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Road Running Shoes • November 9, 2021

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Review: Legit Carbon Plated Trainer or Not?


What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 9.6 oz. (272 g.) for a US M9 / 8.2 oz. (232 g.) for a US W9
  • Full React midsole with a carbon plate for high-speed pop
  • The Barely Volt Flyknit upper is bright but just right
  • Available now for $160

BRANDON: The Nike Zoom Fly 4. One of the most anticipated and hyped shoes of the year. We all remember when it first came out, right? Kipchoge was going for his first attempt at breaking two hours in the marathon, and Nike released the Vaporfly and Zoom Fly, thus starting the running boom of super shoes. I have run in four iterations of the Zoom Fly. The OG version, the 2nd with the heavy Flyknit upper, an SP variation from the NIKELAB, and now, the Zoomfly 4. So, does the fourth version live up to the hype of its former counterparts? We will see.

RUBY: If the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% is the training buddy to the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%, then the Nike Zoom Fly 4 is the companion to the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. Nike combines a carbon-fiber plate with React foam for good propulsion and far better durability and versatility than Nike’s other carbon-plated shoes. From a fast-finish long run to your next goal race, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 could be the shoe for you.

Fool your teammates into thinking you’re rocking the more premium Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 with the matching neon yellow Flyknit upper and high stack height. The new and improved bootie upper locks the foot down securely, with the breathable elastic mesh adapting to individual foot shape and ventilating the feet well! Identical to the Vaporfly Next% 2, the cushioned heel counter supports the Achilles and prevents blisters in even the most prone runners.

ADRIENNE: I ran once in the OG Zoom Fly and thought these were ahead of their time — because they were — and enjoyed the tipping forward sensation and interaction from the plate and Lunarlon foam (RIP!). They were fun to run in and relatively lightweight. Again, this was long before plated shoes became, well, normal, and everyone-with mixed results-has both a racer and a trainer with some carbon or TPU or fairy dust in them. You know, innovation.

Nike was a forerunner in bouncy, high-performance foams and plated things, so I had high expectations for the newest Zoom Fly. I loved the look of the Zoom Fly 2 and never thought about the Zoom Fly 3, but I was excited to take the 4 for a spin, nonetheless. And then things went awry, as. you will soon find out.

ROBBE: Despite running in 80% of the running shoes out there, there have been a few models that I’ve somehow never experienced, and one of those is the Nike Zoom Fly. If I recall, the first iteration was fairly beloved by those who racked up miles in them, which may be due to the fact that the whole plated trainer thing was in its infancy and buoyed by the hype of the just-released Vaporfly 4%. Since then, it seems like the general consensus has gone downhill for the Zoom Fly; a common complaint is the bottom-heavy feel of the shoe thanks to the not-so-light React foam with a carbon plate in it. All that to say, I was totally willing to take on this review as my daily trainer of choice is oftentimes Nike (the too-soft Invincible notwithstanding). Let’s get into the guts of this thing.

nike zoom fly 4 - robbe

The Good

BRANDON: For years, I couldn’t justify spending $250 on a super shoe, but I still wanted something to race fast in, and that’s exactly where the trainer comes in. Thankfully, the Zoom Fly 4 holds up pretty well in its arena. This trainer is meant for tempos, intervals, and longer speed days. Coming in at around $160, you could say that it is a do-it-all “budget” option if you don’t want to break the bank on the Alphafly or Vaporfly.

Thanks to NIKE’s advanced React Foam, the shoe’s ride is reasonably comfortable, providing a well-cushioned stride in the heel and midfoot and then a nice pop and toe-off in the forefoot, creating a more propulsive feel when going through your stride. The upper is constructed to have a wrap fit while still providing a breathable ride, and I would agree that it does just that. Deep inside the midsole sits a full-length carbon plate for a more snappy and effortless ride.

When testing these out, I would occasionally look down at my watch and be surprised at how much faster I was running than I had thought — no issues in traction or cornering. And oh, who can complain about this sweet volt colorway? The Zoom Fly 4 put itself in direct competition with competitors’ tempo shoes such as the ASICS Magic Speed and the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2.

