Thursday, February 17, 2022

Nike ZoomX Streakfly Review: buttery smooth from heel to toe — a monolith of pleasant and inspiring support but is it a 5K Race Flat?

Article by Ryan Eiler

Nike ZoomX Streakfly ($160)

Introduction

Ryan: If this isn’t Nike engaging in one-upmanship with Adidas, I don’t know what is. The Adidas Takumi Sen 8 was released only two months ago, and uses a lower stack of Lightstrike Pro midsole foam to create a shoe specifically geared to 5k/10k efforts. Now, Nike comes out with the ZoomX Streakfly, using a lower stack of their infamous ZoomX superfoam to create a shoe for 5k/10k efforts, at a price point about $20 less than the Adidas. Coincidence? Absolutely not.


We clearly have a battle of the titans here, duking it out for supremacy at the hyper-popular 5k-10k distance that almost any runner can relate to. There are huge profits on the line, world records to be had, and massive reputations at stake here, so let’s see how the Streakfly stacks up.


Pros: Cushion/weight ratio; Value; Low inertia; ZoomX efficiency and pleasant ride

Cons: Excessive forefoot flexibility; Upper’s mediocre containment ability in mid/forefoot


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 6.0 oz  / 170g (US9)

  Samples: men’s US9.5  6.1 oz / 174g

Stack Height: men’s 32mm heel / 26mm forefoot 

Available now. $160 



First Impressions and Fit

Ryan: Even if you had to guess what this shoe was intended for, its ultra low weight and slightly leaner helping of ZoomX foam hint at a short(er) distance racer. There’s so much softness, though, that it initially felt like it could be a half marathon shoe. The fit is slightly long in the toe at my true to size, and the toe box is ample, allowing the toes to splay out. 

It’s a beautiful, sleek design, and the white/photon dust colorway is likely to appeal to anyone not worried about getting them dirty. This is one of the most approachable and easy to lace up racing shoes that I’ve worn to date. From the first step, they exhibit their distinctly ZoomX DNA – bouncy, controlled, and protective. The slightly lower stack doesn’t feel like a drastic departure from the Vaporfly.


Upper

Ryan: This upper is mostly what you’d expect from a shoe weighing 6.0oz from Nike: minimal, but effective. The engineered mesh is plenty strong for preventing unwanted stretching. Its very breathable lattice design has only one functional overlay, consisting of the Nike swoosh logo wrapping from the top of the forefoot around to the medial side of the shoe. This construction allows the foot to bulge and flex fairly naturally, and stands in contrast to the upper of the Takumi Sen 8’s, which features many more overlays and holds the foot in a much more directed position.


While the Streakfly’s mesh will conform nicely to most foot shapes, its simplicity and lack of overlays can’t fully contain foot movement, especially on the lateral side of the shoe.

The toe box has a plentiful amount of room, especially toward the very front, where its relatively rounded shape allows the toes to splay freely.


At the rear, the heel counter stands solid, rising about ⅔ of the way up the heel. In conjunction with the ring of padding around the achilles, the hold in the rear of the shoe was ideal, and left nothing to be desired. 

There are a few millimeters of super flexible fabric around the upper edge of the heel collar, which doesn’t get in the way, but also doesn’t serve much of a purpose. It folded over on me a few times, but I only noticed it after my run. 

The tongue is tacked down midway down the laces, and features two islands of cushion to help protect against the minimalist laces. I wish the laces ran a touch further toward the toe, but on the whole, lace-up was easy and effective.




Midsole

Ryan: If you’re a ZoomX fan (and who isn’t) you won’t be disappointed by the pop coming from the heel. In that signature ZoomX way, it feels spunky without getting sloppy. While it doesn’t have the depth of a Vaporfly, the energy return is still in the same neighborhood. In the forefoot, there is still noticeable softness despite its moderate 26mm stack, as well as enhanced ground feel since there is no reinforcing layer (plate) between the foot and the ground.


My greatest misgiving about this shoe comes from its midsole, and Nike’s decision to use a short, perforated pebax shank in the midfoot instead of something burlier and more effective. It leaves the shoe feeling a bit underpowered, especially at toe-off. The only part of the shoe that’s even moderately stiff is directly under the arch — the heel and the toe are both surprisingly supple, both longitudinally and torsionally.


Taking the shoe from a warm-up and progressing into a moderate jog, the shoe felt amazingly pleasant and controlled. Even at solid efforts, the ease of turnover and pop of the ZoomX carried me along effortlessly. However, a forefoot of non-reinforced ZoomX left me working harder than expected when I accelerated to 4:45/mi pace. While the midsole is exceptional in its ability to return the energy from striking the ground back upward, when left unsupported by the lack of a lengthwise plate, it doesn’t do much to aid in accelerating you forward during the toe-off phase of your stride.


