Summary

We spent 8.3 hours reading reviews from experts and users. In summary, this is what runners think:

5 reasons to buy

  • Those who have tried the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit stated that they liked using it for tempo runs and speed training sessions.
  • Some testers reported that the midsole unit felt comfortable and responsive.
  • Most runners claimed that the sizing scheme of the Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit followed their expectations.
  • Testers appreciated the tongue-less structure of the upper unit as it provided a smooth hug.
  • The color schemes were eye-catching, a couple of purchasers noted.

3 reasons not to buy

  • For a running shoe that is designed for speed, the Zoom Vaporfly 4% is quite heavy, according to some runners.
  • Several people felt that the heel was a bit loose; they experienced some slippage during their initial runs.
  • Many reviewers have experienced the outsole coming apart from the rest of the shoe after only a short-time usage.

Bottom line

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit running shoe gained favor as a reliable racing and speed training companion for the roads. Most consumers were happy with its performance and its overall quality. They apparently felt fast and enabled while tackling their running sessions. On the other hand, some users have complained about the shoe's durability and weight, factors that they have found to be disappointing.

Facts

Rankings

A top rated Road running shoe
A top rated Nike running shoe
A popular pick

Expert Reviews

92 / 100 based on 15 expert reviews

  • 98 / 100 |

    Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit: The shoes we have been waiting for!

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    After spending sleepless nights reading reviews on Vaporfly and the opinions of other runners, I decided to give them a go.

    Vaporfly is a race day shoe but, unlike the typical race day shoe with a low drop and low stack, Vaporfly takes a maximalist approach with quite a tall stack and a 10mm drop.

    Also, one important aspect that you have to accept, if you are considering this shoe, is that it isn’t durable: you won’t log hundreds of miles on Vaporfly, maybe just a hundred. It’s a shoe conceived for race day for (fairly fast) runners with a neutral gait and for long distance - 5k or longer.

     

    Ride & transition

    As soon as you put the Vaporfly on, you notice a very bouncy feeling and the stack height. But as soon as you start to hit a pace faster than 4min/km (6:25min/mi), you feel that they facilitate the transition as long as you are a mid-foot striker (or at least, this is what I feel).

    So, if you are a heel striker, I don’t recommend this model.

    Also, I would recommend Vaporfly only to runners able to hit a pace faster than 4min/km for 10k and a half marathon distance at least. I don’t feel that Vaporfly helps much with slower paces.

     

    Fit

    Vaporfly are true to size: I’m UK size 7 with most brands and this size suits me for Vaporfly too.

    I managed to take only Flyknit versions. The shoe will fit like a second sock above your socks and, as a lot of other reviewers have reported, lacing can be tricky.

     

     

    If I had had the choice, I would have gone for a version with a normal upper mesh instead of knit, because the knit isn’t too firm. In fact, the instep on my right foot is slightly higher than the left and I could feel a small degree of instability on the right foot, especially in the first 50/60km.

    If both your insteps are high, you may feel Vaporfly is too unstable.

    Runner profile and workouts

    I would recommend Vaporfly to all runners able to run a 10k / half marathon at a pace of 4min/km (6:25min/mi) or faster. For slower runners, it’s subjective.

    It depends a lot on your gait: if you have a very neutral gait, then you can consider giving it a go. Like most fast shoes, they tend to amplify small defects in your gait, so it isn’t uncommon to see pictures of even professional athletes on Vaporfly who pronate their feet.

    In terms of pace, I feel that the faster you go the more they help. In my case, I feel that when I run at a pace where I am mostly a mid-foot striker, they help the transition a lot.

    While I would use them for sure on road, and on track too (why not?), the only downside is that if it rains or you’re on wet surfaces, they don’t offer any grip so you risk not bringing them home in one piece!

     

     

    A wise thing to do before purchasing Vaporfly is to check your gait. They challenge your lower leg and foot a lot while running, so they can lead easily to overload in that department and to injuries. They help the cause but they also make your calves and feet work a lot. After a half marathon, I had cramps in my feet when I took them off. Yes, cramps in my feet after a half marathon!

    I heard that a lot of runners, after racing on Vaporfly, feel fatigue in the medial head of gastrocnemius and soleus, which also happened to me.

    Durability

    Vaporfly is not a shoe made to last - it is a shoe made to run fast. That’s it. If you are looking for a durable shoe, look elsewhere, not Vaporfly.