RUBY: Gone are the days of needing to “break-in” your sneakers, and while the majority are now good-to-go straight out of the box, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 are GREAT-to-go! I took a risk in lacing up these new kicks for a 15-mile long run as their first test ride, but wow, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 delivered! Uphill, downhill and on flat roads, I felt fast on my feet yet supported and stable.

After some previous outsole misses, Nike has certainly improved upon the quantity and quality of their strategically placed rubber in places that add stability and durability around tight turns and on wet roads.

Yes, the Zoom Fly carries an extra two ounces of weight and slightly less responsive foam in comparison to the Alphafly Next% and the Vaporfly Next% 2, but this is more than outweighed by the value per mile and durability of the Zoom Fly 4. Often leading the market in both price and technology, I was impressed by the value of this shoe: the price combined with the durability of the Nike Zoom Fly 4 appeared very “un-Nike-like,” which left me looking for a catch.

Compared with Nike’s other performance daily trainer, the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 takes first place in my book. I am not a big fan of the forefoot air pocket in the Tempo Next% and found myself distracted by the very audible slap of the shoe on the road; hooray, the Zoom Fly 4 is air pocket free and rates significantly better on the slap test than the Tempo Next%.

ADRIENNE: Lockdown, hands down. I liked the lacing and support bands along the midfoot. Heel hold was also excellent, and irritation was nowhere to be found. I also liked the understated logo placement, and the neon and blue colorway looked cool. You want durability, these things may be able to survive nuclear winter. This shoe also feels the best landing on the forefoot, so this checks out as an option for forefoot strikers.

ROBBE: Like Adrienne, my favorite part of this shoe by far is the lockdown and fit of the upper. I personally love the fit of almost every Nike upper aside from the Vaporfly Next%, and this is probably one of my favorites. They solved some of the issues with heel/Achilles abrasion in past versions by placing pillows inside the heel counter to give some separation and cushion and to prevent heel slip.

The inside bootie wraps the foot nicely while the lacing structure cinches down easily and comfortably. The upper is also quite breathable with an air mesh and elastic supports on both the lateral and medial sides. Throw in some solid heel and tongue pull tabs and you’re good to go.

In terms of the ride, I’ve always been a pretty big fan of React foam, ever since the OG Epic React, and even in the underrated React Miler. The somewhat firm feel with a perfect amount of bounce is one of the all-time great feels in my book. On first step-in with the Zoom Fly 4, I get that feeling. It’s firm, but bouncy. Out of the door it feels pretty nice, effortless even. It gives a solid bounce and snap from the React/carbon plate combo. And then it kind of changes. More on that later.

Outsole is fine in that it’s pretty much the same outsole pattern as the Vaporfly, so not much is different there. The slim design of the shoe coupled with the outsole allows for a nimble feel and good cornering, so that was a plus.

Shop Zoom Fly 4 – Men Shop Zoom Fly 4 – Women nike zoom fly 4 - heel counter

The Bad

BRANDON: With all the good, there is some bad. Speaking of competitors, I have spent some time trying on various tempo trainers, and I feel as though the Zoom Fly 4 just doesn’t beat out the Saucony Endorphin Speed. However, it trumps the ASICS Magic Speed. The Zoom Fly doesn’t offer the same versatility as the Saucony Endorphin Speed.

The Zoom Fly 4 is an out-and-out tempo shoe and nothing else. It would be difficult for me to use this shoe for easy days or any long run past a half marathon. This could be a personal issue, but I would experience some minor heel slippage at the beginning of each run that would subside later on. It’s a bit bottom-heavy, which could be a problem for some people, but I found weight to be no issue for me.

RUBY: No doubt, this shoe is not as fast-feeling or responsive underfoot as the Nike Vaporfly Next% or the Alphafly Next %. However, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 really is a close second best!

