Live Science Verdict
A versatile mid-long distance running shoe that offers out-the-box comfort and a cushioned ride
Versatile, particularly for mid-long distances
Supportive with a wide, stable base
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Nowadays, runners don a different pair of shoes for different distances, tempo runs, recovery sessions, speedwork and more. Fortunately, the versatile Nike Air Zoom Structure 24 can take the place of several pairs, saving runners money (not to mention space on their overflowing shoe racks).
It’s a neutral shoe with a cushioned yet responsive midsole that feels comfortable on mid-long distance runs – an attribute that cemented their place on our roundup of the best running shoes for supination. (If you’re wondering what this means, find out all you need to know about supination vs pronation with our handy guide.)
A plush lining around the ankle and tongue (an improvement from their popular predecessor, the Structure 23) meant they felt great from the very first run, and their molded heel hugged our feet so they stayed locked in position – obliterating any chance of blisters forming.
This added padding does mean the shoe is on the heavier side, with a men’s size 10 tipping the scales at 11oz or 312g. We found they felt weighty for speedwork or shorter, fast-paced runs, and the extra cushioning around the tongue and heel meant our feet felt quite hot when running in warmer weather.
But, beyond this, complaints with the Nike Air Zoom 24s were few and far between. They’re an excellent running shoe for regular wear, recovery runs and mid-long distance sessions, with a comfort, durability and versatility that will cater to the needs of any recreational runner.
How we tested
To test these shoes, we took them on a series of runs, seeing how they fared over different distances, at a selection of speeds, over a range of terrains. These included a longer route around a nature reserve’s trails, a fast-paced 5K on pavements and roads, grueling 400m intervals, and a series of active recovery sessions.
Build and cushioning
The Nike Air Zoom Structure 24 is an excellent shoe for mid-longer distances, and will pair well with endurance-focused runners looking for a durable shoe that will keep going as long as they do.
It’s a neutral running shoe with ample cushioning courtesy of a thick foam sole, giving it a high heel-toe 8mm drop that will sit well with heel strikers – a topic we explored in our feature on correct running foot placement.
There is also a carefully located crash pad (an area of softer material with more give than the surrounding foam) built into the heel, designed to create a smooth transition from heel to toe, and a Zoom Air unit (an “explosive cushioning system designed for speed and agility”, made from pressurized air and tightly stretched fibers) in the forefoot to provide a responsive yet protected feel. While it’s hard to say the impact this had on our performance, we could definitely feel the difference between the firm forefoot and forgiving heel.
However, though this is a neutral shoe, with a name like “Structure” perhaps we should have seen Nike’s inclusion of a small stability shoe element coming. There is nothing as blatant as a medial post, but the foam sole is built up around the medial arch to provide additional support.
So, whether you’re donning them for everyday use, easy middle-distance runs or longer pieces, the Nike Air Zoom Structure 24s can provide a smooth, comfortable and lightly supportive ride.
The thick foam midsole offers what Nike describes as “cushioned responsiveness” — two characteristics that typically operate at loggerheads with one another. Yet, having put these shoes through their paces, we found this seemingly oxymoronic description proved accurate.
Our knees benefited from the generous layer of cushioning, but we found the sole still offered a decent level of responsiveness in the forefoot where Nike has placed a Zoom Air unit.
Our tester said they could feel this unit when running on firmer terrain, creating a Princess and the Pea-esque scenario in which they were loosely aware of a slight lump under the ball of their foot. But they described the impact as minimal, and this was their only criticism among otherwise blemish-free feedback on the shoe’s comfort credentials.
Design and upper
We like the no-frills approach Nike has taken when designing the Air Zoom Structure 24. With two simple colorways (thunder blue or black) available, they’re not going to stand out in a crowd like the frighteningly bright yellow Saucony Ride 15s we tried, making them a top option for anyone who’d rather let their running do the talking.
Yet, the instantly recognisable tick, sleek upper and wedge of white cushioning has an understated style that we soon found ourselves incorporating into everyday outfits (see, we told you they were versatile).
The mesh upper feels robust and features more cushioning in the lining around the heel and tongue than the Nike Air Zoom Structure 23s, giving them impressive out-the-box comfort. This, twinned with a well-designed heel counter, meant they effectively locked our feet into position without ever feeling uncomfortably tight — minimizing the chance of rubbing or blisters.
This added padding does have its drawbacks, adding weight to the sneakers so they felt a bit heavy over shorter distances or during speedwork. It also meant our feet could heat up quite quickly in warmer weather, though this shouldn’t be a problem if you usually run in milder conditions.
But, for longer runs, we definitely appreciated the extra padding provided, which allowed us to plod along without aching or raw feet detracting from our training.
It’s also important to consider how running shoes should fit. The Nike Air Zoom Structure 24 fits wider than previous Nike running shoes with an accommodating upper that will adapt to most foot-shapes. For example, our narrow-footed tester found the Dynamic Fit lacing system was able to tighten the shoe evenly and effectively so they could find a good fit.
Unlike many running shoes, they fit true to size too, so there’s no need to go through the usual rigamarole of ordering half-a-size up.
Overall, we were very impressed with the Nike Air Zoom Structure 24’s performance in our tests. It does well to balance comfortable cushioning with a responsive ride, making it a great fit for medium-speed sessions and longer recovery runs, and can be snapped up for under £100/ $130 from many retailers.
The crash pad (a softer section built into the heel) noticeably encourages a smooth heel-to-toe transition, and the hardwearing outsole offers fantastic grip on everything from wet grass to gravel to loamy trails. The wide base gives them a stable feel, and a section of the midsole is built up around the medial arch to provide extra support.
They lost points as, at 11oz (312g), they’re on the heavier side, and the thick foam midsole means they don’t feel nimble enough for faster runs or speedwork. But, if you’re taking things slower or prefer longer routes, the ample cushioning feels fantastic - something our knees certainly thanked us for.
The Zoom Air unit located within the midsole, underneath the ball of the foot, can be felt lightly when running on harder surfaces or tarmac. Nike says this is designed to offer a more responsive feel when transitioning power through the forefoot, providing a firm, smooth and stable feeling as your foot hits the ground. Yet, the result may split opinion. While some people will appreciate the additional rigidity, we personally weren’t fans as we found the unit felt slightly lumpy.
However, this is a minor gripe among an otherwise shining performance for this impressive addition to Nike’s Structure series. So, recreational runners with a penchant for longer routes, this could be the shoe for you.
The Nike Air Zoom Structure 24 is a well-cushioned neutral running shoe with innovative design features incorporated to provide a more responsive ride and encourage an efficient heel-to-toe transition. We found their heavier build and softer sole wasn’t suited to speedwork, but the plush upper and comfortable fit makes them a versatile mid-long distance shoe that won’t let you down as you rack up the kilometers.
If you’re after a lighter neutral shoe that still offers excellent support, the Hoka Mach 4 ticks all the boxes. This shoe features a rockered sole to encourage a smooth heel-to-toe transition, so you can stay comfortable and maintain technique throughout longer runs.
Or, if you’re after a more responsive sole (without sacrificing cushioning) then the Saucony Ride 15s (above) could be your perfect fit. They’re also available in an eye-catching bright yellow colorway, which may help your family find you amid a packed-out race day crowd.
Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.
When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.
Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.