Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 Multi Tester Review. 10 Comparisons

Article by Peter Stuart, Cheng Chen, and Sam Winebaum

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 ($130)


Introduction


Peter: Ahh the Pegasus; the great and storied mythical creature from the ancient lands of Nike. Yes, folks we are in the 39th iteration of the Pegasus. There have been great ones and less great ones and even Turbo ones. What happened to the Peg Turbo? Love the Peg Turbo! Anyway, the Pegasus has been a daily training staple in the Nike lineup since 1983. 


The Pegasus 39 puts air pods (no, not AirPods) in both the front and the rear of the shoe and pairs a superb upper with some good waffle-esque traction on the bottom. It’s a clean looking shoe–but how does it run and where does it fit in the great Pegasus history? 


Sam: Peter calls the Peg “a mythical creature from the ancient lands of Nike” and that is what it is. Imagine 39 editions of a single model.. A long, long legacy and much weight on the designers to keep it relevant in an age of plated, super foam, super stacked shoes that are ever lighter and sleeker. Why such longevity? Well the Pegasus, with some notable detours, looking at you 37 and 38, has remained for decades a 10mm drop trainer at a reasonable weight and price, with a thinner forefoot and  a rugged lugged outsole so a shoe that can handle many run types and is durable and steady. With the Peg 39 we see a significant weight drop of 0.67 oz / 19g  to a svelte 9 oz / 255g in my US8.5 sample led by a new engineered upper. We also see the return of dual front and rear air units whereas in the 37 and 38 we had a single and prominent front unit. The React midsole foam continues.  I expect a return to a more classic Peg daily trainer character with these changes but testing would tell!


Cheng: It is a mythical creature from an ancient land! For as long as I’ve been running, I’ve tried every iteration of the Pegasus - and this creature has morphed into some shapely characters in recent iterations. The 36 was the last of the thin, full-length Zoom Air unit and the 37/38 attempted to induce a segmented midsole feel with a forefoot-only unit. With the 39, it seems that the Pegasus has returned to its roots with a perfectly simple ride!


Pros:  

Simple and elegant looking upper Peter/ Sam

Decently light (9 oz for a US8.5, 10.4 oz for a M 11) and fairly prices at $ Peter/Sam/Cheng

Versatile, durable outsole that can take it on trail and snow Sam

Agile, thin forefoot and certainly more agile than the last 2 versions Sam/Cheng

New heel air pod takes the edge off of dense React Sam

Versatile ride, from workouts, to dirt, to daily miles Sam/Cheng

Great all around and durable shoe for the high school and college runner and for those seeking a single trainer for moderate distances at any pace.Sam

Fits true to size even for wide forefoot Cheng

Fixed segmented ride feel of previous models (37/38)


Cons:

Relatively low and thin feeling forefoot by modern standards, no longer a solid long run or recovery shoe for most  Peter/Sam

Somewhat uninspiring ride Peter/Cheng

React is duller than more modern foams or even other formulations of the foam from the same supplier used in other shoes Sam / Cheng

Hot foot  Peter

Stats

Approx. Weight: 9.25 oz / 295 g (US9) 

 Samples: men’s 9 oz / 255g  US8.5, 10.4 oz / 295g  (US11)

 Peg 38 9.67 oz   / 274g  US8.5  so we have a drop of 19g / 0.67 oz in US8.5

Stack Height: men’s 33 mm heel / 23 mm forefoot 

$130 Available now including from our partner Running Warehouse here


First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Peter: The Pegasus 39 steps out of the box and presents itself as an elegant looking version of an old favorite. The upper is made of engineered mesh and has varying degrees of density. The fit is just right and true-to size. Step-in is comfortable and all signs point to the fact that Nike has been making versions of this shoe for a long, long time. On first blush it seems that this is a more flexible and forgiving Pegasus than some of the chunkier previous versions. For me everything about this shoe seems to work…until I got it out on the road. 


The Peg 39 upper is a thing of beauty. There are varying densities and designs of the mesh throughout the shoe creating some good ventilation and a very good lockdown of the foot. The tongue is well padded without being overly thick and is attached to the sides of the shoe on each side to help keep it from moving around. 

The lacing system features a traditional eyelet at the bottom and then four rows of looped Flywire. The laces pull through the loops to help tighten down the foot and then there are two more traditional eyelets on the top to help secure the lacing. Heel padding is cushy, but again not overdone. There’s an outline of a traditional orange Nike Swoosh on the lateral side of the shoe and a solid swoosh on the medial side. My pair is a light gray with a contrasting darker gray tongue and grayish/greenish laces with just a little bit of ribbing to help them stay tied. 

