Barefoot Shoes

Review: Nike Air Zoom Streak XC 2

The Streak XC 2 is a very minimal running shoe that doesn’t try to simulate a barefoot feel. It implements advanced Nike technology that cushions and protects the foot with a firm but springy sole. Yet, it is very minimal with its low heel-to-toe drop an…

Vibram Five Fingers got me back into running after I had pretty much given up on it because of back and knee pain. Forefoot strike running in Five Fingers solved those problems and I was on my way. Running in Five Fingers is a blast. The ground feel and freedom is unmatched. However, as I logged more miles and did longer runs I began to develop nagging achilles tendonitis. This led me to search for other “barefoot running shoes” that would allow me to maintain my forefoot strike and perhaps be easier on my achilles. I first tried the Saucony Grid Type A4s and found that running in them really lessens the stress on my achilles. Also, I am able to consistently land on my forefoot and get good ground feel with the A4s. Then, after Edward Edmonds mentioned the Nike Air Zoom Streak XC 2 in his Q&A on marathon training, I wanted to see how they suited my needs. So, after running in them a few times, here are my thoughts.

The Streak XC 2 is a very minimal racing flat with a low heel-to-toe drop and a whisper of an upper. Advanced Nike technology cushions and protects the foot with a firm but springy sole. Bottomline, I love the upper, which feels like it is not there! However, for me, the sole is just a little too thick, especially at midfoot, to maintain my forefoot strike.

My detailed review is after the jump.

The Upper

The upper on the Streak XC 2 is feather light, and upon initial examination, I questioned the durability of its paper thin, super lightweight mesh material. It’s hard to say whether or not it will last. I have read of some people experiencing tears. The shoe is pretty narrow with a small toe box and probably more prone to tearing if you have a wide foot. Also, I wondered how well it could stabilize my foot. However, after running in them on trails and asphalt, I feel like they are fairly stable. There are few lightweight reinforcements at the heel, toe, eyeletes, and around the arch, but mostly the upper feels non-existent. This is a good thing! I wear them with very thin wicking socks, and can feel the weight of the socks around my foot more than the upper. I have walked in them with no socks and it almost feels like I am barefoot with cushions attached to the bottom of my feet. It is truly remarkable that Nike could engineer such a lightweight upper that works.

The Sole

At an ultra light 5.4 oz., most of that weight is in the sole. The midsole is made of Nike Cushlon and has at least one Zoom Air unit in the heel. The picture at the left, from the Nike XC 2 page, shows another one in the forefoot. However, their online chat person and most internet references say there is just one in the heel. I am not ready yet to cut mine open and find out. Whatever is in there, I get a cushioned, yet firm, ride with plenty of protection from the elements. Unfortunately, there is not much ground feel, but this shoe was not designed to be super close to the road. Nike does not give out heel-to-forefoot drop information, but Lightning Racer at the Runner’s World forum says these shoes have a 20mm-to-15.5mm, 4.5mm drop. So, while fairly flat, they are pretty high off the ground at 20mm. After just a few runs, I am finding it very hard to maintain a forefoot strike in these shoes. The thick midfoot and cushioned heel lure me back on my heels like a addictive drug. I find the thickness in the midfoot causes the whole shoe to hit the ground immediately after my forefoot lands. These shoes may be great for someone who wants to land midfoot.

Under the Hood

A super thin, orange, suede-like material lines the heel and is used for the tongue. The heel is comfortable and very minimal. Also, there are two strips of lightweight reinforcing material at the arch. Finally, there is no arch support to speak of and the insole is glued in.

Not barefoot, but very unique!

In summary, this will not be my primary running shoe because of the lack of ground feel and difficulty I had sticking with my forefoot landing. However, a more disciplined runner, a midfoot striker, or someone needing more cushion may find it great! It is a very unique shoe. It has the most minimal upper I have ever seen while employing Nike’s sole technology to give a cushioned and protected, yet firm ride.

If this shoe was a bit wider and had a much thinner sole it would rock!

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

18 replies on “Review: Nike Air Zoom Streak XC 2”

Last year I ran a half marathon in a pair pf minimalist puma h-streets.

I could barely walk for a month.

Sunday, I ran the same race again, in my VFF’s, and three days later I’m ready to fun again.

Surprised you’ve had problems with the VFFs and tendonitis. This is the first I’ve heard of someone developing a problem like that with VFFs. Usually, I’ve seen VFF’s doing a great job to alleviate or get rid of existing issues, not create them.

How many miles were you logging?

15-20 miles a week. I try to do 3-4 miles every other day and a 6 mile run on weekends. I am 51 and hadn’t run regularly for quite a while, so it may be mostly age related. Also, it is much better than the back and knee pain that kept me from running. I have learned to accept certain pains at this point. Ha.

if you do not ease into it tendanitis is actually a very common problem. Especially for faster runners who are pushing a lot more from the lower foot and not just lifting.

I have noticed that it is worse the more I push it. Being a track guy from way back, I often pick up the pace near the end of my runs. Lately though, I have been leaving the Garmin at home, not worrying about pace and just enjoyed running. It seems to have helped the tendonitis too!

