As running shoes become more technically oriented and feature heavy, some brands continue to offer budget model focused on casual athletes or those looking to ease into a more active lifestyle. For this population, a 170-dollar running shoe with features that are geared toward high-mileage marathon runners makes little sense.
To cater to this group, Nike continues to offer budget focused neutral Nike running shoes for light workouts and everyday wear.
One of their more successful offerings is the Downshifter line. The Downshifter line focuses on offering basic features for casual exercisers and the weekend warrior.
Now in its seventh iteration, the Downshifter continues to be a popular option for a large number of customers.
- Sleek, low profile that will fit in multiple environments.
- Great neutral runner for use in low-mileage situations, casual wear or gym workouts.
- Breathable mesh upper with good lockdown and padding.
- Cheap and low-cost offering for weekend warriors.
- Could be narrow or uncomfortable for wide-foot users.
- High-mileage runners may look for other options.
- Upper is extremely dated and could benefit from the use of newer materials utilized by competitors.
- Rubber Outsole has reported the use of slippage in wet conditions.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is a sleek, low profile, aesthetically pleasing shoe consistent with lifestyle offerings from companies like Adidas, Puma, and Reebok.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is a minimalist-inspired neutral running shoe that does not scream “running shoe.”
It features a simple lightweight breathable mesh upper with Nike’s recognizable logo on the lateral side of the shoe.
The Nike Downshifter 7 also features an understated sole unit and a midfoot cage that is almost invisible on some colorways such as black.
Nike brands the shoe under the Nike Running moniker, but in practice, the Nike Downshifter 7 is really built in the athleisure running style.
We found that many purchased the Nike Downshifter 7 as a casual everyday shoe first with the convenience of also having a running shoe as well.
The Nike Downshifter 7 works well aesthetically as a gym shoe, running shoe, or an essential part of minimalist, casual wear.
- SCORE: 8/10 – Low profile, but the smart silhouette that will be attractive to casual runners, gym goers, and the minimalist, casual crowd.
The Nike Downshifter 7 features a simple, yet clean mesh upper with strategic overlays across the midfoot and on the heel.
The mesh material is unassuming and promotes effective breathability throughout wear. The upper has some reinforcements around the toe box area, but it is barely noticeable.
While the perforations in the mesh promote breathability, we would not recommend runners or even casual wearers go sockless.
We found that the construction of the Nike Downshifter 7 may irritate the sockless runner or wearer in certain areas.
However, even with socks, we found that the mesh upper provided enough breathability even in warmer climates.
The Nike Downshifter 7 also features a fabric midfoot cage to provide security during wear. The cage was decently flexible and provided enough lockdown during wear.
We did, however, find that some runners commented that the midfoot cage made the Nike Downshifter 7 to wear a bit too narrow.
The Nike Downshifter 7 also features a traditional lacing system and padded tongue to keep the runner locked in, with good support, during runs or workouts.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is also decently lightweight at 10 oz for men and 8 oz for women. The Nike Downshifter 7 also features a flexible heel cup that allows the wearer to easily take the shoe off or put on.
This feature was ideal for casual wearers looking for an easy, smooth transition.
Despite these features of the upper, the mesh and midfoot cage, the entire system feels extremely outdated.
The mesh upper feels plastic and rigid after experiencing knit-based or even well-constructed engineered mesh uppers of comparable models.
While the Nike Downshifter 7 was designed to be a budget model offering from Nike, other brands such as Under Armour offer their Dyneema material on budget models priced a little above the Nike Downshifter 7.
Additionally, these materials could also allow wide-foot wearers to more confidently explore the Nike Downshifter 7 as the materials currently used to provide some flexibility, but pale in comparison.
The other disadvantage to a simple mesh upper system is that the casual, athleisure crowd will find the rigidity unacceptable when compared to other lifestyle models that use merino wool or knit uppers.
As a lifestyle shoe, the Nike Downshifter 7 may suffer from some high wear friction abrasions in some areas and potential delamination in others due to the inflexible material choice. Both of these could be avoided by opting for a more flexible knit upper.
- SCORE: 4/10 – Breathable and lightweight. But the material is extremely dated and the mesh/fabric combination is already being replaced by other models.
The primary cushioning system Nike uses in the Downshifter 7 is a phylon cushioning system.
Phylon is an EVA molded compound that Nike wraps with a rubber outsole and material upper under a removable insole.
Phylon is an extremely lightweight cushioning system that is highly serviceable in standard lifestyle models. Budget running shoes also use phylon for its moldable properties and lightweight.
The Downshifter 7 employs a full-length Phylon midsole with a little correction or additional features.
Being marketed as a neutral running shoe, Nike opted to offer a simple midsole design to maintain a seamless clean look. The Nike Downshifter 7 also features a standard 12mm heel to toe drop.
As a result, Nike Downshifter 7 is neither super plush or extremely responsive. Therefore, we found that runners did not comment on the Nike Downshifter 7 being a truly high-mileage running shoe despite it being marketed as one.
We found that the vanilla cushioning system was serviceable for short 5ks. However, Nike Downshifter 7’s cushioning makes it more appropriate for everyday wear or casual gym exercises.
Nike Downshifter 7 also features a removable insole allowing the user to incorporate custom orthotics to get a better fit.
We also found that some users will even incorporate a foam insole to provide a little more cushioning for more comfort.
We also found that phylon does take some time to break-in before it becomes comfortable for everyday wear.
