Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 Multi 7 Tester Review: Same Magic? Different Magic? 17 Super Shoe Comparisons!

Article by Ryan Eiler, Renee Krusemark, Sally Reiley, Joost De Raeymaeker, Derek Li, Jacob Brady, and Sam Winebaum

Nike Vaporfly Next % 3 ($250)


Sam: The 3d generation of the Vaporfly, the original super road race and marathon shoe, has landed! According to Nike, it focuses on increased stability and lighter weight through, changes to midsole geometry and a “reductive” process of eliminating foam and weight where it is not needed. 

The ZoomX foam compound is the “same” but Nike says it is tweaked for slightly more energy return than before. The carbon Flyplate and the underfoot platform width (or bottom net) dimensions are unchanged. 

Derek Li (who will be joining the review soon) and I measure the heel stack height as increasing 2-3 mm over the Next % 2 to 39-40mm with an unchanged 8mm drop.

The midsole geometry and outsole see significant changes with a more angular design and cantilever heel as does the upper with an all new highly engineered Flyknit. 

One thing is absolutely certain the Vaporfly 3 is an incredibly lightweight marvel with the highest cushion to weight ratio of any super shoe checking in at a mere 6.3 oz / 179g) in my US8.5, 9 grams lighter than v2. This is close if not more than a full ounce less than any similar competitor in the do it all super shoe game.

To thoroughly test, Nike kindly provided samples to our team who have a wide range of paces and race needs. 

Testers include with their full run bios at the end of the article: 

  • Ryan Eiler with a 2:19 marathon PR and a course record at the 2022 Maine Marathon
  • Joost De Raeymaeker, a several times World Marathon Majors winner in his M50 age group with a 2019 PR of 2:26 at Berlin. 
  • Sally Reiley with a 2022 all time PR of 3:25 and 2x second place in her W60 AG at the NYC Marathon, 
  • Renee Krusemark with PR’s of PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45, 
  • Derek Li with a 2:39 PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon
  • Jacob Brady with a 2:49 marathon PR. Jacob received his pair after the rest of us and will update his initial review below after more testing.
  • Sam Winebaum lucky to get in the low 1:40’s for a half at his “advanced” age.

Same Magic? Different Magic? Let’s dig in! 


Unsurpassed energy/weight ratio - Ryan/Sam/Renee/Sally/Joost/Derek

Upper delivers incredible comfort and ventilation - Ryan/Sam/Renee/Sally/Joost/Derek

Versatility: handles effortful running from 5k-marathon - Ryan/Renee/Sally/Joost/Jacob/Sam

Aggressive front rubber pattern: Sam/Renee/Sally/Joost

Explosive ride and transition - Ryan/Jacob

Incredible and leading sensation of lightness on foot and quick turnover: Sam/Ryan/Joost/Derek

Clearer shorter distance and stability focus while Alphafly leans longer in Nike lineup for most, also a con:  Sam/Renee/Jacob

More stable: squared off design, outrigger, firmer foam, more secure upper: Sam/Sally/Derek

New foam layer below plate softens plate impact and noise:  Sam/Sally

Incredibly breathable Flyknit upper: Sally/Sam/Derek/Jacob

Among, if not the most stable of supershoes, and front to back: Sam

Toebox is more accommodating than previous version with more height and overall volume: Sally/Jacob


Rubbery quite stiff top of tongue is overdone in length- Sam/Ryan/Renee/Sally/Joost

Potential for pressure on bridge of foot from asymmetric lacing - Ryan/Sam/Renee

Heel lockdown can be tricky to dial in - Ryan/Renee/Derek/Jacob

Not much heel rubber depth  Sam/Renee

Flatter riding with a less easy roll, more need to drive vertically off front than prior VF: firmer foam, more rigid and stable as well  Sam/Jacob

Less of a long distance race option than v1/v2, especially for slower runners (over 4 hours) who might heel strike, more a shorter distance option, also a Pro: Sam/Renee/Jacob

Thin feeling at final toe-off - Ryan/Jacob

More upper volume and less lockdown feel a little less dialed in - Joost/Jacob


Estimated Weight: men's 6.56 oz  / 186g (US9)  /  women' s5.71 oz / 162g (W8) 

  Samples:  men’s  6.3 oz / 179g (US8.5) (Next % 2: 6.63 oz / 188g US8.5)

                               6.80 oz / 193g (M9.5)

                    women’s  5.71 oz / 162g (W8)   

Stack Height: men’s 39-40 mm heel (measured) / 31-32 forefoot ( measured) 

Platform Width (measured bottom nets): 

Next % 3: heel 70mm midfoot / 50mm / forefoot 105mm 

Next % 2: heel 70 mm midfoot/  50 mm / forefoot 105 mm 

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Ryan: A feeling of unlocked superpowers sets in as soon as you take your first step. There’s no question that the V3 Vaporfly is a purebred speed addict. The depth of cushion is borderline obnoxious, its low inertia brings a giddy grin, and the plate’s stiffness urges you to go faster, faster. ZoomX remains as the marquee feature of the Vaporfly, but V3 brings a reworked upper, a slightly different midsole geometry, and squeezes a couple grams from the outsole.


This is perhaps the most highly engineered mesh that I’ve come across. The material varies dramatically in its weave pattern – a dense, strong pattern around the perimeter of the forefoot, where lateral forces are highest; a highly perforated, airy pattern atop the toes and on the sides of the midfoot; and a hybrid of these two extremes around the laces and on the tongue. 

It works tremendously well, providing inspiring, comfortable lockdown for high mileage running, yet also delivering tons of ventilation throughout the mid- and forefoot.


I find the mesh design hard to find fault in. I’d describe the fit as appropriate for long distance racing — it’s plenty strong, but also more spacious and forgiving than many other racing shoes.

The minor issue I had relates to lockdown at the heel. While the heel counter is solid, and the interior bumper of padding around the achilles is supremely comfortable, I immediately switched the lacing to utilize the extra eyelets located further back. Without them, I experienced slight feelings of heel lift, as the heel cavity didn’t feel sculpted enough to get a firm grip. 

The soft, slippery material used to pad the achilles (similar to V2) probably didn’t help with securement either. I also had a minor but manageable pressure at the 2nd eyelet down, where the asymmetric laces crossed the bridge of my foot. On the positive side, Nike flared the seam at the heel medially to avoid any risk of achilles rubbing, which is a thoughtful touch. Like Sam, I don’t understand the shaping of the tongue, but it didn’t cause any practical issues. Fit was true to size in my M9.5, with plenty of space in the forefoot.

Sam: Ryan is right. The initial impression is of an incredibly light, highly engineered and refined speedster!

The upper is the most elaborately engineered mesh/knit I can recall. Not only is there variable knitting throughout but additional gold color fibers knit into the main mesh create a very minimal toe bumper, reinforce the front of the midfoot, and in a more extensive pattern some support through the midfoot all the way around the heel counter. There are zero overlays and none are needed. 

