Is the Nike Downshifter 12 Good for Running?

The Nike Downshifter 12 is one of Nike’s most affordable running shoes, typically priced under $60. As an entry-level shoe, the Downshifter 12 offers a basic yet durable construction that makes it a popular choice for new runners or a dependable training partner for more experienced runners.

But is it actually a good running shoe? Let’s take a closer look at the key features and technologies of the Downshifter 12 to see how it stacks up for running.

Shoe Construction and Materials

The upper of the Downshifter 12 is made of a combination of mesh and synthetic leather overlays. The mesh provides breathability to keep your feet cool and dry, while the overlays add structure and durability. Inside, the shoe has a standard foam sockliner to provide some cushioning.

The midsole is composed of injected Phylon foam, which is a lightweight and responsive cushioning material frequently used in Nike shoes. Phylon provides soft cushioning to absorb impact and protect your joints from the pounding of running. It also gives the shoe some bounce-back or responsiveness to help propel you forward.

On the outsole, the Downshifter 12 utilizes solid rubber in high-wear areas for durability and blown rubber in other spots for flexibility and traction. The outsole pattern includes deep flex grooves to promote a smooth heel-to-toe transition. Overall, the materials used in the Downshifter 12 are typical for running shoes in this price range.

Cushioning and Support

With its Phylon midsole and low-profile design, the Downshifter 12 offers a lightweight, moderately-cushioned ride. While it doesn’t have as much plush cushioning as more expensive running shoes, the Phylon foam does attenuate impact reasonably well. The midsole cushioning feels firm yet responsive.

In terms of support, the Downshifter 12 provides the basic stability features you’d expect in a neutral running shoe. The Phylon platform is not overly soft so your foot doesn’t sink in and lose support.

It has a 10mm heel-to-toe offset (height difference between the heel and forefoot), which encourages an efficient heel-to-toe transition. However, there are no stabilization elements to control overpronation. So runners who need pronation control may want to look for a dedicated stability shoe instead.

Fit and Sizing

The Nike Downshifter 12 runs true to size for most runners, according to reviews. The mesh upper has a decent amount of stretch to accommodate different foot volumes. While not overly roomy, it provides enough toe box room for feet to splay naturally during the running motion. The lacing system allows you to fine-tune the fit across the midfoot area.

This shoe is available in standard medium/D widths for men and women. Sizing ranges from women’s 5 to 12 and men’s sizes 6 to 15. Those needing a wider or narrower fit will have to look for alternatives.


A men’s size 9 Downshifter 12 weighs around 9.9 oz, while a women’s size 8 is approximately 8.4 oz. This puts the shoe near the lighter end of the spectrum for traditional training shoes.

But it’s a bit heavier than more minimalist or performance-focused running shoes today. The lightweight feel makes the Downshifter suitable for faster training runs and can help decrease fatigue on longer races.


For a budget-friendly running shoe, the Downshifter 12 holds up reasonably well to mileage based on reviews. The solid rubber outsole rubber stands up to abrasion while the Phylon midsole retains its cushioning properties longer than softer foams. And the upper shows minimal wear except along high-stress areas.

Of course, the Downshifter 12 won’t last as many miles as more expensive shoes made with advanced materials. But runners generally seem satisfied with getting 300-500 miles out of their Downshifters before it’s time to retire them. With proper rotation and not racking up extremely high weekly mileage, the shoe should have a lifespan on par with other shoes in its price tier.

Performance for Running

When reviewing the key components of the Nike Downshifter 12, how does it come together in terms of running performance? Here are some key points:

  • The Phylon foam provides a responsive, moderately cushioned ride that offers enough protection for runs up to half marathon distance and a variety of easy to moderate training paces.
  • The shoe has good flexibility thanks to the full-length flex grooves. This allows your foot to move naturally and smoothly transition through the gait cycle.
  • The neutral platform works for most running gaits but lacks stabilization features to control overpronation.
  • The upper breathes well and the fit is secure enough without restrictive pressure points in the typical fit.
  • While not the lightest shoe, the reasonable weight contributes to a nimble, natural feel.
  • Traction and durability are about average for the price.

The Downshifter 12 can therefore handle daily runs, long runs, and tempo workouts. It’s responsive at faster paces but also provides enough cushioning for easy miles. The shoe is versatile enough for runners of different experience levels. However, it lacks the performance specs required for true racing flats.

