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Nike Vaporfly Next% Review

The Nike Vaporfly Next% is the latest evolution of the Vaporfly series.  Inspired by input from Eluid Kipchoge, Mo Farah, Shalane Flanagan and other elite athletes, the Next% is a version of the Vaporfly Elite available to the masses.  Redesigned from the ground up, the Vaporfly Next% is different in almost every way from the previous version, the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit.  While the essence of the Vaporfly is obviously felt, this is a true evolution of the shoe, not just an upper date.  The sole has more ZoomX, the outsole has better traction and durability, the drop is lower (8mm)  and the upper is drastically different (and better).  Let's talk about this update.


Specifications
Weight: 6.6oz (men's 9)
Stack Height: unknown (15% more than previous)
Drop: 8mm
Classification: Racing Flat / Marathon Racer


FIT/UPPER

The Nike Vaporfly Next% fits true to size.  I am normally a size 10 and it is perfect with medium to thin socks.  There is more room in the forefoot both length and width wise than the 4% Flyknit and fits most similar to the original Vaporfly 4%.  The forefoot has a wider, more anatomic shape with a snug heel and midfoot.  The new upper is called VaporWeave, which is a lightweight material very similar to track spike uppers.  It is very light, breathable and surprisingly strong.  The material is thin enough that you can see your socks somewhat through the upper.  Despite the lightweight, the VaporWeave appears to be quite strong and adaptable.  I have no concerns of durability over the 27 miles I have used them for thus far.


There is a heel counter unlike previous that is extremely thin but stable.  For those concerned about their achilles and heel bones, there is an additional band of cushioning around the heel counter to not only keep the heel in place, but to cushion it from the heel counter.  I have had no issues thus far and usually am very sensitive to heel counters.  The upper does a great job of locking the foot down, particularly in the heel and midfoot.  There is an asymmetrical lacing system in place, which I honestly noticed very little.  It seems to help keep the upper adaptable to the foot.  There is enough room in the forefoot, but the VaporWeave locks down the front too without being constrictive.  This is the first Vaporfly that I can turn corners in and not feel like my foot is going to slip out of the shoe.  Thus far the hold on the foot is so good I have not had to do a lace lock to hold my foot down (which is rare for me).


RIDE/MIDSOLE

The sole continues to use ZoomX foam and a full length carbon fiber plate.  However, there is now 15% more midsole than previous, with much of that added to the forefoot.  The heel drop has been lowered to 8mm, which not only makes the Next% feel faster, but also far more stable.  This is a noticeable and welcome change.  Despite the additional midsole material, the lower heel drop actually makes the shoe feel similar if not slightly closer to the ground than previous versions.  The lower drop also provides a far smoother landing.  Combined with an extensive heel bevel and toe spring, there are no abrupt landings to be had in the Nike Vaporfly Next%.  No matter where you land, the ZoomX and the plate will propel you forward.  As a plus with so much midsole, the sole also feels consistent no matter what pace you are going.  With the additional cushioning, many will find they can do long runs, warm up/cool downs and when they are ready to retire, may continue on as daily trainers.


STABILITY

A noticeable change for me in the Nike Vaporfly Next% is the wider base un the forefoot.  The Next% feels drastically more stable both when running in a straight line and turning around corners.  The foot is locked down on the platform well, so there is no slippage when cornering.  The wider last (shape) also feels more stable when landing at both the heel and forefoot.  Although the combination of the plate, wider forefoot and new stable/durable forefoot outsole make the front of the shoe the most stable point.  The previous versions felt like running on stilts.  However the Nike Vaporfly Next% has felt stable from the second I put it on.  Those who have extreme stability needs may need to look elsewhere (although this shoe is well worth working on your lower body strength and stability for).  For those with neutral to mild and even some moderate stability needs, this will make a great race day shoe.

