The Nike Zoom Elite series has a long and mostly heralded history. I first started wearing this shoe in 2004 (I think) when it was marketed as a fairly lightweight trainer at the time with just a touch of support for overpronators.
After being discontinued for a few years, Nike revamped it in 2010 to great reviews. Many runners lauded the Phylon midsole used in the original Elites which was more firm than usual for Nike running shoes.
Since 2010 it seems that every version of this shoe has gotten a bit more svelte and designed for faster paced running.
Nike Zoom Elite 9 General Info
The Zoom Elite 9 feels like the culmination of many years of development and tweaking the same shoe design.
There isn’t really anything groundbreaking or revolutionary about the design, but the harmony of the components in this shoe make it an absolute pleasure to run in.
Always designed as a faster paced running shoe, the Elite seemed a favorite of front of the pack runners craving a bit firmer cushion that they could get 500 miles out of.
As stated before, this latest iteration uses a racing last, namely the last from the Nike Streak, and applies it over a well cushioned, yet lightweight, midsole of Cushlon and Zoom Air.
The Zoom Elite 9 is the type of shoe that competes against Nike’s own Lunartempo 2, which has a bit softer Lunarlon midsole, as well as other lightweight trainers such as the Adidas Boston 6, the New Balance Zante, and The Brooks Launch.
Nike Zoom Elite 9 Sole Unit
As discussed before, the Elite 9 employs Nike’s Cushlon foam which runners find a bit stiffer and more durable than lunar foam.
A Zoom Air Unit, consisting of a small pressurized bag of air, offers a low profile and unnoticeable responsive cushioning system. To fully understand a Zoom Air unit, I’ll defer to Nike’s website:
” (Zoom Air is) Tightly stretched tensile fibers are knit inside a pressurized Nike Air unit, giving the Zoom Air cushioning its snappy responsiveness.
Each time an athlete’s foot touches down, the fibers compress to cushion the impact before quickly springing back to their original state, generating an explosive, powerful response off the ground.”
All I know is that I’ve loved Zoom Air since it debuted almost twenty years ago.
It provides low profile, racing style shoes, with enough forgiveness to act as everyday high mileage trainers, while also providing racing flats and lightweight trainers with enough protection to hold up for the marathon.
Zoom Air is also incredibly durable and holds up great in Nike’s trail shoe the Terra Tiger 3.
Throughout the outsole Nike uses Duralon, a thin layer of blown rubber, over the entire outsole to improve ride durability of the shoe.
It doesn’t have the clunky feel of heavy carbon outsole rubber, and it lasts. Even on mellow trails the Duration was able to fight off sharp rocks that would poke through the midsole in almost every other road shoe on the market.
Nike Zoom Elite 9 Upper Info
Runners have described the upper fit of the Elite 9 as racing flat-esque, but I don’t consider the fit nearly as hemmed in as most racing flats.
The upper is seamless throughout and uses Nike’s Flywire and Flymesh throughout the upper.
I find that the Flywire on this shoe isn’t nearly as constricting as it can be on other Nike shoes, and the forefoot of the Elite 9 is actually fairly wide.
It does fit true to fit, and this dialed in fit is aided by a notched inner sleeve that works as a mid-foot wrap or sock liner.
The lacing and tongue on the Elite 9 are very thin and low profile which makes this shoe feel like a racing flat even more.
However, I recently took this shoe on a slow and technical trail run with over two thousand feet of climbing and it performed very well and was no worse for the wear.
Nike Zoom Elite 9 Conclusions
Weighing in at 8.2 ounces, with a 8 mm heel drop, one would expect the Zoom Elite 9 to perform very similarly to other shoes on the market with the around the same specs.
But, after putting this shoe through the paces including long runs, tempos and hill work, and some trail running, I can confirm that the Elite 9 is as versatile of a running shoe as they come.
I would wear this shoe to race a marathon just as soon as I would throw it on to cover an easy day at a slow pace. I would wear it for a speed workout of short intervals just as soon as I’d wear it for a leisurely long run on mellow trails.
I think that Nike has honed on the design of this shoe so well that it will surprise a great deal of runners.
Take my word for it, the Elite 9 is a “must try” in my opinion. While the lower weight and aggressive last will scare off some runners looking for more protection, they are missing out on a good thing.
We thank the nice people at Nike for sending us a pair of Zoom Elite 9 to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.