Time for another comparison of shoe brands, and today we have two undisputed heavyweights: Brooks and Nike. Brooks is, arguably, the most popular brand of running footwear on the planet. Nike is one of the most ubiquitous brands in the world, and has been revolutionizing running over the last few years. Both make a wide variety premium-quality footwear that you are likely to love. But since you can only put on one pair of shoes at a time, let’s take a look at which one you might prefer.
Brooks: The Overview
For the last 106 years, Brooks has been designing and manufacturing running and walking shoes. The company made running shoes, bath shoes, and baseball cleats until 1972 when Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon, and running suddenly became hugely popular.
Instead of branching out into an assortment of shoes and apparel, Brooks decided to focus solely on running. Using a combination of innovation, technology, analytics, and real runner insights, they dedicated a significant amount of time to research, working to provide runners with shoes that are well-cushioned, responsive, comfortable, and have a wide, comfortable toe-box.
Nike: The Overview
Nike followed has more or less followed opposite trajectory. The company was born in 1964 out of the need for cushioned shoes for runners. Bill Bowerman was in the practice of making homemade shoes on his waffle iron for University of Oregon runners. He would eventually pair up with Phil Knight to create Nike, designing the Cortez shoe, which was one of the first shoes to offer any form of cushioning to lessen the impact of running.
Since then, Nike has branched out into footwear, clothing, and equipment for any number of sports, and their list of sponsored athletes across the globe is the A-list no matter what their pursuit.
Nike has been using technology to enhance their running shoes and provide a comfortable ride that minimizes the risk of injury to the runner.
Nike has also listened to what their runners have had to say about their products, and are designing shoes that are built for specific things, like speed or running marathons.
You can’t assume that your normal shoe size will fit you when it comes to Nike, as their sizing seems to be anything but consistent. Feet differ from runner to runner, as do preferences for fit. Nike makes the whole range, from snug and responsive to super cushy, from minimalist to maximalist, so make sure you take your time to get fitter properly.
For example, the Nike Joyride Run Flyknit and Women’s AF1 Sage seem to run narrow. The Nike Zoom Vomero and the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus are slightly wider and feel different on the feet.
Let’s delve into some specific shoe details of both Brooks and Nike.
Brooks uses different technologies when it comes to their uppers, such as engineered mesh and Fit Knit.
The engineered mesh is woven and used to provide stretch and structure in the shoe. The Fit Knit upper feels like you’re wearing a sock that’s wrapped snugly around your foot, but still allows an adequate amount of stretch.
On some shoe models, like the Run Signature line, you’ll find 3D Fit Print, which is lightweight with increased flexibility and helps to maintain the shoe’s structure.
The Ghost GTX (amongst others) features a lightweight GORE-TEX membrane. This helps to keep runners’ feet dry and comfortable wherever they are.
Brooks’ uppers are designed to be breathable without creating hotspots in the shoe. Some shoes will feature synthetic overlays and an internal saddle that help provide a secure, locked-in fit.
The Nike uppers often feature the new Nike Flyknit material, with Nike Flywire and Dynamic Fit technology.
Nike Flyknit targets specific areas of the upper using different kinds of knit patterns to provide stretch and support and allow for excellent air circulation.
Nike Flywire provides additional support to the upper, as it wraps around the arch and midfoot with a sock-like feel. When you tighten the laces, you’ll feel the Dynamic Fit technology as it conforms to the shape of your foot.
Brooks shoes feature Brooks DNA, a unique foam in the midsole. It’s made to adapt to the force that’s applied to the shoe while dispersing pressure.
This DNA foam has been combined with BioMoGo midsoles, which provide you with a cushioning that feels as if it’s been customized to your foot.
This cushioning reacts to your weight, gait, running movement, and environment, while giving you 30% more cushioning than most other shoes. It also helps to provide a smooth heel-to-toe transition.
Some Brooks shoes feature built-in Guide Rails, which aim to prevent overpronation in runners with low arches or who need extra support. It also helps runners maintain their natural motion throughout their run cycle.
