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7.8 oz. (221 g) for a US M10.5,
5.8 oz. (164 g) for a US W7.5
40 mm in heel, 32 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)
Setting a PR in the marathon
Atomknit 3.0 upper, widened carbon fiber plate, lightest Alphafly ever, integrated eye stays, upgraded Fast Shot outsole rubber
🟢 Bouncy and propulsive
🟢 Seamless and smooth transition
🟢 Lightweight on the foot
January 4, $285
MEAGHAN: The Nike Alphafly debuted in July of 2020, and forever changed road racing. The Vaporfly was something special, but the Alphafly took things to a whole new level. It’s the shoe I laced up for nearly every marathon and to this very day, holds my PR in just about every distance. It’s the only shoe that I’ve purchased multiple pairs, and even resorted to StockX once they sold out at Nike.com and Running Warehouse. Now that we’re onto v3, you might be wondering why I wasn’t lacing up the Alphafly Next% 2, and there’s a very simple answer: that shoe was no good.
So, here we are, three years and two updates later, and I’m so very happy to report that the king of racing is back. A lot has changed, and in this case, for the better. This is the first Alphafly with a continuous midsole, and the overall shape of the shoe has drastically changed. Nike added more material to the midfoot to increase stability, while reducing some irritation points in the arch. They also reduced the weight by 15%, making this the lightest Alphafly yet. Lastly, they Next% has been dropped from the name, which we’re all very happy about.
Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, Nike athlete Kelvin Kiptum broke the men’s marathon world record in the shoe.
So will a smoother, lighter Alphafly finally replace my love for the OG?
I’m not even going to hold you in suspense: Yes, yes, it will.
THOMAS: Clomp, clomp, clomp. ‘Am I doing this right? I feel like I’m on stilts. I dig the bounce, but I’m not sure about these. I don’t feel fast.’ Those were my first thoughts in the original Alphafly Next%. I even remember the route I ran that day.
Running in the original Alphafly was a different experience. It changed your stride. It was different than anything I’d ever worn. However, it sings like an accomplice looking at life once you find your stride in the shoe. There isn’t a shoe out there on which I can hit the cruise control at marathon pace like the Alphafly. My modern PR is in the Alphafly Next%. A well-run 3:25:15 with even ~7:46 splits for the entire ride. I was aiming for sub 3:25, but I ran by pace and forgot about that missing-the-tangents bonus lap (26.44 total distance.) Either way, once the shoe was here, it was the Alphafly and then everything else.
We were beyond excited when the second version came out, only to be devastated once we ran in them. The wide platform changed how my foot landed and twisted my knee enough to cause real damage. Additionally, the extremely high arch rubbed my foot into a colossal blister. And I have high arches. After one terrific 20-miler, I was sidelined with knee pain for weeks. I began patiently waiting for the third version. I was afraid that Nike would never get the formula back.
ROBBE: On my most recent run in the Nike Alphafly 3, I came upon what looked like the remnants of a stuck pig in a back alley in Baltimore. A piggy bank, to be exact. A Scrooge McDuck level of dimes, nickels, and penny strewn across the street. With only one gel pocket on my Tracksmith Van Cortlandt shirts, I grabbed what I could, doing my best Clint Eastwood impression as I jingled all the way home. I mean, technically, it was a fistful of dollars.
I relay this tale because it shows you a) the absurd dichotomy of a runner in Alphafly 3 scrounging for change in an alleyway (I may also have been wearing a Satisfy running long sleeve as well), and b) perfectly illustrates why I never ran in the Alphafly 1. At the time, we didn’t get review samples from Nike, so it was either spend $275 to try it, or just move on with my life. As a dedicated show reviewer who’s also cheaper than Wide Foot Jarrett, I… had no issues moving on. In fact, at the time, I told myself that whatever change I found during my runs would someday go to buying a pair of Alphafly. I guess I found the cheat code to that game, so here we are.
Despite never owning a pair of the original Alphafly (aside from the Nature version, which was literally just a trash shoe that I only wore to concerts to make me taller), it always bothered me that I’ve tried almost every carbon-plated running shoe out there, except for the one that mattered most.
So I was excited to test the Alphafly 2 last year. However, once it came, I found it to be… more of a Betafly. It felt kinda clunky, the arch was annoying, it certainly wasn’t the fastest shoe. I didn’t understand the hype.
And now there is the Alphafly 3. And now I understand the hype. And it’s fully warranted.
MEAGHAN: I love to start with aesthetics, and while the Alphafly 3 has a somewhat bizarre shape, I have grown to love it. Of course, the white-with-Nike-orange “Prototype” colorway doesn’t hurt. The upper is designed with the latest version of Atomknit, a soft and stretchy material that also feels supportive. Nike used minimal amounts of this knit to ensure the shoes were light but also very breathable. Yes, it’s the lightest Alphafly yet, but it’s also the most comfortable and accommodating. I’m pretty sure even Wide Foot Jarrett could get his flippers in a pair.
