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Trail Running Shoes • June 30, 2021

Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Performance Review

nike pegasus trail 3 - feature
  • Weighs 11.3 oz. (321 g) for a US M9 / oz. ( g) for a US W
  • React foam midsole brings road comfort to the trails
  • Just hand the whole company over to the Nike Trail design team
  • Stack height: 36 mm in heel/ 26 mm in toe (10 mm drop)
  • Out now for $130
  • Did Nike figure out the outsole? Spoiler: NOPE

TAYLOR: Nike has a pretty hit-or-miss reputation when it comes to the trail side of things, but this year’s offerings have landed a pretty high average across the board.

This new Pegasus Trail 3 is – by nature of its name – modeled after the perennial road workhorse, the Pegasus, which has been around for nearly four decades. But it’s certainly a different shoe, both in its intended use and construction.

The main differences in the Peg Trail include a trail-specific tread, nuances in the upper, and the absence of a forefoot Zoom Air unit. That doesn’t mean that this is an entirely different beast. I think that if you love the road version, you’ll likely want to saddle up this mythical trail horse for a familiar ride on some backcountry singletrack.

STEF: I went from not being super impressed with the fit and feel of the original Nike Pegasus Trail to loving the second iteration. In the Peg Trail 3, I crossed my fingers for a wide(r) toe box and improvements to the freakin’ outsole (something that it seems like everyone has petitioned for, only to fall on deaf ears at Nike once again). The Peg Trail line has gotten a bad rep for being a “fake trail shoe,” let’s see how the 3 stacks up.

ROBBE: Has there ever been a shoe I wanted to love more? It looks amazing, the full React midsole underneath is a wonderful experience (honestly one of the more comfortable shoes of any shoe in recent memory) … and then there’s the outsole. A compliment would be to call it pure garbage, so I’ll just leave that for now before I fully rip on it later.

Before all that, I do want to point out that this is the most max cushion shoe of the Nike Trail lineup and – depending on where you live – can handle some long-ass miles in comfort. For the most part, the changes to this year’s version are primarily in the upper, which is fine, but not nearly enough change to make this shoe what it deserves to be.

pegasus trail 3

The Good

TAYLOR: Before we go any further, let’s stop to pay respects to how simple yet gorgeous this shoe is. My mystic teal/smoke grey colorway popped enough to be noticeable and natural enough to fit the scene. The fine details like the pull tab and accents really make this thing pop! That’s my kind of style.

The overall ride takes on a similar persona. React spreads from toe to heel. It doesn’t feel quite as soft as in the Wildhorse or Kiger 7, but it is still moderately soft with a nice hint of responsiveness. The 10 mm drop makes each stride as buttery as movie theater popcorn. I typically don’t do well with a drop this high. It didn’t bother me one bit here. 

The slightly more dense form of React foam offers a moderate level of protection that I would compare to the Salomon Sense Ride. There’s a decent amount of protection with some ground feel too. It’s a good mix in that way. 

Moderate stability is something that usually attracts many to the Pegasus line. The Trail 3 brings that to the table too. It feels rather natural, actually! It’s also refreshing to not have such a squirrely ride from Nike – which is not something that bothers me. It is just a new feeling from their trail line.  I personally feel it is a more well-rounded shoe because of the added lateral stability.

One of my expectations was that the Peg Trail would be a similar fit to the rest of Nike’s offerings. I was pleased to find that the heel and midfoot were secure as expected, however, the toebox was much more accommodating! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! With a bunion on one foot, I usually am so excited to finish out miles when testing Nike shoes. Again, that was not the case here. When I say “accommodating” I mean that the Peg Trail fits similarly to a more average fitting D-width trail shoe like the Skechers GoRun Razor TRL, Brooks Cascadia 16, or Asics Trabuco Max. Nothing crazy.

Looks aside, the upper is still pretty sweet! Thanks to an airy simple mesh, this is the most comfortably fitting of the three options. A dynamic band system assists in the mesh’s hug through the midfoot. This system is essentially a gusseted tongue and I was pleasantly surprised by the overall performance. Of course, the Peg Trail 3 had its limits, but the fit had a consistently secure fit and was pretty nimble over a variety of terrain.

STEF: The biggest update to the Pegasus Trail 3 is the updated fit in the midfoot through the collar and heel counter. Nike brought back a padded tongue and everything just seems to be a more streamlined fit compared to the 2s. I actually didn’t mind the bootie construction of the last shoe, but I definitely felt more stable in the 3s with zero heel slippage. 

Fans of Nike’s road Pegasus will be extremely pleased with the fit of its trail-crushing sibling. It delivers that same cushioned bounce using React foam, and the 9.5 mm heel-to-toe drop remains unchanged. Nike also kept the “toe fangs” featured at the forefoot for improved traction, which I’ve always appreciated on downhills. 

I’m a huge fan of this year’s colorway, especially the women’s. It features bright coral, light pink, and punchy electric blue/purple and sage green accents. I’m not usually one for pink shoes, but these really stand out in a good way.

nike pegasus trail 3 - women tongue

ROBBE: I’m gonna start with first impressions, which are stunning. The Pegasus Trail 3 design is downright beautiful, and Nike would do well to skim some kids from the trail design team and replace some of the dead wood in the road department (let’s be honest – the Invincible, React Miler, even the road Pegasus – are underwhelming at best). I luckily got the strawberries and cream women’s colorway, and I’m not sure I ever got more comments on a shoe after posting to my Instagram stories.