The material is a bit stiff and is certainly stiffer/ more structured than the VF2's very pliable mesh and more substantial than the AF2’s Atom Knit. It resembles in some ways the mesh in the Endorphin Pro 3 but with clearly more structured and targeted support. 

Not to worry, the pattern of holes end up giving the mesh enough flexibility while the mesh itself gives structure. This is an upper that largely “stands on its own” with no foot in the shoe unlike the VF2 which collapses with no foot in it. 

The resulting hold is superb if not as roomy loosey goosey as the VF2’s or as airy thin as the AF2’s.

The top of the tongue is strange.. 

At the lace up area it is rubbery and quite stiff compared to most thin tongues (for example VF2) and very long and square on the lateral side.  To “billboard” the branding..? 

The medial side also extends quite far up. Both sides have light padding. While tongues are key to foot hold I think this one is overdone and a bit stiff in feel at its extended wings. That said during my recent half race once adjusted I never thought much about it.

As before we have a real solid heel counter with the gold reinforcing threads as a new  overlay of sorts to draw the upper around the foot all of a piece which I find, in combination with the new geometry, provides a really solid and stable rear hold and an improved one over v2 which had a similar solid heel counter but less upper tie in around the rear. 

I had no heel slip issues with the bolsters wearing Compressport socks that have some texture to grip.

The front fit is clearly also dialed in and down compared to v2.  I notice a bit of over-sunginess in the bunions area at first try on. Yet on the runs as the shoe warmed I never noticed any pressures so there is a tiny bit of stretch but not so much to make the shoe sloppy fitting up front. 

There is plenty of front toe box height helped by the ventilation holes having some give, although the knit does not have as much stretch as some knit uppers do. 

Width is more than adequate for any distance race for my narrow to medium feet. Length is a bit short with a bit less than the thumb’s width standard at my true to size. Some may want to consider sizing up for length but I am OK as I have been in all prior Vaporfly and Sally as you will read below who has sized up a half in all previous Vaporfly does not need to here. 

I think the elimination of the overlay front bumper may allow a bit more front give and thus length than before

Sally:  This shoe is a real head turner and a high performance rocket ship to boot! I was excited to get the opportunity to test this much anticipated “new and improved” version 3 of my all-time favorite race day shoe. Would it retain the magic of the previous version? What would change? My initial reaction as I opened the box was WOW, this shoe won’t get lost in a crowd with its bright “hyper pink/laser orange” colorway. So bright, yet totally growing on me. And it looks FAST. 

The upper has changed to a new very breathable Flyknit mesh, and the exaggerated elf heel has been muted to a more square heel. The upper is a bit scratchy, but incredibly breathable - I really felt the ventilation on a cold winter run, and can imagine this upper will be fantastic in hot or wet weather conditions. Seemingly even lighter than its lightweight predecessors? My pair (W8) is 5 g lighter than my V2, so we are talking about a very small difference but recall Sam and Derek measure 3mm more cushion stack here. 

I was curious about the sizing.  I have had to size up one half size (to a W8.5) in all previous versions of the Vaporfly as well as the Alphafly in order to preserve my big toenails during long runs or marathons, so I assumed that would be the case here. 

When I first tried this shoe on in my W8, I thought my big toe was too far at the front of the shoe and I would need the next size up. But I tried them on the run anyways (with a thin sock), and found the toebox has more height and more overall volume so that somehow there was no pressure on top of my big toe as I experienced in the previous versions, even after an 18 mile run in them yesterday. 

So though they appear short, they fit TTS for me, unlike the previous versions. The arch support that was so noticeable in V2 is less noticeable now.  I had no issues with irritation from laces or with heel hold. So here’s to hoping that Nike has not messed with a good thing (the fan favorite Vaporfly Next %2)... Let’s run! 

Renee: The queen of super shoes returns for its third edition. The VaporFly Next% 3 is different enough from its previous versions to make it a fun shoe to review. From a financial standpoint, runners might question if the shoe will make all of their hopes and dreams come true at a price of $250. Is a discounted VF2 or an old pair of VF1 just as good? We hope to help with that decision. 

For sizing, the VF3 feels a tad shorter than the VF1. I’m between half sizes, especially in Nike, and I have the VF1 in both a 6/7.5 and 6.5/8. For runners between half sizes, definitely go with the half size up. I don’t have as much room for my long toe in the VF3 as compared to VF1. I wore the VF1 and VF3 A/B, and they look to be the same length, it’s just a matter of fit, shape, and upper material that make them feel slightly (seriously, just slightly) shorter.  Like Ryan, I had to use the extra eyelet to get a solid heel lockdown, which is not something I need with the VF1. Otherwise, I had no irritation or issues with the upper. It’s comfortable with a race-day fit. I’ll agree with everyone else, the tongue is long but I had no issues with it while running. Runners with high volume feet might have irritation from the lacing, but that too was not an issue for me.

Joost: When the Vaporfly 3 first launched in Europe in the prototype color, I was reminded of when the original 4% launched in 2017 (incredible it’s already been nearly 6 years) and I was in the car at the moment somewhere between towns in Angola. I’d put them in my shopping basket and was about to pay when I lost my network connection and by the time I was in reach of the next cell tower, they were gone. The same almost happened this time. When I checked, all but the smallest and biggest men’s sizes had sold out in the first couple of minutes. I jumped on a women’s size 43 (W11 US) and they’re waiting for me in Belgium to pick up on my way through to the London marathon. 

Or so, I thought. To my delight, Sam told me I would be receiving a pair directly from Nike for testing. They usually take a little longer to get here, since I have to use a forwarding service in the USA, but they showed up and wow, they look flashy in their pink and orange colorway.

With a nice 19 mile workout planned, including some strides, some easy running and a couple of threshold chunks thrown in the next day, I couldn’t wait to compare them to my current pair of Next% 2. The first thing I noticed when I put one of each on is that the newer version decidedly has more stack height. Especially underneath the ball of the foot, this is very noticeable. The foam feels just a tad firmer. Apart from the fact that the geometry looks quite different underfoot and in the heel, there are more similarities than differences.

The upper is a different story. The material itself is a little stiffer and does away with the need for the reinforcement layer aka toe bumper of the previous version. This Flyknit is an incredible feat of knitting. 

As Ryan mentioned, it reminds me a bit of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, with the holes over the top of the foot, but a lot more nuanced, with denser areas where needed. 

The medial side of the upper in the previous versions would become unglued in my pairs after around 100 miles or so. This is probably also due to the tropical climate here, but the construction of this new version seems to be better in that area.

They fit true to size for me. 

There is ample space in the forefoot, even for my wide feet. I would even go as far as to say that the upper is so roomy in the forefoot that they feel a little less dialed in as a race shoe than previous versions.

The tongue is a little long, more so on the medial side and I was afraid the flap of synthetic material would cut into my lower leg when running in my usual no show socks. I didn’t notice it or have any problems on the run, though.