The result of this midsole is a wonderfully soft and bouncy experience that floats along with a sense of weightlessness. I suspect that for any effort other than a hard 5k one, most folks will love the approachable hyper-performance that this midsole offers. But the price to pay for such an affable personality is a lack of ability to really transmit power during hard efforts.  If they hadn’t suggested that this shoe was purpose-built for 5/10k, and instead called it a high performance trainer, I’d be much more forgiving.


Outsole

Ryan: A large slab of black rubber adorns the front half of the outsole, and provides a very inspiring feeling of grip on dry surfaces. The wave-shaped ridges support the entire forefoot, and aren’t quite as sharp or squared off as a traditional tread pattern. While the traction is perfectly adequate, and its efficiency felt outstanding on pavement, this slightly smooth design made its grip less than perfect with a bit of water on the road.


At the rear, a double patch of white rubber guards the ZoomX foam on either side of the heel, as has become the norm for most ZoomX shoes. It’s probably a safe bet to say that these will wear in the same way that a Vaporfly or Alphafly would, given their similarities.



Ride

Ryan: It’s no surprise that the ZoomX is the star of the show when we talk about the ride. It’s buttery smooth from heel to toe — a monolith of pleasant and inspiring support at every moment. By nearly any measure, the amount of protection it provides is abundant. Then, when you take into account that we’re talking about a 5k racing shoe here, it makes it seem even more impressive. Since when does anyone talk about a road racing flat as ‘pleasant’ and ‘inviting’? — I guess now we do.


Upon loading the heel during initial footstrike, in true ZoomX fashion, everything decelerates in a very controlled manner. While it isn’t the most stable platform out there, the softness of the foam makes the heel feel wider than its true dimensions. Once the heel begins to release its energy, you’re quickly transitioned up onto your forefoot, which as I’ve mentioned is pleasant and soft, but leaves a lot of the remaining work up to you.


Conclusions and Recommendations


Ryan: This is clearly Nike’s parry to Adidas’s Takumi Sen 8 strategy. Now that the world is saturated in ultra high-stacked super shoes, the design and marketing minds have set out to use their newfangled tools to build shoes tuned for shorter distances.


Given the Streakfly’s very approachable geometry, both in performance and in appearance, its blissful ZoomX midsole, its approachable price tag, and its crowd pleasing looks, there’s no wonder why this shoe sold out immediately. While it fits and rides as nicely as I’d hoped, its primary drawback is its lack of tenacity when the throttle is open. It doesn’t have the teeth of a Takumi Sen 8, but that will be a welcome quality for most.


Ryan’s Score:  9.2/10  Detractions for an excessively flexible forefoot, and underpowered foot containment from an unstructured upper.


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Adizero Takumi Sen 8 RTR Review: (M9.5)

This is by far the most relevant comparison to make. Simply speaking, while both shoes are explicitly made to tackle the same task, the TS8 is more tenacious in its approach. The Lightstrike Pro foam of the Adidas is much firmer and responsive than that of the ZoomX foam in the Streakfly. Whereas the Streakfly features a mellow transition and aims to please, the TS8 feels snappier and has a more secure foothold, making no apologies about its focus on going fast. The largest difference between these 5k/10k rockets is felt in the toe-off phase of the stride, where the TS8 returns considerably more energy than does the Nike. It’s a shame that Nike didn’t incorporate a longer, stiffer plate inside the pillowy midsole. More specifically, the focus of the TS8 is two-fold: the abundance of Lightstrike foam on the lateral side of the shoe (which is noticeable underfoot), and its pairing with the ‘energy rods’ which provide a good deal of stiffness in the forefoot. On the other foot, the Streakfly says “here’s a slab of weightless ZoomX — enjoy”!

Thanks to some extra overlays on the TS8, the Adidas wins on lockdown, although it’s worth noting that the Nike’s heel is more solidly built. Because of its minimalist construction, the Streakfly carries a feeling of lower inertia. And, thanks to its soft ZoomX midsole, which is slightly wider than that on the TS8, the Nike comes across as a far more forgiving shoe, riding closer to the ground. By contrast, the chunk of Lightstrike Pro in the heel of the Adidas feels tall and narrow.

For most folks, the Nike will be more than adequate, and will almost certainly make for a more pleasant ride. However, if every second is crucial and you want a shoe willing to show its teeth, the adidas may be the better choice.

An unscientific but illustrative comparison of forefoot flexibility – a 20lb weight resting on the heel hardly flexes the TS8, while the Streakfly folds almost entirely.


