Monday, January 09, 2017

Nike Zoom Elite 9 Review: As Good as it Gets?

Review by Peter Stuart
Nike Zoom Elite 9
Nike Zoom Elite 9
The Nike Zoom Elite 9 is an 8.2 oz/232 g men’s size 9, 6.7 oz/190 g women's size 8 lightweight tempo trainer/racer. Stack height is 27mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot. $120. Available now.

The Zoom Elite 9 slots in the middle of the Pegasus 33 and the Zoom Streak 6 in many ways. It’s a really terrific running shoe and certain to be one of my favorites for the coming year. I know it’s early, but the Zoom Elite 9 passes one of the major tests I have for new shoes…do I have an irrepressible smile on my face when I first run in them? Yes, yes and yes.
Nike Zoom Elite 9
If you like the Pegasus 33, but it sometimes feels like too much shoe and if you love the Zoom Streak 6, but it seems like it might not be enough for daily training, or for going all the way to 26.2, the Zoom Elite 9 is for you.

A note for lovers of the Elite line; This is a total rebuild of this shoe. For me, that’s a relief. I found the Elite 8’s to be way to stiff and didn’t enjoy running in them at all.
Nike Zoom Elite 9
Upper and Fit:
The Zoom Elite 9 runs true to size. It’s on the same last as the Zoom Streak 6.  Strangely, while I sized up on the Streak, I had no need to do so on the Elite—I think that’s largely due to the wider toebox.The upper is flymesh.  It’s very light, holds the foot solidly, breathes well and is super comfortable.
There’s a heel counter which helps give some structure to the shoe, and has a soft ankle collar. 
Nike Zoom Elite 9
The lacing system includes flywire and (according to Nike) asymmetrical lacing. Nike has really dialed in the Flywire over the past few years—it works like a charm.  I don’t notice the lacing being particularly asymmetrical, but maybe I’m missing something.
Is the Asymmetrical?
The fit of the Zoom Elite 9 is great—one of those shoes I just laced up ran in without any fuss. The toebox is wide enough to accommodate most feet.

In fact, the one knock I have on the Elite 9 (and it’s super minor) is that the bottom eyelet and material around it wind up a little bunched up for me. The swoosh comes down the outside of the foot and caps what I think is a really great, fast looking shoe.

note slight bunching (and super swoosh)
Midsole and Outsole:
Nike Zoom Elite 9
The midsole foam is Cushlon, a mix of Nike’s proprietary Phylon and rubber. A major difference between the Elite 9 and the Zoom Streak is the addition of a Zoom Air pocket under the forefoot of the Elite 9. I’ve heard some complaints about the air pocket in the Pegasus, but I happen to really like it. I find that in the Pegasus and the Zoom Elite the air pocket adds a really nice bounce and staves off forefoot fatigue. As far as I can tell there’s no air pocket in the heel of the Elite, which, with the lack of a shank, makes it significantly different from the Streak 6.
Nike Zoom Elite 9
The outsole is made of a thin layer of Duralon (blown rubber) which runs the whole length of the shoe. There’s a cutout in the middle of the heel and the tread is old-school waffle. It will be interesting to see how the shoe wears over a couple hundred miles. So far at around 50 there’s no significant wear. Grip is really good around corners and through wet stuff too.

This is another knockout ride from Nike. The Elite 9 is flexible, transition is smooth, they’re forgiving at slow speeds and super responsive when you go fast. While they’re not in the same race-flat territory as the Zoom Streak 6 (due to the lack of the shank and the slight dampening from the forefoot), and they aren’t as protective for the long slog as the Pegasus 33, they’re a terrific middle ground between the two.  

Nike Zoom Elite 9
Conclusions and Comparisons:
The Nike Zoom Elite 9 is a gunslinger of a swiss army knife. At this point if I could only have one shoe for all workouts, it would be the Zoom Elite 9. It’s light and flexible. It’s cushioned enough for a long run, and it loves to go fast. It’s been a delight on tempo workouts, hills and long runs. I’m very tempted to run my next marathon in them. I think they’ll be a good marathon shoe for a lot of people.