Okay, beneath the foot is where the magic happens, so let’s talk about it. The continuous midsole is most noticeable on the roads. There’s a much smoother transition compared to the previous version of the Alphafly, which felt a bit more mechanical. The Alphafly now rides similarly to the Vaporfly but still provides that springy pop from the Air Zoom units. Speaking of which, the pods now have more space to “pop.” Nike removed any excess material directly around the airbag, allowing more room to travel and giving you the springy bounce. It’s magical, guys.
I wore these shoes for CIM this December (a big swing and a miss at the OTQ), and they felt amazing the entire time, no matter the pace. From the sub-6 minute miles out of the gate to the 7:20 splits that brought me home; my body may have been wrecked, but my feet felt great.
THOMAS: The feel is back, and it is even better. The original Alphafly excelled and provided sensory feedback from the Air Zoom units. Feeling the bounce off the toes late in a race is why I fell in love with the OG Alphafly. While the second version still had the bounce, the platform felt clunky and slappy. The new version has the bounce and is even smoother through your gait than the original. It feels good at warm-up paces and hums at marathon pace.
The Atomknit upper fits like a sock. My narrow foot is held securely over the clouds of ZoomX. The arch feels less aggressive in this version as well. However, the plate feels more extreme. With a continuous midsole of ZoomX, landings are sublime. The Air Pods load energy back up the chain as the foam gives way to gravity and pressure. The rubber on the forefoot has teeth. We are good to go in any weather.
Here is something truly exciting: my size men’s US 10.5 weighs in at 7.8 oz./ 220 grams! Compare that to the 8.8 oz./ 250 grams of the Alphafly 2 in the same size. A whole friggin’ ounce lighter! Again, an ounce in the hand doesn’t feel that heavy, but it takes approximately 50,000 steps to complete a marathon. Carry an extra ounce on each foot over that distance, and it makes a big difference.
ROBBE: I don’t understand the huge opinion split on this shoe’s aesthetics. Between the oversized swoosh, the streamlined sculpting from the midfoot to heel, and the air unit cutouts, I think it looks pretty great. Especially in the prototype colorway. I mean… you’ve seen the first two versions of the Alphafly, right? They look like an elementary school science fair project gone wrong, and yet somehow totally right.
Now that that’s out of the way, I guess we can talk about the performance of the shoe.
On the first step in, you can tell that you’re wearing something that’s gonna pull you by the leash. The upper fit is similar to the Vaporfly 3 in that you get a pretty solid lockdown through the midfoot and forefoot, as well as a much better heel lockdown. No issues whatsoever with heel slippage or movement in the shoe, thanks to the “lofted Flyknit heel pods.” It’s an incredibly breathable upper too; my feet were pretty chilly the entire run in 40F-degree weather, which, of course, is exactly what you want in a race day shoe.
Of course, the race-style laces are the best out there. They lay flat and stay secure during the run. Additionally, the fit on top of the foot is comfortable and seamless thanks to the integrated eye stays. No issues at all with the upper.
Moving onto the midsole and the ride of the shoe– the changes that Nike made are exactly the changes that should have been made to this shoe. It feels bouncy, it feels light. It feels like it should be illegal, which is exactly how I want my race day shoes to feel. It is almost impossible to run a conservative pace in this shoe, because when you feel that propulsive energy return of the dual Air Zoom units compressing and releasing and leveraging the carbon fiber plate, you just want to go. The transition through the stride is seamless and quick.
As Meg said, there is some similarity with the Vaporfly in terms of landing (though the Vaporfly’s slimmer profile makes it feel slightly more “racer-like”), but the Alphafly “pop” is much more pronounced. And Meg is right, opening up all the sides around the Air Zoom units allows for more compression and release, which is a stark difference from the Alphafly 2.
Additionally– and I don’t know if this can be scientifically proven, but Thomas brought it up as a theory– I feel like the hardened rubber of the outsole directly beneath the pods carries a dual purpose. First, it adds more protection from punctures of the Air Zoom units, which was an issue in past models. Secondly– and this is completely unverified– it may act as a way to get around the “no two plates” stipulation in the World Athletics rule book. If it’s hardened rubber, it’s not really a plate… right? That’s pure speculation, and anyway, the bottom of the Air Zoom units are going to compress against the road either way, which is gonna give you all the compression you need.
