Material Matters: How the Nike Pegasus Turbo Took Flight
Nike’s Air Pegasus has long held a special place in the Swoosh’s extensive running lineup. Introduced back in 1983 and designed by Mark Parker — long before he was named Nike CEO — alongside Air Force 1/Air Jordan 2 mastermind Bruce Kilgore, the Pegasus was originally intended to be a durable, affordable shoe that could fulfil the performance needs of any runner.
As Parker himself put it, the Pegasus began with a simple goal in mind, ‘to design a more accessibly priced, every person’s Air training shoe.’
The Pegasus may have graduated from nylon construction and Bill Bowerman’s OG waffle sole to the likes of breathable mesh, Flywire support, and full-length Zoom, but the shoe is still positioned as a relatively inexpensive silhouette with a smooth and responsive ride that’s versatile enough for just about any runner.
Fast forward 35 years from its inception and Nike are upping the ante by following this year’s Air Zoom Pegasus 35 with a shoe befitting its Greek mythological inspiration, the Zoom Pegasus Turbo. Essentially a revved-up take on the Pegasus 35, the Turbo echoes the aesthetic of the original while employing the energy-returning ZoomX foam found in the record-breaking Zoom Vaporfly Elite and Boston Marathon-winning Zoom Vaporfly 4%. The result is the most technologically advanced Pegasus to date and one that elevates the everyman offering into the upper echelon of running footwear tiers.
We compare the Zoom Pegasus Turbo with the Pegasus 35 and explore how the Swoosh created the crème de la crème of winged stallions.
The first thing fans will notice about the Turbo is that it has an eerily similar look to that of the 35.
Like its predecessor, the upgraded Turbo was crafted with feedback from champion distance runners like Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah, both of whom train in the Pegasus when they aren’t rocking the Vaporfly designs in competition. A notched tongue makes the kicks easy to slip on and off while the collar is directed away from the Achilles so that it doesn’t rub against the tendon — an improvement specifically informed by Farah’s insights about the Pegasus 34 and its precursors. According to Nike, ‘You get the same structure around the heel that you expect from the Pegasus, but without any friction.’
The Turbo and 35 also see their bottom eyelets moved up to allow for a more comfortable foot flex for a variety of foot shapes while a beveled heel helps with touchdown. The most important addition, however, has to be a full-length articulated Zoom bag (a first for the Pegasus), which combines the two separate airbags used in previous designs to not only improve the transition and flexibility of the cushioning, but also to mimic the carbon-fibre plate embedded in the Vaporfly. Nike’s designers even heated the airbag in a microwave and wrapped it around a coffee mug to illustrate that it could be curved a la the Vaporfly plate.
Aesthetic similarities may be aplenty, but the Turbo improves on both the tooling and upper of the 35 in many key areas.
The addition of the Vaporfly’s ZoomX is undoubtedly the Turbo’s main point of emphasis. By replacing the prototypical Cushlon, Nike not only shed weight from the design, but also drastically improved the shoe’s energy-returning capabilities with a technology that harnesses and transfers 85 per cent of the energy applied to it. These stand apart from the Vaporfly, though, thanks to a layer of React foam for added durability and a modest 10mm offset (the Vaporfly Elite features a distinct 21mm forefoot stack height). Best of all? Since the Vaporfly’s stiff carbon-fibre is nowhere to be found, the Turbo is perfect for daily training runs.
Naturally, Nike topped off all of the new tech with a fresh coat of paint: a ‘Barely Grey’ colourway is not only coupled with aggressive oversized Swooshes, but a bold racing stripe — one that extends all the way from the top of the tongue to the small impact-absorbing waffle pistons on the rubber outsole — in ‘Hot Punch’. The sportswear giant even went with an EXP-X14-like translucent upper to better highlight the Flywire cables within.
This isn’t your dad’s Pegasus — it’s one both runners and sneakerheads can get behind.
When the shoes launched exclusively for NikePlus members earlier this July, they sold out in a flash. But fear not, you’ll be able to lace up some Turbos of your own when they officially launch globally on August 2 at NDC and select Nike retailers.