Nike Zoom Elite 9
Zoom Elite 9 vs. Zoom Streak 6
The Elite, due at least partly to the air pocket in the forefoot, is a little more cushioned in the forefoot. For me the Zoom Streak 6 is unbeatable at 5k, 10k and 13.1 miles (see my RTR review here), but I’m inclined to lean towards the Zoom Elite for my next marathon. The fit of the Elite is a little more forgiving, and the air zoom pocket in the forefoot feels nice in the long miles. That said, the shank in the Streak 6 helps keep form together in later miles. It’s a toss up, get both!

Zoom Elite 9 vs. Skechers GOmeb Razor
These are my two favorite shoes right now. (Razor review coming soon but here is a RTR preview ). The Razor feels like slightly more shoe in the arch than the Elite 9 which is interesting because it’s a hair lighter and a bit lower. Razor is 7.7 Oz with stack heights of 18 heel and 14 forefoot.  Elite 9 is 8.2 Oz and 25mm in the heel, 17mm in the forefoot. The Razor is a little bit stiffer than the Zoom Elite 9. I may very slightly prefer the Elite 9. Again, a toss up between two very excellent shoes. Zoom Elite edges out the razor on flexibility and looks.

Zoom Elite 9 vs. Saucony Freedom ISO
The Zoom Elite 9 has a fair amount in common with the Freedom ISO (see RTR review here)  to me, but gets right the things that I think the Freedom gets wrong. The Freedom is flexible light and disappears on the foot, but the lack of a heel counter is a little problematic and the big issue I have with the Freedom is that once I get over 8 miles in them the forefoot starts to feel thin and unprotected. The Air Zoom Pocket on the Elite makes this shoe feel protective in the forefoot without compromising road feel. I vastly prefer the Zoom Elite 9.

Zoom Elite 9 vs. Skechers GOrun 5
Surprisingly, these two have the most similar ride of all of the shoes I’m currently running in. In fact, with one on each foot it was tough to tell the difference. The Zoom Elite is a tiny bit firmer than the GoRun (the Elite sits between Skechers Razor and GoRun in terms of firmness), but other than that, the ride feels pretty similar. The Zoom Elite holds the foot more securely and feels a little more like a standard running shoe than the slipper-like feel of the GoRun5.

Zoom Elite 9 vs. Nike Pegasus 33
The Zoom Elite 9 is, as I’ve mentioned, somewhere between the Zoom Streak 6 and the Pegasus 33. While I like the Pegasus 33 for most runs (it was my 2016 shoe of the year here), it can occasionally feel a bit blocky. The Elite 9, while a bit less shoe, is a terrific daily trainer for long miles or for going fast. If I had to pick one t would be the Zoom Elite 9. An ideal line-up would be the Pegasus 33 for long, slow days; the Zoom Elite 9 for marathons and faster days; and the Zoom Streak 6 for shorter races.

Peter's Score 9.5 out of 10
-0.25 for slight bunching over top of foot

-0.25 for potential wear issues due to limited amount of rubber on bottom of shoe

Peter Stuart's Running Bio
My running career got off to a slow start…in high school I was told I ran like a race walker and was thus relegated to race walking on the track team. I got back into running about 15 years ago and then into triathlon. Triathlon really rekindled my love for running, so about two years ago I hired a coach and really focused on the half and full marathons.  I broke a bad habit of putting in tons of moderately hard miles (and no easy or hard ones) and after plateauing at 3:25 (with some disastrous marathons in there), this past year I brought my marathon under 3:00 and my half under 1:25. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a shoe problem.

The Zoom Elite 9 was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Photo Credit: Peter Stuart

The Zoom Elite 9 is available now!
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Kyle Kranz said...

Thanks for those comparisons at the end, Peter! Great looking shoe but I may need a lighter option.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, the new Nike Zoom Elite 9 seems to be interesting. I´m searching for a lightweight trainer that can also be used as a daily trainer (beside workouts). For that purpose i´m currently rotating between the Nike Lunartempo 2 and the Adidas Adios 3. I thought i maybe give the NB 1400 v4 a try though i think NB ruined the 1400 quite a bit with the v4 update (v2/v3 have been perfect for me). So, maybe any thoughts how the Zoom Elite fares against the NB 1400 v4? Thanks!

Peter S. said...

Hey there. Kyle, they feel lighter than the specs. If you need lighter, the Zoom Streak 6 is terrific.

Peter S. said...


