Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review: the hype is real, these are the fastest Nike running shoes to date

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Peculiar looking they might be, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% lives up to the hype and delivers speed and high energy return, making these shoes one of the best running shoes ever made. There is no break-in time or getting used to period here; take the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% out of the box, put them on, fasten the laces and off you go running your best time on the road, regardless of the distance.

There is an awful lot of talk about the Nike Vaporfly nowadays, especially ever since the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly has been announced. People call Nike’s top road running shoe range ‘mechanical doping’, saying it provides unfair advantage to athletes who wear them. In all honesty, I thought this whole conversation online was just free marketing for Nike. After I tried them on, however, I’m not so sure anymore.

• Buy the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% directly from Nike

I don’t think the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% classifies as mechanical doping but they are indeed efficient road running shoes. Very efficient. Each stride will return a lot of energy – not more than expended, though – and your legs will feel less tired, even after longer distances.

Some people – a lot – might be put off by the price of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% and they will get further disheartened when I tell them that these shoes are not for training, they are for racing: it is pointless to buy them for post-work 3K jogs. The Vaporfly NEXT% is a speed demon that delivers high speeds when you run fast. They won’t do the work for you but will enable you to be faster than ever before.

Nike is being bold with the Vaporfly NEXT% – for a good reason

(Image credit: Future)

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is engineered for maximum efficiency – this happened on my first run in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%

(Image credit: Future)

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review: tech and ergonomics

With the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, form truly follows function. These shoes have been engineered not to look cool but to deliver performance when you need it. The key component is the ZoomX foam, which is the updated version of the Zoom foam used in the original Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%.

The base of the ZoomX foam is Pebax, a material traditionally used in aerospace innovation. I’ll let Nike explain: “Pebax has a lower density than some thermoplastic alternatives and this makes it lighter, flexible and more impact-resistant, whilst giving it a higher capacity for energy-return.” All we have to pay attention from all this is the last five words.

Embedded in the ZoomX foam, you’ll find full-length curved carbon fibre plate. The carbon plate is there to distribute propulsion as you roll your feet forward after landing on the soft cloud that is the ZoomX cushion. And it does the job perfectly.

On the top, you’ll find the new Vaporweave upper, a lightweight woven mesh with upgraded moisture-wicking properties (compared to the original Vaporfly 4%). The asymmetric lacing system bonds the shoes to your feet and the updated lace loop eliminates the need for an arch band – helping to relieve pressure on the top of the foot.

Much like the Hoka One One Carbon X, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is so light, once you fastened the laces, you’ll pretty much forget that the shoes are on your feet. They don’t feel like running shoes; they feel like trampolines strapped to your feet. They bounce and roll and since the upper mesh is so thin, your feet won’t get overheated or stuffed.

As mentioned above, there is no break-in period with the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, it’s ready to go straight out of the box. I found the fit spot on, not as snug as the Hoka One One Carbon X but a solid fit nevertheless. Even the protruding rear part of the sole won’t be in the way after the first few steps.

The Ekiden Edition’s mixed colour style makes the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% all the more odd looking

(Image credit: Future)

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review: the aesthetics

I don’t think many people would opt in to buy the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% for its looks. It truly is an unusual looking shoe with strange angles, asymmetric design and – especially in the case of the tested Ekiden Edition – non-matching colours.

These are not fashion shoes and if anything, by using them for anything but racing would not be beneficial. I couldn’t find any information online about the longevity of the ZoomX foam but I suspect that it won’t stay in top condition forever – no running shoes do. The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% are like Formula 1 cars: they are designed to race, not to drive to Tescos to do your weekly shopping.

As much as I wouldn’t say that the shoes out good looking, I do appreciate bizarre looking objects and whoever runs in the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% will want people to notice them. Even the original neon green and pink colourways were designed to stand out, let alone the Ekiden Edition.

If you want shoes that are less eye-catching, get the Asics GEL-Nimbus 21 or the Mizuno Wave Skyrise, both are excellent running shoes, yet a tiny bit beige looking.

If you are after a shoe you can train in, definitely consider the Nike React Infinity Run. Those shoes are supportive, have a really good roll – much like the Vaporfly – and can also be worn as an everyday trainer. Perfect match with the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%.

(Image credit: Future)

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review: the verdict

I loved the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% but I appreciate they are not for everyone. These shoes will serve well the competitive type runners who want to beat their persona bests and don’t mind spending extra cash on racing-only shoes. To justify the high price tag, you have to be dedicated to your craft (in this case, running), whether you are a pro or an amateur.

For the money, though, you’ll get running shoes that will unlock your full potential: the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is light and designed from heel-to-toe to provide the best energy returns on the market today.

The ZoomX foam will feel soft under foot as you land and the full-length carbon plate will provide enough propulsion at the toe-off point. The thick foam might seem too soft at first but it helps tremendously to give you a boost just when it’s needed.

The Vaporweave upper is so thin it’s practically see-through, almost translucent. Despite the lightness, it does a brilliant job strapping the many layers of soles to your feet and once the asymmetric laces have been fastened, the sensation of pressure above the foot gets dispersed evenly.

I personally don’t think the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% classifies as mechanical doping but I can see why some people think they would. These shoes will make you go faster because they don’t hold you back; you won’t lose as much energy on landing and toe-off will require less effort, too.

Running in the Vaporfly NEXT% can make a runner’s energy management more efficient, and on long distances, this can give users of the shoes the competitive edge. Should you willing to pay the premium price.

The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% are not the only carbon-infused running shoes on the market

(Image credit: Future)

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% review: alternatives

One of the best alternatives for the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% that’s already available on the market is the Hoka One One Carbon X. These shoes use a similar ‘rocking-sole’ called Early-stage Meta Rocker and have an integrated carbon plate too. They are also much cheaper.

Another option might be the newly announced Brooks Hyperion Elite trainers, also sporting a similar construction and a light overall weight. These shoes will be available from 1 March 2020 for a slightly lower price (£210 in the UK).

A third option is the Adidas Adizero Pro, long-distance shoes with a pedigree, using a Carbitex insole. These shoes will probably be a game changer given the friendly price tag (£180 in the UK), will be available from the 1 April 2020.

And of course, there is the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, the successor of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, which looks even more strange but probably delivers a sublime running experience. Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon record in the prototype of the Alphafly, so they probably are pretty fast for sure.

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