Nike’s midsoles are at the center of a controversial revolution. They are built around ZoomX foam, which is lightweight and cushy. Zoom pods have been combined with Nike React technology in some shoes, which will give you a bouncy and responsive ride. Depending on the type of Nike shoe, you could even find a full-length Zoom bag, for extra comfort. But the real thunderclap Nike has introduced is a carbon fiber plate embedded in the midsole of shoes like the Vaporfly 4% and the Alphafly NEXT%. This springy plate greatly improves running efficiency (at least among ultra-fast runners), and has raised questions about what a shoe should and should not be able to do. They even led World Athletics to revise their guidelines for race-legal running shoe. For the record, Brooks is following the trend with the Hyperion Elite.
Brooks shoes feature outsoles that are made from thick blown rubber with flex grooves in the forefoot. These flex grooves provide flexibility and keep your foot moving naturally, as well as providing a better toe-off.
On some of their shoes, the outsole features Brooks’s Podular technology. Brooks has created smaller sections on the outsole that are made from a harder rubber. These strategically-placed pods help to increase the cushioning and make the shoe more responsive.
Some of Brooks’s shoes also feature a robust carbon heel, which makes the shoes long-lasting and able to withstand wear and tear on even the toughest of trails.
Nike outsoles are often made from carbon rubber and they feature flex grooves and segmented grooves as well. These have been placed in certain parts of the outsole so that the shoe can mimic the natural movement of your foot.
The textured outsole helps provide stability and a better grip on all surfaces.
Some shoes may have a softer blown rubber in the forefoot and midfoot to reduce the impact and absorb the shock of footstrikes.
Both Brooks and Nike design shoes that are meant to withstand wear and tear and many, many miles. With the exception of the ultra-lightweight NEXT% line of racing shoes, which suffers known durability issues, you can expect to get the standard 300-500 miles out of any pair of Brooks or Nike shoe.
They are also both reputable companies and will replace defective shoes that don’t last as long as they are supposed to.
If you have decided to invest the hefty price into Nike’s carbon fiber plate shoes in the pursuit of PRs, it’s probably best to keep the NEXT%s for racing. The foam tends to go after as little as 150 miles. That should get you through a season of racing, but a heavy training load will be asking these shoes to write checks they can’t cash.
Brooks is known for their comfortable, pillowy cushioning and their stability shoes.
Nike is better known for its fast, light performance shoes, like the Vapor Fly. Their innovative technology provides cushioning for various lines of shoes, like the Nike Air, Nike Shox, or Nike React and Zoom X.
Both shoe brands offer great support and cushioning, but what feels best to you is going to come down to a few things. These include:
- Personal preference
- Whether you overpronate or supinate
- Arch support
- The type of running you do
- The distance that you run
Both brands offer shoes that provide full-length cushioning that’s soft and plushy, and shoes that have additional support in the midfoot.
Both can provide a running shoe that’s comfortable, responsive, and minimizes the risk of injury to the wearer.
Overall Fit & Comfort
Brooks shoes are often true to size, but also have an option to get the shoe in wide sizes. This allows for a comfortable fit, and they’re also known for a wider-than-average toe box.
Nike shoes often favor snug, responsive fits. This can create pressure points on the foot, especially if you’re wide in the forefoot.
Both brands have shoes with uppers that will securely lock your foot in so that your midfoot feels like it’s wrapped in a hug.
Both brands also have cushioning that offers a responsive and comfortable ride, even on long runs.
For both brands, the price varies across the entire shoe range. As technology progresses, more tech is being added to shoes, which increases the price.
You can find both Brooks and Nike running shoes that are moderately priced.
If you’re looking for running shoes that are geared towards professional athletes, they come with a higher price tag. While you can find functional models from each brand at department stores in the $60 range, and more typical lightweight, high-mileage shoes in the $120 range, the carbon plate shoes like the Next% and the Hyperion Elite will set you back upwards of $250.
In the end, there’s no true winner in this comparison. As runners, we are spoiled for choice, and the choice is entirely yours.
Each brand has its own unique technologies, and the one that suits you best will depend largely on your own preferences, both in terms of where and how you run, and what feels comfortable on your foot.
Runners who prefer a wider toe box will benefit from a pair of Brooks footwear. Narrow-footers might prefer Nike.
If cushioning is the most important factor for you, or if you need a stability shoe, then it may be worth focusing on Brooks rather than Nike.
If new, exciting, and innovative tech is of interest to you, you may enjoy the Nike range more.
Whichever one you choose, they’re both quite durable and will serve you well if you look after them properly.
Best Selling Brooks Running Shoes
Brooks Ghost 13
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Brooks Glycerin 18