Sam: Clearly an appropriate Pegasus upper, unlike the over-decorated, overweight upper of the Peg 38 or the rough feeling (especially at the toe box) if very secure 37’s men’s version, Peter describes the upper well. I would only add the toe box height is a bit low if comfortable and is appropriate for an all purpose daily trainer. Other than that the upper has a forget about it, secure, and comfortable fit. The fit is true to size for me. 


Cheng: Although I am technically a 7.5 (EE) in size, I mostly fit into a US 8/8.5 in Nike models. Much of this is due to Nike’s insistence on designing aggressive lateral forefoot toe boxes, although it has been slowly moving away from this in recent years. For instance, I had to wear really thin socks for a size-8 Pegasus 37 whereas the same was not needed for the 38. The 39 seems to further this trend of being roomy. I tested a size 8.5 and there was ample room for forefoot splay without losing heel grip. Fit wise, I think most wider-footed runners will be happy with true size with wide sizing also available. 

With this context, I believe that the proximal cause for this great fit is the decision to switch back to Flywire for the 39’s upper. Flywire has been around for ages, being sporadically implemented in various models since 2008. To me, one of the most memorable examples was its implementation in the original Zoom Fly, cousin to the industry-changing Vaporfly 4%. The Zoom Fly OG’s upper was incredible, allowing the runner to carefully dial in tightness at each segment of the shoe. I could leave room at the forefoot while securing the fit around the ankle and heel–and this effect would maintain throughout an entire race! Just like then as it is now, the Pegasus 39 accomplishes the same with its Flywire upper. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Midsole

Peter: Unfortunately the midsole on the Pegasus 39 is the least inspiring part of the whole package. The Peg 39 is built on a block of React foam with two built in Nike air pods. There’s one under the forefoot and one in the heel. I don’t find the foam particularly lively or forgiving and the air pods don’t seem to do anything to help the cause. I generally don’t land on the back of the shoe, so the rear air bag is neither here nor there for me. I’m not sure I’d notice it either way. The front air bag does nothing for me. I don’t feel any give when landing on the forefoot, I don’t feel a return from the ground and I’d swear that on some of my runs in the Peg 39 I’ve felt a lump in the front where the air bag is. Yep, it’s sometimes a lumpy feeling. Not ideal. In comparison to some of the other foams on the market (Hyperburst in particular), the React foam in the Pegasus 39 just feels dead to me. 

Sam: I agree with Peter that the midsole is the least intriguing part of this Pegasus. That said, for me it is an improvement over the yet lumpier feeling 38 and for sure men’s 37 with its very prominent over pressured airpod. I did much prefer the women’s 37 with its lower pressure air pod, softer React midsole and far lighter upper. The Peg 39 approaches the feel (and fit)  of the women’s 37 far closer than the men’s 37 and 38. 


Here we end up between the two in my men’s version. I think the rear air pod for sure gives the heel more forgiving cushion and more rebound than the 38.  The forefoot does feel on the thin side and thinner than the previous two but without the prominent upward pressure of the front air pod when not pushing the pace hard. The forefoot is now more agile and quicker feeling. 


The React foam here is “workman-like”. Not exciting for sure but stable and decently cushioned. React from what we understand is a Dow Infuse foam which can be tuned in multiple ways. It includes EVA and Olefin copolymer block components. So, for example, Salomon’s Energy Surge is a similar foam but because it includes more Olefin is somewhat softer and more energetic while Scott’s Infuse in the Speed Carbon has more EVA in the mix and is denser in feel. The React here sits squarely in between. It has moderate rebound, a dense feel and plenty of impact vibration at the heel (in combination with its air pod). Nothing fancy, nothing that exciting but a reliable stable feel for a variety of run types.


Cheng: React is not the main feature of this midsole. The main feature is in the nice, crispy blend of React with dual Zoom Air units. These units, especially the front one, can be clearly felt with the hand if the insoles are taken out. Sensitive runners will also notice their bumps when running at faster speeds, but more on that in the Ride section below.


Outsole

Peter: I love this outsole. There are little diamonds of various sizes running from the toe all the heel of the shoe with a nice big cutout in the middle. There are two big ol flex grooves and the Peg 39 has grip for miles. You can feel the Nike waffle gripping and ripping the road. Traction is great and durability should be terrific. 