Heel hold was relatively secure. I could feel my left heel moving a little, but not enough to use the extra row of eyelets for heel lock lacing. The material at the top of the heel collar is now a more stretchy fabric. 

The reinforced heel cup comes up a little higher, all the way to the top of the internal cushion. The sockliner is still glued in.

Derek: Versions 1 and 2 of the VF Next% never quite worked well for me from a fit and ride perspective so I was really hoping v3 would work better for me. My initial step in feel was very promising. 

It’s clear right from the start that there is a lot more underfoot cushioning here.  A higher volume upper at the midfoot allowed me to get a more comfortable wrap of the foot. Heel slippage was a big issue for me with v1 and v2 so I was happy to see that they beefed up the padding around the heel collar here. My initial jog around the home also confirmed that while the familiar softness of ZoomX is still present, the heel doesn’t sink in as much as before and the transition doesn’t feel as flat as in v1 and to a lesser extent, v2. 

The knit upper is very thin and breathable and the holes at the toe box are just huge. I think the increased toebox volume will be quite welcome by most runners as the toe box has generally been quite snug for v1 and v2. The tongue construct is quite similar to v2 but this time it seems to run up the ankle a little too much. The length of the tongue was perfect in the 4%. They should have just left it at that. That brings me next to the asymmetric lacing. I’m not convinced that this is anything more than a cosmetic feature. If it were that effective, surely the Alphafly would have used it as well. Either way, it’s neutral for me as it doesn’t seem to be detrimental from a fit perspective. 

In terms of getting the right fit, I tried the shoe with several different pairs of socks to find the right thickness. The thinner socks like my trusty Steigens fared badly here. Ankle hold was good, but the heel was sliding out or just sort of floating with every step. It didn’t cause any hot spots but it just didn’t feel efficient at race paces. The socks that did best were in fact my thickest pair, which happen to be from Darn Tough. Their “ultralight” socks which I purchased at last year’s Chicago marathon expo, and which are still pretty thick for running in 85 F heat, worked fantastically well with the VF3. Very comfortable and helped my feet to fill out the shoe and indeed the whole ankle and heel area really well and I had perfect lockdown with those socks. On that note, I will say that the shoes feel like they fit just a smidge longer than v2 and I could probably get away with going a half size down with thin socks. 

Jacob: A legend returns for another iteration. The ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 3 especially in its lead hyper pink/laser orange colorway is  flashy and modern. Great vibes starting with the box itself which is a simple plain brown cardboard, 90% three-in-one shipping, return, and shoe box made from 90% recycled materials. A lot of pollution is created from manufacturing a shoe, especially the high-end Vaporfly, so it is great to see Nike minimizing impact with the box. Unlike the Alphafly 1 & 2 and Vaporfly NEXT% 1, it doesn’t come with a shoe bag, which I also appreciate. 

The design is more angular and aggressive than the Vaporfly NEXT% 1 and 2. The upper is an impressive open mesh with variation in thickness and reinforcement. Breathable, light, and comfortable. Overall the design gets me excited to run fast.

In my US Men’s 12, weight is nearly identical to the VF NEXT% 1 with version 3 being two grams heavier (I didn’t run the 2). 

On foot, my first impressions were not as good as expected. The fit is by no means bad, but it felt overly loose for a racer which was surprising compared to the near perfectly snug fit of both Alphafly and the VF NEXT% 1. The mesh has excellent breathability and the forefoot is nicely roomy and open but heel hold is not great. However, despite these initial impressions, I had no issues with fit while on the run (I did a 22 miler first run and didn’t have to re-lace), though it does take some thought and care when lacing up to get a secure fit. I appreciate the roomier toebox for comfort as well.

As an initial comparison, because with remarkable high-end shoes like the Vaporfly I’m most interested in comparisons to other amazing shoes, I started out with an short A/B test, a few strides with the VF NEXT% 1 on the other foot (note I do have 150 miles on them but they still feel great). The differences were significant. The 1 has a more glove-like fit, is more locked, and has a more natural, silky feel. The 3 feels more aggressive and explosive but less smooth at least at the slower (6-7 min/mi) paces I was running. It reminds me of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky which works for me only at short distances where I am really landing forefoot and staying focused. The foam under the big toe on the 3 feels very thin like I am almost directly feeling the ground—it feels like it has more rocker as well, and is less soft. It was a really interesting first impression overall and I was looking forward to testing further especially on a long run with blocks of different paces.


Ryan: Noticeable changes include a sensation of increased stability and width in the midfoot, a cantilevered tail (similar to that of the Alphafly 2 and Adios Pro 3), a small triangular cutout in the lateral midfoot, and a notched out underside which exposes the carbon ‘Flyplate’. 

While the entire foam stack feels extremely deep and serves as the main source of the Vaporfly’s explosiveness, you don’t actually feel like you’re towering far above the asphalt. The softness and compression of the ZoomX provides a feeling of being closer to the road than most of its competitors — especially the Adios Pro. 

The forefoot still returns an impressive amount of energy but focuses more on stabilizing the latter part of the stride and providing a quick toe-off. In the leg-saving department, it doesn’t get any better than ZoomX for helping to reduce fatigue late in a race.

The VF3’s stiffness is very near the high end of the spectrum, providing very little flex and a more aggressive feel than V2.  With the plate sitting very close to the outsole in the forefoot (in contrast to the heel), this is no surprise. The shoe’s lightness on foot and its aggressive plate design help significantly to improve turnover.

It appears that when nearing the very front of the shoe, the midsole has a noticeably convex shape, as if to allow for a fuller, more natural, toe off on the medial side. With a foam this soft, toe–off can start to feel a bit thin and underbuilt in the last moments of propulsion, especially during hard efforts.The only thing that pairs better than two matching socks? – The Vaporfly’s ZoomX midsole and its carbon Flyplate!

Sam: The ZoomX foam now feels slightly firmer when pressed and on the run.  Nike says it has been adjusted for slightly better energy return. 

I roughly measure about 2- 3mm more heel stack height than v2, taking the shoe to 39-40mm and while we do not have official drop specs yet at 8mm drop we should see 31-32mm upfront. So in addition to better energy return the slightly firmer foam for sure helps with stability as well.

The geometry, as seen from the sides and underneath,  has significantly changed with more vertical squared off sidewalls, especially laterally and  a squared off outrigger instead of the classic curved rear rocker.  

The lines of the geometry (curves drawing forward in v2 and a flatter more vertical design in V3) actually reflect what I feel. These changes are felt as a slightly firmer quicker return, a flatter overall feel at the road with less forward roll and for sure more stablity than previously

We do not have a schematic of the carbon fiber plate but Nike says it is exactly the same as those in prior Vaporfly  Rough measurements indicate it now sits a couple millimeters lower in the midsole at the heel. I think that in combination with the rest of the midsole geometry and tweaked foam this contributes to the increased rear stability. Upfront, the plate is about the same height above the ground, maybe a touch lower, but as the outsole is now thinner so there is 1-2 mm more foam between ground and plate and this felt as a less firm final contact area.