Adizero Takumi Sen 7 (RTR Review)

Ryan: An entirely different beast, the TS7 is much more of a true racing flat, bordering on a cross-country style shoe. Whereas the Streakfly wields a luxurious, buttery stack of forgiving ZoomX foam, the Adidas uses a low, flat stack of relatively dense foam coupled to a rigid ‘torsion’ plate on the exterior of the shoe. These shoes could hardly be more different. Lockdown in the TS7 is superior, and better for handling any lateral movements. Whereas the outsole of the Nike is designed for efficient propulsion on dry asphalt, the Takumi Sen 7’s sharp, aggressive lugs shine when traction becomes an issue. Coming in at the same price point ($160), for the vast majority of folks, the Streakfly makes more sense. But if you’re looking to blast a short race on anything other than dry asphalt, the TS7 may be worth considering.


New Balance Rebel V2 (RTR Review)

Ryan (M9.5): The Rebel V2 makes for a very apt comparison for a number of reasons: similar midsole characteristics, high flexibility, a similar engineered mesh upper, and 6mm drop. Both shoes are an absolute joy to wear, marked by low inertia, springy rebound, and very passive ride control.


The Nike’s forefoot stack height is as tall as the heel of the NB, and that feeling comes through with a deeper feeling of protection throughout (26/20mm for the NB, and 32/26 for the Streakfly). Both shoes are exceptionally soft and propulsive, and the lack of power during toe-off that I mentioned in the Streakfly is just as apparent in the Rebel. The Rebel has a slightly more rockered design, adding to its level of playfulness.


The most noteworthy difference between these two relates to the rebound behavior of the foam. To be clear, both the FuelCell and ZoomX compounds here are stellar performers, and deserve their place in any lineup. However, the ZoomX has a more refined, better behaved feel. While both midsoles are highly propulsive, the Nike returns energy in a more grown up manner. The ZoomX is happy to smoothly pop you off the heel, whereas the FuelCell tends to snap you forward in a slightly overzealous manner.


Both arrangements of engineered mesh work well, sharing characteristics of strong, comfortable material with minimal overlays. Their only weakness may be that the lack of overlays allows the foot to bulge and flex as it will, preventing the mid and forefoot from feeling completely locked down.


The Streakfly wins this contest in my eyes, but not by a drastic margin. For just a $30 difference, it’s worth considering a bit of budget bending, but for an uptempo performance trainer you really can’t go wrong with either.



Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.  More recently he has solo time trialed the latest super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K with 10K’s close to 30 minutes and in 2021 set a marathon PR of 2:27 at the Maine Marathon.

Ryan decided to forego his Wall Street job to be a gear junkie, and is currently the fledgling entrepreneur behind his company, Bridger Helmets now on Kickstarter.  Most days, you'll find him loping along the Charles River in Boston.  Of all the places he's run, Central Park NYC and the New Hampshire coast top his list.


Watch Sam's ZoomX Streakfly Initial Impressions Video (7:44)


The ZoomX Streakfly is available now including at our partner Running Warehouse HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes by Running Warehouse. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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5 comments:

70's Teen said...

This sounds like a great option for those of us who want a fast cushioned trainer for hard efforts but whose arches get torn up by carbon plates. In that regard it seems to compete with the Rincon 3 and the Rebel v.2

Anonymous said...

Could you please compare this to NB Rebel 2 as well?

Stratos said...

Thinking about the streakfly as my dedicated pair to use at the track for 200s to 2000s repeats. I've been using 14 weeks now the Atreyus Base Model V2. They have the same weight as the streakfly and a firmer supercitical EVA midsole. I can only dip sub 5min per mile just for 200s repeats and I'm 6ft3 and weigh 181 pounds, which makes me wonder if I'm going to be any faster with the streakfly being a bit soft in the forefoot. Maybe or maybe not so much for the 200s but I do however still think that perhaps the streakfly should help me get faster for everything else from 400s to 2000s when compared to the Atreyus. What do you think... should I "upgrade"?

Thank you for your review and your insights.

RTR - Ryan E said...

@Stratos

The higher stack of ZoomX is likely to make for a more enjoyable and less punishing workout. However, the design of the Atreyu's upper might give you better lateral support around turns, since the overlays on the Nike aren't very meaningful -- but this is only a factor if lateral support is an issue for you. It's not that the Streakfly's supple toe renders it useless for workouts (I think it's a great shoe for speedwork), I just found it too soft for racing, when you're not willing to sacrifice seconds. If these were close in price, I'd say go for the Nike, but there isn't a clear cut answer here when you factor in the price difference.

Anonymous said...

How does this compare to the Zoom Fly? I've loved doing faster training and long runs in the ZFs 1-3, might the streakfly be a good plateless replacement?