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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 Review
By Senior Contributor David Salas


The shoe that changed the game is back. The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 is a top shelf racing shoe that utilizes Zoom X midsole (PEBAX based) with a carbon plate to help with responsiveness and fatigue resistance. The Next% 2 updates the upper from the Vapor Weave upper to a more synthetic mesh like upper that is more breathable and has a tad more flex to it. The geometry and midsole composition is all the same compared to the previous version. In a world of "super shoes" the Nike Next% 2 is still the shoe seen on the feet of most, even compared to the AlphaFly. Lets dig in. 

Lateral view of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 in white/blk/silver.

Nike Vaporfly Next%2
Price: $249.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 6.9 ounces, 195 g (men's size 9),  5.8 ounces, 164 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 40mm rearfoot // 32mm forefoot
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Racing Shoe


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Nike Next% 2 is a top shelf racing shoe that adds a more comfortable upper to the performance giant. Zoom X is a PEBAX based midsole that is coupled with a carbon fiber plate that seems to help with both stabilizing the foam and providing a nice combination of cushion and responsiveness. The Next% 2 is most likely the shoe you will see on the majority of marathon athletes but now has some stiff competition around it. For being at 40mm of stack in the heel, 6.9 ounces is a pretty solid weight as well. 


FIT

The Nike Next% 2 fits true to size in my normal Men's 9.5. I think the fit throughout the shoe is very dialed and great for performance. What I mean by this is that it holds the foot nice and snug throughout without being overly narrow or compressive in any regions. There is just enough room for swelling accommodation as well which leans well into marathon distances. The material of the upper is a synthetic like engineered mesh that breathes much better than the previous upper. With how thin it is it almost seems like it is on the fragile end but I have not had any problems with durability yet. The one problem I do have with this shoe though is heel security. Despite having a flexible heel counter and normal to slightly narrow width heel, the heel collar just simply does not lock down well. When I use the last eyelet and lace it down tightly I can get rid of the heel slippage but it definitely takes some attentiveness and often times a re lacing after walking a little bit before actually running. Despite that the upper and fit is very well done. It has a normal to slightly narrow heel and midfoot along with a normal width forefoot and toebox. There is a very minimal toe guard present that basically seems to act more like upper reinforcement rather than genuine guard but that's perfectly okay with me. The tongue is thin and performance like and is coupled with asymmetrical lacing. I'm still trying to figure out if I like that... but with the heel security issue I think a slightly more padded tongue would be nice since I can get some small irritation at the dorsum of my ankle just because of lacing the shoe down to prevent heel slippage. Redoing the heel collar would probably be best for this model.


PERFORMANCE


I'll be honest. I was not sold on the Next% 2 right away. It felt flat, stiff, and honestly not the most "alive" feeling of the racing shoes I have tried. That changed after my second run. This shoe did take some breaking in for me and I'm glad I rode it out. Whether it was the midsole or the plate or something entirely unrelated, the shoe feels completely different now than it did on initial impressions. The midsole certainly has a lot of protection and responsiveness to it. The feeling is similar to a small trampoline where you can feel the foam decompress underneath you and then give you a small bounce back through the forefoot. The 8mm drop is noticeable on this shoe and if you are sensitive to low drop or "aggressive" shoes this could be a shoe in consideration. There is plenty of protection underfoot and the foam does a good job of keeping your legs feeling relatively fresh for the given effort. I took these for 20 miles the other weekend with 12 miles of the run at 5:27 mile average and I had minimal soreness after. The traction underfoot is pretty mediocre to be honest. It does good enough for most conditions but is far from having a "grabby" feel to it. The transitions through the shoe overall are pretty smooth. The shoe should work well for most foot strikes as I notice it feels pretty good both at fast "on your toes" type speeds and also more tempo-like efforts.

For me I think the shoe really shines more in the conservative level of fast, aka the 10k to full marathon distance. There is a prominent heel bevel with a midline groove that seems to lessen the impact at initial contact and help smoothen out transitions through the midfoot. The forefoot can be a tad slappy I will be honest, but when running faster that transition point and ground contact time speed up and that sensation goes away. The forefoot certainly has a balanced feel to it being both responsive and pretty natural feeling.

Comparing to the AlphaFly, I think the AlphaFly personally has a much more responsive feeling to it through the forefoot, but it also much faster and firmer toe off and is not as comfortable on the midfoot and medial forefoot for me. All-around, the Vaporfly feels to be a much more balanced shoe and I think this is why it seems to work for a larger variety of people anecdotally. I think in the performance category the main thing to improve would be outsole and grip. It passes and certainly gets the job done but could be improved. 


