Living in Baltimore, I’m in close proximity to Johns Hopkins University. As one of the top medical institutions in the country, there’s a lot of drug testing that goes on, from anti-smoking drugs to psychedelic mushrooms. I don’t smoke, and my art school days are behind me. What I really need is a Nike study.
Here’s the thing– the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is my fifth pair of Vaporfly, and my health insurance doesn’t cover it. But I gots to get it, because I sure as hell haven’t gotten a placebo dosage yet.
It’s still the sharpest arrow in my race day quiver, even if the PRs are coming a little more slowly these days. The carbon plate and ZoomX foam get the most speed out of my legs.
That’s not to say they’re a magical pill. I have had bad runs in the Vaporfly. Really bad runs like a DNF in the Cleveland Marathon. They’re not a shortcut to success. You still have to do the work. At races, I get beat by guys wearing shoes I would consider bricks, but the point is to get the most out of what you have, and the Vaporfly can help you do that.
For a price, of course. And in this case, the first one sure ain’t free.
Thomas: It all comes down to three keys: 1) weight, 2) cushion, and 3) energy return.
The Vaporfly NEXT% features an all-new upper, made of Nike’s new Vaporweave technology, a lightweight and water-resistant synthetic material made up of two plastics. As such, the NEXT% is even lighter than the Vaporfly FK, coming in at 200g/7.1 oz. for a size 10.5, while the Flyknit version weighs in at 217g/7.65 oz.
But wait, I am going to point out something I haven’t heard anyone else talking about yet: what about when the upper gets wet, either from sweat or rain?
Imagine those race days with unpredictable weather; hot, humid, or overcast. (Honestly, isn’t it a scientific law that those are 90% of race days?). Could the Vaporweave upper of the NEXT% make even more of a weight difference between its predecessor? I wet the upper of both the 4% and the NEXT% and re-weighed them.
The NEXT% with Vaporweave weighed 233 grams/8.2 oz. while the Flyknit was 267 grams/9.45 oz. Holy crap! The Vaporweave upper soaks up less water to the tune of almost 3/4 oz. per shoe!
On a foul-weather race day at mile 22, don’t tell me that won’t matter.
The Vaporweave upper isn’t only lighter, it fits better too. Offset lacing takes the pressure off the top of the foot and still locks you in over the midfoot. The heel counter gets a little extra help from a strip of foam to help lock in the foot and reduce lift. The wide flat tongue doesn’t have any padding, but it doesn’t need any with the offset lacing.
Nike put more ZoomX into the midsole and moved the drop down from 11mm to 8mm. The carbon plate is still sandwiched in the ZoomX giving the midsole the trademark bounce and pop.
Just a little heads up for you, there are solid sources that have noted some interesting technologies in next version of the Vaporfly, to be worn by Eliud Kipchoge for his second sub-2 marathon attempt in October. Supposedly, the shoe will contain three plates and two air pillows in the midsole. The plates drive you forward while the air units create the energy return upon impact. Not sure how this won’t be considered a spring, but man, I am off topic now.
Finally, let’s get to the outsole. The forefoot rubber is more waffle-like than the previous Vaporfly, which might help a little with traction, but the crowd-pleaser will be the longer strips of rubber towards the heel. Durability has been a concern for many Vaporfly wearers, especially the heavier runners. These strips provide more coverage and should help with the shredding of the outsole.
The ride of the Vaporfly Next% is more stable than the predecessor. It could be the wider flare under the forefoot, the lower drop, or even the density of the ZoomX that feels firmer. Whatever it is, the NEXT% corners better and feels more stable underfoot.
Meaghan: Spoiler alert: the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% is damn near perfect. And a lot has changed.
I was willing to accept a less-than-stellar upper in exchange for the pop underfoot with the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit— but now I don’t have to. The Vaporweave upper is so thin you can see your socks through it, and as Thomas noted, it absorbs way less moisture than the Flyknit. It not only starts out lighter, but it finishes lighter, too.
With the 4%, I had to really tighten up the laces to get a secure fit. This teetered between secure fit and I-can’t-feel-my-foot-because-I’ve cut-off-all-circulation. This issue has been completely fixed. Not only does the upper feel more secure, but Nike offset the laces so now I can cinch them down tightly without adding pressure to the top of my foot.
Beneath the foot some things have changed, too. The NEXT% midsole contains 15 percent more foam! And I am here for it. I love some good cushioning and this shoe delivers. The drop shrank from 11 mm to 8mm (honestly I can’t tell the difference) and the outsole features more rubber and better traction, borrowed heavily from the design of the “elite” version of the Vaporfly.
Overall, the shoes fit better. The toe box is wider and the shoes are generally more stable. Not much change to the weight, my W7.5 came in at 5.45 oz. vs. the 5.7oz of the Nike 4%.
Thomas: The bad thing is we are getting used to shoe prices from $180-250. The day the Vaporfly NEXT% became available runners didn’t hesitate to throw their cash down to secure the shoe that can shave a few seconds off their average mile pace.
Other than the price, the ankle collar still puckers and doesn’t fit quite perfect. It doesn’t have an effect on the performance of the shoe, but it is odd that Nike can’t make the collar hug the ankle.
Meaghan: Nike is taking souls with the $250 price tag.
Thomas: Nike has done it again. The Vaporfly NEXT% is an improvement on the best racing shoe on the market. If it works for you (it should) and you have the coin, there isn’t a better racing option for you.
I don’t care if you’re running 5-minute miles or 8:30-minute miles, the shoe delivers on its promise to be more efficient.
While it won’t singlehandedly get you a PR, when combined with a good training plan, you will get the most out of your fitness and be set up for race day success. Until someone makes something better, Nike remains at the top with the Vaporfly NEXT%.
Meaghan: I’ve only run in this shoe for one 12-mile workout (I’m saving it for race days). It was a 2-mile warmup and cool down with 8 miles at marathon pace. I was extremely hungover and I hit all the paces with ease. I am giving 100% credit to the NEXT%. This is officially my PR-chasing shoe.Shop Nike Vaporfly NEXT%