Our verdict

In our opinion, Nike's latest Vaporfly marks a significant upgrade in the "original supershoe" concept. This third iteration, lighter, swifter, and more stable during all of our runs, is a marathon marvel, yet its softer midsole and gentler toe-off make it less suited for 5K/10K races than its predecessors. Faithful to its roots, it elevates the winning combination of a spoon-shaped carbon plate, a springy Pebax midsole, and a lightweight build. And still priced at $250, it remains a high-performance dream for all running aficionados.

Pros

  • Exceptionally breathable upper
  • Outstanding ZoomX cushioning
  • Superb choice from the mile to the marathon
  • Impressively low weight
  • Enhanced stability
  • Plush, cloud-like foam
  • Upgraded outsole for better grip

Cons

  • Uncomfortably large tongue
  • The heel is still too narrow

Audience verdict

88
Great!

Who should buy

We are convinced that the Nike Vaporfly 3 is the ideal racing shoe for:

  • Marathoners with narrow or medium-width feet who seek a fast and comfortable racing shoe.
  • Fans of the Vaporfly series looking for an upgrade to an even lighter shoe than the v1 and v2, complete with an improved upper.
  • Heel strikers without stability issues, desiring a high-drop, cushioned racing shoe.

Nike Vaporfly 3

Who should NOT buy

Although the update looks great on paper, it's not without drawbacks. The most significant is that the shoe isn't as great for short distances as before. Those aiming for 5K/10K personal bests might find better value in snappier alternatives like the ASICS Metaspeed Edge+ or the On Cloudboom Echo 3.

Additionally, it remains a poor choice for runners with wide feet. However, unlike in 2019 when it was the only supershoe, today there are other options to consider, such as the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 or the Nike Alphafly 3. We've seen in the lab that these models accommodate wider feet better.

Nike Vaporfly 3

Breathability

When we first opened the box of the Vaporfly 3, our excitement was through the roof—especially to test its breathability. Having tested hundreds of shoes, none had hyped us with ventilation at first sight like this one.

We were pretty sure the VF3 would nail a perfect 5/5 in breathability, but we had to see it in action with our smoke-pumping machine. The result? An outstanding, super-fast airflow, like nothing we've ever experienced. 

Next, we conducted our light test to check if the airflow was limited to the toebox area, as it is with many competition shoes. Luckily, that wasn't the case. Sure, there's an increase in reinforcements around the heel, but the medial part is impressively ventilated.

Nike Vaporfly 3 microscope

But, the real shocker came under the microscope. Nike has outdone itself in creating a ventilation marvel, a shoe that's a summer runner's fantasy.

Nike Vaporfly 3 microscope close

And despite these large gaps, the upper remains sturdy and maintains its structure—a masterpiece that deserves a round of applause for Nike.

Test results
Vaporfly 3 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 234 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

While we were all eagerly expecting top marks for breathability, we couldn't ignore the looming concern about durability. Unfortunately, our fears were confirmed.

When we put the shoe to the test with our Dremel, it became clear that this exceptional breathability comes with a major downside—a 1/5 durability.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Toebox durability
Test results
Vaporfly 3 1
Average 2.4
Compared to 168 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Nike has improved the Vaporfly with a padded, durable heel, which is quite impressive, particularly since competition shoes often show quicker wear and tear in this area. Plus, they've managed to pack in a considerable amount of comfort too.

In short, Nike didn’t just score a perfect 5/5 in our Dremel test by cutting back on padding. Instead, they used a robust and effective fabric, striking a fantastic balance between durability and comfort.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Heel padding durability
Test results
Vaporfly 3 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 164 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

The outsole of the Vaporfly 3 features a soft, sticky rubber that we measured at 56.1 HC. This improvement tries to address a major concern from users of the Vaporfly 2: the grip.

Nike Vaporfly 3 outsole

The forefoot boasts a mini-lug pattern paired with strategically placed holes to reduce weight.

Nike developed a new rubber for better grip compared to the first two models. We can confirm it's more effective, but it still doesn't quite match the level offered by many of its competitors.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Outsole hardness
Test results
Vaporfly 3 56.1 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 285 running shoes
Number of shoes
52.1 HC
Outsole hardness
93.0 HC

Outsole durability

To shed some light on the outsole's durability, we used the Dremel one final time and were amazed to find that it only made a 0.2-mm indentation in the rubber.

