Nike Downshifter 12 Review | Running Shoes Guru

Nike Downshifter 12 Introduction

Downshifter is Nike’s budget running shoe—it really is a steal for only $70 USD, up $10 from the 11.

The shoe has been completely redone. A new upper design drops the overlays for more breathability but still runs approximately one-inch wide support stripes inside the upper from the middle shoe laces diagonally down to the early heel on both sides.

Stubborn rubber patches that run the length of the outsole are deeply treaded (for a road shoe) and give no allusion to its lower cost.

(The similar shoe ASICS Gel-Excite is my next review—coming soon! )

This morning I ran 6 miles with the Downshifter on one foot and Gel-Excite on the other, switching which was which halfway through. I found that Downshifter offers a more secure fit and feels more stable underfoot while Gel-Excite ($15 more), has a smoother transition and rolls off the toes, as well as more room in the toe box.

Compared with adidas Duramo, Downshifter brings a more snug fit and similar midsole cushion; Duramo’s regular width allows for med-wide feet to be more comfortable without ordering wide/extra wide as may be needed with Downshifter.

Other similar shoes include Nike Revolution, adidas RunFalcon, Nike Winflo, and Saucony Cohesion.

Nike Downshifter 12 First Impressions

Unboxing for the first time, this shoe’s simple design and my particular colorway left me unimpressed. The design grew on me in upcoming weeks as it looked sharp when worn as a crossover shoe for running, other workouts, and casual wear.

I surprised myself by how often I chose this shoe to go with an outfit for everyday use. Looking at pictures of the 11 I do prefer this updated, simple design.

The first wear felt constrictive with a medium-narrow fit and definite “block” vibe, but the stable base was also strangely appealing.

The narrow toebox with narrow-medium heel into midfoot will require many to size up a half size.

Nike Downshifter 12 Upper

Downshifter’s structured mesh is reinforced by an internal layer from a fully gusseted (attached to the base all around) tongue; together they allow for medium breathability. I expected it to be a hot shoe, especially with the added factor of a smaller toe box, but it was never uncomfortably warm (running inside and in average fall temps).

The generously-padded tongue is wide and protective, adding a layer to the upper all around as it attaches down to the midsole. This tongue and full gusset add to the closed-in feeling of the narrow toe.

Running in Downshifter and Excite back to back, a bit more freedom for the toes in Excite was really refreshing. The toebox itself looks about the same as that of GEL-Excite, but the difference in feel is due to this tongue layer. Nike has a great design going but could increase comfort by adding (at least) a couple millimeters of room to make up for the internal layers.

The feel from the medium-width laces is just how it should be. Laces run through the tongue for added security.

Low-average padding hugs the ankle above a decent heel counter. Downshifter’s heel counter is thicker and provides more heel support than the heel counter in Gel-Excite or (especially) Duramo.

The large loop off the heel is perfectly sized for ease of use, but with this shoe I did not need help pulling it on.

A different-colored (orange in my shoe) densely-knit strip runs from the middle laces back to the heel on each side to provide more support than a simple layer of mesh; it peeks through a visibility window.
The tip of the toe box is also reinforced with an extra densely-knit layer for durability, which has the softer “tongue” material extended down between the toes and outer mesh as well.

Like Duramo, the sock liner is attached to the base. Pulling it up, it is decently thick (half mm.) which is more than most sock liners.

Attractive colorways span neutral shades with a few pops of color along with brighter options.
This shoe is made from 20% recycled content.

Nike Downshifter 12 Sole Unit

The foam midsole in Downshifter is not given fancy branding, or even a description online. The softness is similar to On’s Helion foam and the Lightmotion foam in adidas Duramo.

This midsole is slightly more firm than adidas Lightstrike, ASICS FF Blast, and HOKA’s CMEVA foams but is softer than ASICS (basic) Flytefoam.

The outsole tread covers the full base besides a curved guidance line which minimizes horizontal force transfer, a flex line below the heel patch, and small windows that reveal the midsole. The rubber has average to high durability, with a light wear pattern showing after 50 running miles (plus much walking—pictures with the review show approx. 50 miles). Rungs going up the heel provide grip and durability for a heel strike.

This is a supportive shoe that bends at the ball but keeps a stiff midfoot and has a 10 mm. drop in height from the heel down to the forefoot.

The shoe provides a medium-soft landing that goes into a so-so transition and ends with a noticeable toe-off (the best disappear into the air without a thought).

Nike Downshifter 12 Conclusions

Nike put a lot of material into Downshifter 12 for its low cost. The shoe is impressively cushioned and secure-feeling. The ride is supported and stable, but a boxy transition and toe-off are what bring my rating down for running in this shoe.

It just doesn’t encourage the motion. Wear it for walking and casual wear with the occasional run, and you’ll get a great shoe that will last a long time.

Remember to size up a half size if you are between sizes or do not want a snug toe.

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