugs, but we aren't sure that the location of these lugs offers any strategic gripping benefit, and suspect that they are actually more cosmetic in performance.
We found this shoe to be plenty sticky and grippy for the vast majority of trail running, while also having a low enough lug profile to not feel out of place at all on a bike path or dirt roads. That said, the lug's lack of aggression does inhibit their grip a bit compared to the competition when traversing grassy hillsides or engaging in especially slippery terrain like mud or snow.
The shoe features a firmer but still springy foam underfoot that doesn't actually feel as far off the ground as its 18mm forefoot / 28mm heel stack height would suggest. Despite the 10mm of extra cushioning in the heel generally disposing a shoe to a less stable ride on uneven terrain, we feel that this shoe feels more stable than the other shoes we have tested with a similar heel-toe drop.
While we find the upper to be among the most comfortable that we can imagine, we also concede that it doesn't lock the foot down quite as tight as some alternatives, once again slightly lowering the feeling of absolute stability when running on uneven terrain. All these minor complaints suggest that this is a shoe that performs best when stability will not be a primary concern, like on well-groomed trails.
In the opinion of our head tester, who has run in hundreds of pairs of shoes to complete these trail running shoe reviews, these are some of the most comfortable shoes ever made. All other converts/zealots we have talked to with these shoes agree that they are really comfortable, especially in contrast to the newly updated versions of Nike's other trail running shoes, which are not as comfortable as past versions. The shoe fits perfectly to size and is also right in the middle of the wide/narrow spectrum, and should appeal to the widest variety of foot shapes.
The upper is not overly padded and yet hugs the foot perfectly while also not feeling too tight. The minimal padding around the ankle opening and over the Achilles tendon area of the heel is very comfortable, and the light mesh upper breathes well. Our only complaint when it comes to comfort is that in our water testing, this shoe absorbs and holds more water than almost any other, so you may consider a different option if you are one who likes to run through streams.
Our pair of men's size 11 US shoes weighed in at 21.3 ounces on our independent scale. This is the exact same weight as the lower profile, but more protective, Nike Terra Kiger 5.
This weight falls near to the middle of the spectrum compared to other shoes that we have tested and reviewed here. They aren't by any means the lightest shoes you can buy but are also quite a bit lighter than the heaviest. Anecdotally, they feel light and nimble on the feet while running.
When compared to underfoot protection, this shoe strikes a nice balance that is tipped ever so slightly towards being sensitive rather than clunky. The underfoot foam is rubbery and springy feeling, negating some of the impact of stepping on rocks, while still allowing for a pleasant amount of trail feel. As a shoe designed for less rugged trails, this emphasis on sensitivity is refreshing, and frankly a joy to experience.
The sole is fairly flexible, easily molding to the terrain that you step on, and lacking the stiff feeling of a rockplate underfoot. If you appreciate a sensitive ride but don't want to sacrifice shock-absorbing foam to get it, this could be a great choice for you.
These shoes retail for roughly the average price of trail running shoes these days. While this amount has been creeping upwards in the last few years, we still think these shoes present good value due to their excellent comfort. To be sure you feel the same way, be sure that you are buying these shoes for the right reasons, and if you are in the market for a more aggressive shoe that can routinely handle the most rugged terrain, check out the other trail running shoes by Nike instead.
The Nike Pegasus 36 Trail is a newly released trail running shoe that we think is the best option for crossover applications, awarding it a Top Pick for that purpose. Urban runners who like to mix it up on roads, bike paths, dirt roads, and fast and flowy trails will love the incredible comfort and sensitive ride this shoe provides in a nicely cushioned package.
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