Article by Derek Li
Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.
UPDATE: Watch Derek and Sam's In Depth Video Review
I received my pair of Alphafly shortly after the Tempo Next% article was published and have since done a re-measurement of the stack heights, and compared the stack of both shoes. Note that both shoes are size men’s US9.5.
The purpose of the photos is not meant to indicate definitive stack numbers, but more to show that the Alphafly is a little higher stack than the Tempo.
Bearing in mind that the platform is scalloped in both the forefoot and the heel, and that there is the stack of the sockliner to consider, I measured as follows:
Tempo Forefoot 36mm, Heel 46mm for a 10mm drop
Alphafly Forefoot 41mm, Heel 50mm for a 9mm drop
This is of course a considerable deviation from the published stack heights for the Alphafly. Take that for what it’s worth. Advertised stacks sometimes deviate quite substantially from the measured stack, and ultimately it only matters how the shoe feels when you run in it.
I have no doubt that Nike would have stretched every avenue to get their heel at the 40mm heel limit for the IAAF regulations which call for measuring the heel at 32mm forward of the back inside of the shoe on the center line which would end up being in the quite deep scallop of the sole as shown below.
What you actually land on is where I measured at approximately the same longitudinal location as the spec, a measurement which produces considerably more effective stack at about 50mm for the heel.
Due to the scalloped designs of both shoes, it is difficult to get an accurate measurement of what the actual stack is, especially with the glued in insole of both shoes. You can see from the pictures, that the Tempo does have a lower stack than the Alphafly, and at least in the forefoot, the Tempo stack height is about 5mm lower. We shall await the official stack height details from Nike.
Update: Please read Derek's Assessment of Shoe Stacks Article here where he measures several super shoes using the IAAF rule parameters.
Measured stack: heel 46mm, forefoot 36mm: apparently 10 mm drop.
Weight men’s sample US9.5: 259g / 9.136oz
Estimated Weight US9: 8.9 oz / 252g
Available in China and Hong Kong now, US estimating August-October 2020
First Impressions and Fit
Derek: This shoe is stacked! I have plenty of high stack shoes in my closet – Hoka Stinsons, Saucony Endorphin Shift, Nike VF Next%, but none of them compare to the Tempo in terms of stack height.
Aesthetically, the white base with the asymmetric two tone midsole accents really make the shoe pop and stand out. As someone who received his Alphafly a week after his Tempo in the mail, the Tempo looks absolutely radical in design. Step in feel is SNUG. It’s not I-need-a-shoehorn snug, but it has hints of the Epic React v1 in there. Fit is true to size.
The good news is that the forefoot is quite generous in width and volume, so while the heel and midfoot really lock you down, there is plenty of room for toe splay up front. Just walking around, and rocking fore-aft in the shoe standing still, I can feel the familiar squish of ZoomX in the mid- and forefoot, tempered by the distinct feel of the airpods under the met-heads. There is a big drop off point ahead of the airpods as your foot collapses forward into the Zoom X foam in front. Already, I sense something special in the ride was in store. The heel is firmer and very stable, compared to other ZoomX shoes, thanks to the wedge of React foam back there. All in all, the first impression was very, very good.
Derek: The whole upper is knitted. The yarn is thinner in the toe box for added breathability, but the material is a little plasticky and inelastic.
That’s not a problem, because there is an internal laminate acting as a toe bumper to raise things up and the toe box volume is quite generous, by Nike standards. At the midfoot, there is a reinforced fabric layer continuous with and under the external knit layer, running along both the medial and lateral aspects of the upper.
This serves to create a very good snug wrap of the food (even with no lace tension), while also reinforcing the integrity of the knitted material. One can only imagine the side forces this shoe has to withstand with such a high stack for people who under- or over-pronate on landing, so I see this as a bit of pre-emptive safety-netting by Nike to strengthen the support there. There is no rigid heel-counter to speak of in the heel, but the knit is significantly thicker and that lends to a bit more structure to the heel.
There are internal cushions around the opening, which help to eliminate any heel slippage. Overall, heel volume, like the midfoot, is on the narrow side. With all this going on, I was pleasantly surprised by how well my feet took to this upper. I have previously struggled to get a good fit with the Epic React, Infinity React, VF Flyknit and ZF Flyknit, but I had zero issues with the knit upper here.
