Saturday, July 06, 2019

Nike Zoom Fly 3 Review: Keeping what worked, Changing what didn't.

Article by Mac Jeffries

Nike Zoom Fly 3 ($160)
Mac: With so many great new shoe technologies out there right now, it’s important to remember who all the little guys are chasing: Nike, the somewhat polarizing but undisputed King of Running Shoes, catalyst of the superfoams and carbon plates that have inspired innovation and plagiarism throughout the industry since the release of the Vaporfly 4%. Hard to believe that the little brother of the 4% - the Zoom Fly - is already in its 3rd incarnation. React foam +  carbon plate + new upper? Sign me up. 

Mac: Upper is a definite improvement over the Flyknit. Same feeling of forward propulsion from the midsole. 

Mac: Insole is flimsy, and laces have a habit of coming untied. Fit is still slightly narrow. Heavier than the Flyknit version.

Tester Profile
Mac is a former collegiate defensive lineman who runs to fill the competitive void left after school and to stay in shape. He is in his late 30s, runs 50-80 mpw, and at 6’3”, has come down from his playing weight of 275 lbs to a steady 205 lbs for the last 10 years. Jeff’s PRs are 19:30, 1:33:xx, and 3:23:xx; he also teaches and coaches XC & T&F.

Estimated Weight: 9 oz / 255 g men's (US9)  7.7 oz / 218 g women's (US8)
Sample: US 14 men’s: 12.6oz (ZFFK: 11.9, so gained just over half an ounce)
Stack Height and Drop (updated when we receive official info,)
Available soon including Running Warehouse here

First Impressions and Fit
Mac: Let’s get this out of the way first: the Zoom Fly Flyknit didn’t work for me. At all. It was too narrow for my feet, had more drop than I like, and the Flyknit upper didn’t secure my foot. With that in mind, I was intrigued by the Zoom Fly 3’s indications of a more accommodating fit, less drop, and a new Vaporweave upper. 

Out of the box, I was a little worried: the ZF3s have gained about a half an ounce over the ZFFKs. In addition to triggering my pet peeve of a heavier “upgrade”, putting the shoe on felt a little snug on foot and unstable to walk and run in. Halfway through my first run, I stopped to relace the shoes. A few miles later, still feeling wobbly, I removed the insoles. This helped the instability A LOT, but gave rise to some other fit issues: now I had trouble balancing the midsole security with forefoot comfort. Bottom line: the fit of these is a little more accommodating than the ZFFK, but some of that extra room is cancelled out by the much less pliable upper of the ZF3 (see below). 

Mac: Strong selling point here. The Flyknit drew criticism for 1. Being a little too loose, and 2. Absorbing rain / sweat. The new Vaporweave capably addresses both of these issues. The lockdown is MUCH improved, and this material should absorb roughly zero moisture. 
Nike opted for a bootie enclosure instead of a tongue, and after trying this in the NB Rebel and GOrun 7 Hyper, I gotta say that this is simply a superior system. Foot slides in easily, no tongue slippage mid run, no stupid loop thingy to thread a lace through… it works. 
I must add, however, that the upper doesn’t “give” much. If the Flyknit had too much stretch, Vaporweave may have too little. I am really struggling to get the fit locked down just right, so that it is snug enough around my midfoot without hurting my - I am coming to accept it - E width forefoot. 

Mac: Another strong selling point: the combination of React foam with a precisely curved carbon plate that gives you the definite sensation of springing forward with each foot strike. If you have never worn the Vaporfly or Zoom Flys, all I can say is that you have to try them out to really know what I mean. It is just a great combination of protection and spring, at the cost of some added weight and rigidity. (A shoe with less cushion with this plate would be incredibly harsh - I personally would hate to run in such a rigid hypothetical shoe - but here you don’t notice most of the rigidity because of the huge amount of stack.) Of course, if you want more spring and less weight, shell out an extra $100+ for the Pebax “Zoom X” midsole of the 4% (or forthcoming Next%). For all the stack, I do believe there is less drop in this shoe than in the ZFFK, but as Nike is all Area 51 with their shoes pre-release, I can’t be positive on that. 

Mac: Solid. Good coverage under the mid-and-forefoot, with some extra under the heel, and significant material removed where the footstrike won’t come into play. It performs well on wet concrete, and it seems thick enough to outlast the functional lifespan of the rest of the shoe. 