This highlights the rubber's high quality—it's soft yet tough, offering heel strikers hope for lasting durability. However, the forefoot might be a different story—it doesn't have the same pattern and seems more susceptible to wear and tear.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Outsole durability
Test results
Vaporfly 3 0.2 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 146 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Regarding thickness, we anticipated it to be quite thin, as is typical with competition shoes, and Nike delivered exactly that.

Nike Vaporfly 3 outsole

After precise measurements, we found a thickness of just 1.9 mm, clearly designed to save weight. In fact, Nike notes that the outsole weighs only 23.0 grams.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Outsole thickness
Test results
Vaporfly 3 1.9 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

One of the most impressive aspects of the Vaporfly 3 is its extraordinary lightness. The VF2 was already a featherweight champion at 6.9 oz (196g), so we anticipated the Vaporfly 3 to be in the same ballpark, maybe even slightly heavier.

But Nike surprised us by trimming it down even more to 6.7 oz (190g). It's amazing how it continues to shed weight while still maintaining its cushioning!

Test results
Vaporfly 3 6.70 oz (190g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The current rule sets a 40-mm limit for stack height in the heel for elite race-day legal running shoes, a standard actually made around the first-generation Vaporfly back in 2020.

Thus, we expected a measurement slightly below this limit, as it's typical for shoes to aim for the maximum allowed. Surprisingly, the Vaporfly came in a bit shorter this time at 37.1 mm.

Nike Vaporfly 3 heel

Nike has completely transitioned its design approach, moving from aerodynamic curves to a more angular, edgy style.

This huge height provides ample cushioning for any runner, regardless of footstrike, to comfortably tackle up any distance up to a marathon. There's no need to worry about those unused 3 mm.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Heel stack
Test results
Vaporfly 3 37.1 mm
Average 33.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot measures just 26.0 mm, a bit unexpected as it's nearly 5 mm less than the Vaporfly 2 at the official World Athletics measurement point.

Nike Vaporfly 3 forefoot

This might disappoint forefoot strikers, who could prefer other choices like the Saucony Endorphin Elite for marathons. However, it aligns with many of its competitors and should suffice for most runners, possibly except for the heavier forefoot strikers.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Forefoot stack
Test results
Vaporfly 3 26.0 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
36.9 mm

Drop

We encountered a big surprise here: the drop isn't the 8-mm as claimed by Nike, but rather 11.1-mm according to our measurements. Just a friendly reminder—our numbers might differ from the brand's because we follow official guidelines, while brands are not strictly bound to them.

This larger drop, along with the excellent durability in the heel, positions this as the best Vaporfly yet for heel strikers.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Drop
Test results
Vaporfly 3 11.1 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

With a mere 3.3-mm thickness, the insole is everything we anticipate from a shoe built for speed—remarkably light in both cushioning and weight.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Insole thickness
Test results
Vaporfly 3 3.3 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 300 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Plate

The Vaporfly truly changed the game with its unique spoon-shaped carbon-fiber plate, known as the FlyPlate. This curvature in the forefoot is crucial for the Vaporfly, as it helps runners achieve a quicker leg turnover by encouraging a higher cadence over longer stride lengths.

One of the reasons the Vaporfly is so kind to our muscles is the design of the plate. The generous amount of ZoomX over the plate, in the forefoot area, also plays a big part in relieving muscle stress, so we think the Vaporfly 3 is an excellent pick for runners who often face posterior chain issues, particularly in the final miles of a marathon.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Drop

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

Yet, the real hero of the Vaporfly has always been its ZoomX midsole. Made from Pebax, the energy return this foam provides is absolutely phenomenal.

As you can see in this video, heel strikers might find the VF3 softer than midfoot or forefoot strikers due to the curvature and placement of the carbon plate.

Nike faced some criticism with the previous Vaporfly for being slightly firmer than anticipated. Addressing this, the V3 comes at only 16.8 HA, ensuring a plush ride.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Midsole softness
Test results
Vaporfly 3 16.8 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 232 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

To gauge the Vaporfly 3's performance in extremely cold conditions, we placed it in the freezer for 20 minutes and then retested it. Post-nap, it registered at 21.8 HA.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Vaporfly 3 21.8 HA
Average 26.5 HA
Compared to 231 running shoes
Number of shoes
12.4 HA
Midsole softness in cold (soft to firm)
51.3 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

This shows a 29.5% difference, somewhat high for a Pebax blend, typically known for being below average in such variations.

Anyway, this shoe isn't the ideal choice for super-cold temperatures due to its large holes in the upper.