Stability wise, I feel like the Alphafly 3 with its 40 mm stack of ZoomX foam is just as stable as v2, and not much worse than most race shoes. Certainly more stable than shoes like the On Cloudboom Echo 3. It’s partially due to the widened plate in the shoe, which is the main driver of stabilization in a bouncy midsole. The wide forefoot helps as well.
For those who struggled with the absurd arch in the Alphafly 2, that issue has been resolved with a new molded sock liner. I didn’t have any problems with it at all on my runs.
Nike used an updated rubber for the outsole in this shoe, deemed “Fast Shot.” As I already noted, there’s a more durable rubber underneath the Zoom units, but the entire outsole itself appears to be grippier and certainly felt like it on the run.
Of course, we have to talk about the weight. Losing nearly an ounce of weight, it’s the lightest Alphafly ever and now lands in the “totally acceptable” range of race day shoes, and only a half ounce more than the Vaporfly 3. The Alphafly 2 felt clunky to me, and while it could hold a pace if you got it there, it never felt like you could really fly in the shoe. That’s not the case with this one.Shop Alphafly 3 - Men Shop Alphafly 3 - Women
MEAGHAN: After the Alphafly 2, this one feels like a real win. I really have nothing to complain about.
THOMAS: The worst thing about the Alphafly 3 is that it makes every other shoe feel like trash. I would do every run in it if I had an unlimited supply. Hopefully, you are picking up on the sarcasm. However, I don’t have any real complaints about the Alphafly 3 worth mentioning.
ROBBE: This is not a shoe for the faint of heart. If you’re just cruising a marathon, or if it’s your first marathon, I would probably opt for a more traditional carbon-plated race day shoe. May I interest you in the New Balance SC Elite v3 or Saucony Endorphin Pro 3? Or the upcoming Salomon S/Lab Spectur?
You could say that outside of running I’m not the most physically, um… fit person. I prefer my cross-training and core strength exercises to be done when I’m in full IPOS mode, unable to run another step. Basically, I’m an ultrarunner stuck in a road runner’s training cycle. Someone throw me a life preserver.
If you are subpar in the strength department of the running chain, the Alphafly 3 will expose those weaknesses in short order. So yes, I had a few things pop up here and there during the course of my faster-than-usual runs. The same thing happened when I came off the bench last year into a 50-mile week and ripped a workout in the Alphafly 2, only to tweak my Achilles (which still bothers me to this day). My calves were a little bit sore after my first fast run in the shoe. Again, probably a user error, but know that more moving parts means more moving pieces.
Aside from that, I’d say that while the upper is incredibly breathable, I did get a little bit of rubbing on the medial side of my big toe. Could just be my foot shape, but I noticed it the next day.
Also, the shoe sounds like a drunken one-man band on the run. It clomps like a Clydesdale. It squeaks like a rat in my back patio, taunting me in broad daylight as it eats my sweet potato vine that took three months to grow and thirty minutes to eat. I will exact my revenge, oh yes, I will. *exits revenge fantasy* Anyway, yeah, it’s a super loud shoe.Shop Alphafly 3 - Men Shop Alphafly 3 - Women
MEAGHAN: I could not be happier with the Alphafly 3. They’re comfortable, light, fast, bouncy and literally everything you want in a race day shoe.
THOMAS: It will be tough for any other shoe to compete with the Alphafly 3 on race day. Nike has two great race day options in the Alphafly 3 and Vaporfly 3. The Vaporfly has rivals. I can list several comparable models. I can’t say the same for the Alphafly 3. There is the Alphafly 3 and the rest of the running shoes.
ROBBE: I still have a spot in my heart for shoes like the Adidas Adios Pro 3, Hoka Rocket X 2, and Nike Vaporfly 3. Even the On Cloudboom Echo 3 and Adidas Takumi Sen 9 for shorter stuff. And the upcoming Saucony Endorphin Pro 4. I mean, they’re all fantastic shoes, and some of them are more finely tuned for specific distances. But there’s only one shoe that when it’s on my feet, I can’t help but run fast and feel like I’m running slow. Yep, that’s the Alphafly 3. I know there will be something that comes along someday to knock it off its throne (probably the Alphafly 5). But for now, the Alphafly 3 shows why Nike reigns supreme on race day– it’s a pure, fast shot of Air Zoom magic.
The “Prototype” colorway of the Nike Alphafly 3 is available for $285 on January 4, 2024, at nike.com, on the Nike app, and at select running specialty stores. More colorways will follow.Shop Alphafly 3 - Men Shop Alphafly 3 - Women
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this review incorrectly noted the stack height and drop as as 40 mm in the heel, 36 mm in the forefoot (4 mm drop). It’s 40 mm in the heel, 32 mm in the forefoot (8 mm drop).
Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.More from Meaghan
As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’s goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be.More from Thomas
Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.More from Robbe