I was a non-believer. When I first started running regularly, Nike was not even in my list. Over-hyped, over-priced. Oh boy. Forgive me that I have sinned. I have to eat my own words. All my recent purchases have been Nike. Forget about the expensive Vapormaxes, where Nike claim the running shoes that have been tested most extensively, or the Airmaxes. Nobody in their right minds wear Airmaxes for running. If you see past all these faux-running shoes, Nike actually make many amazing shoes.

Among them is Nike Zoom Elite 9, one of many Nike running shoes that I am eager to get my hands on. Many say it is a hybrid of Nike Zoom Pegasus and Nike Zoom Streak 6, which I really love. It takes a long time before I get my hands on a pair of Nike Zoom Elite 9 though. It has been out for more than a year but was only available on Nike Malaysia Online Store. For an unknown reason, it is not available at any Nike store in Malaysia.

Good things come to those who wait. I waited for more than a year and recently, Nike Zoom Elite 9 is made available in limited pairs at Nike Factory Store at Mitsui, JPO, and A’Famosa Outlet. Thanks to Benny who copped a pair of US7.0 for me at 40% (39.45% to be exact) of the retail price. My pair comes from Thailand based on the shoe tag.

I have had Nike Zoom Elite 9 for a bit more than a week and have put 80.4 kilometres over 5 runs since. 80 kilometres are not long enough to come up with a full review, so these are only my initial impressions. I will write a full review once I have put at least 200 kilometres in it. One point to note though, the 5 runs that I have done in the shoes consist of two easy runs (with hill sprints sprinkled in it), one 2 miles tempo repeat, one 1 kilometre repeat, and a 20 miles long run. In short, I have thrown almost everything in the way of the shoes. I believe I already have a good idea about the shoes and probably can write a full review, but let’s wait for a little bit more so that I can include durability among other things in my full review. Be patient, guys.

Ritually, first thing I do when I get my hands on a pair of running shoes is to weigh them. My wife kitchen scale really comes handy. My US7.0 Nike Zoom Elite 9 pair comes in at 196g for the right pair, and strangely the left weighs 6g heavier. I am not sure why the right weighs more than the left but I believe it is due to manufacturing process. Raise up your hands if you can tell a difference of 6g! I thought so!

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I am going to talk a lot about the performance of the shoes, so let’s first start with the design and construction of the shoes. I believe whoever reads this blog posts has heard about Nike’s Breaking2 project. Click here if you have no idea what I am talking about. Nike use this Breaking2 project as a platform to introduce three (not you, Pegasus 34) of their latest running shoes (and also fastest?), Zoomfly, Vaporfly 4%, and Vaporfly Elite. The design of these two shoes are so radical that you will be forgiven if you think they parts of a rocket ship. (Yeah, I hear you. They look somewhat identical to Hoka). The tapered aero heels are something that we have never seen before in a running shoe. Teeettttt…. You are wrong. Cosmetically at least, Nike have played around with the tapered aero heels in Nike Zoom Elite 9.

The same design thought from Zoomfly is trinkled down to Zoom Elite 9 (or maybe the other way around?). Many complain about the stiff and tall heel counter on Zoomfly and the same can be said to Zoom Elite 9. The tall and stiff rub my achilles occasionally. It is a bit irritating but nothing major.

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That’s all I have to say about the design and construction of the shoes. Now let’s talk about performance of Nike Zoom Elite 9.

First run in this pair was a 60 minutes easy run with 5 times 20 seconds hill sprints. (Strava link below).

60′ Easy + 5 x 20s Hill Sprints

It definitely felt lighter than my Pegasus 32 and it translated to the pace I ran my usual 60 minutes easy run. I run my easy runs based on feelings without any concern about the pace but I found myself running around 15s/km faster with the same effort compared to in Pegasus 32. It is lighter and smoother. To cap my easy run off, I did 5 times 20s hill sprints and I was pleased with the performance of the shoes.

The next day, I threw down 3 times 2 miles tempo repeats in the way of the shoes. This was a truer test to the shoes because it is meant to be run fast in. (Strava link below).

3 x 3.2km Tempo Repeats

Happy to report that it performed just as expected. I managed to maintain my running form deep into the workout in the shoes. However, I was thrown off a bit by its weight. Don’t get me wrong, it is fairly lightweight. Although it only weighs 20g more than Zoom Streak 6, but Zoom Streak 6 feels a lot lighter, a lot smoother. Nothing to take away from Zoom Elite 9 though, because it still felt smooth. It is difficult to compare it to Zoom Streak 6, probably the best shoes that I have ever worn. For this kind of workout and effort, I prefer to wear Zoom Streak 6.

