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The Nike Vaporfly Elite was created in conjunction with Nike’s Breaking2 project, to see if it was possible for a human to break the elusive 2-hour barrier in the full marathon. They came fairly close, with Eliud Kipchoge missing the mark by a mere 25 seconds.
The Nike Vaporfly Elite, however, is not available to consumers.
Instead, The Zoom Vaporfly 4%. The Zoom Vaporfly 4% retained the same traits as the Elites but feature a different upper.
The Zoom Vaporfly 4% is marketed to provide a 4% increase in running economy, allowing runners to run 4% more efficiently than Nike’s previous flagship racer, the Zoom Streak 6.
The Zoom Vaporfly 4% is exorbitantly priced at USD$250, higher than any other running shoe in the market. Adding on to the ridiculous price, Nike releases the Vaporfly in small and controlled quantities at long intervals.
I suspect this is a strategy to drive continuous interest. As evil as that sounds it works. Unless one constantly monitors several websites and is informed about the release dates, it is almost impossible to purchase one.
The shoes sell out after less than an hour, with some websites selling out in 10minutes. Many of those who purchased the shoes put them up on resale for 1.5-2x of the sale price.
After almost a year, I managed to get my hands on a pair in the “Obsidian/ Metallic” colorway. I admit I was bought over by the marketing hype and the endless praises this shoe received.
Heel to toe offset (drop): 10mm
Forefoot stack: 29mm
Rearfoot stack: 39mm
Technology: A one-piece engineered mesh upper (Flymesh) with an internal dynamic arch band.
Thoughts: The last of the shoe fits the shape of the human foot, which is extremely rare for racers.
The upper is comfortable and wraps your foot securely, like the ISO FIT used in many of the newer Saucony models. It remained very breathable even at 33°C and 85% humidity during my half marathon and I did not experience any hotspots.
There was one issue experienced with the reinforced toe cap. After the half marathon, I noticed that the toe bumper on my left shoe was dented in. I had to use a shoe tree to push the toe bumper back out. I’m not sure if it is a manufacturing defect.
Other than that, the upper is very well constructed with little room available for improvement.
Ankle Collar/Heel Counter
The ankle collar, like the rest of the upper, is very minimally padded. There is no heel counter or any sort of support frame in the shoe.
Usually, I don’t mind not having a heel counter in a shoe. However, with a shoe of such an unstable nature, a minimal heel counter would be a nice addition to provide some support to the shoe.
The tongue is of an asymmetrical shape that wraps around the foot nicely without bunching up.
It is rather thin but enough to protect the top of the foot from lacing pressure. I did not face any problems with the tongue falling to the sides.
True to Size.
There is ample room in the forefoot (one thumbs space) which is generous for a racer. The width accommodates those with wider feet.
Given the superb lockdown of the upper, there was no sliding around in the shoe. The shoe also accommodates those with higher volume feet.
Midsole Technology and Ride Quality
Technology: The midsole has two magic ingredients: ZoomX foam and a Carbon Fiber plate that covers the entire length of the shoe.
ZoomX is Nike's new foam compound made from Pebax. Embedded in the foam is a full-length Carbon Fiber plate that is specially moudled in a certain shape to transition quicker from heel to toe and pop off in the forefoot.
ZoomX foam claims a minimal energy loss of between 13%-17% and is 1/3 the weight of Cushlon.
Thoughts: When standing still or walking around in the shoes, it felt very unstable. This made me concerned that the initial instability would carry over to the running aspect.
The magic happens the moment you start jogging. “What kind of sorcery is this??” was the first thought that came to my mind. Placebo or not, the ride felt so smooth and soft yet retained the responsiveness akin to a racing flat.
The Vaporfly completely breaks the mould of a conventional racing flat. It feels like a Hoka Clifton 3 on steroids. Usually, there will be a trade-off when picking a shoe; cushioning or responsiveness, you have to sacrifice either one.
With the Vaporfly, you get the best of both worlds. The bounce back quality of the ZoomX is outstanding, and this is further amplified by the Carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close. Not Boost, not Everun, not Flytefoam.
I initially tested the shoes with a tuneup run of 5x30sec at 1500m pace (3:20min/km) with a rest of 30sec at easy pace (5:20-5:40min/km). Three days later, I used it for a half marathon.
I concluded that the faster you go, the more the shoe rewards you. The shoe becomes more stable at speed compared to half-full marathon paces.