I'd go for the Elite 9 over the 1400 personally. I used to love the NB 1400 (and still like them for shorter distances) but get forefoot fatigue over 20 miles. The Elite sits somewhere between the lunartempo and the adios boost in terms of firmness. I'd say it's right in the zone of the shoes you mention.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I took mine for a brief 4.5 mile maiden voyage today and was super-impressed. I agree with Peter in that they feel much lighter than their specs. Well cushioned but give great surface feedback.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter!
Thanks for this review.
I run in the Pegasus 33 for many of my daily training and in the Streak 6 for some key session, like race pace intervals before short race (5 to 10km). I'm searching for a lighter alternative than my Pegasus 33 for speed training, fast tempo run or triathlon race. What do you think about the new elite 9 compared to the Lunaracer?
Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

One more comparison please... Zoom Elite 9 vs NB Zante v3?

Peter S. said...

The Zoom Elite is much more flexible than the Zante. The Zante has more shoe under the arch and feels extremely stiff and clunky to me when put in direct comparison to the Elite.

Anonymous said...

And Nike Lunaracer vs Zoom Elite 9?

Anonymous said...

How do these compare to the ride of the adidas Boston 6? More or less protective?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
I have run and reviewed the Boston 6 but not the Elite 9. By the stats, Boston and Boost are very close, 1 mm more in the heel for Boston and 1 mm more in the forefoot for Elite 9, I would guess Boston has a more forgiving heel due to the Boost and the Torsion plastic support so more protective in the heel than Elite. The Elite weighs 0.6 oz less. I would say Boston overall is more protective and a bit less agile than Elite. Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! Sam, Editor

Bruce said...

hi peter,
great review! since i'm more than happy with my zoom streak 6's, i'm thinking about getting the elite 9. but does the quality of the cushioning feel a lot different, being cushlon rather than phylon? i've never been crazy about cushlon, though i've also not been crazy about some previous elites that had phylon--so i'm not upset the elite has changed quite a bit. i'm hoping the elite feels more like the streak than the pegasus, in spite of the cushlon.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bruce, i wouldn´t be worried about the Cushlon in the new Zoom Elite, which has a very different vibe than the Pegasus. I never ran in the old versions of the Elite, which i all found quite horrible, but i´m so glad i checked out the Zoom Elite 9. For me, it´s the best lightweight trainer in the market right now. The Cushlon feels just right, a bit on the soft side for my liking (i´m used to firmer riding shoes), but far from being mushy and it has a nice responsive feel. The midsole is a dream - very smooth transitions, light & nimble ride, good grip and nicely padded for long runs or marathon racing (for 10k or HM racing i´d prefer a racing flat).

Adam said...

Hey Peter,
So you would say the upper is more supportive than the gorun 5? The lack of support of the knit upper is a little sketchy in less than perfect conditions. I might wait till next month when I can try them next to the kinvara 8. Thanks for the great reviews!

Peter S. said...

For sure the Elite is a more locked in fit--there are at least 2x as many eyelets--and upper is less slipper more race shoe. Fwiw, not a fan of the Kinvara 8--clunky and stiff--especially compared to the Elite 9

Adam said...

I just picked up a pair from the Running Warehouse. I went out yesterday evening to do a quick 4 miles that turned into 9 miles. They will definitely be a favorite in my rotation!

Anonymous said...

Hi, how do the elite 9's compare to the on running cloudflow and asics hyperspeed 7?

Peter S. said...

Haven't run in the cloudflow, so can't speak to that, but they are in a similar vein to the hyperspeed. They're a bit heavier, but don't feel that way on the run. Hyperspeed was my favorite marathon racer, but I'd run n the ZOom Elite 9 over the hyperspeed today.

Unknown said...

This is the best marathon shoe ever! I compared to other 2 top contenders I'm evaluating for running the Boston Marathon here:

Moody1kanobe said...

Hi Peter,
Excellent review.
I am getting over a minor knee injury and have since been running in HEAVILY CUSHIONED shoes; Hoka Vanquish2. I'm 6ft 180 lbs and looking to get back to better form and sub 3 HR marathons. I have had some disasters lately in the marathon with average around 3:30. When I had better form (7 years ago); I ran and trained in saucony fasttwitich (in which I ran sub 3Hr marathon). I was curious if you think trying these elite 9's would help to make me more efficient and be okay as trainers/marathon racers?
Thank You.