Sam: Always a clear highlight of the Pegasus and no exception here, the outsole is grippy, multi purpose and should prove very durable. In addition to any kind of road be it paved or otherwise, this outsole (and the overall platform and upper) make the Pegasus 39 a fine option for light trails as well. 


Yet discussing the somewhat dated ride could a different more road specific, less lugged, softer outsole improve the road ride here? I think so, as the firmer extensive rubber as we have here for sure firms up the ride and also on the plus side adds to the Peg 39’s response..


Ride


Peter: Ugh, I want to love you Pegasus, I really do. The ride here feels flat and uninspiring. I don’t feel that the foam is forgiving or that there’s enough cushion in the shoe to get me through even a regular daily run. I’ve found my forefoot feels bruised at the end of longer runs. The Peg 39 doesn’t seem to be working with me, but against me. I’ve given it so many chances to break in, but ultimately it feels plodding and kind of unpleasant on every run. 

Sam: Yes indeed the forefoot is thin feeling as Peter says.  This is clearly not a modern long run or recovery type shoe given the relatively (for these days) 23 mm forefoot, dense React foam, air pod, and substantial outsole. The ride suits relatively fast paces, shorter runs, and a mix of road and some dirt best. So it's a fine durable training ride for school and college XC runners and those who do some light door to easy trails at paces pushed on the faster side to really activate the air pods. So, now a more classic Peg ride. 


Cheng: The Pegasus is back, baby! After adopting the new direction of using larger, individual Zoom Air units over the previous thin, full-length ones (35/36), it took a few tries before the Pegasus’ ride came alive again. I didn’t dislike the 37/38, but recognize their flaws and how many runners might have been vexed. The 37 was somewhat too harsh, although they performed well at tempo pace - but then why would you wear them… The 38 was then too soft, uninspiring, and even came with a mushy upper. They were decent recovery shoes, but why would one choose that over countless other buttery soft options. Bland until tempo pace yet not designed for recovery running, the Pegasus 37 and 38 failed at being a Pegasus. That is, it failed at being a true daily trainer.


With the 39, the daily trainer is back.


This iteration’s blend of React works rather well with the forefoot and rearfoot Zoom Air units. During compression, just enough foam collapses at just the right rate to allow a soft landing while the Zoom Air units produce a snappy response. The overall sensation is gently soft (not buttery) while maintaining an almost surprising responsiveness. I say ‘surprising’ because this well-tuned effect was not apparent in previous iterations of the Pegasus. After running in them for a while, the sensation is no longer a surprise, but still acts as a good cue to maintain a snappy form.


During faster, tempo paces, I can even feel the forefoot air unit as it compresses and explodes forward not unlike ZoomX (though far less superior in its rebound). The sensation is a nice blend of cushion and response. Although certainly not a performance tempo shoe (think Tempo NEXT%), the Air Pegasus 39 will take you through such a session in a cinch.


Conclusions and Recommendations


Peter: The Pegasus 39 is a great looking shoe that ultimately doesn’t work well for me as a running shoe. On paper it all makes sense…10.4 oz in my size 11, fairly flexible, React foam, great outsole, air bags under the foot. Should all work well. Instead, I experience a lumpy and clunky ride that is uninspiring. I never felt like I could just run in the Peg 39, there was always something annoying me during every run. It sounds like if you’re a heel striker you might enjoy it more–but for me it’s not a great running shoe.  There are daily trainers out there that feel so much better for me. I’ll get into that in the comparisons below. 


Peter’s Score 5/10

It’s just not runnable for me. Not comfortable, lumpy and never felt like it broke in. It’s a good looking shoe to wear around the office though!


Sam: The Pegasus 39 returns to “form” let’s just say with its classic higher drop, thinner forefoot , agile ride that should please loyalists of Pegasus past and found 37 and 38 lumpy, heavy and dull. All of those negatives are improved for me. That said, don't expect a modern, bouncy and energetic any pace ride here. Workmanlike, durable, and well shod with multi surface rubber the Peg is a great choice for high school and college runners as well as anyone whose run routine is focused on shorter, faster runs on a variety of road and smooth trail surfaces. 


The new upper is the clear highlight as the beautifully crafted, nicely fitting, and most importantly lighter upper is now (unlike Peg 38’s) well matched to the shoe’s purposes while keeping the overall shoe weight reasonable at near 9 oz. 


The addition of the rear air unit is a clear plus as for me it takes the edge off the React foam. While a clear improvement over the very lumpy predecessor air, the front air unit and forefoot maybe go a bit too far in being thin and firm in feel, limiting mileage range for me while yes at the same time increasing agility. 