Overall, the Downshifter 12 makes a good, affordable all-around trainer best suited for beginner runners or a secondary shoe for more advanced runners. While it doesn’t stand out in any one area, it offers a well-balanced ride at an entry-level price point.

Nike Downshifter 12 vs Downshifter 13

Nike recently released the successor to the Downshifter 12, the aptly named Downshifter 13. What are the key differences between the two models?

  • The 13 has a full-length Air Zoom unit in the midsole versus the Phylon foam in the 12. This gives the newer model a more responsive, propulsive feel.
  • The outsole rubber is re-configured on the 13 for smoother transitions.
  • The 13 has a sleeker engineered mesh upper with less overlays, resulting in a lighter overall weight.
  • Retail price remains similar, though discounts on the previous 12 may be available.

For runners looking for some extra pep in their step without paying much more, the Downshifter 13 provides measurable performance improvements over the 12. The cushioning feels bouncier and the transitions are more fluid. It still lacks high-end features so isn’t suitable for fast workouts or races. But as an affordable high-mileage trainer, the Downshifter 13 receives rave reviews from runners.

The Downshifter 12 remains a solid option, especially if found at a discount. But the 13 is worth the upgrade if you want the best version of this budget-friendly shoe.

How Does the Downshifter 12 Stack Up To Similar Shoes?

The affordable running shoe market is filled with shoes comparable to the Nike Downshifter 12. How does it fare against some top options?

  • VS Saucony Cohesion 13 – The Cohesion is Saucony’s counterpart to the Downshifter, with a similar price and overall use as a daily trainer. The Saucony uses injection-molded EVA foam instead of Phylon but offers a comparable amount of cushioning. The shoes have similar weights but the Saucony has a more generous upper fit.
  • VS Adidas Duramo 10 – Like the Downshifter 12, the Duramo 10 has a straightforward design as an accessible trainer. Its Cloudfoam midsole provides a plush cushioned feel underfoot compared to the firmer Downshifter. Traction and flexibility are better in the Nike but the Adidas has a wider fit.
  • VS Brooks Ghost 12 – This neutral cushioned shoe is more expensive than the Downshifter but often discounted below $100. Unlike the entry-level models above, the Ghost uses premium BioMoGo DNA midsole foam for an ultra-smooth, soft ride with plenty of bounce. The upper is engineered mesh for a secure, seamless fit. Overall, it provides a high-end running experience the Downshifter can’t match.

While the Downshifter 12 shares similarities with other affordable trainers, shoes like the Ghost 12 demonstrate the performance advantages you get by paying up. The Downshifter line hits a sweet spot of reasonable price, good durability, and versatile performance.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Nike Downshifter 12

Here are answers to some common questions runners have about the Downshifter 12:

Is the Nike Downshifter 12 good for walking?

With its flexible cushioning and comfortable upper, the Downshifter 12 works well as a walking shoe for short fitness walks or running errands. It provides enough support without being overly stiff.

Is the Downshifter 12 good for the gym?

This shoe works great for general gym sessions focused on weights, functional training, and cardio machines. The neutral platform and grippy outsole make it suitable for multidirectional movements. Just not ideal for heavy lifting that requires flat soles.

Is the Nike Downshifter 12 durable?

For a budget shoe, durability is better than expected. Most runners get 300-500 miles before the cushioning deteriorates. Proper rotation helps extend the life. The outsole rubber holds up well.

Does the Nike Downshifter 12 have arch support?

No, there are no structural arch support elements. The injected Phylon midsole and removable sockliner provide basic contouring but those needing more arch support may need an aftermarket insole.

Can the Nike Downshifter 12 be used for CrossFit?

The Downshifter 12 works for CrossFit training focused on running, rowing, and bodyweight exercises. But the platform may feel unstable for heavy lifts. And the mesh upper is not protective enough against abrasion from ropes.

The Bottom Line

The Nike Downshifter 12 delivers dependable performance for new runners and a budget-friendly second shoe option for more experienced runners. Don’t expect a plush ride or lightweight racer.

But the Downshifter 12 gets the basics right – decent cushioning, smooth transitions, breathable upper, and affordable price. For easy miles, long runs, and cardio-based workouts, the Nike Downshifter 12 is a solid choice.

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