Unknown said...

Hey Peter,

How does this shoe fit as compared to Pegasus 32? I'm inclined to buy it but I'm not sure which size to choose.

Right now, I'm wearing Pegasus 32 size US12 and Lunaracer 3+ size US12. While my actual size when wearing sneakers is US11.

I'm slightly confused and need your opinion.

Thanks in advance!

Peter S. said...

For me same size as Pegasus!!

Unknown said...

thanks for your feedback peter!

Keyboard said...

Thoughts on this vs the Hoka Hupana? They share weight and heel drop.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Keyboard,
I have not run the Elite but have run the Hupana. I am pretty sure you would find the Hupana softer, more bouncy and a touch less responsive than the Elite.
Sam, Editor

demian said...

Would the Nike Elite 9 be good for daily training as well? I'm not a fast runner and slightly over weight at 215 lbs. I love more minimal type shoes and my regular shoe is the Ravenna 9. Is it safe to mix in a racer type shoe into the mix or should I stick with cushioning.

Sam Winebaum said...

HI damien, I wouldn't use E9 for daily training especially if you are heavier and if you are a heel striker. It can be a faster days shoe if you are more forefoot striker as Peter is. For me I found the heel soft and the platform under foot quite narrow. A Boost shoe such as the Boston or the KInvara 9might be a better faster days shoe for you.
Sam, Editor

demian said...

Sorry Sam, one more question. I'm running the Brooklyn Half in less than 2 weeks and hope to do an even 2 hours which would be a record for me. I've been training in the Ravenna 9's but have some Forza 3's here as well. I did order the Boston 6 to try out for a faster shoe. Given that I'm 215 llbs and not a very fast runner, do you think the Forza 3 could be considered a 'fast shoe' because of the firmness or would the Boston be safe enough to run? Again, thank you for you advice and help.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Demian,
Of your options the Boston would be the fastest shoe but maybe not the best option so close to your race. It has a fairly thin forefoot cushion. If they feel good on some longer faster runs before the race go for it but I might recommend sticking with your Ravenna for your weight and pace until you can be sure about the Boston.
Sam, Editor

demian said...

You're going to laugh but I went into a running store and tried the Bostons and felt they were a bit wobbly for me. I then tried that NB 1500's - to firm and jarring. Tried the 1400's and the shoe angles came out to sing. I get it. The heel to toe relationship is epic and even though I'm a heavier runner, I could enjoy these for faster runs. Not sure if I'll use them for the half but then again, last year I ran the half in minimus shoes w/o knowing any better and finished it albeit with my feet completely beat to hell.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi demian,
Not laughing at all. It is good you are trying different shoes to see what will work best. Wow Minimus for a half. No thank you! Anything you have been considering will be a better choice, at least it would be for me. Yes, Boston is a bit more unstable than 1400. You may find 1400 forefoot a bit thin but they are super fun to run and will be more shoe than the Minimus but may still be a bit thin in the forefoot for a half. 5-10K no question they would be great.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

I went out to buy the Zoom Elite 9 after reading this review last year, and loved them ever since.

What puzzles me is that the Zoom Elite 10 has been released for a couple of months already, and no major review site (including RoadTrailRun) has reviewed them (despite ZE9 being such a well-reviewed shoe). My hypothesis is that Nike wants to downplay the ZE10 given the other new shoes they have launched this year. Am I wrong? Feeling a little lost amid all the new Nike releases here.

Peter S. said...

Hey there,

I totally missed the ZE10. As far as I've heard it was an update to the upper only. I'm not sure they're focused on the Elite's at this point--seems like they're focused on Zoom Fly, Vaporfly, Peg Turbo. I do like those ZE 9's though!


Anonymous said...

Can you please make a comparison between the nike zoom elite 9 and the new balance fuel cell impulse? which is more faster? thanks

Guibara said...

I love the Elite 9. I’m not a fast runner (3:50 marathoner) but they work great for me, whether speed, tempo, or long runs. Love how the forefoot feels and don’t mind the less responsive heel since it sort of forces me to foot strike. What’s the closest thing to the ZE9 out there right now? Thanks!!!

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Gulbara,
You might like the Topo Zephyr or New Balance FuelCell Rebel.
See reviews at link below.
am, Editor
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