Test results
Vaporfly 3 29.5%
Average 25.5%
Compared to 231 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

One common reaction from anyone trying a Vaporfly for the first time often goes like, "Wow, this is so unstable!" This sentiment still exists with the V3, but to a lesser degree.

It's a bit more stable now, thanks to its new geometry and shape.

Torsional rigidity

Our manual evaluation of torsional rigidity resulted in a 4/5 rating, a bit unexpected for a carbon-plated shoe that usually scores higher. This suggests they've addressed concerns about the shoe being overly aggressive.

However, those—especially 5K/10K runners—who love the snappy, quick-release sensation of an ultra-rigid shoe might find this a bit disappointing.

Test results
Vaporfly 3 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 283 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The heel counter is somewhat stiff, making it one of the few shoes in its category to offer a notable degree of rigidity in this area. In fact, in our advanced guide on heel counters, we explained why racing shoes typically skimp on them.

And this also explains the boost in stability we mentioned earlier, doesn't it?

Test results
Vaporfly 3 3
Average 2.8
Compared to 267 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The Vaporfly 3 is Nike's original supershoe, synonymous with weight reduction at every angle. 

Going through sharp corners remains tricky with the Vaporfly 3.

Due to this, combined with Nike's long-standing trend of crafting narrow shoes—particularly in the midfoot—the 107.6-mm width in the forefoot is typical for a Vaporfly. And its narrow build makes it less suitable for those with wide feet.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Vaporfly 3 107.6 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

However, it's in the heel that the shoe really reveals its extreme narrowness. Measuring just 76.6 mm, heel strikers with even slight stability concerns should avoid this model and opt for a wider option, like the Hoka Rocket X 2.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Vaporfly 3 76.6 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Featuring a carbon-fiber plate embedded in the midsole, this design naturally results in high stiffness. In our 90-degree bend test, it required 56.1N of force, almost double that of the average shoe.

But this level of stiffness is precisely what you'd want in a shoe for hunting PBs.

Test results
Vaporfly 3 56.1N
Average 29.2N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Stiffness in cold

Following the same protocol as our midsole softness test—20 minutes followed by another measurement—we found a slight increase in stiffness. This time, it required 59.7N of force, a bit more than before.

Test results
Vaporfly 3 59.7N
Average 38.3N
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.5N
Stiffness in cold
110.2N

Difference in stiffness in cold

This represents a 6.5% increase, exactly the kind of outstanding performance we expect from a Pebax-based midsole—an achievement we hadn't seen before.

Test results
Vaporfly 3 6.5%
Average 35.9%
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Marathon shoes typically feature a narrower toebox, and it's no surprise that the Vaporfly follows this trend, not offering much room.

Our measurements showed the widest part to be 94.5 mm, just 0.7 mm wider than its predecessor. So, you can expect a pretty snug fit.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Vaporfly 3 94.5 mm
Average 98.4 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Interestingly, the toe area is wider than average at 78.6 mm, potentially making this shoe a good fit for those with Roman or Square foot shapes.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Vaporfly 3 78.6 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 179 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Priced at a whooping $250, we had hoped for a gusseted tongue to enhance the lockdown. However, it's missing, which isn't surprising given Vaporfly's history.

On another note, the tongue is incredibly large and may be uncomfortable for some. Nike should definitely consider redesigning it for the Vaporfly 4.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Vaporfly 3 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

It might be a bizarrely shaped, but is impressively well-padded. For a shoe that weighs less than 7 ounces, having a 2.5-mm padding in the tongue is amazing.

Most racing shoes have tongues that are less than 1 mm thick!

Nike Vaporfly 3 Tongue padding
Test results
Vaporfly 3 2.5 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 302 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

Unlike the Alphafly series, the Vaporfly skips the heel tab yet again. This decision aligns with Colin Chapman's philosophy, famously applied in car design, which emphasizes the importance of reducing weight for better performance.

Following this mindset, Nike opted to cut down on weight, even if it means a slight compromise in comfort.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Heel tab
Test results
Vaporfly 3 None

Removable insole

Nike continues to glue the insole of the Vaporfly, meaning you can't swap it out for third-party insoles.

While custom orthotics might fit inside, you'd need to have exceptionally small feet and likely opt for a half/full size larger than usual.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Removable insole
Test results
Vaporfly 3 No

Misc

Reflective elements

The Vaporfly 3 lacks reflective elements, which actually makes sense considering its design is primarily for road races. After all, only a very small percentage of these events take place at night.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Reflective elements
Test results
Vaporfly 3 No