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Road • April 28, 2021

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 Performance Review

nike vaporfly next 2 - feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 7.44 oz. (211 g) for a US M10.5
  • ZoomX midsole and outsole remains the same
  • More room in the toebox for them wider foot people
  • Upper is as breezy as a downtown Chicago street
  • Releases May 2021 for $250

THOMAS: Here we go again. I don’t care what you think, the Nike Vaporfly has been the top marathon shoe since 2018. Period. Yes, there are more plated racers to choose from lately (like the ASICS Metaspeed Sky), but no brand has outright taken the mantle. With this latest update, Nike makes sure it doesn’t screw the pooch and employs the K.I.S.S. model (i.e. keep it simple, stupid). Now simple is all relative. There’s a lot going on with this shoe, it’s just that it’s mostly the same as the last version. What changes are we looking at? Basically some new upper material and some structural tweaks to the upper. 

MEAGHAN: Of course I was excited about this shoe. It’s the OG of plated racers. The holder of marathon PRs. It may even be the mother of dragons. And now it comes in my favorite colorway, Tiffany blue? You can probably guess where this review is going.

The Good

THOMAS: The new upper on the Vaporfly Next% 2 is wide open for air to flow. My feet run warm so even in the winter my feet rarely feel cold. My first run in the shoe started out in the low 40º F range and for the first time I can remember, I felt the cool air over my toes. Cooler body temperature helps keep the heart rate down. That’s just science. Lower heart rate, lower perceived effort, better performance. (I don’t even know if that is a sentence, but it seems to make sense.)

The redesigned mesh fabric upper not only breathes well, but it also forms to your foot and is softer than the previous Vaporweave material. A little more volume in the toe box helps accommodate various foot shapes. The upper has some added reinforcements for “durability” although I don’t think this was really an issue in the past. In most cases, the midsole and outsole will fall apart before the Vaporfly’s upper. 

Another notable update to the upper is a very thin pillow of padding added to the tongue to provide some protection from the laces. The laces were also updated with the same laces used in the Alphafly. Little knobs on the laces help them stay tied. A soft felt material is used around the collar for comfort. The heel counter strip of foam seems to be thicker and a little larger. 

The midsole and the outsole are unchanged from the previous Vaporfly NEXT%. The ride remains unique with fantastic ZoomX cushion paired with a carbon plate that bounces you through your stride. The rubber on the forefoot provides adequate traction paired with two rubber strips on the heel that are there to protect the ZoomX and give you a small amount of downhill traction.

The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 has a 40mm/32mm differential for an 8mm drop and fits true to size.

nike vaporfly next 2 - laces

MEAGHAN: Everything you loved about the Vaporfly NEXT% is still here. All of it. You’ve got a full-length, carbon fiber plate and a thick slab of ZoomX foam for that perfect bounce/pop/propulsive feel. As soon as you start running, you feel it. It’s the magic of the Vaporfly and I can’t get enough. They’ve kept the same foot shape, with a wider forefoot, to create a more stable platform. The outsole remains unchanged as well. There’s some rubber in the heel and forefoot for added durability, but that’s about it.  

What has changed is the upper. The engineered mesh material in the upper is softer, more breathable and generally more comfortable. It doesn’t feel quite as snug as the previous version (a very good thing for my wider feet). Nike also added some pockets of padding to the tongue to help reduce lace pressure (more on that later). And the last change comes in the forefoot, where they’ve added some reinforcement in high-wear areas. I never had an issue there, but it doesn’t hurt, either. 

Shop Nike Vaporfly – Men Shop Nike Vaporfly – Women nike vaporfly next 2 - heel

The Bad

THOMAS: While the Vaporfly Next% 2 still has a superior midsole makeup, the upper remains sloppy in fit. Looking down on the shoe while not running, it basically looks like a lunch bag on your foot. The collar gapes and shifts around the ankle. The offset lacing seems a bit on the extreme side and with the knobbed laces getting the right lockdown takes some trial and error. With all this said, while running the upper vanishes and so do any issues. So maybe none of this matters, as long as it works on the run. Objectively, the Vaporfly Next% 2 is a pretty shoe. But once you run in it, you’ll think it is a work of art. Availability of the Vaporfly is still problematic. Release more pairs, Nike!

MEAGHAN: Why on earth can’t Nike figure out this heel/collar situation? It does not fit well. I don’t know anyone who would argue this, either. You have to cinch down the laces so tight in order to get a secure feel, and at that point, you’re cutting off the circulation of your foot. Those “pockets of padding” added to the tongue don’t do anything either. It’s like a bandaid for a broken arm.

Shop Nike Vaporfly – Men Shop Nike Vaporfly – Women nike vaporfly next 2 - outsole1

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 Conclusion 

THOMAS: The NEXT% 2 remains on top. The closest contender in my opinion is the ASICS Metaspeed Sky. The Sky has a better upper. They’re nearly identical in weight. And while the Metaspeed Sky feels slightly firmer to me, the overall experience is similar. While I love the Nike Alphafly NEXT% and PR’d the half marathon in them, I worry that it puts too much stress on my hamstrings. With such an abundance of incredible shoes these days, trying to choose the right shoe for my next marathon is becoming increasingly hard. First-world running shoe problems, for sure.

MEAGHAN: As much as I complain about the poor fitting heel/collar, I still absolutely love this shoe. Lacing up the Vaporfly NEXT% is nothing short of delightful. The ZoomX foam paired with the carbon fiber plate is hard to beat. It’s light, it’s bouncy, and it’s fast. While I’m usually toeing the line in a pair of Alphaflys, it might be time to give the Vaporfly another shot at race day. If you can find them, I recommend picking up a pair.

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 releases in May 2021 in the U.S. for $250. You can pick it up then at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop links below.

Shop Nike Vaporfly – Men Shop Nike Vaporfly – Women


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