Our verdict

The NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapour 11 surprised us as a more substantial and stable member of the Vapour family. This edition sacrificed lightness for added lateral support but it e-Vapour-ated all our worries of rolling the ankles when moving swiftly. For its premium price, this Nike shoe ticks a lot of boxes, particularly in the durability department and outsole performance.

Pros

  • Exceptionally durable upper and outsole
  • Balanced court feel and cushioning
  • Responsive Zoom Air on the forefoot
  • Great stability for a speed-oriented shoe
  • Fantastic outsole grip and timely give
  • Accommodating fit (finally!)
  • Breaks in quickly (2-3 hours)

Cons

  • Bottom heavy for a speed shoe
  • Not very breathable
  • Not for narrow feet

Audience verdict

91
Superb!

Who should buy

We believe that the Air Zoom Vapour 11 would be a gem for players who:

  • always wished for a tennis shoe that fuses speed and stability
  • wants an accommodating fit for their medium-to-slightly wide feet
  • is ready to pay more for the premium level of material quality and durability

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 review

Who should NOT buy

This iteration of the Nike Vapour shoe is not worth investing in if you are a lighter player with narrower feet and extremely nimble footwork. We think that the Vapour Pro would be a better-fitting and less bottom-heavy option for you.

And if you don't mind another brand, we highly recommend the ASICS Solution Speed FF 3. It is our top pick among speed-oriented tennis shoes and it happens to be among the lightest and most breathable tennis shoes.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 lab test

Breathability

Playtesting the Vapour 11, we could feel its tendency to trap heat. But on the bright side, it didn't feel worse than the average tennis shoe in our lab.

Assessing the shoe's ventilation capacity in our smoke-pumping test, we observed that the air only passed through the midfoot area. The toebox allowed no airflow.

It all made sense when we hovered the shoe's half-cut upper over the light. It proved that the toebox is rather densely padded whereas the midfoot has a large ventilation area.

Taking a closer look at the shoe's mesh through a microscope, we could see some breathability potential in the areas with thinner threads. However, the padding beneath the mesh simply doesn't let the fabric to reveal its full potential. 

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 microscope

Thus, we gave this Nike shoe a fairly average breathability score of 3 out of 5.

If breathability is vital for you, we highly recommend the ASICS Solution Speed FF 3 instead. It is one of the most breathable tennis shoes we've ever come across.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 microscope upper

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

The Nike Zoom Vapour 11 is a wonderful example of the brand's responsiveness to athletes' feedback.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 drag guard

In the original version of this tennis shoe, the toebox was only partially covered in protective overlays. This caused premature tearing of mesh around the toes. But after repeated complaints, Nike released the updated version where rubbery overlays cover the entire toebox.

Great job, Nike! We can prove that it changed the game for toe draggers.

Using a Dremel with a sandpaper tip, we drilled the shoe's toebox for 12 seconds. The speed (5K RPM), the pressure (3.2N), and the spot remained consistent.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Toebox durability test

With rubber overlays taking the hit, the shoe's mesh remained intact. Thus, we happily rated the Vapour 11's toebox durability with the highest score of 5 out of 5.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 5
Average 4.1
Compared to 23 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

We are happy to report that the shoe's inner lining also boasts a high level of abrasion resistance.

After 4 seconds of exposure to our Dremel, the fabric on the inner side of the heel collar showed very minimal signs of wear.

On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most durable, we gave it a solid score of 4.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Heel padding durability test

This means that the heel padding of the Vapour 11 won't fail prematurely due to frequent on-and-offs and constant friction throughout the game.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 4
Average 3.3
Compared to 23 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Looking at the shoe's outsole, we discovered that the Nike Air Zoom Vapour 11 uses an exceptionally hard and sturdy rubber compound.

Measuring its firmness with a durometer, we got a reading of 87 HC which is a bit harder than the average of tennis shoes. And this is a promising sign of longevity.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Outsole hardness
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 87.0 HC
Average 85.8 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
73.4 HC
Outsole hardness
92.0 HC

Outsole durability

Even our most demanding durability test which involves 22 seconds of drilling barely left a scuff on the shoe's outsole.

