Friday, September 14, 2018

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit Initial Road Test Review: Zoom Fly 2.5%?

Article by Sam Winebaum

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit ($160)

The Zoom Fly Flyknit, the second in the series, available now, arrives with big changes. The "new" Zoom Fly is a racer trainer suitable for uptempo training and longer racers. The original Zoom Fly (RTR review) "appeared" similar to Nike's ground breaking Vaporfly 4% (RTR review) but ran quite roughly and firmly, with less pace range and weighed considerably more than the Vaporfly.

The new Zoom Fly substitutes:
  • the mostly plastic propulsion plate of the original for a full carbon plate similar but not as wide as the VaporFly's, 
  • the original's Lunarlon midsole for Nike new React but not the Zoom X of the VaporFly, a
  • and the engineered mesh upper for a Flyknit upper with no overlays and no heel counter.  
While the weight for this 10m drop shoe creeps up about 0.2 oz to approximately 8.6 oz /244g (my sample US M 8.5 weighs 8.325 oz/236g)  the ride is almost completely changed and approaches that of the VaporFly in its dynamic spring yet well cushioned feel. The dynamism of this uptempo trainer racer far surpasses the Epic React (RTR review), a shoe I found somewhat better cushioned, particularly in forefoot but dull in its ride and performance.

Fit and Upper
The Zoom Fly fits me true to my usual size 8.5. The fit is more performance oriented and while far more pliable, stretchy and light on the foot reminds me most of the Pegasus 35 in the Nike line up. I am 8.5 in the Vaporfly but have to wear heavier socks, 8.5 in the Epic React but find them very snug at the lower mid foot and somewhat overly high and rigid in hold at the achilles and heel, was just fine in the original Zoom Fly at 8.5 but found them overly roomy.  I found the Pegasus Turbo somewhat roomy and unstructured as there was no stretch and at the same time low over the toes. Here the fit is very close to perfection from heel to toe for me fi a bit more tapered way up front than I prefer, the front rounding of the original and Vaporfly were just about perfect. 
I do note some very slight slip forward, a low but no pressure (as some had in Turbo due to the racing stripe) sense over the big toe, I think this due to the lightly padded heel hold with no plastic heel counter leading to some slip or maybe a touch to little mid foot support  I am not sure I would size up in this shoe but those with wide feet but not a narrow heel might consider it. 
The upper is thin somewhat stretchy Flyknit and has no overlays or heel counter plastic.
In contrast to the original's not particularly stretchy engineered mesh and Flywire mid foot here we have a single layer of stretchy, light knit with variable densities for support and breathability.
In contrast to the Epic React's Flyknit upper the mid foot is less dense but more 3D in structure with a painted overlay Swoosh instead of a thick laminated plastic one.  My first run was on a not particularly warm but extremely humid day. Breathablity and comfort was outstanding. 


The midsole combines Nike's React foam with a full carbon propulsion plate. While both the Vaporfly and Zoom Fly have similar midsole stack heights and geometry there are differences, 
Differences in midsole design between the Vaporfly and ZoomFly:  

  • Vaporfly uses lighter more silky softer feeling Zoom X PEBA foam while Zoom Fly uses the denser somewhat less lively React. 
  • By pressing the side walls of both shoes I can tell the Zoom Fly's carbon plate towards the rear of the shoe is narrower as I can't feel it. With the VaporFly one can easily feel the plate, not so with the Zoom Fly. In both the plate slopes down and under the forefoot and is similar to a spike plate sitting just above the outsole.
These differences for me so far have translated into a considerably more stable heel landing with the Zoom Fly, an issue for some runners and slower paces in the Vapor Fly. The soft Zoom X in the Vapor Fly with the carbon plate not far below the heel limited training uses of the Vapor for me. At slower paces I could really feel the plate. Not nearly as much in the Zoom Fly so far. The forefoot is not quite as soft as VaporFly with a denser cushion feel and a touch less dynamism and sense of fall forward and pop off and go.The Zoom Fly Flyknit differs from the original Zoom Fly midsole in having a carbon plate in place of plastic and substituting React foam for Lunarlon foam. The result is a far springier and easier on the legs run feel and one that is much easier to transition than the original but not quite the flowy, soft bounce of the VaporFly.

There is plenty of durable rubber here. Other than color it does not appear different than the fine outsole on the original.

