The shoes that we’ve reviewed from Nike of late have all been a specialty of one type or another. For instance, the Nike Zoome Terra Kiger is a dedicated trail shoe and the Free 4.0 Flyknit is for someone looking for that barefoot/natural/super-flexy feel. Today we’re going to get into one of the company’s more training-centric and traditional shoes, the Nike Air Zoom Elite 7. Of the shoe, Nike says,
“Light and responsive, to take you far and fast.”
Let’s see, shall we?
As seems to be the trend these days, the outsole of the Zoom Elite 7 is full contact, meaning there are no big cut-outs in the arch. Rather, the outsole of the shoe is in contact with the ground for almost its entire length. The primary materials used in the outsole of the Zoom Elite 7 are carbon rubber and outsole-grade EVA foam. The entire forefoot of the shoe utilizes the carbon rubber in a diamond pattern and has only 3 effective flex-grooves; one at the front of the arch/back of the forefoot, one at the front of the metatarsal heads and one that falls roughly in between the second and third toes. Running down the lateral side from front to back are two rubber “crash rails” that not only beef up that high-impact area but they also smooth out the heel-midfoot-forefoot transition. These rails continue to the very back of the shoe where a diamond pattern takes over covering onto the medial heel and again, keeping optimized durability. The medial side of the outsole from the front of the arch – back is exposed, outsole-grade EVA foam that maintains the diamond pattern.
When compared with version 6 of the Zoom Elite, the 7 does a nice job of shaving weight and the medial outsole being devoid of (relatively) heavy rubber is certainly one reason for this. The traction of this shoe is great for roads and the diamond pattern on much of the outsole keeps things fairly flexible. The limited forefoot flex grooves do a pretty decent job of letting the foot bend but they could stand to carry into the midsole a bit deeper and I think adding a couple more would add welcome flexibility to a shoe that has quite a firm midsole (more on this below). As for durability of the Zoom Elite 7, thus far, with about 30 miles on them, it seems excellent. The exposed EVA is extremely well placed for my stride and as such I’ve seen basically no wear on an otherwise less-durable material.
The midsole of the Zoom Elite 7 is a design that seems to be similar to many of the new Zoom models. In fact, the lateral aspect of the midsole foam is all but indistinguishable from its cousin, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31. The midsole of the Zoom Elite 7 brings stack heights of 25mm in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot for a net drop of 7mm (though Nike advertises it as 8mm) which gives it a fairly low profile relative to its predecessors. Internally, the midsole has a Zoom Air bag in the forefoot just under the metatarsals but none in the rearfoot.
Nike touts the Zoom Elite 7 as having “ultra-responsive cushioning”. Much of the time when we see this we find the translation to be tend toward “firm”. In this case, I wouldn’t argue with that assessment. The foam of this shoe is very firm though the “crash rails” on the outsole offer a smooth transition that creates a kind of functional cushioning. Since I am a forefoot/midfoot runner, I found the shoe to be quite responsive with plenty of cushion provided by the forefoot Zoom Air bag and really didn’t notice the absence of one in the rearfoot. Stick around for the RIDE section below for a bit more on this.
The upper of the Zoom Elite 7 has quite a bit going on so bear with me! First, the primary outer layer of the upper is made from and elongated-hexagonal mesh that is nice and open but not so much as to let is unwanted debris. This support structure on the outside of the mesh is a well-dispersed heat bonded overlay which includes reinforcement in the toe. The interior of the Zoom Elite 7 is a soft, foam-backed mesh that maintains the breathability of the outer layer and ventilates the foot well. The actual structure of the interior creates a full-foot sleeve of sorts which locks the foot down as much or as little as the runner needs. It’s quite interesting that Nike calls the upper a “single-layer mesh” since, to my mind, there are two very distinct layers. In any event, both are lightweight and keep things airy in the shoe.
The tongue of the Zoom Elite 7 is gusseted and attaches to the aforementioned inner sleeve about halfway down the throat and does a superb job of keeping the tongue in place. The material of the tongue is quite light with almost no padding except toward the ankle and is very comfortable. The heel counter of the shoe is fairly traditional and gets more firm toward the midsole. This makes for a very well defined heel cup and prevented and heel slide for me, even when taking hard turns and the like. In addition, the amount of foam around the collar and achilles insert is great for me and moreover, its firmness is excellent. Finally, the lacing of this shoe is offset medially and uses Nike’s Flywire system. When combined with the inner sleeve structure, this setup is very secure on the foot. I have run barefoot in the Zoom Elite 7 for a total of about 4 miles and didn’t have any problems. This seems to be largely attributable to the inner sleeve that keeps the foot from sliding and thus creating friction points.
Before I get into the specifics of the fit of the Zoom Elite 7 I think it’s important to once again mention the inner sleeve. This well
thought out setup really does a very nice job of preventing sliding around in the shoe and while I haven’t been taking any super agility-requiring, parkour runs with this I do feel as though I could.
Now about the fit in earnest; first, the sizing is good for me though the sleeve gives the impression of a slightly snug feel so be aware that some loosening and such may have to take place to nail the feel. The heel fits very well; so well, in fact, that I think even some low-volume heels would feel secure. The midfoot is also very secure though there is some play in the throat and laces if needs be. The forefoot of the Zoom Elite 7 is interesting. On one hand the snug feel of it certainly has something to do with the inner sleeve but on the other hand, when I wiggle my toes there isn’t much room to splay fully. I do think the toe box is comfortable but I also feel like it could stand some vertical and lateral room.
I mentioned earlier that this shoe is firm and it is. In the forefoot, that firmness turned into a more nuanced responsiveness for me thanks to the Zoom Air bag. If you’re a hardcore heel striker who’s still in denial the lack of substantial cushioning in the heel may be a bit too firm for you. Of course, if you can manage to fix your technique and get onto the midfoot, you’ll be good to go. I really enjoyed the quick and smooth transition that the “crash rails” provide and kelt a good, forward moving sense rather than one of settling and having to dig myself out of mid-stance.
At 10.3 ounces (men’s size 11) the Zoom Elite 7 isn’t the lightest thing on Earth but it is a very nice weight in its category. Additionally, the durability of this shoe should take just about anyone the full marathon distance (or maybe even further) with no problems. This is a very accessible shoe that has moved away from some of the overly cushy shoes from Beaverton and I, for one, am glad to see it. Also, at $110 it’s a well-priced shoe when you consider the bulk of the high-end running shoe market right now.
As with the past few models that we’ve seen, Nike has done a good job with the Zoom Elite 7. It’s a smooth, durable and well designed shoe that anyone who’s looking should certainly consider. While there are a couple minor changes that I believe could take this shoe to the next level, look for a lot of people wearing this shoe very soon.
Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).