Weight has dropped 9 grams in my US8.5 sample to 183g / 6.49 oz, likely mostly due to thinner forefoot rubber and midsole sculpting including the “reductive” removal of foam at the lateral front and at the heel/midfoot cavity, while platform widths have not changed. 

We still have an unchanged maximum heel platform width of 70mm, a minimum midfoot width of 50mm at ground contact, and a forefoot width of 105mm but when hand flexing v3 is clearly stiffer than v2.  Nike told Running Warehouse that the platform shifts medially a few millimeters and that the concave shaping at midfoot is to reduce pronation thus along with other factors such as the foam itself explaining the notably improved all around stabiltiy. 

And for sure, the VF3, even at its incredibly lightweight, is incredibly stable. Not sure if I like all these changes as white the later miles stability (clearly felt in my half) kept me tracking and not wobbling. I tend to prefer some flex to allow my more rolling stride from a tendency to heel strike vs  the clear mid foot landing focus now and then more vertical rebound up and away. Trade Offs!

Renee: Having recently run with the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ and the Saucony Endorphin Elite, the VF3 feels much closer to the ground, especially under the forefoot. Even compared to VF1, the midsole feels closer to the ground, especially under the forefoot. I still think the Vaporfly is the fastest and most versatile super shoe, good for 5ks to marathon racing. For runners who like/need a lot of midsole underfoot, the VF3 might be slightly less of a marathon choice as compared to other options, including the VF1.  

I was a bit surprised at how much creasing of the outer paint the shoe showed on the midsole even after my first run of 7 miles. The plate seems to be closer to the outsole in the VF3 as compared to the VF1, but that could be caused by the reduced outsole rubber. 

Sally: ZoomX foam rules in my book. There seems to be  even more ZoomX foam in this V3 than V2, and that is most felt under the forefoot where some of the rubber thickness has been swapped out for more foam. 

There is a visible cutout in the foam on the lateral sidewall to cut weight as the foot does not need support there (or both to also showcase the carbon plate embedded in there?). I found the midsole firmer and stiffer than the previous bouncier V2, and yet the rebound does not seem to suffer (more to come under Ride section). The heel feels softer underfoot.

Joost: Quite a few changes in the geometry are noticeable. There’s the cutout underfoot and on the lateral side and the new convex shape of the foam on top of the Flyplate on both sides. 

As mentioned, the Flyplate sits a little closer to the ground, probably not due to the fact that there’s less foam between it and the outsole, but the outsole itself is thinner, and there’s also a couple of mm more foam between the plate and the foot. 

For me, as a lateral mid-to forefoot striker, the Vaporfly 3 felt a little more stable than the previous versions. VF 1 and 2 both had me feeling the midsole foam would bottom out, something that never really happened, but in version 3, I never got this feeling at any pace I threw at it.

Jacob: The midsole consists of a high stack of very lightweight, energetic ZoomX foam with a full-length spoon-shaped carbon plate. This is the same general construction as past Vaporflys. ZoomX is amazing, feeling silky smooth, forgiving, and explosive at a very light weight. It is soft but not overly so, feeling perhaps a bit firmer than previous Vaporfly NEXT% models. The apparent cushion is bottomless and the shoe is well-protected for any distance. The plate is shaped to be mid/high under the heel and close to the ground in the forefoot, leading to a drop-in effect and easy transition. The tip of the forefoot has a significant rocker and the midsole under the toes is very thin. It feels more aggressive than previous Vaporflys. The midsole foam, plate, and geometry lead to an excellent versatile racing ride that is stable, fast, and protected.


Ryan: While the rubber has allegedly become thinner and firmer, the outsole inspired confidence every step of the way during my running, even when dialing up the pace to 4:40/mile. 

In contrast to V2, the outsole is now perforated, which obviously shaves grams, but also might keep its relative hardness from ruining the ride. 

While it’s not a soft, gummy rubber, there is plenty of coverage in the midfoot to provide a clean, confident toe-off. 

Renee: I’m a fan of the outsole as compared to the previous versions. The waffle pattern under the forefoot provides a bit more confidence in traction and grip, especially on steep downhills. I ran two runs on hilly paved roads (an 11-mile fartlek and a 17-mile moderate/easy run with HMP and MP paces mixed in). Several sections of the roads were covered with snow and ice. Dodging slick areas was much easier in these shoes as compared to the VF1. I also wore the shoes for a 7-mile run (with strides) on dirt and gravel. I was running over frozen mud ruts and was sure I’d have wear on the outsole. Not the case. The heel rubber is a bit low. I did not have wear on the heel areas, although I imagine that heel strikers will experience wear earlier on. I wore the VF1 on gravel and crushed rock and had no issues. I think the VF3 is a better choice on that terrain because of the outsole. I did not have rocks/gravel wedge in the FlyPlate cutout, but it could happen. Two of the waffle lugs are worn out under the toe/forefoot, which I know happened during fast, steep downhills efforts. I ran through washed out paved roads that had gravel and woodland debris, which caused wear under the midfoot. My outsole was caked in gravel and dirt, so I think the wear is reasonable.

While I wasn’t trying to ruin the shoes, I did want to give a good amount of testing to an outsole that Nike states is good for “multi-surface terrain.”

Sally: I agree that even though the V3 outsole is thinner with less rubber, the traction is superior to the previous versions. We no longer have a full slab of rubber in the front and instead have a waffle pattern of diamond lugs that provides great traction on all surfaces, including wet ones. I put my shoes through a similar test to what Renee did (only I did not get any good pictures of the dirt caked outsole, and they came through with flying colors. I was worried about stones and gravel getting caught in that deep cutout exposing the flyplate, but I had no issues with gravel catchers (yet).  The best thing Nike did? They made this rubber quieter. Far from stealth like silence, but quieter than previous V2. This outsole checks all the boxes.

Sam: Fine but not exceptional grip upfront. I prefer the smooth sticky rubber of say the adidas Pro 3 which even on sand over pavement seems to grip so well. Less rubber and despite the cut through holes might improve flex of the VF3. While there is plenty of front wear surface and durability the heel patches are thin and have almost no clearance above the midsole foam. It seems obvious the rear rubber design in the VF3 is a weight savings move.

I am seeing some scuffing of the foam surrounding the patches which so far is cosmetic at about 22 total miles including race. The rubber seems unworn and I see similar foamwear on the inner edges of the Alphafly 2.  Not concerned at this point. That said, the thicker and firmer rear rubber of the VF2 gave me more mental “comfort” and has worn well. 

