There’s a lot of hype around running shoe features: foam that can improve running economy by a certain percent, carbon-plated midsoles that stabilize your foot and provide spring, upward-curving toe structures that facilitate forward motion. No matter what a shoe claims it can do, the only feature you should really be concerned about is whether or not you actually notice it on your foot while you’re running. The best shoes are the ones you never feel or think about.
I happen to spend a lot of time thinking about what’s on my feet while I run, mostly because it’s part of my job to review running shoes (I know, tough gig). My sneaker collection is almost embarrassing, and I tend to rotate my shoes nearly every run. In April, I added one more: the new Nike Pegasus 38, a shoe the brand calls a “workhorse with wings.” To put it to the test, I decided to wear it (almost exclusively) while training to run a 5K time trial.
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Full disclosure: I haven’t been a superfan of previous Pegasus iterations. I experienced shin splints while training in what may have been the 33, and my calves were almost always sore after running in the Pegasus 37. I generally lean more towards cushioned shoes like the Nike React Infinity Run and the Tempo NEXT%.
In theory, the Pegasus combines my favorite aspects of both of those: the same React midsole that allows me to run long and steady in the Infinity Runs, and a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot that gives me that extra bounce I’m used to in the Tempo NEXT%. But can you really run a PR in a workhorse shoe?
I trained for about a month in the Pegs, wearing them for everything from short recovery runs to speed workouts (think: 5-, 4-, 3-, 2-, 1-minute progression ladders or alternating 2 minutes on/2 minutes off), and long runs up to 10 miles.
What I liked most about the updated Pegasus was the wider forefoot, which allowed for more space for my toes and helped me feel like I had a better grip on the ground during speedier intervals. I also liked how stable I felt compared to Nike’s faster shoes, like the Alphafly or the older Zoom Fly 3, but I never felt like I was carrying around any extra heft you might feel in a stability shoe.
The Pegasus 38 uses an improved midfoot system with more React foam than the 37th iteration had, which helps give you that stable ride. And the webbed lacing system provides a more personalized fit, with extra foam on the tongue to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on the top of your foot. Together, these features make for a secure fit that’s still breathable and flexible.
I personally prefer a more cushioned shoe with a higher stack height (think the NEXT% 2), but the React foam in the Peg is lightweight and springy enough that I was still able to tap into some serious speed (for me!) during interval training. And I could really feel that pop from the Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, especially as I tend to hit more on my forefoot the faster I go. But they still felt plush during up to 10 miles of easy running; I didn’t develop a single blister or hot spot over the course of a month.
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On race day, I clocked a 22-second PR—and didn’t once think about my feet. I actually wore compression sleeves on my calves just in case, but there was no soreness or pain in my lower legs. Of course, a PR is never just about the shoes. I trained hard for a month, I lucked out with weather conditions, and I had a friend help pace me. But running shoes can make or break a race, and this time, I’m happy to say they made it.