Looks are looks, though. How does it perform? Let me say this: The ride is absolutely wonderful. A big slab of React foam (36 mm in heel/ 26 mm in toe) provides that ride I missed from the original Epic React. The durometer is dialed in just right to provide a ton of comfort without being unstable, while giving back that bounce we love from React foam. Honestly, it’s more of a max cushion road shoe than a trail shoe to me.

The upper is great as well, wrapping the foot nicely with just the right amount of cushion where you need it. I took those over pretty technical East Coast terrain and felt way more secure than I thought I would. Like Taylor said, this is by far the best fitting upper of all the Nike Trail shoes.

The shoe runs lighter than it weighs, which is pretty heavy on paper – 10.9 oz. (309 g) for a men’s size 9. It may be the bounce from the React, but whatever it is, it feels pretty good for a max cushion shoe.

The grip in mud is actually pretty solid. I ran in a pouring-down rainstorm and it handled things pretty well.

Shop Nike Trail – Men Shop Nike Trail – Women nike pegasus trail 3 - tab

The Bad

TAYLOR: You can probably guess where the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 strikes out. Yep! The outsole … again. As with both the Wildhorse and Kiger, the full rubber outsole with multidirectional outsole lugs and “toe fangs” for extra bite is a fair-weather runner. Add a spritz of water, especially on hard-packed surfaces, and all hope goes out the window for staying upright. Nike might as well slap me across the face and call me Tatum because their outsoles are starting to be offensive.

Weight is the other issue. We recently came down pretty heavily on the Saucony Endorphin Trail for being 12.1 ounces. The Nike Pegasus Trail isn’t far from that mark.  At 11.9 ounces for a men’s 10.5 it isn’t TenNine big, but it is still pretty hefty for a modern shoe. For my typical hour-long run, this wasn’t an issue because the Peg Trail does run so smoothly. Stack those hours up, and you may want to check into a different shoe with similar properties just less weight.

STEF: I wasn’t able to take these out on muddy, wet terrain but from comparing the outsole of the 3s to the 2s, they look and feel exactly the same. Nike says they added more traction at the heel and toe but I don’t see or feel it at all. The rubber remains the same as the previous version, which likely means the Pegasus Trail 3 will be just as unstable on wet and muddy terrain. 

While I loved how locked down my heel and midfoot felt in these, I felt there was less space in the width of the toe box. That isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it’s certainly noticeable. Also, in comparing the men’s Peg Trail 2 and 3, the shoe seems to have gained about .8 oz. As a smaller runner, I probably wouldn’t reach for these for short, fast trail racing.

ROBBE: If you come across anything remotely slippery – rocks, wood, f**king pavement – just take the shoe off and run barefoot. As per Nike tradition, the outsole grip is a joke. It’s honestly fucked up they keep putting this on shoes because it’s dangerous for runners. I’m still angry that our trail reviewer Matt broke his arm in the Kiger last year, because you know – HE BROKE HIS ARM. I went across several creeks in this shoe, and all crossings were a lost cause. On my last attempt, I literally said to myself  ‘I’m going to gingerly step on this rock here, as carefully as I can, just to see… ‘ and – splash – right into the water.

I finished a trail run on the road, and this was slipping out from under me on a slight incline. So I guess the good thing is that the outsole is super hard and durable. Hopefully your body is as well.

Oh and this shoe already sits at the upper end of the weight spectrum. Get it wet at the beginning of a race and have fun carrying around that extra weight.

Shop Nike Trail – Men Shop Nike Trail – Women nike pegasus trail 3 - outsole1

Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Conclusion

TAYLOR: This is the best overall package from the Nike trail line. It offers a smooth ride via React foam, a very comfortable fit that most any runner would enjoy, mild stability for those who would seek that, and mid-levels of underfoot protection. Just as on the roads, the Pegasus Trail 3 is a serious workhorse. It would be a solid option for daily door-to-trail runs and training miles. But not for wet running. 

STEF: For those that live in dry conditions, the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 is an awesome, extremely versatile shoe. It performs incredibly well on pavement, dirt roads, gravel, and high-altitude single track. I feel completely confident running from my front door, on paved and dirt back roads to get to my local trail system that turns into rocky, technical terrain. If you live in a wetter region, keep waiting for Nike to team up with Vibram to put a real midsole on this one. 

You can pick up the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

ROBBE: I honestly love everything about this shoe, except for the outsole. Which is offensive enough to cancel culture it into the fashion shoe/easy day road shoe box. Seriously, Nike – just figure it out. Spend .00000001 percent of your budget and develop a respectable rubber. You know, that substance that was invented 15 years before Oregon was granted statehood. I mean, for real, you act like you’re still operating out of a brick-and-mortar Blue Ribbon Sports storefront. Meanwhile, small companies like inov-8 or VJ Ultra have outsoles that are 50x better (and lighter).

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. I still love the shoe for just daily use because it looks cool as hell and is supremely comfortable. I’d even take this for a ton of miles in dry conditions. But mostly I’ll just keep them with my Gremlin colony, far away from water.

Shop Nike Trail – Men Shop Nike Trail – Women nike pegasus trail 3 - women side

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Kyle Cash says:

    Great write-up, Robbe, Stef, and Taylor.

    The outsole and slipping from the Peg 2’s is the reason I switched. That and I wasn’t a big fan of the stack height.

    Any distance that you think the Peg 3’s are great for?

    1. Taylor says:

      Hi Kyle. This shoe would be pretty good for just about any training distance. It’s a very comfortable shoe. It has a lot more character to it than the Wildhorse. It wouldn’t be my first choice for going an ultra distance based on weight.

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