nike alphafly next percent 2 - feature
RoadShoe ReviewsSite Feature

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 Review: Give Us Back Our Bounce

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 8.4 oz. (240g) for a US M9.5 / 7.1 oz. (201 g) for a US W7.5
  • Wider platform for added stability
  • New Atomknit 2.0 upper may be our favorite race-day upper of any shoe
  • Firmer, less bouncy feel than the original Alphafly thanks to a higher drop/less forefoot stack
  • Available now for $275

The Intro

THOMAS: As a review site that receives most of its product direct from manufacturers, it’s rare that I actually buy a shoe. With basements, garages, and walls filled with a history of running shoes, it’s laughable to even consider buying another pair of shoes, running or otherwise. Who could possibly justify that?

Side note: having a ton of running shoes sounds great (and it is), but also imagine your house is the set of Floor is Lava, but instead of lava, it’s just a raging sea of ten-year-old Mizuno and Brooks. Scary.

All of that to say, there are few shoes I’ve bought over the last half-decade, and there is only one shoe I have purchased several times: the Nike Alphafly Next%. I love the shoe. It worked for me like no other shoe could. Holding the marathon pace felt like less work than any other trainer. The sensation was similar to cruise control: set the pace and just roll. Even though I loved the Alphafly the most at the marathon distance, I still used it for races of all distances.

So when I saw that the second version was on the way, to say I was excited to try out the second version would be an understatement. I studied every leaked image and imagined the improvements that could be made to take the Alphafly to the Next% level. What level would that be? Let’s find out.

BEN: The original Nike Alphafly burst onto the scene as a radical new shoe to be used for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, Eliud Kipchoge’s second attempt to run a sub-2-hour marathon in controlled conditions. After failing in Monza, Italy the year before, he finally did it on the streets of Vienna, Austria. With the Alphafly on foot, he crossed the finish line in 1:59:40.

The shoe was built on the Vaporfly foundation and used ZoomX foam and a full-length carbon plate. But the Alphafly added in Zoom Air pods, and not some paper thin ones hidden inside the midsole like the Pegasus. These pods were huge and fully exposed. Rumors swirled (started by this website when we broke the full patent of the shoe to the world) that the shoe contained multiple carbon plates and possibly other goodies hidden in the foam, but these proved to be incorrect. What you see is what you get: ZoomX foam, a partially visible carbon Flyplate, and two visible Zoom Air pods under the ball of the foot.

nike alphafly next percent 2 - above

The original Alphafly’s first wide release came at the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in early 2020 (which seems like an eternity ago at this point), back before we thought Covid was a real thing. At the Trials, Nike pulled a smooth publicity stunt, offering a free pair to every competitor in the Trials, no matter their time or affiliation with any other brand.\

It was a genius strategy, and many runners decided to use it despite just trying it for the first time days before. It had a broader public release later that year. It was called the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, and probably other old-timey sayings (probably). It was the racing shoe of choice for many runners, including myself. I used it for everything from 5K to marathon and the bounce couldn’t be beat (it holds my PR in 5K, 10K, 10 Mile, half marathon, and full marathon). Now it’s a full two years later and the Alphafly 2 has finally arrived! It keeps the same parts but has been fully reworked. This isn’t just an “every other model number” revamped upper, there is new tooling from top to bottom.

The Alphafly 2 still has ZoomX foam, a full carbon Flyplate, dual Zoom Air pods, and AtomKnit upper, but the upper, midsole, and outsole have all been redone. The upper has a slightly different knit design, a new lacing system, additional padding over the top of the foot, and an all-new heel cup setup. The midsole is completely new molds with more width everywhere (and wider under the arch). Add some additional cut-out material under the plate in the forefoot, take some foam way from the same place, and you now have a heel-to-toe drop of 8mm (up from 4mm in the original). The thinner outsole is a new compound with a new texture to reduce weight.