The speed of the tool was set to 10K RPM while the pressure remained consistent at 3.2N.

When we measured the depth of the dent with a tread gauge, we couldn't believe our eyes! At 0.31 mm, not only was it shallower than average but it was also barely visible!

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Outsole durability test
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 0.3 mm
Average 0.7 mm
Compared to 23 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

In place of an outsole durability guarantee, Nike used 5.1 mm of rubber in the Vapour 11! This is by far the thickest outsole we've seen on a tennis shoe!

We are convinced that players will get a lot of life out of this Nike tennis shoe.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Outsole thickness
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 5.1 mm
Average 4.1 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
3.0 mm
Outsole thickness
5.1 mm

Weight

Unfortunately, we've got some bad news for the long-time Vapour fans. This is not the light and nimble Nike Vapour you have come to expect.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 lightweight

The 11th iteration strays away from its speed-oriented predecessors weighing a hefty 14.2 oz (403g) in a men's US size 9.

That's over an ounce heavier than the average of tennis shoes and two ounces heavier than the Vapour Pro 2! But on the bright side, it is not as hefty as the Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 (14.7 oz/417g).

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Weight
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 14.22 oz (403g)
Average 12.84 oz (364g)
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
10.30 oz (292g)
Weight
14.71 oz (417g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

According to Nike's official product description, the Vapour 11 is designed to be lower to the court than the previous models.

Even though we wouldn't call it the most grounded tennis shoe, we can confirm that it is indeed on the lower side. Our calliper showed that the shoe's heel stack comes at 28.8 mm. This is slightly lower than average and is also lower than the cushioned Nike Challenge 1 (30.0 mm).

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Heel stack

Playtesting the shoe, we found that the shoe still provides a good amount of impact protection for hard landings.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 28.8 mm
Average 29.3 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
25.3 mm
Heel stack
33.0 mm

Forefoot stack

Measuring the shoe's forefoot stack, our calliper returned 20.2 mm. This is very close to the average of tennis shoes and offers a fine balance of cushioning and court feel.

It kept us supported when staying on our toes and doing split steps.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Forefoot stack
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 20.2 mm
Average 19.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
17.0 mm
Forefoot stack
23.4 mm

Drop

The difference in height between the shoe's heel and toes is rather gradual in the Nike Air Zoom Vapour 11.

Based on our calliper measurements, the shoe's drop comes at 8.6 mm, which is the industry average.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Drop
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 8.6 mm
Average 9.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
6.3 mm
Drop
12.4 mm

Midsole softness

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

We were a bit surprised that the NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapour 11 uses a basic EVA foam for its primary cushioning. Especially considering the shoe's price.

From the start, the shoe's step-in feel was rather firm. There was no bounciness to it but it contributed to the grounded profile of this Nike shoe.

We measured the foam's softness with a durometer and got a reading of 30.0 HA which confirmed our initial impression - it is a bit on the firm side indeed.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Midsole softness

But to keep the game fun and lively, Nike uses a large Zoom Air unit in the forefoot part of the Vapour 11. We enjoyed the snappiness it added on serves or when dashing to the net.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 30.0 HA
Average 29.2 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
21.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
34.0 HA

Insole thickness

The shoe's cushioning is made complete with a 4.9 mm insole. That's a standard insole thickness across tennis shoes and buffers the foot wonderfully from the midsole firmness.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Insole thickness
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 4.9 mm
Average 5.3 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
3.9 mm
Insole thickness
8.5 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Nike really stirred things up in the Vapour series by introducing a notably more stable and supportive Vapour 11.

Heavier and more substantial, this shoe is a twist to the brand's otherwise light and nimble collection. Its stiff raised sidewalls are some of the most evident stability components of the Vapour 11. These were not present in the earlier editions of the series.

Torsional rigidity

But having tested the Vapour 11 on the court and in our lab, we wouldn't call it a full-on stability shoe either. More like a speed shoe with added stability.

The Air Zoom Vapour 11 offers a good amount of lateral support, even on the most aggressive cuts, but it just cannot be compared with the stoutness of the ASICS Gel Resolution 9 or the Adidas Barricade 13.