While for sure we stay true to form in terms of stack height, I think it is time for Nike to reconsider the overall geometry here and materials to make the Pegasus a more appealing modern trainer with more forefoot stack and maybe losing the front air unit, a little less drop, and a softer more energetic midsole foam (more Olefin in the React mix please!)  while also deciding how much rubber coverage is really needed for the primary purpose of the shoe.  


At $130 given its durability, fine fit, and versatile ride (if you are in its sweet spot of uses) it is a very solid value.

Sam’s Overall Score: 8.95 /10

Ride: 8.7 | Fit: 9.3| Value: 9.1 | Style: 9.2

Smiles Score:😊😊😊


Cheng: Is the Pegasus back in its original stalls–yes, if the said stalls have been rebuilt and remodeled Is it polarizing–yes, that too… again!


Still, Peg 39 is currently one of the best, basic daily trainers on the market. Other brands attempt to use the latest foam, rocker, and upper to mimic an idealized notion of a daily trainer, but few get it all right in a well-fitting package. If you want a tempo shoe, pick among the countless other offerings. If you want a recovery shoe, stop reading this review.


But if you want a do-it-all trainer, give this a try. It’s certainly among my short list of one-shoe-only options!


Cheng’s Overall Score: 8.6 / 10  

Ride: 8 | Fit: 10 | Value: 8 | Style: 8

Smiles Score:😊😊😊😊


Watch Sam's Pegasus 39 Initial Video Review (8:52)


10 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Nike Zoom Pegasus 37 and 38 (RTR Review)

Sam: The men’s Pegasus 37 had a very high pressure and noticeable front air unit that took faster paces or runner weights to activate and “get out of the way”. Clearly less of that in the 39 but now the forefoot feel is thinner in feel.  The Pegasus 39 with its underfoot platform and rough feeling thick and snug upper was really almost a trail shoe in disguise for me while the Pegasus 39 returns to more classic daily trainer status.

The Pegasus 38 went in the opposite from the 37 as far as its upper with a dense heavily padded near lifestyle approach leading to a big weight gain which now with the fine 39 upper is knocked way back down. The Pegasus 38 ride was softer with its front unit pressure tuned down from the men’s 37. The Peg 39 brings the air down yet more and gets more agile feeling for sure (weight reduction also a big factor) but thinner feeling as well upfront but on the plus side more agile and quicker feeling as well. I much prefer the 39’s return to classic daily training origins from the 38’s “detour” although for me the women’s 37 is still my Peg pick with its light upper and more substantial (if lower pressure than the men’s 37) front air and softer React.  

 

Nike Invincible Run (RTR Review)

Cheng: In a twist of logic, the Invincible is similar to the Pegasus - not because of their similar ride, but because of their similar monolithic midsoles. Specifically, both insoles are crispy while being soft and similar at the forefoot and rearfoot. Sadly, that’s where the similarities end.


Functionally, I would rarely choose the Pegasus 39 over the Invincible–although it has occurred once. This is mostly due to the Invincible being relegated to recovery running. That is, most of my runs in them are a second, ultra easy 30-minute recovery prod (so slow it can’t be called jogging). In these scenarios, I rarely reach for something not buttery soft… Once again, the Pegasus 39 is a daily trainer, but can function as a recovery shoe in a pinch.

*See Invincible comparative performance after 500 miles in QS 29 (RTR Quick Strides 29).


Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)

Sam: Nike’s other “current” trainer, the aptly named Tempo Next is a giant of a shoe in comparison to the Pegasus with a far greater stack height, React heel and ZoomX plus giant air pod up front. Explosive, mechanical, very fast for such a big trainer or really any trainer it is for sure not a shoe for quick footed runs and agility as the Peg is but for plowing straight ahead long and fast. One of my favorite recent trainers and for sure my favorite heavy duty Nike trainer of recent years. Nike really needs something right between these two.


Nike Zoom Streakfly  (RTR Review)

Sam: I said I liked the Tempo Next a lot as a heavy duty long and fast run shoe. Well, the Streakfly is far lighter than Pegasus 39, a stunning 3 oz/ 85g lighter with actually 3mm more forefoot stack and the same heel height is at the other extreme. All Zoom X with a mid foot shank Zoom X the lower weight explanation along with far less outsole coverage,  the Streakfly serves all the same road uses for me as the Pegasus, shorter runs at varied paces including slow and fast. It is not a choice for trails and dirt and its more minimal outsole is the polar opposite of the Pegasus sturdy full coverage so it is less daily training versatile but way way more fun. As with the Tempo Next where is the shoe between Streakfly and Pegasus Nike? Basically the same as Streakfly, Zoom X and all with a more substantial outsole.