Weighing in at 9.6 oz, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 is considerably heavier than the Vaporfly Next% 2 (6.9 oz), and the Alphafly Next% (7.4 oz). Despite the 9.6 oz on the scales, don’t mistake Zoom Fly 4 for a shoe that feels heavy and sloppy. I did a double-take when I saw the weight on the scale: after running in what felt like a relatively lightweight shoe, I would’ve estimated that the Nike Zoom Fly 4 would weigh in closer to 7 oz.

No doubt, I’m sold on the high stack height and cushioned ride, but if you’re a fan of firmness and good ground-contact feel, this probably is not the shoe for you.

ADRIENNE: Like a little kid, I often try shoes on almost as soon as I get them, and I broke the Zoom Fly 4’s in with a nice and easy dog walk. Right away, something felt off. It wasn’t the drop — I love a good 8 mm drop shoe. It wasn’t the upper, lockdown was excellent all the way around, the whole thing just felt wrong to me (ask someone else, and they will think different, so take this as you wish). Surely, they’re just better to run than to walk in, right? Nikes of years past have sometimes felt weird to me to walk around in, so I thought nothing of it.

Then came the initial run: a warmup and cooldown with racers in the middle for some repeats. My thoughts ranged from “why am I working so hard at slow paces” to “where’s the plate?” or “where’s the rest of the heel?” So, I tried the following day again and had a slightly better experience. However, this shoe didn’t disappear on my foot like a well-fitted shoe typically does-still had some difficulty getting in a rhythm and finding my footstrike.

I can see where Nike is trying to go with the React, but it simply doesn’t work for me. That said, I rotate On (judge away) and Saucony in my primary rotation. Needless to say – firm, responsive cushion is my jam. This is simply my experience, but I need to keep it real here — I don’t think everyone will think these are like running through sand. Different mechanics equals different needs.

I think I’ve covered a good amount already, but I’m perplexed in that this shoe keeps gaining weight — I suppose the massive slab of React is the culprit here. I found the ride to be rather unforgiving, and it seemed to benefit a forefoot strike the best. Land on the heel and things may get weird, or anywhere else for that matter. The carbon plate and React foam don’t seem to react to me at all, and when I was expecting some roll or pop, all I got was a muted squish. I run with a relatively high cadence, and I found it laborious to turn over. Sorry, Nike, but these were a miss for me.

ROBBE: I’m with Adrienne on this one, and maybe Ruby differs since she’s on her way to elite status and I’m just a dude out here doing his thing, but this shoe feels like you’re carrying the burden of Craig Engels’ sorrow after missing the Olympics. At first it’s not noticeable, but after a few miles it seems like a slog to turn over. No doubt this is from the thick-ass slab of React foam. Like I said, it’s enjoyable in the beginning, but I’m not trying to settle down with it and have kids.

I should note that I am a midfoot striker and because of that or my gait, my calves were wrecked after runs in this shoe. This is largely in part to the inflexible nature of the carbon fiber plate and the React foam, which has no give. Thomas has also had this issue in past versions. Basically you’re getting a stiff and bottom-heavy shoe meant for tempo runs but that weighs almost as much as the Pegasus. I’m gonna be honest, there are plenty lighter and better options out there in the same price range, namely the Saucony Endorphin Speed and I’d even say the Skechers Maxroad 5 if you want more cushion.

Honestly, this shoe is just confusing as hell to me. Sometimes it feels bouncy, other times not, sometimes light, other times not, sometimes fast, other times not. I don’t have the time or patience to deal with such a manipulative shoe, but kudos if you do.

Shop Zoom Fly 4 – Men Shop Zoom Fly 4 – Women An image of the Zoom Fly 4 from the bottom

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Conclusion

BRANDON: The Zoom Fly 4 is just as good as its previous version. A few adjustments in the upper and the next model were ready for release due to popular demand by Nike’s audience. This shoe is a speed day trainer that would work for tempos, intervals, and racing. For $160, you can get 300 to 325 miles of life out of it, which is a pretty appealing offer for someone who doesn’t want to break the bank and spend $250 on the Vaporfly or $275 on the Alphafly for only 250 miles of use.