It doesn't even have the same level of torsional rigidity as the Nike GP Challenge 1. Assessing the Vapour 11's stiffness in our manual test by twisting it sideways and forward, we gave it a moderate score of 3. That is on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the stiffest.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 3
Average 4.2
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

There is not a lot of structure in the shoe's heel counter either.

Giving it a good squeeze and push in our manual test, we didn't meet a lot of resistance. Thus, we rated the Vapour 11's heel counter stiffness with a below-average score of 3.

At least the shoe's sidewalls extend higher up to cover the base of the wearer's heel to add some steadiness.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 3
Average 3.9
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Based on our calliper measurement, the widest part of the shoe's forefoot comes in at 108.6 mm.

Being a few millimetres narrower than average reveals the more speed-oriented nature of the NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapour 11.

However, the small outrigger on the lateral side still proved to be handy at the baseline.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 108.6 mm
Average 111.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
105.3 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
117.4 mm

Midsole width in the heel

As for the widest part of the heel, our calliper showed a reading of 85.4 mm. Once again, narrower than average but not enough to cause dangerous roll-overs.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 85.4 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
82.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
99.7 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Even though there is no shank in the Vapour 11, its stiff sidewalls don't let the shoe flex that much.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 flexibility

To measure the stiffness of this Nike tennis shoe, we used a force gauge to check how much effort it would take to bend the Vapour 11 to a 90-degree angle.

Requiring 34.0N, we found that this Vapour shoe is 10% stiffer than average.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 34.0N
Average 30.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
20.6N
Stiffness
44.9N

Grip / Traction

The traction pattern on the Nike Air Zoom Vapour 11 is rather straightforward. It gets sharper in the areas where grip is most needed but is smoother in the forefoot where give is necessary for sliding. 

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 outsole

As a result, we experienced a great mix of grip and give, feeling surefooted in every situation: stopping aggressively, pushing off with maximum force, pivoting, or sliding out of a shot.

We also appreciated the way this Nike shoe helped us retain speed on sharp corners.

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

After years (if not decades) of being called out for their narrow fit, Nike finally makes a change.

It looks like the brand uses a new, more accommodating last in its newer models. We have experienced better fit in Nike running shoes already and now is the turn of tennis shoes.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 fit

Locating the widest part of the Vapour 11's toebox, we measured it at 101.0 mm. This is the standard width across men's tennis shoes in a US size 9. On point!

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 101.0 mm
Average 101.2 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
98.2 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
105.0 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Seeing the Nike Air Zoom Vapour 11 for the first time, it occurred to us that the shoe had a squared toebox shape. And it turns out that we were right!

We measured the shoe's forefoot in the narrower part (right where the big toe ends) at an impressive 79.2 mm! This is a few solid millimetres wider than average!

A bit of breathing room is exactly what we've been missing in Nike tennis shoes

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 79.2 mm
Average 76.8 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
74.8 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
79.8 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Even though the tongue is not gusseted in the Nike Zoom Vapour 11, we haven't experienced any problems associated with it.

We found that its split shape is similar to that of the Nike Vaporfly 3 running shoe. It is a relatively new design but it is quite ergonomic and doesn't dig into our skin.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

Compared to other tennis shoes, the tongue of the Vapour 11 is not as padded. It is a couple of millimetres thinner than average at 5.8 mm.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Tongue padding

Overall, the upper of this Nike shoe doesn't have that much padding which also contributes to the shoe's roomier fit.

This could be good or bad news depending on your foot type. We anticipate that narrow footers might have a hard time getting a highly secure lockdown in the Vapour 11.

Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 5.8 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
2.5 mm
Tongue padding
13.1 mm

Heel tab

The shoe doesn't have any pull tabs but it's quite easy to slide in and out in a matter of seconds.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Heel tab
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 None

Removable insole

If you wish, you can level up the comfort of this Nike Vapour shoe at any moment by switching up its stock insole.

NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor 11 Removable insole
Test results
Court Air Zoom Vapor 11 Yes