Another great review Britt. 🙂 I’m a midfoot striker and therefore have not had any issues with the Streak XC 2 flats. I can see how a more forefoot striker might, but so far they’re my flat of choice. But I did intervals in the Streaks last week and was pleasantly surprised with how they performed during sprints. I’m actually splitting my time between the Streaks and totally barefoot (two days ago I did my first run where I ran more mileage barefoot than shod) and it’s keeping my form honest, my feet strong, and definitely keeping things interesting.

As I’ve said before, my only real complaint about the Streak XC 2s is the narrow toe box. They’d be the perfect flat for me if it were wider, but oh well. The Mizunos have the edge there for sure.

Sorry to hear you’re having tendonitis issues with VFFs. I had some reoccurring TOFP two months ago that I couldn’t shake in the VFFs. It wasn’t until I started running in the flats and truly barefoot that the pain went away completely. I have no idea where I went wrong, but at least we have found solutions that work for us.

Thanks for the feedback Lindsey! They are a pretty cool shoe. I seem to have my best luck with the Saucony A4s. I think they are probably similar to the Mizunos.


I am 46 and have the same issues regarding AT that you do. I to stop running in my VFF Bikila (I wear the Treks all day though to work) and still the AT is acting up sometimes. I’ve looked at the Saucony Kinvara as an option.

After reading your post I have a dumb question…how can you tell if you are pushing from the lower foot and not lifting? I wonder that is my problem or age.


I found that I had to go even more minimal so when I run in my bikilas I do half my miles with them on and then half barefoot. You could probably go the other way around, I just have some not barefoot friendly sections of my run at the beginning of my loop.

Barefoot helps my form and I have less nagging issues with weird toe, ankle, or achilles pain than even running with VFFs. Sometimes I use ZEM booties but they have bottom seam issues that while don’t give me blisters or anything just feel annoying.

Right now I am running around 6-6.5 miles but still increasing milage for my long runs.


I’m like you — about 50/50 Bikila on/Bikila off (barefoot). This is the only way I can really dial-in my form. Barefoot is best (IMO) but not always the most comfortable (sometimes I just want to tune out a bit more!).

I am also currently in the half Bikila/half barefoot running camp. I start out barefoot and then put on the Bikilas when my feet tell me it is time. Sometimes that is a mile, sometimes two. It always depends on the surfaces. In Chicago, the sidewalks are nice and smooth. In Kansas, where I did my most recent barefoot run, the pavement is rough and the sidewalks are like coarse sandpaper. Ouch! The only problem with running barefoot first is that I have to carry baby wipes with me to clean my feet before putting on the Bikilas. They are great, but I have to question the judgement of using white fabric for the insoles. Mine are now permanently grey.

The problem I have had with the minimal shoes I have tried (Brooks Mach 12, Adidas XCS, Nike Wafle Racer, and Saucony Shay is the narrow toe box (in order from widest to most narrow). No matter what, my feet just felt cramped around the ball of the foot. It was always enough to be annoying, and I decided running barefoot with help from the Bikilas just made the most sense.

I am looking forward to trying on some of the new models coming out like the NB and the Altra, but I have a feeling they are still going to have that “binding around the foot” feeling I have come to despise. It is almost like running barefoot has soured me toward wearing shoes. I definitely agree with Justin about wanting to tune out sometimes. Barefooting definitely does not allow that.

I have also recently tried huaraches, but they are taking some getting used to. They feel nice and open on top, but they seem to flop around when I run. They will take some dialing in for sure.

This is interesting because I had a very similar experience with the streak xcs and the saucony a4…the streak xc did seem to make it hard to NOT heel strike, so I gave up on them, but I wish I didn’t have to because they are so lightweight. The A4 is just weird…a shoe that doesn’t feel like a shoe but has more cushion than VFFs (I normally run in VFFs but smashed 3 of my toes and did not feel comfortable in racing a technical trail 50k in them before they healed). I think they make a good road shoe for me. I’ve found for fast, technical racing where I know I will not be careful where my feet go, Nike’s spikeless xc flats are pretty awesome (especially from a forefoot strike point of view, but less comfortable over long distances (25+ miles).


I ended up wearing the Streaks for a 5k race and they worked great. Since my pace was faster than normal and the race was short, I had no problem staying on my forefoot. I guess it makes sense that racing flats would be good for racing. Ha.

Which spikeless flat are you referring to? The Zoom Waffle racer?

Yup the zoom waffle racer. I like it because its for offroad, its light, and doesn’t have much of a sole. But I wore them for my last trail 50k…they worked…but a bigger toe box would have been nice (maybe a requirement for regularly wearing them in ultras, and I have narrow feet to start with).

Maybe I will have to keep the streak xcs in mind for shorter races.

@Aaron, with our shoes we made them to fit your foot, not to force your foot to them. Take a look at some of the pics on our website and facebook page. There is room for your foot to do what it is meant to do. I hope that we can provide you an answer in Zero Drop and true biomechanical running. Thanks all for the interest.

I’ve seen these shoes. They seem very narrow at the toe box. Whats the size I should get if I’m normally a size 8?

i am trying to find the heel drop on the NIke Zoom xc streaks…they are the only pair of shoes in the last 15 years that worked for me – and the new versions just don’t work the same. I think it might be a difference in the heel drop. Problem is i can’t find the info since they no longer make the original Zoom XC streaks.

any input or suggestions would be greatly appreciated

frustrated runner

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