To gauge how it feels over a long run, I ran a 20 miles long run in them last weekend. (Strava link below)

20 miles long run

It was supposed to be a 20 miles easy but similar to my easy runs in Zoom Elite 9, I unconsciously pushed the pace a little faster than intended. However, the effort still felt easy. My legs were not beaten up until at least after 27 kilometres or so. I finished my long run just a little bit sore. The shoe is smooth and light without sacrificing protection and cushioning.

Yesterday I ran 8 times kilometre repeats at 5k-8k pace as the final test to the shoes before coming up with first impressions. (Strava link below).

8 x KM Repeats

Expectedly, my thoughts are the same as my impressions during the tempo repeats. It was capable to get the job done. I didn’t require much effort to bring it up to speed. But deep into the workout, as I was digging deep, I could feel that my strides were creeping towards the heels. It was probably only me losing a good running form. Having said that, at the end of the workout, my legs were probably not as beaten up as if I had done the workout in Zoom Streak 6.

Where does Zoom Elite 9 slot in in my current rotation?

I have Zoom Pegasus 32 for slow boring easy runs as well as long monotonous boring long runs. I do not want to push the pace faster than I suppose to during these runs as really, every time I lace my Zoom Elite 9, I feel like going fast.

I have Zoom Streak 6 and Lunaracer+ 3 for intervals and short tempo runs. I prefer something lighter and more responsive for these kinds of workouts.

Where does this leave Zoom Elite 9 then? 

I reserve Zoom Elite 9 for long tempo workouts, more than 20 minutes effort as well as long-steady runs and structured long runs, where I have to crank up the pace towards the end of a long run.

After reading how it fares during the workouts I have done above and the types of workouts I will use it for, some of you might think that it is not as good as others made it to be. Again, don’t get me wrong. I can’t help myself from comparing Zoom Elite 9 against Zoom Streak 6. For short tempo efforts and intervals, yes, Zoom Streak 6 is definitely better. But these two are two different beasts.

You can’t expect to win a rally car race, in a Ferrari.

Like I mention above, where it performs best (for me at least) is in longer tempo workouts, as well as structured long runs. It slots in between the racy Zoom Streak 6 and Zoom Pegasus. Zoom Elite 9 is supposed to be a beefed-up version of Zoom Streak 6 and trimmed-down version of Zoom Pegasus, remember?

Well, after 80 kilometres and all sorts of workouts later, my thought is it feels and behaves more like a Zoom Pegasus than Zoom Streak 6. Lighter and smoother than a Pegasus, but not as responsive aggressive and racy as Streak 6. It is still a fast shoe, but the ride is closest to Pegasus than Streak 6. Interestingly though, just yesterday after 8 times KM repeats in Elite 9, I changed to Pegasus 32 for a cool down. Surprisingly, Pegasus 32 felt closer to the ground than Elite 9. Not as soft as Pegasus but Elite 9 mutes the ground feeling a little bit more than Pegasus 32. This means that Elite 9 provides better protection than Pegasus over a long run and prolong the duration before our legs get fatigued.

Having said that, Zoom Elite 9 is definitely in contention to be my next marathon shoe. It is a competition between Zoom Elite 9 and Lunaracer+ 3. As it stands currently, I am leaning towards Lunaracer+ 3, because it is lighter and smoother. BUT. But Zoom Elite 9 definitely provides more protection compared to Lunaracer+ 3, vital during the last miles of marathon when the form gets sluggish and the legs become wobbly.

For any distance less than a marathon, I will probably look away from Zoom Elite 9. Perhaps, I will still run in Zoom Elite 9 for a half-marathon. But shorter than that, I definitely prefer something lighter, more aggressive, and feels faster like Zoom Streak 6, Lunaracer+ 3, and Zoom Streak LT 3 (which I don’t have).

There you have it. My initial thoughts on Nike Zoom Elite 9. More like a full review, I think. I’ll put more kilometres in the shoes before I can comment more about its durability, comfort, fit, and whatnots. Maybe you find few contradicting points, but in short, it’s a fast shoe, excel in steady-pace kind of workouts. With 60% off the retail price at Nike Factory Store in Malaysia, it is a no brainer.

Do yourself a favour and get yourself a pair!

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