This is clearly a performance training and racing ride: responsive and snappy due to the plate. The heel is stable and well and amply cushioned with the forefoot far more forgiving than the Zoom Fly 1 as the density of the React cushions well there, whereas the prior foam just bottomed out and was harsh quite frankly front and back. The carbon plate gives clear snap to the ride. My 8.5 mile progression run had splits ranging from 9:27 to 8:17 minute miles at the end. Zoom Fly was smoother and more decisive at paces below 9 minute miles but, unlike the Vapor Fly which seems to flounder much above 9:20, felt decent at the slower paces. At my finishing pace I struggled a bit more to transition than in the Vapor Fly with its softer forefoot cushion and somewhat more pronounced fall forward effect. My last marathon was in the Vaporfly where I averaged 8:25 per mile and was delighted by its performance and my fresh legs. I think the Zoom Fly would do just fine for me at half to marathon paces but I still have Vapor Fly!
Initial Conclusions
One run in, with more to come it feels like the Zoom Fly slots in between the lighter by almost 2 ounces Vapor Fly (racing) and the softer longer trainers Epic React and Peg Turbo as Nike's new uptempo racer trainer. It clearly improves on the first edition. It can replace the heavier, densely cushioned, quite responsive and firm but somewhat ponderous in comparison Pegasus 35 for faster workouts and the softer and fun but not particularly stable and responsive Pegasus Turbo. It is definitely a closer cousin to the $90 heavier and almost two ounces lighter Vapor Fly than the first version was and as such is a good alternative, if not quite but within "1.5%" or so of the other worldly Vaporfly experience with its lighter weight and softer more bouncy Zoom X. The mid foot and heel cup area could have a touch more support and I wonder what a touch softer React foam would feel like but overall for faster running with a distinctive propulsive effect it is a great choice.

Quick Non Nike Comparisons (more to come with full review)
Reebok Floatride Run Fast (RTR review)
The Run Fast is a touch easier to run slow and its combination of foam similar to Zoom X with EVA rim is another way to skin the light weight, relatively well cushioned cat. The Reebok at about 2 oz lighter is noticeably lighter.  Also a stiffer shoe but not totally stiff as the Zoom Fly  it lacks the carbon plate which gives the Zoom Fly its distinctive snap but has a wider range of paces for me, so far.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon  (RTR review)
Beyond both having relatively unstructured uppers these two couldn't be more different in construction. The Beacon essentially is a single slab of foam with no plate and essentially no outsole. It is is easier going at all paces but gets a bit sloppy up top and underfoot as the pace picks up. The Zoom Fly is a better workout shoe and should be for me be a better race shoe, the Beacon a slightly better all-arounder and a 1.5 oz lighter one which likely won't last nearly as long but at $100 is fairly priced.
Reviewer Bio
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify one more time for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah.
The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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Dennis Chui said...

Do u recommend it over NB fuel cell Impulse for speed workout?

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to run in these and try them for myself. How do you feel about walking around in them as a casual shoe?

tpd said...

Sam, when is this shoe available?

sam winebaum said...

Not great as a casual shoe. Upper very nice but stiffness walking not ideal for me. Sam Editor

sam winebaum said...

Sorry should have indicated directly in the review but it is available at Running Warehouse at the link at the bottom of the review as well as directly a Nike. A purchase at Running Warehouse through the link helps support RoadTrailRun's work.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Dennis,
Thanks for asking. I have not run the Fuel Cell Impulse but looking at stats it would seem Fuel Impulse might be better for very short speed work but you would get far more versatility for runs at faster paces, including speed and longer distances in the new Zoom Fly.
Sam, Editor

The Indy(pendent) said...

Thanks, this was a super informative review. I actually only heard about this shoe yesterday at a group run (from another company rep!), and looked to check it out. I alternate between Peg 35 and Turbo, both of which you referenced, so I'm excited to add this shoe to the rotation in the spring.

Phoenixz said...

Between Zoom Fly Flyknkt, Skechers Go Run Ride 7, and Pegasus 35, which one would you recommend for long distance and race day? I know that these shoes are not in the same categories but if you need to pick just one, which one you would pick?

demian sims said...

Wow this changes things a bit. The Nike Odyssey React is my new favorite long distance shoe. I was planning on getting the Reebok Sweet Road 2 as a daily and mid distance but now this shoe. Nike is doing a terrific job with React Foam - I know it's not very popular on this site but I've found it to be very consistent, stable and fun to run. SR2 or this new Nike offering? Hmmmm