Anyone who has shopped at a big-box store knows it can be hard to figure out where to begin. There are dozens upon dozens of options that all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that products from any given brand are not all created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than they do other things. Nike, with more than 600 different sneaker styles alone, is one of those brands — its inventory of cool-people–approved shoes and performance workout clothes needs to be carefully picked through to find gems like HIIT-friendly leggings, tennis pro–approved wristbands, and sneakers designed for road running. Here, we’ve corralled all the shoes and clothes from Nike that our writers and editors — as well as professional basketball players, TikTok stars, fitness instructors, stylists, and other cool people like Chris Black — have recommended on the Strategist.
Perhaps the most-recommended sneaker on the Strategist to date, Nike Air Force 1s — in all white — are beloved by everyone from TikTok stars to cool teens for their timeless, goes-with-everything look. “You can’t go wrong with Air Force 1s,” says stylist and personal shopper Christel Langué, who adds that “as a native New Yorker, I would feel embarrassed not to own a pair.” Mixed-ish star Arica Himmel, who has “probably owned five or six pairs over the years,” also considers them a closet staple, noting that she can wear them with “pretty much anything.” Hustlers star Keke Palmer is another fan, telling us they’re the “most stylish shoe.” For a “cool and unexpected” look, Leigh Plessner, a co-creative director of Catbird, pairs her Air Force 1s with dresses and nightgowns, while Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Erika Jayne wears them with “shorts or tights or with a tracksuit,” adding that there is “never an occasion — okay, there are obviously some occasions — when they wouldn’t work.” To make them stand out, TikTok star Loren Gray customizes hers through services offered by Nike and Drip Creationz, telling us that she has “at least four pairs.”
While the React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 is made specifically with runners in mind, Vanessa Chu, co-founder of recovery studio Stretch’d, says that on top of being her “go-to running shoes,” these are her first choice for HIIT workouts (because they make her feel like she’s bouncing but still protected). “They are superlight and were specifically designed to prevent running injuries, which seems like a no-brainer,” Chu adds.
If dance cardio is your favorite workout style — or if you just love to go dancing — the Nike Air Max Bella TR 3 will keep your ankles secure as you move. Candace Taylor, an instructor at 305 Fitness, says that “for dance, the key to healthy feet is shock-absorption capacity and ankle protection.” She recommends this “well-crafted” pair because they “are incredibly supportive and structured,” in addition to being stylish.
Not all running surfaces are created equal. Runners who train on a treadmill have different needs from road racers, and the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 was designed specifically for street running. Melissa Boyd, head trainer at Tempo, says that after struggling to get used to other running shoes’ cushioning and responsiveness, the Pegasus 38s won her over. They have enough bounce for speed, but are light enough for sprints and longer runs, she notes, adding that the wider toe box helps her hit a consistent stride. “I found a lot of my prior qualms with the sport were solved with this shoe.”
For weight lifting and HIIT training, Boyd prefers these designed-for-lifting Nike sneakers, which have less cushioning than running shoes but more stability. That said, some athletes we spoke to — like Jen Romanelli, co-founder of Trooper Fitness — also use these for running, as they prefer having a little less support: “I have flat feet, and people swear by ‘arch support’ — I don’t,” she says. “I’d rather have less support when doing more cardio-intensive activities because it forces ankle stability and strengthens my foot.” With a simple, lightweight shoe like this, she can engage more muscles and doesn’t feel like she’s being held back with each stride.
Lastly, personal trainer Denajha Phillips swears by this laceless Nike pair for her HIIT workouts. Not only are they comfortable for her flat feet, but they stay on. “I look for something that’s (1) going to be comfortable, and (2) really mold to my foot and get me through my workouts and my walks, and I find that this one does it all,” she says. They’re easy to pull on but have a thick, cushioned sole, which Phillips says absorbs impact effectively.
“When I say I run most of my miles in shorts, I really mean I run most of my miles in Nike Tempo shorts,” says marathon runner and Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson. They’re durable and feature a three-inch inseam, which she describes as “in that Goldilocks sweet spot of being neither too short nor too long.” Adelson has worn them for everything from 5Ks to marathons, and the shorts (which she says will often go on sale) come in a multitude of colors and plus sizes.
This V-neck Nike bra comes recommended by DanceBody founder and CEO Katia Pryce for medium-intensity workouts. She says its racer-back straps are supportive and that it provides just enough coverage for smaller busts (but the bra is available in a range of sizes up to 3X).
For high-intensity workouts, Amanda Freeman, the founder and CEO of SLT and Stretch*d, swears by this bra, which she calls “a classic” that has “stood the test of time — and the test of many washes.” Providing support via thick racerback straps and a wireless band, Jen Romanelli, the co-owner of Trooper Fitness, calls this the “black dress of sports bras,” while Adelson assures that it “holds everything in.” It’s available in sizes up to XL.
These unisex crew socks are a favorite amongst Strategist writers, editors, and Black alike. “I probably have 40 pairs of white Nike crew socks, and I wear them daily,” says Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst. “I think of them as kind of like footwear: They’re slightly padded on the bottom, look cute when scrunched, and go with absolutely everything.”
Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly led the pack of our expert-recommended men’s workout shoes for running, with Freeman and Taka Kasuga, the creative director of fashion-forward outdoors line Arc’teryx Veilance, telling us the sneakers are hard to beat in terms of comfort and performance. Like the women’s version, the men’s ZoomX Vaporfly’s sole “incorporates carbon-fiber plates that act like springs,” according to Freeman, who told us this design helps professional and amateur runners shave seconds off their personal bests. Kasuga says these shoes are his “go-to” for road runs and everyday wear because of their “great cushioning,” adding that their lightweight, flexible, and “packable” design makes them travel-friendly, too.
For strength training, personal trainer Ariel Brill recommends the Nike Metcon 5, which is balanced, durable, and has “great support.” The shoe is very popular in the CrossFit community, according to trainer Sean Sewell, since its firm, stable sole can handle a wide range of dynamic movements. “They are lightly cushioned and have little to no heel lift, making them good for proper biomechanics when performing dead lifts, squats, swings, and snatches,” Sewell says, adding that they have “good tactile feedback too.”
Like the Metcon 5s, Air Force 1s also have unisex appeal, with many guys, including actor Noah Schnapp, telling us the sneakers are their go-to, too. Says Schnapp: “Everyone has them. I have them in white, so they go with any outfit. They’re comfortable, so I wear them everywhere.”
“They’re a classic,” says NBA all-star and former pro basketball player Chris Bosh of the Nike Cortez. “I’ve got three pairs: black and white, white and red, and blue and white.” Bosh promises the sneakers are comfortable and that you can dress them “up or down.” Nicolas Lazaro, a community specialist at menswear-resale platform Grailed, is another Cortez fan, telling us that the narrower silhouette is one of the “most flattering styles if you have slim legs and small ankles.” He says Cortezes are among the best white sneakers a guy can own.
According to professional basketball player Julius Randle of the New York Knicks, the Air Jordan 1 Mid is another super-versatile sneaker that can be worn for “just walking around” or with some slacks “for dressing up.” Street dancer and DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss agrees, calling these the “first stylish street sneaker” and a “classic” that he owns “about 20-something different pairs” of.
If you’re looking for an everyday sneaker that makes a statement, Kiyoshi Martinez, lead fit specialist at men’s tailor Hall Madden, vouches for Nike’s Huaraches. “I wanted a sneaker that would go well with an obsession I was getting into with Hawaiian shirts and shorts, but it still needed to have a modern edge and be comfortable for walking and standing in,” Martinez says. He adds that their “futuristic and structured” look “is actually very comfortable and stretchy because of its design.”
Keith Pollock, SVP of creative at West Elm, is a devotee of the classic Nike Air Max 95. “I pretty much have a uniform these days, which is all black and navy,” he says, adding that it always includes a pair of Air Max 95s. (Currently you can get them in Smoke Grey, Cosmic Clay, or the Midnight Navy, shown.) These were also included in our roundup of the 42 most comfortable shoes for standing and walking, where they were recommended by professional ballet dancer Erica Lall. “I have to be careful with what shoes I wear because I obviously use my feet for everything,” she says. These sneakers have never given her a blister, and they support her arches — a “necessity for ballet dancers.”
Grub Street editor and avid gymgoer Alan Sytsma wears these lined seven-inch shorts while running, telling us they’re lightweight, “short enough to avoid being baggy,” and secure at the waist, so they “don’t start sagging down like ten minutes into the run.” They also have pockets, including an “even-more-crucial-but-rarely-seen interior back pocket” that he says is perfect for keys and other small necessities that might otherwise jangle against your leg.
Slightly shorter than the above pair, these five-inch Nike shorts are what Chris Keyloun, a coach at New York City rowing studio Rowgatta, wears for both running and rowing workouts. He says they have “built-in compression” and a not-too-long inseam to keep you “free from snags on the slide of the boat or rower.” This pair comes with a liner, but the shorts are also available linerless.
Contributor Steven John, an avid trail runner, wears this moisture-wicking shirt on runs outside (and in the gym), telling us the style is “flattering” and “comparable to more-expensive tees from Under Armour and Lululemon.” The shirt is made from a lightweight material and has mesh panels along the sides to keep him cool and dry, John adds.
Nike’s cushioned crew socks are also a favorite of men: Grailed editor Lawrence Schlossman, who wears the gym-ready Dri-FIT version, told us that if he’s “not in Nike’s, I’m going sockless.”
Meanwhile, over at Navarro College, the male (and female) cheerleaders on its famous squad prefer the no-show version, according to assistant cheerleading coach Andy Cosferent. “We like to keep a very clean, college image, so we want to match the white socks with the white shoes,” he says.
Finally, wristbands are a favorite accessory for tennis players, but they’ll work for any activity where you need to wipe sweat off your face and out of your eyes. Chris Olberding, president of Gitman Vintage and an avid tennis player, says that wristbands — like socks — have a tendency to “go wandering” in the wash, so it’s not a bad idea to stick to one always-in-stock color or style for all of your pairs so you don’t have to worry about mismatches if you lose one. In that spirit, tennis pro Lendale Johnson told us he chooses to stick with these classic white bands from Nike.
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