Speaking about stability, the shoe is not suitable for people with ankle instability/weakness. Due to my right hip being tighter than my left, my running stride is such that more stress is loaded on my left ankle and peroneals. This is further aggravated by the constant anti-clockwise turning while doing track work.
Halfway during my half-marathon, my left ankle felt more fatigued than usual and it got to the point where lifting my foot off the ground was a challenge. Due to the Vaporfly's soft nature combined with the high stack height, any weakness/tightness in the lower extremity is further amplified.
This brings me to the next dislike. The plate is way too stiff. With the Nike Zoom Fly, the plate eventually gets more flexible after about a month of use.
The Vaporfly is unbendable. This locks the toes in place without allowing them to flex. The concept is similar to the Hoka Clifton: stiff midsole, high stack height, and a huge amount of toe spring as compensation.
The difference between both shoes is that the Clifton still provides a small amount of flex as there is no plate to stiffen the midsole. I strongly believe that a shoe should work together with your foot and not alter its natural movement.
Yes, the carbon plate facilitates faster and smoother transitions in your stride. However, restricting the flexion of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint due to the extremely stiff plates could pose many injury risks.
Overall, the ride is perhaps the smoothest and softest that I’ve experienced yet the most responsive. The only drawback is the injury risk that the Vaporfly poses to certain individuals.
The insole in the Vaporfly is a standard foam insole that is glued down to the Strobel board. This is probably to prevent the disaster involving the insoles of the Zoom Streak that Eliud Kipchoge wore during the Berlin Marathon in 2015.
I would have preferred for the insoles to be removable as the shoe is on the unstable side. A light insole providing a little support would have been nice to provide some stability to the shoe.
Technology: A sheet of high-abrasion black rubber in the forefoot and several black patches of black rubber in the rear to provide grip and added durability. The sheet of rubber in the forefoot is strategically cut into several shapes to improve traction.
Thoughts: The outsole's traction is impressive. It provides plenty of grip on both dry and wet concrete/asphalt.
There wasn’t an instance where I slipped in this shoe. Traction on this shoe will never beat the tiny plastic nubs on those aggressive racers but performs sufficiently well. I don’t know what the weird shapes on the rubber of the forefoot does, but it works.
Midsole: The midsole comes creased right out of the box. I'm merely 25km in my Vaporfly, so only time will tell. I’ve heard from many owners of the Vaporfly that they last roughly 200km before the ZoomX cushion starts to break down.
Outsole: The black patches of carbon rubber are extremely durable. 25km in and the rubber pieces show zero signs of wear. The exposed parts of the midsole, on the other hand, are not as resilient.
The thin layer of “skin” that coats the ZoomX midsole is peeling ever so slightly, which worries me on how fast asphalt/concrete surfaces shred through the exposed areas.
Type of Work outs
The Nike Vaporfly 4% is best used for faster-paced training ranging from intervals to tempo workouts or races up to full marathons. I’ll keep it strictly for races, as the durability does not seem promising.
- Excellent traction
- Very cushioned yet responsive
- Seems to be easier on the calves
- Promotes a smoother running gait at speed
- Carbon plate perhaps too stiff
- Unstable midsole (more stress on the ankle)
- Overpriced ($345SGD for a running shoe??)
- Released too rarely and in limited quantities
- Glued in insole
Recommended Runner's Profile for Optimum Usage
- Midfoot Strikers (PURE forefoot striking in this shoe doesn’t utilize the plate as well)
- Pose method of running (Pulling instead of pushing)
- Good ankle stability
- Pronates mildly
Potential Areas for Improvement
- Wider and more stable midsole
- Slightly more flexible plate
- A heel counter maybe?
- Increased durability
- Removable insole
(Side note: Comparisons with this shoe are difficult as it does not feel similar to any shoe I’ve tested.)
Nike Vaporfly 4% vs Nike Zoom Fly
Both shoes look alike. That’s where the similarities end. The upper of the Vaporfly provides a much better lockdown and the ZoomX midsole shames the inferior Lunarlon, which feels dead in comparison.
I would love to have a Zoom Fly v2.0 where the midsole is made of React foam instead. The feel of the carbon plate is much more pronounced in the Vaporfly but is also much stiffer than the nylon plate in the Zoom Fly.
However, the Zoom Fly lasts twice as long as the Vaporfly. If you can afford it, this shouldn’t even be a question.