Joost: Traction of the perforated waffle pattern under the forefoot was good. The pattern reminded me a little of the diamond shaped outsoles of a couple of pairs of Pegasus a couple of years ago. There is not a lot of rubber and although Nike says durability should be ok, it’s probably less than in the previous version. Like Sam, I prefer Adidas outsoles most of the time

Jacob: The VF3 outsole has rubber in the classic configuration of two pieces on the heel, exposed foam in the midfoot, and full coverage under the forefoot, and a midfoot channel with the plate exposed which we are seeing in many super shoes. The rubber is perforated and thin which adds minimal weight to the shoe. It is quiet and runs smoothly. I like the lug-like forefoot compared to the interestingly thick wavy pattern of previous Vaporflys and feel that traction is solid on clear pavement, sandy pavement, and dirt roads. 

Like other reviewers, I think durability could be on the low side as the rubber is thin and I am seeing some wear in the heel and toe with only 45 miles so far, but for a racer I think it’ll last long enough that I’m not too concerned.


Sam: So light for such a dynamic and well cushioned shoe is what first comes to mind running the Vaporfly 3. 

It is lighter and quicker feeling in energy return than any super shoe to date for me and I have tested most all of them. Yet, it does not quite deliver the smiles of the VF1 or VF2 for me as it clearly now has a stiffer ride and is a more midfoot strike focused riding shoe whereas the earlier Next were more easy going and easier to find their rolling groove in off of a heel strike. The more flowy rolling, slightly softer, slightly less aggressive and more flexible Vaporfly 2 seemed to be more my style as I don’t think I have the necessary knee lift and drive to fully activate them with a consistent midfoot strike over the longer distances or so I thought..

Yet in my recent half (1:47:03) I was smooth, but did not feel fast yet ended about 2 minutes faster than last year in Puma’s  FAST-R on the same course and the same windy, very cool weather conditions with a bit of a smile. Usually I am an agonized mess in the stretch! I think I could have gone on to at least 20 miles at that pace making me think it would be a good marathon shoe for me.

Mile after mile “the same” in feel, stable and consistent with the feeling and stride no different than earlier and with no slow down as has been the case in prior years on the same windy flat course. I found that if I slipped off its balance point leaning forward a bit, quickening cadence and focusing on the final subtle roll got me back on track. 

Even the often troublesome last couple of miles for me went by with no incident: no cramps, no stumbling, no lock up in the and none of the decreasing ability to get past the midfoot plate as in the Puma or for ASICS Metaspeed Sky. That said, I did not feel as much excitement or roll or ability to pick up the pace beyond a pace a bit faster than my marathon pace.  It’s not about the cushion, its stability  or the return but more the flatness in ride, stiff feel and so far lack of forward roll (beyond a subtle final toe off roll)  that has me still puzzled. Yet, I had a very solid first race result in them and recovered quickly.

Renee: The ride is what you’d expect from a Vaporfly, unmatched in terms of weight and energy return. The midsole is comfortable yet responsive, and the overall geometry of the shoe makes it useful for short to marathon distances. The ride as compared to the first versions seems slightly less dynamic from a forefoot landing. Version 1 had a snappy forefoot takeoff for me, while VF 3 feels more flexing and softer under the forefoot. At 5k paces, I couldn’t notice that difference. At marathon paces, I felt like I needed more effort than I remember from the first version. I wonder if the changes to the outsole rubber (i.e. thinner) affects the transition. The VF3 has “extra millimeters of ZoomX foam underfoot” according to Nike and Sam and Derek’s measurements of 2-3 mm more, which might be why it feels softer and less dynamic to me.  That said, I think the ride of the Vaporfly is the most comfortable of all the super shoes I have because it has a traditional ride (no exaggerated rocker) that allows the runner to maintain a natural cadence. I still run speed workouts in my three-year-old pair of the VF1. I wonder if the changes to the outsole and geometry will affect the durability and longevity of the VF3, but that’s not something I can answer until I have about 250 miles on them. 

Sally: I love running in the previous Vaporfly, notably the bouncy yet smooth controlled ride of the V2. This new V3 feels stiffer and firmer yet with noticeable rebound, and is more stable in the mid foot. The heel feels softer underfoot, the forefoot stiffer. This seems to make the transition a bit smoother than the more drastic toe off felt in V2. There is no big rocker sensation that will roll your foot to toe-off, but a solid mid foot strike will provide you with explosive power. The shoe responds incredibly well to a faster tempo and will clearly be the choice of the elites.  After an 18 mile run,  I am still trying to assess how the shoe will respond to tired legs: does it require a continued quick cadence to perform, or will it carry you through the final miles of a marathon without undue fatigue or other issues? The cushioned support is there, the legs as always need to do the work. Am I fast enough to make them shine? 


Ryan: The most prominent attributes of the VF3’s ride for me were: its laughably light feeling on foot, its airbag-like cushioning in both the heel and forefoot, and its encouragement of a stride which mashes and pops vertically off of the midfoot. A very high level of stiffness from heel to toe, as well as the plate’s proximity to the ground, made for a more serious ride than I expected. I think it makes the shoe fairly versatile for hard efforts on the road, but it might be a touch soft for some at 5k-10k distances.

There is still the welcome, deep plunge down into the ZoomX as soon as you strike the ground. It feels more protective than any other super shoe I’ve tested. Again, the VF3 encourages a midfoot strike — you’ll find the ride suboptimal if you try to turn the transition into a multi-step process, or if you’re the type who likes to heel strike. After mashing the length of your foot into the midsole, it’s quick to release its energy and leverage the plate’s stiffness to launch you back upward. The entire experience is soft, yet surprisingly stable. I did find the toe-off to be a bit thin, where the plate ends and the ZoomX is only a couple mm thick. You can actually roll the front 2cm of the shoe back with your fingers — something that isn’t possible with the Adios Pro 

Joost: I agree with Ryan. It feels incredibly light, with your forefoot sinking into that generous amount of ZoomX and popping right back at you. As I said in the midsole section, unlike the previous versions, you never get the feeling that the foam might bottom out. Stable, snappy, fast, light. I took them up to around 4:50min/mile and they never felt difficult to control. My London training hasn’t been going entirely to plan, with some lingering soreness in the proximal hamstring area (I can’t seem to get the tendons around my ischial tuberosity not to hurt after running for around an hour) and my right achilles’ acting up if I go on long runs, so I was a little apprehensive before going on that first 19 miler right out of the box. Things went smoothly, and at least for me, the Vaporfly 3 is even more of a foot and leg saver than previous versions.

Derek: I have just one relatively short workout in this shoe, and it seems to roll through very well at the marathon-half marathon sort of pace. Very smooth and natural roll through from supination to pronation in a way that was really lacking in v1 and v2 for me. The added forefoot stack is also quite apparent. Over the last few years, I’ve grown quite fond of race shoes having a 30+mm forefoot stack and the VF3 forefoot really reduces a lot of the ground feel that I was getting with v1 and v2, and I think this will be very telling in the late stages of a marathon. I will need more miles in the shoe to crystallize my final thoughts on the ride of this shoe. To be continued. 