    Vaporfly is a very delicate shoe. At the time of writing this review, I have run 90 miles on it and I feel that the bouncing effect has almost gone and the outer sole has deteriorated. At the finish line of the London Marathon this year I saw several runners with brand new Vaporflys but the outer sole had already worn out after 30/40 miles.

    My estimation would be a life of 100/120 miles as a race day shoe and an additional 100/120 as a trainer for fast sessions.

     

    Comparison

    Vaporfly is a unique shoe. Even though it is a fast shoe, it has a very tall stack (29mm forefoot height) and a fairly high drop (10mm).

    I think the only comparable model is the Nike Zoom Fly, which has the same structure, design and fit, apart from the carbon plate in the outer sole. However, I found that Nike’s whole Zoom line has a similar ride, so if you feel good with Pegasus, Pegasus Turbo and Zoom Fly, I don’t see any reason you might have problems with Vaporfly.

    Hola Hoka has recently launched two shoes with a carbon plate, Carbon X and Evo Carbon Rocket, but I haven’t tried either of them so I can’t say anything about the differences.

     

    Features and design

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of the upper mesh with the knit, but I can see why Nike and some other brands go for it for some of their race day shoes. The idea is to reduce chafing as much as possible and to have the shoe as a kind of second sock. The knit also allows a reduction in the weight of the shoe.

    I find the look is one of the most captivating in the market. Honestly, who doesn’t like the Nike Zoom models? All the models have an amazing design both in terms of look and engineering.

    It’s intriguing to see that Nike, after years of research and the famous Breaking 2 project, where three of the best marathoners in the world attempted to run a sub-2-hour marathon, ended up with a shoe with a 10mm drop, like most trainers.

    However, the biggest feature of this shoe is the carbon plate in the outer sole. Some people say that it is just a placebo effect while others say that it’s magical. So, I’ll just tell you what happened with me. Objectively, I could see that in my case it helped.

    I could clearly feel that the ride is smoother. Also, a couple of times when I needed to break them before a race, I noted that at a certain heart rate, in the same weather and course, my pace was marginally faster than usual… So, I can say that in my case, they helped.

    In terms of lightness, it’s definitely the lightest shoe I have ever owned: UK 7 weight is only 177g.

     

    Pros

    • Possibly the fastest shoe in the market for long distances
    • Cushioned not at expenses of pace

    Cons

    • Lacing system
    • Knit not very firm
    • Demanding on lower leg
    • Suitable only if you have a neutral gait

    Conclusion

    If you are a committed runner and want to improve your PBs or maintain a high standard, just go for them. They are expensive shoes, but these two factors should be considered:

    1. If you compare running with cycling, it’s like a cyclist investing money in a light, fast bike - in running, the tool is the shoe.
    2. They aren’t much more expensive than most premium cushioning shoes. If you google prices for premium Asics, Brooks, Hoka Hoka or New Balance, you won’t find them much cheaper.

    Overall, I am happy with Vaporfly even if they are very delicate and I only use them for race days.

  • 95 / 100 |

    Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit – Could it be magic?

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    Full disclosure: I am not a scientist. I do not understand or pretend to understand the science behind these sneakers. I don’t know if it’s legit or not.

    All I can tell you is that these shoes performed phenomenally for me, and I wish I had purchased them sooner because they now seem to be unavailable in my size.

     

    Why Vaporfly?

    I ran the NYC Marathon in 2019, and it seemed like EVERYBODY was wearing some version of the Nike Vaporfly shoe.

    So, finally, after admiring some of my running companions wearing Nike Vaporfly’s for a while, I decided to try the Nike 4% for myself, mostly because I couldn’t stand the colors of some of the other Vaporfly sneakers that Nike offers (particularly the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%).

    The 4% however, are available in two very attractive color schemes: blue and red. I purchased a blue size 10, which is a half-size up from my normal size (also at the recommendation of a running companion and confirmed by Nike Customer Service).

    At the time of my purchase (February 2020), the price was $187.50, which a significant discount from the regular price of $250.

    ZoomX Foam

    There are two key characteristics of the 4%: the ultra-light and super-responsive ZoomX foam on the sole and the carbon fiber plate, which runs the length of the shoe.

    The ZoomX foam is lighter and more responsive than any other Nike foam. It’s designed to act with the carbon plate to deliver greater energy return (more on that later).

     

     

    The foam sole does take some getting used to, and sometimes it feels like you might tip over, but you quickly get used to it.

    It’s this foam and the amount that Nike includes in some of the Vaporfly shoes that have recently come under scrutiny and caused the Olympic Committee to ban any shoe with a sole thickness of more than 40mm and/or more than one foam plate.