My first run was with low lace tension as the knit was already quite snug, and I experienced no foot aches at all. In fact, the snug upper gives you an incredibly connected feel to the shoe platform, and you really don’t notice any separation of foot from sockliner during the run at all, which is really nice. I do notice that the knit stretches a bit when it’s fully wet with sweat (this happens to me a lot in Singapore), and I did have to re-do the laces mid-run on some runs, but for the most part, the upper is one of those fire-and-forget type uppers where you don’t even notice it’s there. And I’m sure people will ask – NO HEEL SLIPPAGE.
Derek: There is a huge amount of stack in this shoe, with a lot going on. There is the React in the heel, the ZoomX extending from midfoot to forefoot, and a nylon plate between the ZoomX and the airpods.
It almost seems like it’s all a bit too much, with Nike trying to throw all its latest tech into one shoe. Surprisingly, it all blends together really well. Nothing really gets in the way of another, and you don’t get the feeling that something’s there just because they wanted to shove something new into the shoe. Everything serves a purpose and contributes directly to the underfoot experience.
How does it feel? I’ve been asked this so many times, and will say the heel is relatively firm, while the midfoot and forefoot is moderately bouncy, with the firmer airpods being felt under the balls of your feet.
The ZoomX here is more Ice Blue OG VF 4% than VF Fk/Next% (yes, there IS a difference). I’ll go more into this in the Ride and Comparisons section, but in terms of midfoot/forefoot softness, it is somewhere between the Saucony Endorphin Speed and the NB FuelCell TC. In terms of heel softness, it is more like the Infinity React – excellent vibration dampening but not a huge amount of compression/squish. The shoe does not feel overly stiff, because the nylon plate is softer than the carbon plates Nike has been using, and this works really well here in a trainer setting, to make easy runs less awkward.
Derek: The outsole appears to be very similar to the Alphafly. Wavy ridges of rubber (which is decidedly firmer than blown rubber but not quite as hard as carbon rubber) cover the entire forefoot, and 2 wedges on either side of the heel. The rubber is thick enough (so far) that I do not see any scuffing on the heel midsole at the corners. Needless to say, the heel rubber elements are different from the Alphafly. I will talk about cornering in the Ride section, but grip in both wet and dry conditions are pretty good, and stability seems excellent for a relatively soft shoe of this level of stack height. Outsole durability is also looking good so far.
Derek: The ride of this shoe is truly unique to me, bearing in mind I have not run in the Alphafly at the time of this writing. As good as other similarly stacked shoes such as the ASICS GlideRide and Saucony Endorphin Shift are, this one’s better.
Let me try to describe the ride. If you are a heel striker, you will benefit from the curved profile where the React meets the Zoom X, and this difference in density is already enough to push the foot to roll forwards. There you follow the curve of the nylon plate as the Zoom X fully compresses into the plate. You then feel the responsiveness of the firmer airpods under the balls of your foot, and just when you think that’s the end, you roll past the airpods, and you sink a little more forwards into the zone of ZoomX right at the front, and bounce off forward. Midfoot and forefoot strikers benefit a little less from the rearfoot tech, but still get all the propulsive benefits of the plate, airpods and ZoomX.
Overall, the shoe is incredibly fun to run in. the plate is not so noticeable in this shoe because it’s not very stiff, less so even than the “carbon-infused” plate of Zoom Fly 1. That actually makes the shoe work better for slow runs, and while it may not have the rocket ship propulsion at fast paces, it is more than capable of making you feel effortless at tempo steady state paces. There is no bottom-heavy sensation due to the very good lockdown of the upper, and the shoe is bouncy, tempered with responsiveness from the airpods, and incredibly forgiving in terms of ground impact forces because of its immense stack. I have used it for recovery runs averaging 8:00/mile, easy runs with a semi-tempo thrown in at ~6:30/mile pace, and a moderate easy pace long 15 miler averaging 7:20/mile on rolling terrain, among others.
The shoe has proven super versatile and stable, handling steep downhills well, and cornering adequately well (it’s never going to be as stable as a lower stack shoe, but at no point did I feel like I had to scrub excessive speed to take a corner). It handles surges well, responding immediately, and you never feel like you have to “work your way” up to a faster pace. I think with the exception of fast track intervals, this is pretty much a do-it-all goldilocks shoe for me as a daily trainer, and a strong contender for shoe of the year; only the Adios Pro potentially threatens to spoil the party at this stage as Endorphin Speed and FuelCell TC have already been handily beaten in my book as overall best daily trainer. There are caveats: I think this shoe would not work well for people who over-pronate a lot, and people with really wide feet might struggle within the arch being excessively snug too.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Derek: This is an incredibly good all-round daily trainer that can handle fast tempo paces really well. Most importantly, it affords a degree of cushioning unheard of at this weight for a trainer, and it’s safe to say the bar has been raised yet again for trainers. The retail price (expected to be $200) may be tough to swallow, but it puts it squarely in the same price point as the New Balance FuelCell TC, and if the TC is anything to go by, the market has declared that people are willing to pay top dollar for that top quality ride in a daily trainer. I have no doubt myself that this shoe will sell really well. I paid full retail for this pair, and by the second run I was already preparing to buy another pair in the black colorway!