STABILITY

The Next% 2 is a high performance racing shoe and not designed for stability. With that said it does okay in the stability category. The upper material has minimal stretch to it and locks the foot down onto the platform well (once you get the heel thing covered). The outsole is okay and passes in most situations but could be better when rolling through wet conditions or even some slight dirt. I notice I get a small amount of slipping on the shoe. Otherwise everything is dialed in for performance and the ride of the shoe is pretty balanced for the construction and geometry of the shoe. There is a small sidewall from the the midsole along the medial aspect of the midfoot which I think helps tremendously. It isn't super noticeable but without that I could see some problems coming up with stability in that region. For me the biggest things to improve on are the lockdown and heel collar construction as well as the traction and outsole under foot.

THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

I want to take this DPT section today to talk about research and footwear research specifically. I think it is important to make sure we acknowledge a couple of things. When looking at footwear research and physiological parameters we are looking at averages. Some people may respond well to an intervention where some respond negatively. It is also important to look at the sample sizes of studies to make sure that there are a good amount of subjects participating. If a study has 6 people, the margins are much more open to deviation than if there are 50, or 100 participants. With footwear research specifically it can be very hard to get subjects.

First, you are going to need subjects who will willingly run for science. Second, you need people who can hit the desired paces and parameters you are looking for. Third, the participants are most likely going to have to come back at least a second time. When dealing with physiological parameters you are dealing with changes in biochemistry and looking at the effect of a given intervention. So... if you use a shoe as intervention and look at whatever variable you choose, you are going to need full recovery and standardization for each person.

With that said everyone has to run in the same shoes being the control and the variable. If people are different sizes that also creates a financial barrier and potentially some room for different "responses" for the geometry and action of the shoe could be different between a size 8 and a size 12. The point is there are so many variables to consider and so it is important we take findings with a grain of salt and make our own educated decisions on their findings. It is easy to look at percentages and say "ok, now we know this shoe is better than that shoe", however that simply isn't the case.

Research certainly gives us a deeper understanding of what is going on and gives us some data to go off of, but should never be the sole driver of a decision when purchasing a piece of footwear. Often times research is normally behind schedule in compared to live time innovations for all of the reasons listed above. By the time something gets published there are many times the "next best thing" or a new "intervention" already out there. I strongly advocate for people to look around and see what they may be interested in and try them on and make their own decision based on what they feel and how they perform. There is no need to force yourself into a shoe just because it is the most popular option out there. With that said, there have been some articles and active studies surfacing around (and of course the original 4% study) that give us a small window to look at, but ultimately the greatest factor in responsiveness will be your own biomechanics and interaction with the shoe underneath you. Research certainly has its place and definitely pushes the needle forward with our knowledge but is not an "end all be all".



RECOMMENDATIONS

I have been pretty clear throughout the review. I think the shoe is great and provides a pretty balanced feel to it for how responsive and protective the shoe is but there is certainly room for improvement. The heel collar lockdown could significantly be improved as I have to adjust the eyelet and lace the shoe down tightly to prevent slippage. The other is more of a small detail. The traction is very okay on this shoe. It is going to pass in most situations, but really not quite on par with something like the Metaspeed Sky, Endorphin Pro +, or Puma Deviate Nitro Elite. I would just like to have something that feels like it has more grip on the ground. 

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR


The Nike Next% 2 is a top shelf racing option for someone looking to have a relatively medium/high drop racing shoe with ample cushioning and responsiveness. The weight of the shoe being at 6.9 ounces size 9 also makes this very appealing from that perspective. The upper is very breathable and is reinforced very well throughout, despite having some heel security issues that can be cleaned up with lacing. The shoe certainly shines more in the 10k and up category but can be used for the 5k as well. This is a shoe that is already on everyone's radar and deserves to be there. I think it will work for a good amount of people but with any shoe it is good to try on first. The most directly comparable shoes in terms of feel underfoot for me would be the ASICS Metaspeed Sky and the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite. All of the shoes listed have their own personal touches and don't feel identical to each other, but strictly with foam sensation underfoot, weight, and drop ratio they feel pretty similar, unlike say the Adios Pro 2, AlphaFly, or RC Elite 2.



GRADING

David
Fit: A- (Very dialed in with great performance fit that is breathable. Heel security needs to be fixed though.)
Performance: 
A- (Very balanced feel underfoot that is both forgiving and responsive. The traction could be a little better.)
Stability: B+ (Heel security and traction take some stability away, but honestly pretty good otherwise.)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (No major innovations outside of the already made ones of ZoomX and Vaporfly. I like the integration of the sidewall. I didn't have that feeling of midfoot security in the 4%.)
Personal:  A (Certainly a top shelf racing option. I think there is an argument for some other models out there being more responsive but this does deliver a good combination of both responsiveness, cushion, balance, and comfort.)
Overall: A- (A top shelf racing shoe that should work for a good amount of people. Responsive, protective, balanced.)

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

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FURTHER READING

Find all of the super shoes reviewed at Doctors of Running at our Carbon Plated Resource Center here.

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Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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TESTER PROFILES:


David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 70 to 80 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing,

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.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased through Running Warehouse using an affiliation discount.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our 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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Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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