    Carbon plate

    With respect to the carbon plate, many shoes indeed have a similar plate, which is used to propel the runner forward. However, few have one built from carbon fiber.

     

     

    Carbon fiber is both light yet firm so as your foot hits the ground, the carbon fiber plate bends, then springs forward, propelling the runner faster into the next step.

    Weight and feel

    These shoes are unbelievably lightweight for all the tech included, with a Men’s size 10 weighing just 195 grams (approximately 6.9 ounces). The heel-to-toe drop is 10mm.

    The upper is constructed from a very soft and breathable vented mesh but also gives a proper amount of support. I also love that the tongue is built into the rest of the shoe rather than being a standalone component added to the upper.

     

     

    When you put the shoe on, it feels as if it’s wrapping itself around your foot in a very sturdy but not overly firm manner.

    Longevity: TBD

    There has been a lot of debate about how long these shoes will last and clearly, at this price point, that is a concern. I’ve seen estimates between 100 and 200 miles.

     

     

    I was saving these shoes solely for half-marathons and full marathons, and since I’ve only run ~60 miles in them thus far, I can’t comment yet on how long I think these will last.

    But, after ~60 miles, they still look like they are in pretty good condition.

    Results? You bet

    Now, to the important information: I have run ~60 miles in them so far, including two (virtual) half-marathons (after all, I am writing this review during the COVID-19 quarantine).

    Incredibly, I have run my fastest and 3rd fastest half-marathons EVER in these running shoes. Could there be other factors? Of course. But it’s certainly an interesting result.

    When you are at 100% of your energy, it feels as if these shoes are pushing you to go faster, to get to that next step quicker. Even as you get more tired and further into the run, you continue to feel as if the shoe is pushing your pace.

    I cannot wait to try these on in a ‘proper’ half or full marathon. Yes, I wish they lasted a more traditional 350+ miles, but perhaps as the technology innovation continues, Nike will get the 4% there.

  • 98 / 100 | Road Trail Run | | Level 5 expert

    The new Vaporfly 4% Flyknit gains a performance fit stretch knit upper which eliminates the heel and mid foot play of the original's non stretch engineered mesh but which has less toe box volume and height as a result. It is important to note the upper does stretch and initial try on may not be what they feel like with a few miles on them as I found out.

  • 92 / 100 | Solereview | Level 5 expert

    The hype is real. The Nike Vaporfly 4% packs an incredible amount of bouncy cushioning which works great for long-distance racing. And what’s the catch? While the Vaporfly rewards good form and faster paces, the opposite is also true.

Become an expert
  • The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit is a road companion that’s meant for those who have neutral pronation. When it comes to the build, this shoe isn’t different from its counterpart, the original Zoom Vaporfly 4%, save for a Flyknit upper and a one piece opening, both of which aren’t constituents of the precursor model.
  • Underfoot cushioning is the responsibility of the ZoomX, a full-length foam that’s touted to be highly responsive and lightweight. A carbon fiber plate is implanted into the foam to help with durability and foot propulsion. Abrasion resistance is given by a rubber heel layer while extra energy return is the responsibility of foam rubber in the forefoot.

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit is a bit smaller than the usual sizing expectations, so runners are encouraged to get half-a-size bigger than the usual or to try on the shoe first. Widthwise, the available option is D – Medium as it is a unisex shoe that follows men’s measurements.

The heel section of the outsole unit is made up of a rubber compound that is highly resistant to abrasion. It protects the contact points from wear and tear. It also provides traction through its grippy nature and its patterned surface.

The forefoot section of the platform utilizes foam rubber, which still has traction capacities. But its primary purpose is to provide additional cushioning for the underfoot through its spongy disposition.

The ZoomX is a full-length foam that’s responsible for carrying the foot throughout the running session. It has a bouncy nature that energizes each step. It’s also touted to be lightweight and durable.

A carbon fiber plate is placed inside the ZoomX, acting as a protective layer and as a propulsive medium that further boosts the forefoot lift.

The upper unit of the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit features the Flyknit technology, a material that evokes the texture and elasticity of a sock. It has an open construction that welcomes air into the foot-chamber.

A cleatie design removes the traditional tongue unit and replaces it with a one-piece opening. Such a configuration allows the wearer to feel a smooth and non-irritating coverage.

A pull tab is placed on the back part of the collar. This fabric loop makes it easy to put on or remove this running shoe.

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.

jens@runrepeat.com