Nike Zoom Fly 4 review and lab test

The real only updates to this shoe are in the upper, which is a great update, but it took Nike 2 years to get this updated.  

 

The main benefit of this shoe though is it feels like the Vaporfly. You can confidently train in this shoe and switch to the Vaporfly for race day without much, if any, adjustment. 

Its name is misleading though as there’s no Zoom midsole, but rather a Nike React midsole which we’ll talk about a ton down below.

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Pieces.jpg

In the end, though, this shoe can work as a do it all shoe, on race day and on training day if you’re a one-shoe bandit. 

Who should buy the Nike Zoom Fly 4 

Buy the Nike Zoom Fly 4 if you’re looking for a fast, carbon-plated shoe, on a budget that most carbon shoes won’t allow for. 

If you have the Vaporfly, this is a great training partner shoe as well. 

Or if you just have narrow feet, and want something that’s quick and nimble give it a try. 

Who should not buy it 

Don’t buy the Nike Zoom Fly 4  if:

  • You have wide feet. It’s just too narrow. Try the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 instead. 
  • You’re not a speedrunner. It’s tippy if you’re not going fast or on your toes. Try out the Nike Pegasus 38.
  • You want comfort and softness. This is a tempo shoe, check out the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run it’s like wearing pillows on your feet.

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Fit 

Right off the bat, the shoe runs narrow. At just 94.4mm in the forefoot and 67.6mm in the heel it’s considerably below the average shoe (98.4mm and 75.4mm). I have wide feet, and most Nikes feel tight on me, and this one was no different. Steer clear if you are wide-footed like me. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Width.jpg

Past that, the fit was nice. The Nike FlyKnit ankle collar is soft and stretchy and sock-like, while the rest of the upper is a more restrictive mesh without much stretch and really aimed at performance and lockdown, which it achieves.

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Lacing.jpg

The lacing structure is built on a webbing system that connects to the shoe’s Strobel board, providing a customized fit with each lace eyelet moving a bit as you tighten the shoe up. It worked well and I had no slipping or movement within the shoe. 

There’s a thick strip of padding in the heel cup designed to help with lockdown, which works, but it’s pretty boxy and could be more refined.  

Comfort comes with breathability 

The best part of this shoe is how breathable the new upper is. It’s a two-layer design, which normally runs hot, but this shoe was breezy and cool to run in. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Upper Toe.jpg

The lockdown is aided by this chunky, rectangular foam heel pod I mentioned above. It’s a bit obtuse really, it just sticks out more than I like, but it’s soft on your Achilles and seemingly works since I didn’t have any heel slip issues.  

Nike Zoom Fly is quick 

I’ll hand it to Nike, they know how to make a quick shoe. The Zoom Fly 4 does feel energetic and fast underfoot with a rockered toebox and its stiff carbon-plate design. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Side.jpg

The shoe does not feel fully rockered, it’s just from the midfoot forward which has a tippy sensation as you make it through your gait really making the shoe feel like it’s pushing you onto and off of your toes. 

It feels like a more stable version of the Vaporfly, which of course is the goal with this shoe since it’s meant for daily training. But feeling like the Vapofly is a good thing, it’s fast and a perfect training companion since they feel so similar. 

To me the Vaporfly was a bit bouncy with it’s soft ZoomX foam (19HA on the durometer), and this stiffer React midsole (23.5HA) gives this shoe a more consistent and tempered feel. Beginners to carbon-plated shoes will appreciate this I think as there’s a way lower learning curve than on a softer, bouncy race shoe. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Cutaway.jpg

This shoe is tall and narrow. At 38.4mm of heel stack, it’s just shy of the international race regs (40mm), and it’s only 106.7mm wide in the forefoot (average shoes are 112.2) and a puny 77.2mm in the heel (89.2mm is average) which makes it unstable at lower speeds. This shoe wants to go fast, take it there or beware it’s a bit tippy.