Nike Vaporfly 4% vs Skechers GoRun Ride 7
Even though both shoes are made for different purposes, I picked the GoRun Ride 7 as a comparison as the bounce of the FlightGen midsole was the closest thing to the Vaporfly.
Get both if you can. The GoRun Ride 7 is twice as cheap and feels best for slower runs whereas the Vaporfly is strictly for racing (at least for me).
Nike Vaporfly 4% vs Hoka Tracer
I’m using the Hoka Tracer solely as a representation of a long-distance racing flat, just to illustrate how the Vaporfly compares to the current market. The Tracer is much more stable, due to the firmer ride.
The Vaporfly wins in every other aspect. You probably have heard this in many other reviews (I was skeptical at first too) but the Vaporfly kept my calves happy at the points of the race where it would have been burning with lactate if I had worn the tracer.
Vaporfly hands down!
racing shoe that is a must try if you have sufficient ankle stability and don’t pronate severely. Snap up a pair when you have the chance!
Is there magic to this shoe? It is like believing in the Easter Bunny. Have you been longing for a PR? If so, spend the HEFTY price tag and watch the instant results.
I already had Nike shoes in a rotation of other shoes including the Hokas, Adidas, and Sketchers. On race day of 3 random races, I slipped these slippers on and 3 PR’s!
|Weight||195g (men's size 10), 164g (women's size 8)|
|Offset||10mm (21mm forefoot, 31 mm heel)|
Fit & feel
I call them slippers since they fit like a sock. It is snug, but not too tight. I also like that the material becomes one with your foot.
I bought mine on a regular size of 8, which is a unisex size by the way. Also, the lacing system is nice because it is not bulky. The Flyknit material is very breathable.
First, Nike's ZoomX foam seems to be the key for the light feel and a very responsive overall run. Numbers that are thrown out for the return of energy is noted at 85%.
Second, there is a full-length carbon fiber plate in the shoe. It is designed to propel you forward.
The ride does promise you and provide you with an efficient run. I have used a lot of shoes before and rotate them often. If you allow the shoe to run you, your body and form will be less tired. So relax and breathe and buckle up.
The heel has a unique design the secure them to the back of your foot. On the other hand, the outsole has a rubber sole and was very good with traction.
I wore them in 3 temps and various traction situations. That includes rain, snowy, and warm weather. The shoes tackled the road traction without slipping or falling.
When to use them
The shoe is designed for pure speed, efficient running, and energy return. They can be worn out of a box. However, I believe they probably limited to about 150/200 miles.
I may be able to get 300 miles out of them. I have a very high cadence though so my shoes don’t wear as much. My "why" will be race day only because of the price tag, and the fear of selling out since I run about 5-8 Marathons a year.
For your "why" use them for speed workouts, tempos, and long runs. An alternative trainer can be the Pegasus Turbo X which has the same phone for a smaller price tag.
I wore these shoes for approximately 65 miles. Straight out of the box I took them on a test drive for a 10k race, plus 2 warm-up miles.
I PR’d this race at 43:14 - 6:58 pace as the first female in my age group.
I had my second race at a full marathon. I ran Rock N Roll Phoenix this past Jan. OMG, (3:18:52) I have been trying to break an old PR from Nov 2016 of 3:24:29.
I became 3rd in age group. But that didn’t even matter because I just landed a PR marathon time. So was it the shoe or lack or training?
I did one more test drive on the third of March at the Little Rock Marathon. It was on a cold 35-degree morning with rain when we set out for another Marathon Run.
26.2 miles later and completely unplanned and unexpected, another PR at 3:18:54 and grabbed the second spot for the overall female. What, I can’t explain! My only explanation is the shoe does actually take you for a ride if you let it. My legs never felt tired.
Two hundred and fifty dollars! Yes, it is the most expensive shoe I have purchased in the last 5 years of my running hobby. I own 2 pairs. I won’t train in them because they sell out and have been known for limited miles.
This is a luxury item and can cause you anxiety. But very worth the experience. I want to make a quick observation regarding the overall results.
I train, plus I put the work in to achieve many of the basic goals. I have found finding the right product to enhance the training is key. I find it through research and reading others results.
This shoe can and will make you feel like an elite even if just on race day or after one good result. I can do a lot for the mental aspect of setting running goals alone or overcoming a plateau.
running shoe in history.
The Nike Vaporfly 4% is a long-awaited response from Nike to the Adidas Adios Boost shoe. The top marathoners in the world, prior the introduction of the Nike Vaporfly, were predominantly racing in the Adidas Boost shoes.
