More than any other review lately, none has been asked for more than this one… it’s the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. Like it or not, Nike has been pushing the needle pretty dramatically recently when it comes to what the future of road running looks like. From the initial launch of the Zoom Fly to the 4% and now with the Next%, they are making even non-competing runners turn their heads and bringing the conversation to the general public. It has raised the question legality as well, but we aren’t really here to argue that and instead to have a hard look at the shoe itself. So if all you want to know from this article is whether the shoe will make you faster, then the answer is an overwhelming yes… there are some gotchas of course so you may want to read on before you commit.
Quick Details, Specs, and Availability
- The faster, lighter, and more cushioned successor to the 4%
- Weighs in at 7.1oz or 200g for a US Men’s 9 which is the same as before, but has 15% more cushion
- Has a ton of cushion and an 8mm heel/toe drop
- Retails at $250.00 USD and comes in 2 colors (pink and green)
- Designed only for race day and not every day training
You don’t have to love the company, but you do have to admit that Nike does a great job of designing their shoes in a way that feels like you’re stepping into the future. Pulling the Next% out of the box will immediately leave you feeling like what you’re looking at is where the industry is heading. It has super sleek lines, a big thick midsole, a very aggressive stance, and styling is obviously off the charts. And whether or not you love the styling is irrelevant, but you can’t argue that Nike really crushes it in both aesthetics and technology.
On your foot, they aren’t necessarily the best feeling shoes to just stand around in. That Vaporweave upper is almost nonexistent and while it is durable, it feels like you could rip through it easily. There is literally no support in the upper so don’t expect it. If you have a wider foot, then seriously don’t bother. Thankfully, the toe box has been widened from prior iterations giving you plenty of room for movement up from and then it immediately tapers into what feels like a track shoe. Then, of course, we come to that pillowy midsole which has just as much bounce and responsiveness as it does cushion.
No joke and I am being real here, these things are insanely fast. The forward momentum you can maintain with limited effort is noticeable and the cushion feels more like a Hoka and less like a Nike. The carbon plating isn’t noticeable from a firmness perspective as the cushion mitigates this, but it does still translate well into actual performance.
My first few runs in the Next% saw me cut 20 to 30 seconds off my mile time without a problem. When I did this, however, my legs were very sore after the run and to some extent even during the run. They did recover the next day quickly, but it places a tremendous amount of strain on your calf and soleus so cross-training is really important. I will be honest and say after extensive testing that most people aren’t ready for them. Even with the amount of running I do, I might put myself in that category as well. I realized I needed to do a lot of work to really use these in any sort of optimal way and I think that would be my one gotcha for anyone considering it. It might seem like a novel idea to cut some time and go quickly, but a lot comes with that. I will not that it was super fun though.
The upper on the Next% is something to really marvel at even though it is next to nothing. This new material, dubbed Vaporweave by Nike is an engineered woven mesh that is light and breathable, yet absorbs less water than the original Flyknit did. Next, the toe box has been widened to give you a more relaxed toe box even at full speed and allows you to really use that forefoot for stability. Next, they have changed the lacing system to a slight offset which reduced the need for additional midfoot supports and reduces overall weight.
The midsole still uses the ZoomX foam midsole, but they have added 15% more foam to the Next%. They have changed the drop by changing the position of the foam in the midsole and also widened it slightly which gives the shoe a bit more stability. The full-length carbon fiber plate is still in here though and still does a great job of providing that sense of forward motion regardless of the extra foam.
The trick here and where Nike has it dialed is that the additional foam is really required when these plates are used (carbon, Pebax, elastomer, etc). If you don’t offset the performance ramifications of these plates with additional cushion, then it translates into fairly significant lower leg soreness and exhaustion during a race. More foam = more comfortable = more distance at speed.
The only big changes to the outsole on the Next% are these grooves they have carved in which allows for traction even in inclement weather. Having these channels allows water or debris to move freely and not impact your actually running. The use of rubber on the forefoot helps with traction and durability especially given this area will get a significant impact.
Style & Aesthetics
The choice of whether you love or hate them is really an individual one. They look fast as anything, have a massive midsole and an ultra-thin upper. They look FAST, period. Color choices right now are limited to the original launch volt green or the hot pink.
One could argue the legality of the shoe or the aesthetics of the Nike Vaporfly Next%, but we have to give Nike credit for pushing hard on the boundaries of technology within the running space. In every sport there has been a change that has pushed the game forward and if these shoes make more people want to run in races and be healthier, then who are we to complain about it. The question keeps coming up around accessibility, but they are available to everyone and every other brand is doing the same thing right now as well. Limits will be put in place by governing bodies and haters will hate, but we need innovation like this to keep the industry moving forward and interesting to consumers.
Check Out Other Reviewers Thoughts
As always, we gather together some of our favorite reviewers so you can get a well-rounded view of the shoe. Here are our favorites.