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Road Running Shoes • July 3, 2019

Nike Zoom Fly 3 Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • All-new midsole featuring Nike React foam
  • Nike says ‘Bye Felicia’ to Flyknit, takes you to the future with Vaporweave upper
  • Carbon fiber plates aren’t going anywhere
  • Could be a Zoom Fly x Chloe Kardashian collab on deck if Nike plays its cards right

Dear Zoom Fly, I want you… to want me.

The first two Nike Zoom Fly were a miss for me. The look was fly, but the zoom was… not so much. The original Zoom Fly was too hard underfoot, and the heel counter wrecked my Achilles. The Zoom Fly Flyknit was better with a new React midsole and a real carbon plate, but the shoe felt disproportionately bottom heavy. With a completely new redesign for 2019, I was curious to see if the updates could turn a shoe I wanted to love into a shoe that loved me back.


The Good

The upper, made of Nike’s Vaporweave, is a work of art on its own. The durable translucent mesh looks like something straight off a Milan runway circa 2064. Although my version is the first, I expect to see lots of amazing configurations for Zoom Fly 3.

As you slide your foot into the multi-layered bootie, you’ll appreciate the stretchy neoprene-like tongue and padded split heel counter. The latter gives your Achilles room, while the collar leans away from the tendon to avoid irritation.

The ribbon lacing system overlaps the internal bootie with a stronger mesh material running down both sides of the arch to create the lockdown over the top of the midsole. A toe bumper for shape is over the bootie, and under the final layer of Vaporweave.

With the midsole, some things are new, while others remain the same. The name of the game is carbon these days, so the full-length carbon fiber plate hasn’t gone anywhere. However, the midsole got a little bit of new tooling to resemble the Nike Next%.

Instead of ZoomX compound, the Zoom Fly 3 uses Nike’s React foam as the midsole. The feel of the React in this shoe is soft and firm at the same time. There is enough foam underfoot that you can feel the material compress, but the plate keeps it from moving into marshmallow territory.

As a mid to forefoot striker, I liked the way the React gives under the balls of my feet. They moved the drop of the Zoom Fly from 10mm to 8mm (I can’t tell the difference), but the ride is smooth with a healthy toe spring. While I wouldn’t call the Zoom Fly 3 a rocker (same thing goes for Bon Jovi), I definitely got a rocker feel from it (same thing goes for Bruce Springsteen).

The heel is noticeably more spongy than the forefoot. It could be a result of the location of the plate, or the tooling of the midsole with its flares and concaves, or both. There is also more rubber on the outsole under the toe.

The outsole also got the Vaporfly Next% treatment. My spidey senses tell me the outsole grip is better, but I can’t tell you with certainty that it is. After 20+ miles in Zoom Fly 3, I can already see some smoothing on the outsole rubber behind the toes and lateral edges.

With more miles, the waffle grid could become a pancake grid (i.e. flat and far superior as a breakfast option). I’m not sure how that will affect the outsole performance. It may be a cosmetic issue and not a performance issue, which is incidentally the same thing my college girlfriend told me when we broke up.

The Zoomfly 3 runs true to size, so stick with your standard running shoe size.

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Nike zoom fly 3

The Bad

The Zoom Fly 3 still feels like a Kardashian– a bit bottom heavy.  It isn’t as noticeable as it was in the Zoom Fly FK, but the shoe doesn’t feel light on the foot. My size 10.5 weighed 10 oz on the nose or 285 grams. That’s about a half-ounce heavier than the Zoom Fly Flyknit. Maybe Nike could drop some ounces by getting a shoe placement on Chloe Kardashian’s “Revenge Body.”

Additionally, I would not recommend Zoom Fly 3 to runners with pronation issues. I am a straight-up neutral runner, and my ankle was dropping in on the platform. The faster you go, the less noticeable the lack of medial support is.

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Nike zoom fly 3

Nike Zoom Fly 3 Conclusion

The third time is… kind of the charm. I do feel like it’s the best version yet of the Zoom Fly line. It has a better midsole/outsole than the original, and the upper is superior to the Flyknit version.

If we’re judging on looks alone, the shoe is a killer– the aliens are coming so we may as well assimilate. However, when it comes to performance (even with the carbon plate), I wouldn’t race in these. I know there are tons of people faster than me that race in the Zoom Fly FK and love it, but for me, there are better race day options *cough*New Balance FuelCell Rebel *cough*.

I’m currently training in the Zoom Fly 3 now for my 4th of July race. On race day, I’ll wear the Vaporfly 4%, with the hope that the same feeling carries over from training in the Zoom Fly 3, just 3 oz. lighter per shoe.

I get that everyone doesn’t have the 4% option, so if you like the Zoom Fly 3, there is no reason you couldn’t train and race in it. I enjoyed all my miles in the shoe, especially when picking up the pace, even if it still felt a little bottom heavy.

My guess is this will be a very popular model for Nike. It doesn’t hurt that people confuse it with the Vaporfly Next%. Plus the shoe is hotter than Hailey Bieber, or Tyler from the Bachelorette (Meaghan’s words, also–BOOOOO LUKE P!). If you were Jarrett, you might say it looks as good as a box of Dunkin Donut holes with a side of some obscure local sour beer.

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Bruno Cassettari says:

    Amazing review Thomas, one of your bests ever!!! Even though I was as hopeful as you that the ZF3 would close my racer hunt while I’m not ready for VFs yet.
    Your cough sounded like NB, is it better than the Razor 3 (your favorite “trainer” this year)? How about the Reebok Float Ride Run Fast (not the pro)? With the ZF3 out of the way these are my 3 finalists.

    1. Thomas Neuberger says:

      For Racing, the Razor 3 and New Balance Rebel are good choices, it would be hard for me to chose between them.

  2. Bruno Cassettari says:

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that Im training for a half (1:40hs target), not a full Marathon yet, hence holding a bit more until I get the VFs :).

  3. Fredrik says:

    Great review, besides being informative it gave me a few laughs as well… waiting for the next% review!

    1. Thomas Neuberger says:


  4. Charlie says:

    Never enjoyed a shoe review as much as this one. Well done.

    1. Thomas Neuberger says:


  5. Mark says:

    I ordered my standard size 11, I currently run in the ZF V1, ZF FK, 4%, Peg 35 Turbo, all fit true to size. This new bootie fit and loose collar will not allow me to lock it down, I have heel slippage regardless of lacing technique, as for the length my big toe is two thumb widths from the end of the shoe, it fits like it is a size 12, I absolutely HATE what they have done to this shoe, I love the VF V1 and FK versions, I rotate three pair of them, this thing went back in the box without leaving my living room and it is on it’s way back to Nike. I just don’t know what the hell to replace it with, maybe a Carbon X from Hoka

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