However, the winners of most major marathons have worn the Nike Vaporfly 4% since it’s introduction.
Nike claims the shoe will make anyone who wears them run 4% more efficient. Even lab tests have shown a greater energy return to the runner as compared to other leading shoes.
The Nike Vaporfly 4% feel very comfortable when they are first laced up, almost squishy, like a Hoka or other heavily cushioned shoe. The difference is how light the Vaporfly is.
They feel fast even with their large sole, that does take a bit of getting used to. In the later stages and post-marathon, the Vaporfly left my legs feeling significantly better when compared to other racing flats.
Every marathoner should at least give the Vaporfly a try, even with the high price tag, they are worth it.
The Vaporfly upper is very light and with very little material, you can see right through it. The lacing system has no frills but does make the shoe feel secure.
Nike has a flyknit line of shoes that feels very much like a sock, the foot feels secure and is not subject to movement during the race.
The midsole of the Vaporfly provides quite a bit of cushioning, especially for a racing flat.
The extra cushioning is designed so the muscles do not get as fatigued running longer races. The cushioning also provides an energy return to the runner, a kind of bounce like effect.
The Vaporflys give a feeling to the runner as if they are being propelled, the shoe almost rocks you forward.
One area where the Vaporfly could improve is the outsole.
In comparison to the Adios Boost, the Vaporfly feels lacking in traction.
Combined with the fact that the midsole is thicker than other racing flats, the Vaporfly does not provide the connection to the ground that other racing flats do.
Right when you slide into the Vaporflys, they feel fast. They almost propel the runner forward.
However, the enhanced cushioning and thicker midsole make them a bit too much shoe for any race under a 10k. If you are running at a mile or 5k, pace the cushioning may leave them feeling bulky and clumsy.
The Nike, the shoe consistently sells out in minutes from going on sale.
The hype is real and this shoe is so much different from any other marathon shoe on the market that any marathoner should at least try them to see if they pay dividends.
Good to know
- The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is constructed with racing enthusiasts in mind. The name implies that the wearer would be able to run 4% more efficiently with the shoe, as researched scientifically. It is highly cushioned and is recommended for runners with neutral pronation.
- The upper features a minimal design, with its single-layer mesh, single-piece overlay, and lack of internal lining. It aims to deliver the most ventilation possible, with the anticipation of the runner wearing the shoe for marathons.
- Nike introduces the new ZoomX foam in the midsole, which aims to deliver more cushioning and more responsiveness. The ZoomX cushioning promotes a more dynamic feel as it not only absorbs impact on landing, but it also projects the foot forward in expectation of the next stride.
The Zoom Vaporfly 4% features a standard running shoe length. It is a unisex running shoe, with a single width-profile of D - Medium for men and D - Wide for women. Its semi-curved shape follows the natural curve of the human foot.
The minimalist pentagon patterns on the outsole aim to provide durable traction for the runner. It is made of lightweight foam rubber, which contributes to the flexibility and responsiveness of the shoe.
There are high-abrasion blown rubber reinforcements found on the heel and forefoot areas of the outsole, which give adequate traction. They are made durable to withstand various levels of stress from running.
The Vaporfly 4% uses the all-new ZoomX foam, which Nike labels as a "cushioning revolution." ZoomX claims to be the most responsive and energy-returning EVA foam on the market.
The cushioning is supported and enhanced by a full-length carbon plate that is embedded beneath the midsole. It aims to amplify the sensation of propulsion. In this regard, the carbon plate acts similarly to a lever as it helps the foot transition to its next step. The second layer of ZoomX foam beneath the carbon plate is present to dampen the impact.
All the elements of the midsole work together to provide more spring to the foot during running, but without the sinking sensation of an overly-cushioned shoe.
Made from a single-layer Flymesh, the upper of the Zoom Vaporfly 4% presents a well-defined and customized fit. There is no internal lining, yet the façade is designed to be lightweight and breathable. This Flymesh upper is also intended to work against heat retention. There are perforations in the forefoot and midfoot area to help heighten airflow.
There is a single piece of overlay over the lace holes. It offers enough support and structure while maintaining a minimalist design.
The tongue features a thin and asymmetrical finish and is also made from a combination of Flymesh and fuse material.
A stiff bumper is installed to provide protection for the toes and to absorb stress around the forefoot area, which is commonly experienced in long-distance running.
How Zoom Vaporfly 4% compares
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