Derek’s Score 9.6 / 10
Ride 10 40% Fit 9.5 40% Aesthetics 9 10% Value 9 10%
WATCH DEREK'S INITIAL TEMPO NEXT VIDEO REVIEW
Nike Zoom Fly 1/2/3 (RTR Reviews, under Nike for 1,2,3)
Derek: I wear US10 in ZF1, US9.5 in the ZF2, US9 in ZF3, and US9.5 in the Tempo. I like all the ZF models for different reasons. ZF1 had a solid simple secure upper, ZF2 has the best execution of React and forefoot rocker, while ZF3 has a more bouncy overall feel but less rocker sensation.
For me the Tempo dwarves all of them; it has a more bouncy ride than the ZF3, and has a better rocker than the ZF1/2. The upper I would say is on par with ZF1 in terms of a performance fit. I know lots of people had heel rub with the ZF1 upper, but I’m not one of them, and that aside, the Zf1 had a good simple, easily adjustable secure upper. In many ways the Tempo upper is similar in a way that makes you forget about it during the run. Most importantly, the Tempo gets the balance of the shoe right and eliminates that bottom heavy sensation that was most noticeable in ZF2, and was least so in ZF1. Overall, Tempo is more versatile, faster, and more fun to run in.
Nike Vaporfly Next% (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Next% is definitely the softer and more springy shoe, and is about on par with the Tempo in terms of cushioning, but I see it more as a race day shoe. The Tempo is a more durable trainer version, that is a bit more affordable while still giving you a bit of that ZoomX/plate magic. I also think the Tempo is more forgiving at recovery paces and so is a better overall trainer. There is no question that the Next% is a better option for racing, at all distances.
Nike Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I only had the Turbo 2 for a short while as the new upper didn’t work as well for me as the old v1 upper, but in terms of feel (since the Tempo is intended to replace the Turbo 2 moving forward), it is really night and day. The Turbo 2 has a very responsive, low to the ground feel, with no rocker or plate, and moderate forefoot flex to it, while the Tempo has loads of stack with plate, airpods and all and relies more on the forefoot rocker to get you through your stride. These 2 are very different shoes indeed. I prefer the Tempo, but people with more traditional tastes may want to stock up on the Turbo 2 while they can.
Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Endorphin Speed is actually my overall shoe of the year for the first half of 2020. That didn’t last long, did it? The Speed is a very versatile shoe and is very light and cushioned with a killer price point by plated shoe standards. Versus the Tempo, I feel that the Tempo is worth the extra $40, because the ride is just so much more uniquely good over and above the usual carbon shoe ride. The Endorphin Speed would be better for speed workouts, and the odd race, maybe even up to the full marathon distance, but for everything else, as a daily trainer, the Tempo is just a better shoe. Better grip, better ride, better cushioning.
Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Shift is a really good shoe, and hard to pass up at a whole $60 less than the Tempo. That said, the Tempo actually out rolls, the SpeedRoll of the Shift (and Speed), and is significantly lighter, both on the scale and on the road. The Tempo also has better outsole grip than the Shift, and is a bouncier more lively ride. The Tempo is, amazingly, even higher stack than the Shift, and is therefore unsurprisingly, more cushioned than the Shift in terms of vibration dampening. Tempo gets the nod for me.
New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes (though I could conceivably go down to US9 in the TC). The TC has another one of those incredibly lively and enjoyable rides, and was almost a tie with the Endorphin Speed for shoe of the year for me for the first half of 2020. The only downside I find in the TC is that it feels a little bit bottom heavy. This is where the Tempo wins out, because it has a more balanced feel, plus it transitions faster and has better underfoot cushioning. These 2 being at the same price point, unless you have wide feet, I would definitely pick the Tempo over the TC, for any kind of run. Any.
ASICS GlideRide (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The GlideRide has a very unique ride in that it has a “plated” feel to the ride, without actually having a plate. The Tempo does what the GlideRide does, with a bit more oomph to the underfoot feel so it is less mushy, and at the same time has higher stack and lighter weight. The fit is a study in contrasts, with the GlideRide being incredibly roomy vs the very snug fit of the Tempo. No question the Tempo is better in my book.
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