Therefore, we recommend that, if used as a running shoe, those runners spend some time walking around in the Nike Downshifter 7 prior to running to ensure the cushioning system had time to mold to the wearer’s foot.
We found that runners and casual wearers commented that Nike Downshifter 7 was serviceably comfortable for short periods of time.
However, for prolonged periods of standing or walking/running, some users noted that the Nike Downshifter 7 could feel a little stiff. Additionally, some users may experience some fatigue from the pure phylon midsole.
We also anticipate some considerable depression over time. Phylon is sensitive to prolonged use and temperature fluctuations.
Therefore, after heavy wear, we anticipate the phylon cushioning to be a little depressed as the foam begins to flatten out.
Furthermore, we caution users to temper expectations that the Nike Downshifter 7 could be as comfortable during initial wear after many seasons.
- SCORE: 6/10 – Phylon midsole of the Downshifter 7 is serviceable and does an okay job of providing comfortable initial cushioning. We anticipate some depression on the foam and potential fatigue after prolonged wear.
Like the rest of the shoe, the sole of the Nike Downshifter 7 is considerably minimalist. The Nike Downshifter 7 is designed as a neutral, road running shoe and the traction reflects these priorities.
The Nike Downshifter 7 features a simple rubber compound to outfit the sole of the shoe.
Nike features three different traction patterns on the sole of the shoe. On the medial side of the forefoot, the Nike Downshifter 7 features a segmented podded traction pattern.
On the lateral side of the shoe, the Nike Downshifter 7 features a linear traction pattern. The segmented traction also provides some flexibility as well.
It is unclear why Nike utilized two different traction patterns in a neutral shoe. We do not anticipate users to be able to use the Nike Downshifter 7 for quick lateral movements and we do not believe the shoe was intended as such.
The Nike Downshifter 7’s traction is serviceable and users commented that for road runs or casual use, the traction pattern performed fine.
The low rubber footprint of the outsole also allows the Nike Downshifter 7 to maintain a low profile and excellent ground feel.
However, the downside of the thin rubber outsole is that users may feel nearly every imperfection on certain surfaces or terrains.
For instance, on rocky or jagged conditions, we anticipate some discomfort during use.
However, we found that some users commented that in wet or moist conditions, the traction did not perform as expected. Some users commented noticing slippage in these conditions.
We also found that in non-road conditions such as trails, the Nike Downshifter 7 also suffered similar slippage.
We found that in gym conditions or normal casual use-conditions, the Nike Downshifter 7 performed just fine. However, we also found that the rubber compound of the Nike Downshifter 7 was not the most durable.
We anticipate the knobs on the traction as well as the linear grooves to wear out after high usage.
Score: 5/10 – Thin and good ground feel. Traction is serviceable and flexible, but we anticipate some wear after high usage. Some users commented noticing slippage in wet conditions.
The Nike Downshifter 7 retails for 60 dollars for both men and women. However, at the time of this writing, we were able to find the Nike Downshifter 7 for 45 to 49.99.
For the casual crowd, this may seem like an aggressively priced deal. However, given the reported traction of the sole, the outdated upper, and lack of other features, we still feel that 45 dollars may be a bit too high for this model.
This is particularly true since neutral runners such as the Under Armour Slingride could be had at the time of this writing at similar prices.
We anticipate the Nike Downshifter 7 being available at lower prices potentially later on in the year, but for immediate customers, other options such as the Lunarepic 2 could be better investments for the minimalist, neutral runner with an eye toward wearing the shoe casually.
- SCORE: 5/10 – Due to the questionable traction of the outsole in wet conditions and the stiff, narrow upper, the Downshifter 7 may be too expensive at retail or even reduced prices. At this price, there are many other attractive options with better features.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is perfect for those looking for a sleek, low profile neutral runner without any additional bells and whistles. It is also perfect for those looking for a casual shoe for everyday wear in the minimalist vein.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is also great for those looking for a casual shoe to have as a part of a larger rotation.
We also anticipate the Nike Downshifter 7 to be perfect for those looking for a basic sneaker in an unassuming package.
However, we caution users should temper expectations in terms of durability, traction, and comfort as compared to other models.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is also ideal for those looking for a “throw-away” gym shoe for use in moderately demanding exercises.
The Nike Downshifter 7 will be fine for most activities as a dedicated gym shoe.
However, for those looking for a high-mileage runner with some correction or a plush and durable cushioning system may need to look elsewhere.
The Nike Downshifter 7 utilizes a phylon cushioning system that will require break-in and may compress over some period of time. We also think the Nike Downshifter 7 may suffer in wetter conditions which could prove to be uncomfortable.
- SCORE: 5/10 –Versatile runner with gym serviceable tendencies. The shoe is perfect for minimalists or as a part of a rotation. Not for high-mileage or high-impact exercises.
I absolutely love these sneakers! The nike downshifters are great for my feet. I love the extra padding in the sole of the sneaker. Michelle, Amazon
Should you Buy It
No – The Nike Downshifter 7 is a great neutral shoe with an unassuming sleek profile and look.
However, at the price point, we feel that runners could find better models with other brands that offer more features and at the least, a better upper experience.
The Nike Downshifter 7 is fine for a low-mileage runner with little expectations that it will last multiple seasons.
However, offerings from Saucony, Asics, and even other offerings from Nike may prove to be a better value.
Total score: 33/60