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Road Running Shoes • October 20, 2020

Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 9.4 oz. (266 g) for a US M10.5 / 8.2 oz. (232 g) for a US W8.0
  • Lightweight tempo shoe, and maybe only a tempo shoe
  • Features React foam in heel, ZoomX foam and Zoom Air units in forefoot
  • You can probably buy a decent keytar and a piano key necktie for the same amount

THOMAS: The first time I saw a duck-billed platypus, I was confused. Is this animal– the keytar of the animal kingdom– a practical joke taken too far, or the most excellent byproduct of evolution gone off the rails? I still have no answer.

All that to say, the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% is a beaver with a bill. Or a furry duck. Or maybe it’s a daily trainer, a race day shoe, or something new entirely. In a quest to find out if it’s any of these things, I set aside an entire week of running just for this shoe. Long story short, I’m still a little stumped.

Here’s what the Tempo Next% is on paper– a midweight tempo shoe in the style of the Nike Alphafly NEXT%, featuring a ZoomX midsole from mid- to forefoot and a React heel segment. A composite plate and Zoom Air pods in the forefoot also aids in a more propulsive toe-off.

Its components come together to create a unique experience, but they never fully vanish into a whole. Let’s go swimming with the Platypus Next%.

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next - toe

The Good

THOMAS: I like some bounce in my stride. The Tempo Next% delivers bounce similar to the Alphafly Next% but isn’t quite as soft and light as the Alphafly. As mentioned in the intro, the major difference is the addition of React foam in the midfoot-to-heel segment, a little more rubber in the heel, and, instead of a carbon plate like the Alphafly, the Tempo has a composite plate. The mix of the ZoomX foam, React foam, a plate, Zoom Air pillows makes for a unique running sensation. The combo feels unstable at moderate speeds but comes together as you pick up the pace. When running faster the shoe rewards you by leaning you forward and bouncing you into the next revolution. It is a bounce and flick sensation. Land, bounce, flick forward, repeat.

The ride is unique and at faster paces the shoe can be a lot of fun. I did two 10+ mile runs that gave me confidence that the shoe could be useful at any distance. Post-run, my legs felt fresh and my paces were on the faster side. During an actual Tempo run I hit my goal paces and really enjoyed the shoe.

The toe of the outsole is covered in grippy rubber and the heel has similar rubber coverage to the Aplphafly, but thicker and more durable.

The knit upper fits my narrow foot, and the stretchy tongue area wraps my foot snugly with a reinforced saddle of felt lattice on both the medial and lateral sides. With the elastic mesh over the arch of the foot, I didn’t need to be aggressive with off-centered lacing. The heel counter is rigid and has some moderate padding to keep your heel locked down. I like the fit of the very breathable upper. The Tempo Next% in a size 10.5 weighs in at 9.5 oz/270 grams.

MEAGHAN: First of all, the white on white colorway is straight beautiful. I think Nike should make all of their shoes in this style. The Tempo NEXT% is touted as a racer made for everyday training. It’s supposed to bridge the gap between racing and training, so you can train fast to race even faster.

The upper looks simple, but it works. The Flyknit and synthetic materials breath well and provide plenty of structure. There’s a midfoot cage that hugs the foot and the asymmetrical lacing gives the shoe a nice dialed-in fit.

While not as light as the Alphafly, the Tempo NEXT% is still a very light shoe, especially if we’re calling it a daily trainer.

Shop Tempo Next% – Men Shop Tempo Next% – Women Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next - toe1

The Bad

THOMAS: Twoooo hundo! Yes, two hundred US dollars! That is $100 per Zoom Air unit. Yikes.

The shoe is called the “Tempo” Next% so I shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t work great for easy runs. At a slower pace, the shoe feels disjointed and unstable.

My biggest problem is that I just don’t know where it fits in. If it is indeed a tempo-only shoe (which I feel that it is), then it’s certainly a pretty penny to pay for a very specific shoe. But Nike is marketing the Tempo Next% as a do-anything shoe to accompany the Alphafly. I don’t think it can do everything, at least not well.

It’s too unstable for daily miles and it’s too heavy/bulky for racing.

MEAGHAN: Don’t try sneaking out of the house in this shoe. Talk about loud. On several occasions as I was jogging along the promenade, people nearly 100 yards in front of me cleared the way (ok, honestly that is a perk), as I imagine they thought a Clydesdale was approaching.

I also found this shoe felt clunky at slower paces. At faster paces, it was easy to get into a rhythm, but when I slowed down, the shoes felt disjointed.

Shop Tempo Next% – Men Shop Tempo Next% – Women Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next - heel

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% Conclusion

THOMAS: After a week of running in the Tempo, I was still confused by this shoe. At $200 there are better race day shoes and less expensive daily trainers. If you’re super intent on buying it, then I could see it in an Alphafly/Tempo/Pegasus rotation. That’s a $600 paycheck (i.e. a week and a half of flipping burgers at McDonald’s).

If you force my hand, I’d say that the Tempo fits into a new category of running shoes. Before we had daily trainers and race day shoes. Now, you have a daily trainer, speed work trainer, and race day shoe. The Tempo Next% fits in the middle, and I guess if you forced its hand, it could work as a race day shoe in a pinch.

Is it a duck, is it a beaver? You’ll have to try the Tempo and decide for yourself. Or look to something more evolved.

MEAGHAN: The Tempo NEXT% is great for speed days, but I can’t put this into my daily rotation. It just doesn’t work for easy days. Unless you have an extra $200 laying around, I would skip this shoe entirely and stick with a daily trainer, like the Nike Pegasus 37 or New Balance Beacon 3 and spend the extra dough on a Vaporfly Next% or Alphafly Next%.

You can pick up the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% for $200 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Tempo Next% – Men Shop Tempo Next% – Women



Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Sven says:

    I thought this shoe was banned for races due to stack height rules? I guess the main use of it is as a speed training companion to the Aplhafly, which is too expensive per mile to train in. I currently use the Vaporfly Next% for racing, but I miss a good training companion for marathon to treshold pace with similar feel. However, with this price tag, the Endoprhin Speed feels like a better option. My calf/achilles never liked the Zoom Fly shoes. Did you feel these shoes were easy on the calves?

  2. Robbe Reddinger says:

    Yeah, it’s unlikely anybody is racing in these, at least in races where the IAAF would be watching/measuring. Can’t attest to the calves (I didn’t review), but can say that my personal choice for tempo/speed shoe of the year is the Endorphin Speed.

  3. James says:

    I know this is way late, but especially since Nike has been clearancing these recently (picked up a pair at the Nike outlet for $100, Eastbay had it clearanced at $80!) it definitely puts it into consideration for adding to a rotation.

    For me personally, the vaporfly is straight up magic even running at 7-8 minute miles. Light, bouncy, feels great and it all comes together. I’m a middle aged not-so-fast dude, and I can easily drop 15-30 seconds/mile with the same effort in a vaporfly.

    The tempo next% just feels weird at those paces to me. On one foot I can definitely feel the zoom pod and it’s borderline uncomfortable. And when the forefoot lands it makes almost a sucking noise as the tread grips? And I wear a 10.5 in everything, but with a slightly wider forefoot and high arch the Tempo feels just a little too tight.
    I do really like the zoomx foam, and I’ll keep running in it some more, but even at the $80 price point I might just go with pegasus instead.

    So there ya go – I might change my mind after another 50 miles, but I felt like it just doesn’t come together for me, especially given the original price point.

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