Jacob: The Vaporfly 3 ride is amazing, exceeding expectations for me, especially after my mixed first impressions. It is energetic, smooth, stable, springy, and propulsive. I find it easy to run even at paces slower than marathon race pace. It reduces leg fatigue and feels so fast and explosive when pushing hard. It is not overly mechanical or prescriptive and I don’t think it needs too specific of form or strike—it feels natural and works well for me without much focus as long as I am leaning forward, using my core, and powering off the forefoot.

When I first tried on the VF3 and did a few strides and A/B with similar shoes, though super energetic, I thought it felt too aggressive and was concerned about it work for longer races. However, my first two real test runs were 22 and 23 miles at various paces, including some easy running (8:00 min/mi) and it all felt great. From moderate endurance (6:55 min/mi) to marathon pace (6:20 min/mi) it felt so smooth, light, and made it easy to run. It doesn’t have insane blasting bounce and is more subdued than say the Alphafly but it is lighter and very fast so I think it’s great all round—I will choose it for racing any distance going forward from 5k though 50k.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Nike has delivered a significant upgrade to the Vaporfly which reduces weight while increasing stack height and cushion, makes the shoe more stable and slightly firmer riding and gives it a more rigid angular geometry. The highlight for me is the incredibly light and  leading weight for so much stable cushion.

The ride is now one might say tongue in cheek more “elite” or faster runner focused in nature, stiffer and somewhat more directed to mid to forefoot striking and faster paces than before, something we have also seen most of their competitors top end shoes also evolve towards. 

The change reminds me of the dramatic changes between the baby blue OG Vaporfly 4% and subsequent 4% which were far stiffer and firmer and less fun or fast to run for me than the OG, still one of RTR testers' all time favorites. Then came the Next % 1 and 2 which if you will, “corrected”.

The upper is superb.  The ratio of weight to cushion is still absolutely leading all others as ZoomX is still the top foam for its low weight and reactive nature. They are more stable, and the look is sharp and modern. Where I think Nike is missing something is in the lack of even a bit flex of the shoe, none so far even after a half and less than VF2 having a more flatish feel for those who “might” heel strike and roll to toe off, most all recreational racers when tired. 

Even compared to VF2, this is a stiff shoe that may tend to exclude those with a more rolling stride than big powerful knee lift and drive and which made the predecessors so fine for me. Yet in my half I sailed smoothly to the finish with no slow down in the last miles, no soreness or instability as often the case for me but also without that much get up and go agility feeling from the shoe for me to change pace and kick it in. While I miss the flex and flow I really like the new consistent stability start to finish and lighter yet weight for yet more cushion stack.

Not to tell Nike what to do.. Keep this new VF as is for its intended purposes and put a full length more flexible plate in a slightly higher stack Streakfly. That would be my shoe!

Sam’s Score: 9.6 /10

I deduct for the rigidity and stiffness of the front of the shoe, highly efficient but lacking a bit in smiles, forgiveness, and rolling flow for my certainly non elite stride. Give me a touch more flex and it would be 5 😊


Renee: The Vaporfly Next% 3 is,for me, the best choice for fast/racing paces at distances from 5k to half marathon. The changes to the outsole make it a better choice over the previous versions for me as someone who runs gravel and crushed rock often, and I had more confidence running paved roads that were covered in ice, snow, and debris (especially on steep downhills). As compared to the previous versions, I think the VF3 is better for half marathons or less. I don’t think a person is wrong to buy the VF2 at a discount, especially for a marathon. The VF3 doesn’t seem to have the same long-term energy return under the forefoot, to me, as compared to the first version. 

Renee’s Score: 9.8/10 (.20 -less dynamic forefoot)


Sally: The Vaporfly remains the Super Super Shoe and continues to lead the pack with its phenomenal weight to cushion ratio and stylish functional uppers. I have run all my recent marathons in the Vaporfly Next %2 and have somehow PR’d in each of my past three (NYC ‘21, Boston ‘22, and London ‘22). I like to think of that shoe as my “Magic Slippers.” The good news is that Nike has not ruined a good thing here with V3. But what should I wear for the upcoming Boston Marathon in a few weeks time? More specifically, Vaporfly V2 or V3? (Note that I have most every super shoe in my quiver, but I know I will race this marathon in a Nike shoe.) Zoom X foam is the best foam. The upper is a masterpiece of engineering and fits my foot beautifully.The outsole is grippier and (yay!) quieter.  V2 was almost bouncy, V3 is firmer and stiffer yet seemingly softer under the forefoot. I was initially worried that it would require “more effort” to sustain a quick cadence and race tempo, but I am betting on this shoe for my upcoming Boston. Hopefully this shoe will maximize the output given my sub-elite gait and running style.  If I were an elite runner running a sub 3 hour marathon, there would absolutely be no question: Vaporfly 3. This 3:25 marathoner is excited to put them to the 26.2 mile test in Boston. And I bet I will see plenty of other Vaporfly V3s in the starting corrals!

Sally’s score: 9.9/10 (.1 off for firmer ride)


Ryan: There’s no question that the VF3 will continue to be found across podiums throughout 2023. It’s an incredible, now twice-refined leader of the marathoning world. This year, It becomes a more serious shoe, but it maintains its highly forgiving, explosive properties. I doubt there will be many critics of the shoe’s beautifully executed and breathable upper. Although the outer shaves some weight, it's arguably even better than past versions. The midsole favors a neutral, midfoot strike, and will reward those who like to mash and ‘pogo’ off the midsole more than it will other types of runners. The legend lives on.

Ryan’s score: 9.7/10 (Deductions for toe-off thinness, heel lockdown)


Joost: The best Vaporfly since the original Baby Blue. As for Sam, that one is still my favorite. I don’t know if that’s because of the impact it had and how different it felt to any other shoe I’d worn up till then, so this one might actually be better. Vaporfly has been my go to racing shoe , and although I’ve come very close to picking a different one for a couple of marathons, come race day, I’ve always laced up a pair of Vaporfly since 2017. With an unparalleled weight to energy return ratio, it’s still the king of marathon racers, although luckily, it’s no longer the differentiator between actually winning a race or not, so for those who prefer a different approach to super shoes , there are plenty of options in 2023. For those like me, for whom the Vaporfly seems to work well, especially in the latter parts of a race, this new version is an excellent evolution of the franchise.

Joost’s score: 9.78/10

(Ride: 10/10 - 50%, Fit, 9.8/10 - 35%, Value 9/10 - 15%, Style 10/10 - 5%)


Jacob: The Vaporfly NEXT% 3 is a great shoe that I recommend for all runners looking to go fast for any race distance. It has a bit more aggressive feel than previous Vaporflys so may be a bit harder to run or less smooth for slower runners but that also may depend on form—I’m just hypothesizing. It is industry-leading in cushion to weight ratio, smooth, springy, stable, fatigue-reducing, fun, and fast. The increased cushion compared to previous Vaporflys with no weight gain as well as more space in the toebox makes it a clear improvement to versions 1 and 2. Traction is solid, upper hold is secure and comfortable, if a bit hard to dial in the right lace tension. It is currently my top pick for racing any distance.