Mac: Not much has changed here from the ZFFK, which will elicit some cheers. If anything, there may be a touch less heel-toe drop, or more accurately, a touch more cushion under the forefoot than in the ZFFK. I will add that there seems to be a touch more stability to this shoe than in the ZFFK; I attribute this to the redesigned outsole on what appears to be an ever-so-slightly wider platform. Regardless, these tweaks aren't that noticeable, even though I consider them improvements; if you liked the ride of the ZFFK, you will like this ride.

As alluded to in the Midsole section, the ride of the Zoom Fly family - and exponentially more so in the 4% - is just a unique sensation. There is a definite feeling of your foot being thrown forward by the angle of the carbon plate. It isn’t quite like the rocker motion of the Hoka Carbon X; it just feels as though your feet are on a trampoline that is at an angle. The drawback is that the feel of the shoe is on the rigid side, and ground feel is non-existent. If I were going to find something to complain about, I guess I worry that the lack of ground feel may lead to some sloppy form over time, leading the runner to crash down overly hard at foot strike. I am not even positive that is a thing, but I feel lighter on my feet when I can feel the ground JUST a bit. Oh, and speaking of “lighter”, these do feel just a tad heavy and are not the lightest at about 9 oz in a size 9, even though a lot of that weight is cancelled out by the forward spring. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Mac: This is a solid mileage hog for someone with a medium to narrow foot. As someone who lately has gotten the occasional wide shoe - are my already giant feet getting bigger??? - the fit of this just isn’t quite working for me. As much as I am playing with the lacing and insoles, the much-less-flexible-than-Flyknit-Vaporweave is always either too loose in the midfoot or too tight in the forefoot… It is a shame, too, because I genuinely like the ride and protection that the shoe offers. I intend to keep playing with some different insole combinations to make these work, because I really want them to. 
All of that is personal to me, however, and should dissuade Average Joe from trying these out. If these fit your feet, you have a GREAT long distance and recovery day shoe on your hands - as well as a great training compliment to your shiny new Next% - even if they are a touch heavy for speed work for my taste. 

Mac's Score's: 7.7 /10
Mac: The Ride is a bit heavy and stiff, even though the energy return and Fun Factor are fantastic. My Fit score is personal here; I really think these run a bit narrow, and the Vaporweave upper isn’t going to give you much stretch if your foot doesn’t slide right in. I think my Value scores are inflated across the board - when did $160+ shoes become ok??? - but for a pretty expensive shoe, you do at least get your money’s worth in technology, performance, and expected durability. 


Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit (RTR Review)
Mac: Nearly identical rides and specs,, although the ZF3 is about 0.5 oz / 14 g heavier with maybe a tad less drop. Nike nixed the Flyknit upper in favor of the ZF3 over complaints of water retention and lack of lockdown by the Flyknit upper. I feel that Vaporweave is an overcorrection: yes, it will not retain moisture, but unless your foot is perfectly shaped for the ZF3, it may just not work for you. This said, the ZF3’s Vaporweave upper is much more secure, so if your foot is medium to narrow and you liked the ZFFK, you should love these.  

Nike Vaporfly 4% (RTR Review)
Mac: This is the Zoom Fly on steroids; the shoe every other company in the industry is mimicking with an intensely jealous hatred. Incredibly lightweight, Zoom X (Pebax) midsole, carbon plate, and owner of the fastest marathons ever run by a two-legged mammal. Nike’s idea is for you to train in the Zoom Fly 3 and race in the Vaporfly . Nike is right. 

Hoka One One Carbon X (RTR Review)
Mac: Ah, the only Hoka I have ever liked… and boy do I like it. I will keep this simple: The Carbon X is the shoe that the ZF3 should crush, and it just doesn’t happen. Weirdly, the Zoom Fly 3 gets heavier much more quickly as sizes go up than my other shoes. The ZF3 only slightly heavier than the HCX in a size 9, but it is a staggering 2.6 oz heavier in a size 14 (12.8oz vs 10.2oz), with just as much protection and forward propulsion - albeit, from the rocker sole more than the carbon plate - and has a more accommodating fit. In fact, testing out the ZF3 has made me appreciate what an outstanding shoe the CX is all over again. Don’t buy the Zoom Fly 3 without trying the Carbon X first. (And use the link on this page to get them both from Running Warehouse; you can return the one you don’t like for free!)

