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Nike Air Zoom Vomero 11 Review

   Today's guest review comes again from my good friend and training partner John.  John is a very good engineer and has been my primary running training partner through and beyond DPT school.  He is quite the Nike guy and has a ton of experience with the traditional trainers from their line.  He was kind enough to share his thoughts on the Vomero, which is another frequent shoe I have seen on his feet.   Based on the thousands of miles he has put in this series, here are his thoughts on the current Nike Air Zoom Vomero 11.

Nike’s re-design of the Vomero for its 10th iteration in 2015 was long overdue. The re-design retained the hallmarks of the flagship Vomero series: heel and forefoot Zoom Air, premium upper construction, and a soft midsole. Previously the Vomero model, ostensibly their premium offering, languished in mediocrity for five consecutive iterations. Sporting the same midsole and outsole year after year, it was a mushy and heavy shoe. No longer! This iteration has remedied past problems and redefined “soft” to encompass a responsive, quick ride.

A little about me: my foot is normal width, just short of 2E. My footstrike is midfoot, and I come down hard on the outside of my food before pronating. For this reason, a soft shoe helps absorb some of the energy of this rolling action. Additionally, some lingering tendinosis in my left Achilles tendon makes me avoid stiff or tall heel counters. The Vomero provides both a soft ride and a well-padded heel counter.

Editor's Note: John does land in a highly inverted foot position and pronates to a little beyond neutral.  He does not overpronate, but does put a great deal of pressure on his posterior tibilalis and achilles tendon due likely to an imbalance between his ankle evertor and invertor muscles.... which I have yet to make a suggestion about because this just occured to me.  

Stats: (thanks to Running Warehouse®)

Heel to Toe Drop – 31 mm heel, 19 mm forefoot
Weight – 10.7 oz
Price – $130

Upper Fit: The Vomero 11 has a distinctively cushy fit, and offers a roomy toebox and midfoot with a locked-down heel. Compared to Nike’s minimalist Flyknit uppers, the Vomero feels very padded: the tongue, heel collar and arch enclose the foot in a soft-feeling wrap, compared to the more conventional fit of the Vomero 10 and other Nike trainers. The fit is generous without feeling sloppy; the aggressive padding a pressure-fit without cinching, making it difficult to tell how tightly the shoe is laced. However, the padding of the shoe never makes the fit oppressive, and the midfoot and toebox is significantly more forgiving than the Pegasus in the same size. Temperature wise, this shoe does get oppressive: it’s like a heavy winter coat.

Disappointingly, running sockless with the shoe laced tightly left me with a blister along the medial side of the insole at my arch. I’m not a seasoned sockless runner, but I think this was a symptom of motion at the intersection of the removable insole and the medial stitch of the upper. So if your pronatory or general ankle motion motion is less dramatic than mine, give it a try. (I ran sockless because it was 80 degrees and all I had were wool socks. The Vomero’s upper gets darn toasty!)

The FlyMesh upper material features no visible stitches, with an integrated toe bumper and inter-woven Flywire around the midfoot. The Dynamic Flywire cords are the durable variety (similar to a shoelace), not the nylon cords found on the Pegasus and Lunaracer that wear away under sustained friction. Since the midfoot fit of the Vomero 11 is somewhat nebulous, the Flywire plays an important role in providing a customized fit.

Reflectivity is absent from the Vomero 11, which is unforgivable in my opinion… Why, Nike?

Upper Breathability: My test-runs were mostly in 80-degree weather in Southern California and the hyper-padded upper combined with the soft midsole left my foot consistently overheated about 3 miles into most runs. While breathability wasn’t an issue in cooler weather, during rain the thick, absorbent upper took longer than other shoes in my rotation to dry out.

Upper Durability: Durability is a big point for me and I’m happy to report that the Vomero 11’s Flymesh upper is holding up nicely at around 150 miles with no visible strains – this is consistent with the bar set by Nike’s workhorse Zoom trainers (Pegasus, Structure, Odyssey and Elite). Most of these combine an outer layer of Flymesh covering Flywire cords, sandwiched by an inner sockliner. This three-tiered system seems to isolate strain to the Flymesh layer, improving the structural integrity provided by the sockliner. Key, because historically I blow out the lateral midfoot stitch on shoes at around 200 miles and feel cheated. Most memorably, I blew out the $145 Saucony Cortana in its first 50 miles and pushed it to 300 miles repaired with duct-tape. Happily, none of my pairs of the 2014-15 Nike models have failed until well after 300 miles, so they’re doing something right.

Midsole Qualities: The primary update to this iteration is the softening of the Lunarlon midsole and the omission of the cardboard insert at the heel of the Vomero 10, so the Vomero 11’s 100% foam and Air underfoot. Only the insole and a thin layer of foam separate your foot from the Zoom Air units.  

Vomero 11’s midsole is primarily a soft Lunarlon with a firmer EVA insert coupled at the heel. Where more structured, supportive shoes have a stiff medial post, the Vomero has its EVA insert. This firmer EVA heel insert (difficult to see because both materials are white on my colorway) wraps the whole heel and covers both sides of the heel, ending just prior to the foot’s arch. The medial side is slightly taller, offering a hint of support. The Vomero’s primary support characteristic is its wide platform, a few millimeters wider through the midfoot than the Pegasus. Tying these two materials together is Zoom Air, located in the heel and forefoot, keeping the ride responsive and buoyant.

Editor's Note:  We have discussed previously on this blog the many ways shoes can be supportive.  Having a firmer ride makes the shoe inherantly more stable as well as having a slight pitch to one side.  In this case, the vomero 11 has a very slight lateral lean, meaning those with slight weakness of their invertors (posterior/anterior tibiali, foot intrinsics, etc) will derive a slightly more stable ride.  Those that supinate upon contact (which is rare and this is you that sucks.  Go see a DPT) or have weak evertors will not have too much of a problem in this shoe as the pitch is very slight and the shoe is firmer than previous versions.  