Jacob’s Score: 9.7/10

Ride (50%): 10 Fit (30%): 9.5 Value (15%): 9 Style (5%): 10


16 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next % 1 and 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: Sort of hard to say the Next % 2 is “mellow” but compared to Vaporly 3 it is for me. VF2 is softer, less rigid and easier to roll to toe off whereas the VF3 clearly requires a pretty consistent midfoot strike and strong knee lift making it both slightly less distance and also faster paced runner oriented Not to say VF3 is not very well cushioned at the heel, it is and maybe more so due to outrigger but it is slightly firmer and the action to make the shoe work is further forward and at faster paces. The VF3 is clearly and deliberately more stable the key change and a valuable one for later miles or bumpy courses. The  uppers also reflect where I would focus each shoe. The VF3’s more structured, stiffer Flyknit is more locked down but not as “comfortable” as the VF2's more pliable, almost sloppy mesh and softer thinner tongue.  See pic below for what I mean. The VF3 upper stands on its own with no overlays or gusset tongue 

Renee: I compared throughout. I agree with Sam that the VF3 is slightly less of a marathon shoe as compared to the previous versions. To me, the forefoot felt softer and less dynamic, as if the plate is positioned closer to the ground as compared to the previous versions. For the marathon distance, I have a slight preference for the VF1, especially because the VF3 fits a tad shorter. For any other distance, I’d choose the VF3. The outsole under the forefoot is much better for running over debris covered roads or dirt/gravel paths. 

Sally: I likewise compared the V2 to the V3 throughout. I choose to wear W8.5 in the V1 and V2 but found the W8 works for me in the V3; in previous models my big toe felt too much pressure after 12 or so miles (and I value my toenails), but V3 has a roomier and taller toebox, and no front overlay that alleviates that problem in my TTS (I ran 18 miles with no issues). V3 is even lighter and has an incredible upper, a grippier outsole, and a predictable ride that is now firmer, more stable and possibly even more responsive. Midfoot strikers will rejoice!

Joost (M9.5 in both): V3 is better suited for wide footed specimens like me. Breathability also has still gotten better. It’s more stable, bouncier and less prone to a feeling of bottoming out. It feels more natural riding to me, too.

Jacob: Like the others, I compared during the main article as well. The comparison to its predecessor, for me the VF NEXT% 1 (which is relatively similar to the 2) was what I was most curious about, so the first thing I did to test the 3 was an A/B test. In this direct comparison, though they are both ZoomX carbon-plated racers, the differences in fit and ride are notable. 

The 1 has a more glove-like fit, tight-fitting less breathable mesh, and is more locked-in, I don’t find the 3 to fit as precisely and is harder to lace up but appreciate the increased toe box space and breathability. 

Underfoot, 1 has a softer, more natural, silky feel but feels less cushioned especially in the forefoot. The 3 feels more aggressive, explosive, and snappy but still easy to run. I think both are great but I have not raced the VF NEXT% 3 yet and can’t decide on a favorite until I do, but I could see liking it more.

Nike ZoomX Alphafly 1 (RTR Review) 

Sam: I struggled with the low 4mm drop and soft foam and especially soft heel in the AF1 at anything other than fast paces and shorter distances given my tendency to heel strike but oh were they fast while I could hang on to pace.  V3 for sure takes care of the low unstable heel and then some with its geometry and firmer ZoomX. If you are really consistent forefoot striker you will get more out of the AF1 and its air unit but otherwise, and that would be for many of us you likely will have a more consistent stable smoother experience all the way in the VF3.

Joost (M9.5 in the VF3, M10 in the AF1): I never really adapted to the Alphafly. It felt clunky and noisy and forces me to run the way it wants, and not the other way around. The VF3 is definitely a smoother and faster shoe for me.

Jacob: I did an A/B test with the AF1. I love the fit of the AF1—it is superior for me being just as breathable, softer, as spacious in the toe box but also less excess material, and locked-in fit with great foothold. The VF3 heel hold is slightly looser and the upper doesn’t fit my foot as precisely. 

As for ride, they both have an explosive feel and toe-off. The depth of cushion in the AF1 forefoot feels noticeably higher. On the run they both benefit from a forward landing and a quick toe-off but the VF3 is snappier and quicker and also more forgiving while the AF takes more time to transition and rebound. I

n forefoot feel and smoothness I think the AF and VF3 feel more similar than VF1 (NEXT%) and VF3. The AF1 for me was best at the half marathon and shorter distances as I couldn’t keep the forefoot landing, drive, and form needed to really take advantage of it for the marathon both times I ran it. I however ran my PR 10-mile (58:16) and PR local 4-mile race (that I’ve run 9 times) in the AF1. 

The VF3 works better at slower paces and is more natural, it will replace the AF1 for me for the marathon and may replace the AF1 for for short races as well—experience will determine this. I like how the VF3 is a bit less mechanical and more natural.

Zoom X Alphafly 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: Alphafly 2 is a different story. Its platform is 20mm wider at the heel and 30mm wider at the midfoot with the forefoot a mere 5 mm wider. It is for sure very stable, more so yet than the VF 3 and 1.3 oz / 36g heavier in my US8.5. The ride is actually quite similar, focused on a mid foot strike (with AF3 actually a bit more heel strike friendly for me when tired) that is except for the noticeable weight difference. Given the improved stability of VF3, lighter weight and less massive feel I likely would lean towards VF3 for a marathon over the AF2.

Joost (M9.5 in both): I was one of the few who preferred the AF2 to the AF1. It’s more appealing to a wider range of runners, but the VF3 is far superior in terms of ride for me.

Jacob: I did an A/B test with the AF2 as well, right after the AF1. I thought the AF2 feels less energetic, noticeably heavier, not as snappy, and slower moving. However, the AF2 is more relaxed, has a more comfortable and secure fit (except for the high arch which I don’t like), and feels smoother at slower paces. Both have a relatively similar overall feel with the plate geometry and ZoomX midsole. I lean toward the VF3 for all distance racing due to the faster feel and much lower weight. However I occasionally use the AF2 for long run workouts while I save the super light VF experience for race day. 

Nike ZoomX Streakfly (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Streakfly is grossly underpowered in my opinion, thanks to a lack of stiffness. While it utilizes a great ZoomX platform, its lack of anything that can truly be considered a plate detracts from its usefulness. Had Nike stiffened the Streakfly, it may have become surprisingly close — maybe too close — to this version 3 of the Vaporfly. While the lower stack Streakfly wins on weight by almost an ounce, the Vaporfly wins in just about every other category. Energy return is more stable and predictable from the Flyplate’s design. The VF3’s upper is more intricate, stronger, and better ventilated. The outer on the VF3 is more inspiring given its texture. Both shoes fit similarly, and while the Streakfly is considerably less money, in my opinion the Vaporfly is the clear and obvious choice over the Streakfly for any use case.