Saucony Freedom 5 (RTR Review)

Cheng: The Freedom was one of the rare shoes that I tested where I could not run enough distance to produce a review. The upper was so uncomfortably tight that any attempts to go more than a mile (even at prodding paces) was distractingly annoying. Although this eventually led me to tuning the ride by removing the top sole (RTR Quick Strides 33), it was still uninspiring. While both the Freedom 5 and Peg 39 have monolithic midsole designs, the 39 does a far better job at being a true daily trainer. I’m not sure what I’d use the Freedom 5 for… Speed walking?

Sam: The Freedom 5 is essentially a cross training shoe that can be run, a bit. 


Skechers Ride 10 (RTR Review)

Peter: As a daily trainer the Skechers Ride 10 is nearly everything I wish the Pegasus 39 was. It’s just the right amount of cushion with a bouncy and responsive feel. It’s a no-nonsense daily trainer that weighs in lighter than the Peg, rides smoother and disappears during the run. It’s not as good looking as the Nike, but I’d run in it everyday.


New Balance 880 V12 (RTR Review)

Peter: The NB 880 V12 is a heavier daily trainer than the Pegasus 39, but works so much more harmoniously with my body. It’s well cushioned, will last forever and is really easy to run in. Despite the weight, it’s a more invisible and well-balanced ride. 

Sam: A great if heavier ride for the 880v12 as Peter says, but a sloppy upper and for sure a sloppier less secure upper than the Peg 39 for me tips the scales Pegasus  if I had to choose and it rare for me that upper tips the scales.


adidas Supernova 2 (RTR Initial Video Review)

At almost exactly the same stack height, the $100 adidas weighs 15g/ 0.5 oz more but is still well under 10 oz. In a battle of more classic foams the combination of Boost heel, Bounce front in the adidas delivers a softer more rebounding ride but not quite as snappy or uptempo an experience. Depends on what you need. If you are seeking a more mellow riding daily trainer and/or are on a budget go Supernova 2. For a higher performance daily training ride Pegasus. For the beginner runner reading this I would recommend the Supernova 2 over the Pegasus. Uppers are both really fine with the thinner sleeker Nike a bit more breathable and more secure. 

On CloudMonster (RTR Review)

Peter: The CloudMonster is a beefy looking beauty that runs really, really smooth. It’s a much more fluid ride with a more natural toe-off than the Peg 39.

Sam: Agree with Peter! For those daily miles done smooth the Monster. However for quicker short stuff, rougher roads and terrain the Peg is more versatile.


Craft Pro Endur (RTR Review)

Sam:  The Craft has a single slab of state of the art beaded PEBA foam which delivers an energetic ride. It has more stack height while weighing about the same. It is almost equallya as stable and far more fun to run than the Pegw with none of the thin feeling forefoot issues of the Peg 39 as there is 3mm more foam up front and it is more “reactive”, softer and bouncier than the Peg’s Air/React combination.. It has a substantial outsole that I found, as with the Peg, light trails worthy. Its more tubular fitting upper is lighter than Peg’s but is a bit more awkward fitting if a bit roomier. Both true to size.  


Tester Profiles


Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years


Cheng is a CrossFitter turned runner. He lifts and base builds in the winter while racing in the summer with a personal best of 1:20 (Half). He coaches a local track team in the suburbs of Detroit (OCTO) and passionately brings an engineering stance to analyzing running, shoes, and tech. Follow him on Instagram (@MrChengChen) for more.


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.


The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 is available now including at our partners below

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposesRoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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2 comments:

Adi said...

Could you please include a comparison to the forthcoming Adi Supernova 2?

Sam Winebaum said...

@Adi A great one to compare to. I have added to the review and include the comparison to the Supernova 2 here:
At almost exactly the same stack height, the $100 adidas weighs 15g/ 0.5 oz more but is still well under 10 oz. In a battle of more classic foams the combination of Boost heel, Bounce front in the adidas delivers a softer more rebounding ride but not quite as snappy or uptempo an experience. Depends on what you need. If you are seeking a more mellow riding daily trainer and/or are on a budget go Supernova 2. For a higher performance daily training ride Pegasus. For the beginner runner reading this I would recommend the Supernova 2 over the Pegasus. Uppers are both really fine with the thinner sleeker Nike a bit more breathable and more secure.