The Vomero is truly ultra-cushioned: this shoe delivers truth in advertising. While the ride is luxuriously soft, underneath the pillow is a propulsive pop. While the Vomero and Pegasus share dual forefoot/heel Zoom Air, the consistency and smoothness of the Vomero sets it apart. As per my review, you could really discern the forefoot Air unit in the Pegasus 33, and it was over-stated and controlled the foot’s motion more than I liked. In the Vomero the responsive-ness is seamlessly integrated into the ride; whatever contribution the forefoot Air unit makes, it blends with the overall midsole so that the ride is smooth and seamless.

Editor's Note:  As someone with a little more foot motion than John, I really like the new Pegasus 33 and it has become my favorite trainer due to the extra control and propulsion that the forefoot Air unites provide.  Since John is a very forward forefoot striker who generally does not like his foot being forced in any direction, the Pegasus 33's zoom unit pops out to him quite a bit.  

The Vomero is soft, soft, soft. Softer than the Vomero 10, softer than any Pegasus in memory. But it’s a light soft. In spite of all the cushioning, the shoe simply doesn’t bottom out, combining softness with energy return thanks to the Zoom Air. While some ultra-soft shoes feel like stepping in mud, the Vomero achieves a fast-feeling, maximal-cushioning ride without sacrificing plushness.
After a leg-shattering workout or race, the Vomero provides a forgivingly soft ride, if that’s your thing. This is a double-edged sword for the Vomero, as its forgiving ride nearly pigeonholes it as a recovery-day shoe. If you’re using the Vomero as part of a rotation, beware that its soft and neutral ride sets it apart. During my test runs, I found that after running in shoes with a medial post (the Adidas Tempo and Nike Structure), the Vomero’s fit was pleasantly open-ended and wrapped my arch in cushioning, rather than propping it up. For runners craving more aggressive arch support, the Nike Odyssey is the “support” twin of the Vomero, featuring Nike’s Dynamic Support in place of the Vomero’s soft EVA insert.

Editor's Note:  I am currently running in the Odyssey 2 and it is quite firm.  A more similar shoe might be the Odyssey 1 as per John's suggestion.

Feel at Pace: The Vomero feels great underfoot at a quick pace, but the heavy upper overheats quickly. This is a little disappointing, as a premium shoe should be above all versatile. I was reaching for better-ventilated shoes, but the soft and chunky “maximal” ride of the Vomero had its charms. For what it’s worth, the Vomero 10 provides a more conventional, less insulated upper.

Outsole Durability: The Vomero 11 features soft Dura-DS blown rubber in the forefoot and stiffer BRS-1000 carbon rubber in the midfoot heel. Note that the entire heel and midfoot past the arch consist of BRS-1000. Durability-wise, this is huge, as it encompasses all of the high-friction contact points of the midfoot and heel. For comparison, the Pegasus 33 only provides BRS-1000 at the extreme end of the heel, and in my trainers, this rubber is always the first to wear off. Similar to the Pegasus 33, deep flex grooves punctuate the lateral crash rails, offering increased forefoot flexibility. The outsole is identical to that of the Zoom Odyssey, Nike’s premium support shoe for 2016. At 150 miles, I’m seeing significantly less wear on the Vomero 11 than equivalent mileage on the Pegasus 33.

Use: I would compare its versatility to the vaunted Pegasus 29/30, with a less breathable upper. Along with the Vomero 10, this iteration truly remedies my concerns previous build of the Vomero (models 6 through 9). The Vomero is versatile and can sustain quicker paces: the cushioning feels light and the forefoot has a nice pop to it. One of my worst running memories was an ill-advised 30-minute tempo wearing the old Vomero 6: I felt like I was running through molasses wearing Ugg boots. I’d gladly run an uptempo kicker in the Vomero 11, provided the weather were cool and I had lightweight socks.

Editor's Note:  The new Vomero 11 looks different on John's feet than previous versions.  The increased responsiveness is evident by his slighlty increased turnover during our training together.  Previous versions tended to slow him down and I would notice that his feet would stay on the ground longer (increased contact time).  We have talked about this before, but there is a trade off for cushioning and responsiveness.  A more cushioned shoe is more unstable, so while it provides additional protection, the body has to spend more time trying to stabilize.  That means the leg will appear more rigid and will not be able to generate as much force since stability is the focus.  Whereas on the other side of the specturm, a firmer shoe will mean the body doesn't have to stabilize as much and you will see more joint motion as the body attempts to absorb impact forces.  Everyone has a sweet spot so you have to experiment to find what works best for you.  I tend to do much better in firmer shoes because it gives me a more stable base to work off of.  For those with more rigid mechanics, a softer ride might be a little better.  Again this is HIGHLY individual.  

Overall Impression:

Pros: The Vomero 11 delivers on its promise of a plush, versatile trainer with top-quality materials and durability. Compared to competing premium shoes, it’s cheap at $140 (most neutral plus shoes now are +$150).

Cons: The distinctive ultra-padded upper sacrificed breathability, and the shoe has zero reflectivity.

These opinions are my own, these were a personal purchase, and I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. - John.

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this blog belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts.  My blog should not and does not serve as a replacememtn for seeking professional medical care.  If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist.  

Thanks for reading and don't forget to Tack On!

These shoes were a bought for full US retail price.  I (Matt) put at least 75 miles on every pair of shoes before I review them (except racing flats which I put on at least 25 miles).  Currently John has somewhere in the 150-200 mile range on his first pair.

As always, the views expressed on this blog are exclusively our own.  

-Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT

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