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon (1&2) (RTR Review)
Mac: The Beacon is kinda the anti-Zoom: simple upper, low tech midsole. Despite their vast differences, they are both considered high mileage shoes, so I am comparing them, somewhat unfairly, as the Beacon 2 is a full 3.1 ounces lighter in a size 14 (12.8oz vs 9.7oz) with less - but still ample - stack. (Again, we see that the ZF3 gets heavier quicker than the Beacon as the shoe gets bigger. The Beacon and Carbon X stay roughly a half ounce apart regardless of the size, while the ZF3 goes from a half and full ounce heavier, respectively, to 2.6 and 3.1 oz heavier in my size. I don't know if they use a different plate, a different midsole geometry or density or some combination in their biggest size shoes, or what; but that is very important to note if you are buying a bigger shoe.) If you need more cushion, more heel-toe drop, and better outsole durability and traction, then the Zoom Fly is your bet. If you are looking for something that can handle most speed work and stretch to tackle long runs, go for the Beacon. 

Index to 100s of other RTR reviews: HERE
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Greg S said...

Can we get a review of the women’s version? It is supposed to be wider with a female fit co pared to the fk version

Bobcat said...

Would these make a good shoe for 12/24hr races? I used Epic Reacts 2's and I like the React foam, but maybe want something with a little more cushion and pop. Also it there any structure to the heel counter?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Bobcat,
More pop upfront but narrow on the ground platform feel. Important to maintain form with them. . Great upper I think for those long races. Full review in a day or two. 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!

Bobcat said...

Hi Sam,
Form does degrade on long runs, so maybe I'll wait for the Max Road 4 or Carbon X.

azer89 said...

Hi Bobcat, not really an answer. I have used VF FK 4% at a 6 hour race. My answer is a bit mixed, While I like PEBAX foam, the stability is an issue because the heel is narrow, unless you can maintain perfect midfoot/forefoot strike for the entire race.

And the toebox... is very narrow, during an ultra my feet is always swollen.

But again, who I am? Nobody. Camille Herron used VF FK 4% when running the 24h WR (but changed to Turbos for the last few hours...)

I still think 4% is the best shoe for a marathon, but not for an ultra.

JimO said...

I did a 50k road ultra in the ZFFK and they performed well in pouring rain for 4.5 hours. The Carbon X will be my choice next time, only for the stability factor. I think the react foam may protect better actually. Looking forward to trying the ZF 3. An improved upper and it should be a hit for my feet. I used 2 pairs in training for my marathon last fall and finally retired both with just over 350 miles.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks for your input Jim O. Much appreciated.
I just posted an initial review of the Vaporfly Next% and think for 50K road ultras it may be a great choice. Quite a bit more cushioned and stable than original VF. Link is here:
Sam, Editor

Ana said...

What a great review! It's so cool and crazy presentation. Introduction, pros and cons, mid-sole, upper part, outsole, conclusion and recommendation every steps are explained very decently. I enjoyed the review really. 여우알바 유흥알바

Anonymous said...

How does this one comparing to the Nike Turbo 2? Get quite mixed there. I am mainly looking for a daily trainner ranging from 5k to 10k after work run.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Neither Zoom Fly 3 or Turbo 2 ideal as a daily trainer for 5K-10K. I might look at Epic React 2 or Pegasus 36 Trail in Nike. Also Reebok Harmony Road 3 or new NB FuelCell Propel or Saucony ISO Ride 2. Reviews below at link. Full Harmony Road review coming soon. . 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!

Mic said...

Dear Sam,

Thanks for your reply. Yeah, I had been tracking all these shoes as you recommended from this wonderful blog, being a loyal reader for a while. Probably, we can put Hoka Carbon X in the list as well. As a sort of tech fan, I like the techs they put in the shoes. Currently running a Predict RA, I am happy about it with the adoption feeling on my feet. Now I am searching for something bouncier with more forefeet cushion to rotate with the Predict RA. I am kinds of a midfoot striker, so would like to hear from you about how these shoes comparing each other.

Many Thanks

Unknown said...

How are these compared to the Carbon X as a daily tempo trainer? have been using the pegasus/Zoom Fly FK/Vaporfly FK rotation and am wondering whether the Carbon X would be a better daily uptempo trainer to complement the rotation.

Mac said...

I consider the Carbon X - the only Hoka I have ever liked - to be a superior shoe. The ZF3 never fit my foot right, and seemed heavy and stiff, while the Carbon X remains one of my go-to staples. Granted, the CX is lighter and you pay a premium for it.