MEAGHAN: Much like Ben, the Nike Aphafly has been my go-to race shoe for just about every distance. In fact, it holds my 5k, half marathon, and marathon PR. Not only do I love the Alphafly for its propulsive properties and its magic ability to make me feel super fast, but the recovery aspect cannot be overlooked. Every long run leading up to the Boston Marathon I laced up the Alphafly, knowing I’d have my best shot at hitting goal paces, but also– and maybe more importantly– that my legs wouldn’t feel trashed the next day. 

So, as you can imagine, I was really looking forward to the Alphafly 2. After all, Nike’s race day shoes have been on the up and up. From the original Nike 4% to the Alphafly NEXT%, each model seemed to improve. 

On paper, and even in some early photos, the updates to the Alphafly 2 don’t seem that substantial. It still comes with ZoomX foam, a carbon fiber plate and two Zoom Air pods. But, it truly feels like a lot has changed (because it has). The Atomknit 2.0 upper has more structure and padding through the tongue, collar and heel. The midsole has been widened, the drop increased from 4mm to 8mm, and the outsole is a brand new compound. So, yeah, there’s a lot to unpack here.

Shop Alphafly 2

The Good

THOMAS: We gave the odd-fitting uppers a pass in the previous Vaporfly and Alphafly models because the shoe performed so well. However, in this version, the upper is the best improvement on the shoe. No more ankle gaping here. A padded heel counter, padding over the tongue, and a screendoor-like Atomknit over the toes all help to make this the best race day fit of any Nike shoe that I can recall. 

Those who thought the original Alphafly was unstable, hard to corner in, or too disjointed will be happy with the wider base and more cohesive feeling underfoot. Additionally, ZoomX foam is still the king of the road. Finally, the new rubber configuration on the outsole works well and helps add to the overall stable ride.

The high arch is back, and while some people don’t like it, I do. We are testing several marathon distance racers right now, and I felt the difference when I ran in the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3. During a double-digit run, I felt a little flat-footed in the Adidas. The arch gives some feedback and also loads the carbon fiber plate.

The Alphafly Next% 2 fits true to size and I stayed with my US 10.5 that I wear in all my Aphafly and Vaporfly shoes.

BEN: The moment you put the shoe on, you can tell it’s an Alphafly. It’s familiar, but different. Starting at the top, the new Atomknit is just as airy and breathable, but a bit more structured. The stretchy portion over the top of the foot is now much more padded. The lacing uses a separate front-to-back lace that the actual shoelace is threaded through. This creates one additional lace cross and only the top one uses a hole in the upper as an eyelet. The heel collar is now only structured about halfway up and then the top is a soft pair of pads that cradle the Achilles area of the ankle.

Overall the upper fit feels much more comfortable and secure. The lacing works perfectly to create even tension and it’s easy to get the foot locked in but not overly tight. I find it’s a slightly lower volume toe box (similar width and length, but slightly less height) which also adds to that secure feel. True to size fit for me.

The midsole is wider all around. Heel, midfoot, and forefoot. The midsole foam also wraps up and around the foot. The original Alphafly had a high arch, but there are now midsole sidewalls that extend all the way from the heel up to the ball of the foot. They are a part of the ZoomX midsole and serve to cradle the foot on both the lateral and medial sides. The additional width and the raised midsole walls both work to provide a much more stable feeling. The heel-to-toe drop has been increased from 4mm to 8mm. Due to the arch and lack of heel-to-toe drop, the previous Alphafly was not a shoe I preferred to stand or walk in (but it felt great while running). The Alphafly 2 is far more easy-going on the feet and lower legs in these situations and also makes it more of a natural ride at speeds slower than race pace.

The fit and versatility of the shoe were felt immediately, but I was initially unsure if it would feel as bouncy, comfortable, and fast when putting in a harder effort. But I now have over 90 miles on the Alphafly 2 and I am loving it at all paces. I’ve done daily runs, marathon pace, tempo, and even up to 12 reps of 400m intervals at sub-5min/mi (and Eliud Kipchoge ran in the Alphafly 2 at a slightly faster pace than me for the equivalent of over one hundred 400m reps with no rest, aka the Tokyo Marathon in 2:02:40). At all speeds the Alphafly 2 delivers. It’s a bit different feel than the Alphafly 1, but it’s still fast and cushioned. I’d use the analogy of the Alphafly 1 being a trampoline and the Alphafly 2 a diving board – it may seem a little less squishy, but it still has a lot of bounce. For me, it feels better and better the faster I go.