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Outsole.jpg

Of course, we need to talk about the carbon plate. It’s insanely stiff, basically the same plate as the Vaporfly, which gives it great toe-off propulsion, but for runners landing more on their heels, it’s a bit awkward underfoot as the shoe struggles to flex with your gait. 

The shoe is padded, but I’d call it a fairly harsh ride and my legs were feeling that stiffness after a few miles for sure. 

What’s going on with the weight

At 9.6 ounces (271g) this is no lightweight race shoe. It’s a bit confusing as a carbon-plated, narrow-platformed shoe with this much heft. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Weight.jpg

It’s also gained over half an ounce from version 3… Nike you’re going in the wrong direction here!

Durability

I have durability issues with Nikes, they just don’t hold up to the pounding I put shoes through. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Logo.jpg

Maybe it’s their narrow design and my wider feet. I don’t think this shoe is any different and won’t last too long. Its midsole is dense and shouldn’t pack out early, but the outsole is thin at just 2.7mm (average outsoles are 3.5mm thick) and the mesh upper feels delicate to me. It’s doesn’t stretch so at some point it’s just going to wear out and tear. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Outsole Heel.jpg

The silver lining though is it will last much longer than the Vaporfly, so if that’s your race shoe, this is an obvious companion shoe. 

Poor grip in wet conditions

The shoe grips fine on dry surfaces, but keep this on the tarmac. 

It’s no good on the edge of the road or in the dirt, and on wet surfaces, it gets a bit slick. 

Decent price Nike

At $160 this is a pretty affordable shoe for a fully, carbon-plated race shoe. Most of these are in the $200-250 range (Asics Metaspeed Sky, New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2, Saucony Endorphin Pro 2), which makes this a bit exciting for runners that want to try out carbon without having to spend over 2 bills. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Front Angle.jpg

Day running only

One element that’s sadly missing from the Zoom Fly 4 is anything reflective. Be sure to run during daylight hours in these kicks as they are hard to see at night. 

Nike Zoom Fly 4 Reflective.jpg

Conclusion 

In the end, if you race the Vaporfly, consider getting the Zoom Fly 4, or if you want carbon for a decent price, it’s worth checking out. But for wide-footed runners, find something else. 

Complete lab-specs overview 

  Zoom Fly 4 Average
Whole shoe
Weight (g) 271 266
Drop (mm) 7.1 8.5
Flexibility of the shoe (N) 56.3 38.8
Flexibility of the shoe (Freezer 20 min) (N) 66.0 50.0
Flexibility of the shoe (% of change) 17.2 35.5
Lace slip test with the knot (N) 29.5 24.6
Longitudinal flexibility (1-5 scale, 5 being the stiffest) 5 3.2
Torsional flexibility (1-5 scale, 5 being the stiffest) 4 3.4
Upper
Thickness - Tongue (mm) 1.3 5.5
Width Upper - Forefoot (mm) 94.4 98.4
Width Upper - Heel (mm) 67.7 75.4
Lace Stretch (1-5 scale, 5 being the most stretchy) 3 2.8
Flexibility of the heel counter (1-5 scale, 5 being the stiffest) 2 3.1
Tongue: gusset type Both sides (full) -
Heel: pull tab Finger Loop -
Midsole
Width Midsole - Forefoot (mm) 106.7 112.2
Width Midsole - Heel (mm) 75.6 89.2
Stack - Forefoot with insole (mm) 31.3 24.5
Stack - Heel with insole (mm) 38.4 33.0
Durometer Midsole Heel (Room temperature) (HA) 23.5 22.8
Outsole
Outsole thickness (Heel) (mm) 2.7 3.5
Lugs Depth (mm) N/A 3.0
Durometer Outsole Heel (Room temperature) (HC) 85.5 80.5
Insole
Insole Heel Thickness (mm) 3.7 4.3
Insole: removable Yes  

Facts / Specs

Terrain: Road
Weight: Men 8.8oz / Women 7.3oz
Drop: Men 8mm
Arch support: Neutral
Update: Nike Zoom Fly 5
Heel height: Men 36mm / Women 28mm
Collection: Nike Flyknit, Nike React

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Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.