RUBY: Combining React cushioning with a carbon plate, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 is a durable yet responsive ride capable of going the distance. Finally, a performance shoe with decent wear! The ZoomX foam in Nike’s signature racing shoes, like the Nike Alphafly Next% and the Vaporfly Next% 2, really is not meant to last long. The Nike Zoom Fly 4’s React foam can handle more than double the mileage, and when you add in the Flyknit bootie upper that molds to the shape of your foot, this shoe is the perfect comfortable performance training companion.

I can see this shoe being a great option for tempo days and faster long runs, as well as a more suitable race shoe for those spending longer times on feet, in place of more aggressive and less forgiving options such as the Nike Alphafly Next% or the Asics MetaSpeed Sky. For those 4 hour marathoners in need of a more supportive and comfortable race shoe, the Zoom Fly 4 might be for you! With greater versatility and durability than alternative carbon-plated options and at almost half the price, the Nike Zoom Fly 4 certainly has solidified a place in my shoe rotation.

ADRIENNE: I tried, really tried to like these shoes, but my preferences, mechanics, and love of a firm shoe got in the way. Runners who want a lot of stack and a lot of cush may like the Zoom Fly 4 as a daily trainer or long run shoe. I, however, will need to stick to something a little more responsive and lighter. In conclusion, the Zoom Fly 4 illustrates that beauty and functionality are in the eye of the beholder.

ROBBE: I’m with Adrienne on this one. I just think it says all the right things on paper but delivers mediocrity in person. I mean, that Volt colorway looks fantastic, so there’s that. That said, if you liked version 3 of the Zoom Fly then you’ll enjoy the improvements to the upper. And if you enjoy an inflexible shoe and your body can handle it, then again, you may enjoy this shoe. Just be aware that it’s a very specific type of runner who will get the most out of it.

You can pick up the Nike Zoom Fly 4 for $160 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Zoom Fly 4 – Men Shop Zoom Fly 4 – Women nike zoom fly 4 holding a pair


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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Kirk says:

    Great review, as always, and one I was waiting for! For those of us who found the Endorphin Speed a bit “wobbly”, would this be a good option? If not, any other suggestion? As a reference, I am a (barely) sub 4 marathoner who likes to rotate shoes (mostly because I love buying them…might have a real shopping problem), specifically looking for a tempo / interval day option. Thanks!

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      Yeah this is definitely more stable/firm than the Endorphin Speed, though you may want to check out the New Balance Rebel V2 if you haven’t yet. Thanks!

    2. Paul Lewis says:

      For a big guy with flat feet, currently a (barely) sub 3:30 marathoner in VaporFly 2, shooting for sub 3:20 in Zoom Fly 4. I couldn’t get with the Speeds either, especially with overpronation. The VaporFly is king for half marathon but not stable enough past 30k (for me). This new update is the best for fast long runs and half-full marathon paces. I’m not sure why people use this for easy or track speed days, I would hate it too. But if you thought the Speed was too wobbly, I highly recommend the ZF4. And since you love shoes like we do, you will need other options for daily trainers and faster speed workouts.

  2. steffo says:

    Ridiculously heavy for a “speed trainer” (compare it to Endorphin Speed or other similar shoes!)

  3. MG says:

    i dont quite understand Robbe “Sometimes it feels bouncy, other times not, sometimes light, other times not, sometimes fast, other times not” – i mean the shoe is fast or it isn’t and bouncy or not. How can that change?

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      It’s very confusing, I don’t understand it myself

  4. Liz says:

    Late to the party here, but these wrecked my calves too, and I didn’t realize it was the shoes until I read this!

    Saucony Endorphin Speeds are my go to!

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      I wrecked my calves in this, the Hoka Carbon X, and the Brooks Hyperion Elite. But love the Endorphin Speed and Pro. Some plate placements just do me wrong.

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