MEAGHAN: You cannot deny the Atomknit 2.0 upper is quite the upgrade. Not only does it feel more supportive, but the comfort level has increased exponentially. I was willing to trade off a less-than-stellar upper for the amazing underfoot feel of the Alphafly. But, now, you don’t have to. 

Outside of the great fit, you also get a much more stable platform. Nike widened the base of the Aphafly so you feel less like a baby deer on top of all that stack.

Shop Alphafly 2

nike alphafly next percent 2 - outsole

The Bad

THOMAS: Overall, the Alphafly Next% 2 is closer to a traditional running shoe on foot. The magic bounce that was in the original is much more muted. Honestly, the whole shoe seems to be tamer. Of course, that would be expected when you remove ZoomX from the forefoot in order to get a higher drop. (If the heel was already maxed out at the 40mm limit of World Athletics, and the drop went up to 8mm, then a bit of simple math shows you’re losing some forefoot cushioning, even if the outsole rubber is slightly thinner.)

My size 10.5 went from 8.3 oz./235 g to 8.8 oz./250 g, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you take away some of the bounce, the weight gain is more substantial, which dampens the excitement found in the previous model.

The extra weight with less bounce is a letdown, especially since the Alphafly 2 is now one of the heaviest racing shoes on the market. During speedwork, the shoe still feels good, but the feedback from the Air Zoom units is less prevalent, and the toe-off is less explosive. It still holds a groove once you get into it, it’s just not as fun to hang around.

You would think the higher stack would give the shoe more of a lean forward than the original Alphafly, but I didn’t notice it. After running over 50 miles in the Alphafly 2, it just wasn’t coming around to where I hoped it would. I wanted to buy another pair of the original.

nike alphafly next percent 2 - air zoom

BEN: The Alphafly 2 has gotten wider and more stable, and with that it has gained weight. In my size 9.5 it is an additional 10g (~0.4oz). No one likes a heavier shoe, but for me I haven’t felt any noticeable difference. It does create even more of a weight difference compared to the Vaporfly, so those that prefer the lighter feel on foot may not be convinced to switch.

One of the other frequent comments on the original Alphafly is the high arch. While I don’t enjoy the feel while walking, I agree with Thomas that it serves a purpose on longer runs. With a soft foam and narrow midfoot, it’s a way to help prevent excess inward motion late in a race. The Alphafly 2 has moved towards a slightly wider midfoot, and slightly less pronounced arch, but it’s still there, and now it extends further forward. I could feel it quite a bit out of the box, but with more miles it’s smoothed out and isn’t causing any issues. I could see this working better for some people, but still may not be for everyone.

The outsole is much thinner and the grooves are not as deep. The new compound seems to be much more durable (I still see no visible wear) but the limited tread depth may not have the same grip on loose surfaces (it feels great on dry and wet pavement though). Even with the thinner rubber and a little foam under the pods, the shoes are still loud. My footstrike tends to magnify the sound level (Thomas would know, I ran behind him on a group run), but it’s a pretty slappy shoe. Not quite as loud as the original Alphafly, but I wouldn’t expect to sneak up on anyone in a race.

MEAGHAN: Trust me when I say no one is more upset about this section than me. I’ll start with the weight. My original Aphafly (W7.5) came in at just under 6 ounces. The Aphafly 2? It now weighs 7.15 ounces, over an ounce more. I’m not sure how it gained more weight than the guys’ in their larger sizes, but I weighed them side by side and it’s a cold, hard fact.

While stability is a great feature for any shoe, in this case, it takes away from the light, airy bounce of the original. The ‘magic’ that I briefly described earlier is missing in this model. The race day vibes have been stripped, and this shoe feels like an uptempo trainer. 