Outsole comparison of the Next% and original Vaporfly

SPEED

The Nike Vaporfly Next% is meant for speed.  It feels best at half to full marathon paces but can really handle anything.  There is enough cushioning that this could easily be used as a daily trainer for some, but most will save this for fast workouts and races.  The extremely responsive ZoomX combined with the carbon fiber plate make this shoe great even for dipping down to 5k pace.  Although I would probably reach for something lighter and closer to the ground for anything below a 5k, the lower drop also makes the shoe feel far faster.  I have used the Next% for both a tempo run and a long 20 mile uptempo run finishing with a tempo.  My legs felt extremely fresh at the end and I was even able to dip under 5 minute per mile pace for the last 400 meters.


DURABILITY

After almost 30 miles, the outsole appears to be far more durable than previous.  The additional rubber on the forefoot outsole has absolutely zero wear.  Not only does this improve durability, but the traction is far better.  Previous versions were known to be suboptimal in wet weather.  However, I have run over several wet areas without any loss of traction.  There are two additional outsole pods in the heel that also provide both good traction and wear protection.  I typically chew through heels and the fact that there is this little wear at 27 miles tell me the Vaporfly Next% will likely last longer than previous versions.  The ZoomX has not flattened out at all over these hard miles and I foresee this shoe lasting me for many miles and races.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

The science and testing beyond the Vaporfly series has been fascinating.  Unfortunately, the studies on the Next% have not been made available.  Sources have stated that the reason why the name Next% was chosen was due to the fact that testers would demonstrate variable increases in running economy above and below 5%.  So a different name was chosen.


It is important to note that the "%" that is discussed is not necessarily an improvement in performance.  Rather the number refers to the improvement in running economy.  Running economy is not necessarily the same thing as running performance.  Some runners may test as having higher running economy, but may not be as fast as the individual next to them that tested lower.  It is part of the incredible number of variables that pertains to what makes someone perform.


 So when people ask if this shoe will improve their performance, the answer is "it depends" (This is the appropriate answer to many things in life).  It depends on the athlete.  How good are they at engaging the ZoomX foam and the carbon fiber plate?  How well do they adjust to max cushioned shoes?  How stable are their ankles? How does the plate and extra cushioning affect their core and pelvic stability? What is the optimal heel drop for them (how much functional calf length do they have)?   Not every athlete will take advantage of what the Vaporfly series has to offer and may benefit more from another shoe like the Adidas Adios Boost, Adidas Sub2, Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro, Brooks Hyperion, Saucony Kinvara, Skechers GOrun Razor 3, etc.  While the Vaporfly has certainly been worn for many of the fastest marathon and half marathon times recently and while it does certainly demonstrate improved running economy over other similar shoes, each athlete is different.  So while I love this shoe, please make sure it is the right shoe for you.  Don't just choose it because of hype.  Test it and determine for yourself if that is the best fit, feel, ride and more for you.  At the end of the day, the Vaporfly is still a shoe.  And there are far more things you can do to improve your performance as an athlete than just your footwear.  This is primarily a footwear review website, so I should mention that is a very important component.  However, I would put running form, strength, training, rest, recovery and nutrition far higher.  For an interesting piece on whether the runner makes the shoe or the shoe makes the runner, please check out this awesome piece by Dr. Ross Tucker over at The Science of Sport.


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

The Nike Vaporfly Next% is a shoe for serious marathon and road racers looking for that additional edge.  The additional midsole material, added outsole material, wider base, new upper, lower drop and improved stability make this shoe better in every way with almost no weight change.  At $275, this is definitely an investment, but the improvements, cutting edge tech and durability make it worth it.  Especially when you consider what triathletes and other sports pay for their gear (so stop complaining).   The fit is a little wider in the forefoot, but still snug and locked in throughout.  The upper is extremely breathable yet durable.  The sole has more midsole, but the lower drop makes it feel faster and more responsive.  Finally, the new outsole and wider base give far better traction, durability and stability.  For those looking for the next generation of this elite racer, you'll have to wait until July 2019.  It will be worth the wait though.

Our Youtube Review of the Nike Vaporfly Next%

GRADING

Fit/Upper          10/10
Ride/Midsole    10/10
Stability            9/10
Speed                10/10
Durability          9/10

Total Score: 96%

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

***Disclaimer: These shoes were a personal purchase from Ebay.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 27 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.


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