The arch that was apparent in the original version, is even more jarring in V2. In fact, I got a pretty gnarly blister under the ball of my foot where this arch hits. I should note that I have a wide, flat foot, but I think most people will notice this irritation underfoot.

Shop Alphafly 2

nike alphafly next percent 2 - heel

Nike Alphafly Next% 2 Conclusion

THOMAS: While I prefer the original, I am sure there will be people that are going to like the update. No doubt, this is a shoe that will have many varying opinions on its performance. I imagine the conference room/Zoom of Nike designers swirling with comments like: “Make it more stable,” “It needs to be able to corner better,” and “The upper should be more substantial.” And to be fair, Nike’s team delivered on making the Alphafly all of those things. Unfortunately, the shoe goes from a race-ready Porsche 911 RSR to a capable suburban dealership stock 911. 

I’m no Klaus Ludwig behind the wheel of an Alphafly, but I like to pretend that I can get out there and race. A stock 911 would probably work well for me. And maybe that’s the point. Nike is trying to make the Alphafly appeal to a broader range of runners. Currently, the front of the pack on race day is dominated by Alphafly. This tamed version may get more of the midpack to back of the pack runners in a pair.

BEN: The Alphafly 2 keeps the trio of ZoomX, carbon plate, and Zoom Air pods and it still feels like an Alphafly. But it’s also more stable and the added heel-to-toe drop is a relief for my calves. The 8mm drop puts it in line with the Vaporfly Next% and the slightly less squishy feeling also leans it a bit more towards the Vaporfly, but the overall ride is still distinctly Alphafly. The changes make the Alphafly 2 a bit more accessible and I believe that was the intent. The updates have given it the potential to appeal to a broader audience while still keeping the ability to go fast and have a seemingly endless amount of cushion. 

The updates to the Alphafly 2 that make it more stable and give it a smoother ride make it an easy pick for me to use for even more of my training than the original Alphafly. It may have a little less squish, but by making it both more comfortable and more responsive, it’s also a prime option for races of all distances from mile to marathon. The additional weight is not what I’d ask for, but I haven’t felt it slowed me down, even at faster speeds. It was my pick for a recent 5K and felt great. I’d consider it my current top choice for any other race distance as well. 

MEAGHAN: I honestly feel sad writing this conclusion. I wanted to love the Aphafly 2 so much that I laced it up over and over to try and convince myself it was an upgrade. Unfortunately, the conclusion I came to after nearly 50 miles is that the Aphafly 2 is in fact, not an upgrade. What is it? It’s the perfect training partner to the original Aphafly — it’s the more stable, structured, heavier version. It’s still better than most road racing shoes out there. But that gap is closing. I’ll personally keep using the Alphafly 2 for training purposes, but if I’m toeing the line — it’ll be in the original Alphafly.

You can pick up the Nike Alphafly Next% 2 for $275 by using the shop link below.

Shop Alphafly 2

nike alphafly next percent 2 - medial heel

nike alphafly next percent 2 - toe1

4 Comments

  1. Love the site, the honesty, and the personalities. Listen to the Drop every week and watch all the Youtube videos. But it is getting hard to understand if there is any bias (perhaps unconscious) that the recent brand partnerships (ASICS, Ben with Nike+Dicks Sporting Goods) may introduce. Would love to see the site grow so there is less dependence on financial support and perks from the brands that are being reviewed.

  2. One question for Meghan is if the blisters continue to be an issue with this shoe? I just got it and went out for a 10 mile run and also got a pretty bad blister. This is only the second time in 6 years of running that this has happened. Just wondering if this irritation issue gets better after a few runs?

  3. Does Ben not currently run for Nike? That’s what he says on his Instagram. I specifically read the reviews here for the variety of opinions, and because you all seem unbiased and generally aren’t afraid to be brutally honest. Having Ben review a $275 top of the line shoe for a brand that he now “runs for” (not exactly sure what that means) and posts incessantly about on his Instagram seems like a bad move. It’s certainly not surprising to read that he likes the shoe and it’s a review I honesty have to dismiss at this point…

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