Sam: The Streakfly called out as a “5K-10K” shoe for me is really the lightest trainer on the planet. With a generous but not VF3 big 32/26 stack height it only lacks a more substantial and I would make it a flexible carbon plate to be my pick for 5K to half over the VF3.

Joost (M9.5 in both): I’ve been going back to the Streakfly for some of my runs lately. It’s a shoe that only really works well at faster paces . It bottoms out at slower paces, but somehow, that effect disappears when you really pick up the pace. That being said, I would pick the VF3, even for the type of distances the Streakfly was pitched for (5 and 10k).

Nike Vaporfly 4%  OG Baby Blue

Sam: The 2017 (wow that long ago!)  original baby blue VF was special due to of course the first introduction of ZoomX but also for its so easy to find forward rolling groove. Subsequent 4% versions got firmer, stiffer and had tight uppers. The VF3 is for sure lighter, more cushioned, more stable even with its higher stack and lighter but more rigid and harder to roll, mirroring where the 4% went until the Next % came out.  

Joost (M9.5 in both): That Baby Blue was a revolutionary shoe when it came out. It’s still my favorite, but as I wrote above, maybe that’s due to the fact that it was so different at the time.

Hoka Rocket X 2 (RTR Review)

Sam:  The two most exciting race shoes of 2023 for me! The 5mm drop Rocket X 2 has a very different vibe. More agile feeling, a few millimeters lower stack at the heel, same as VF# upfront but very well and softly PEBA cushioned it doesn’t quite have the deep protective cushion of the VF3 especially upfront. It has a more aggressive feeling plate at midfoot (influenced by the lower drop) but is easier to shift paces in as the plate is forked and has more “flex” and is smoother flowing and, if you will, more traditional riding and more fun.  I would pick it over the VF3 for a 5K or 10K even with its y higher weight at 7.18 oz  / 203 g US8.5 with VF3.  Beyond the 10K to half distance I lean VF3 for its yet better stability and efficiency.  Rocket X 2’s upper is a more simple non-stretch mono mesh with an extensive array of overlays. Both true to size and both a big snug at the bunions. 

Adios Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Pro 3 is a smooth ride but not as dynamic or fast as compared to the VF3. The Pro 3 is a fast, responsive shoe, but not at the rate of the VF3. The VF3 is the better option for racing a variety of distances, whereas the Pro 3 is best for longer efforts. For longer runs, the Pro 3 is more comfortable and forgiving at slower than marathon paces. For sizing, Adidas lists a men’s 7 as a women’s 8, but it fits more like an 8.5. 

Ryan: The VF3 vs the Adios Pro 3 is arguably the biggest rivalry in distance running gear today. While it is fun to pick apart their differences, I think it’s important to start by saying that both of these shoes are absolutely fantastic, world-class performers, so the differences between them are small on an absolute scale.

The most noticeable difference while running is that the ZoomX midsole is far softer than the Lightstrike Pro in the Adidas. This means that the Nike gives you a feeling of plunging deeper down and loading the shoe, whereas the AP3, while still impressively cushioned, is firmer and more eager to immediately spring back. This is to say that the AP3 is the more responsive shoe. Because of the AP3’s relative firmness, it feels like you are standing much higher off of the ground than when wearing the VF3.

As for the ride, the Vaporfly’s ride now encourages a style of running which is fairly similar to that of the Adidas: a flat, midfoot compression of the midsole, which launches you vertically and gets you off of the ground as quickly as possible. With shoes this stiff, there isn’t as much of a ‘rolling’ to be had in the transition.

I slightly prefer the upper of the VF3, as it is noticeably more ventilated. However, the finer mesh of the Adidas provides better lockdown throughout the foot. The AP3 has a bit more outsole coverage of a more traditional, rubbery type, although traction in both shoes was impressive and is hardly worth debating.

I think choosing between these two is mostly a matter of preference. I tend to prefer the Adios Pro 3 just because of my ‘midfoot mash’ running style (maybe I’m biased, as I set my 2:19 PR in the shoe last year), but if you value a feeling of deeper cushion and a lower inertia on foot, the Vaporfly might be your ticket. Both shoes fit true to size.

Jacob: Both are excellent, world-class racing shoes, but I prefer the VF3 in this comparison, likely due to my form and preferences. I largely feel the same way as Renee. The Adios Pro feels firmer, heavier, and less aggressive to me. It does not feel as effortlessly fast. I had several back-to-back comparison runs/races with the VF1 and Adios Pro 2 and 3 and the VF was always much faster and easier to move at short distance race paces, such as 5k and 10k. The Adios Pro feels more chill but not as light nor as explosive. Unlike Ryan, I do not have the “midfoot mash” running style and have more of a heel-to-midfoot, smooth rolling style. The VF feels like it moves me faster from strike to toe off with more energy. 

ASICS Metaspeed Edge + (RTR Review)

Sam: Take the VF 3 and make it yet more rigid and notably firmer and you get the Edge+. Both are very stable. Its plate is also “bottom loaded” supposedly to encourage cadence type running style while the VF3 sits in between a big long stride type form and cadence. Get off a quick stepping form and you are quickly in trouble with the Edge+ while the Nike’s softer more energetic foam has some give and more friendly return if not quite as much sharp response.

ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ (RTR Review)

Renee: Probably my second favorite “super shoe” behind the VF1. The Sky+ offers more stack under the forefoot as compared to the VF3. The rocker ride from forefoot landing helps with turnover in the Sky+ while the VF3 has a more traditional ride which is better for a variety of race distances. Sizing is comparable. 

Sally: (W8 in both) I love the Sky+. It might rank higher on the smiles index for me because it makes me feel as though my stride is launching me in flight. I feel like the VF3 encourages a quicker cadence to pick up the pace (perhaps more like the Edge+ which I did not test?) whereas the Sky+ responds to a longer stride. I would choose the Sky+ for a 5K or even a 10K but definitely the VF3 for a marathon or a half.

Joost: (M9.5 in both): I ran a half marathon at the start of my marathon training block in the Sky+. They remind me a bit of the Alphafly. You really need to put a very big amount of energy in the ball of your foot to really reap the effects of this shoe. They haven’t been kind to my achilles’, so I haven’t used them much since. The VF3 is the better marathon option for me.

Brooks Hyperion Elite (RTR Review)’

Ryan: Starting with the upper, this one is no contest. The Nike’s highly engineered mesh wins by a mile over the HE3’s which feels comparatively basic and low performance. The VF3 is more comfortable, more secure, and better ventilated. The Brooks also ran far too long length wise, as I could have gone nearly a full size down.

As for the midsole, both shoes encourage an even, midfoot strike, however the ZoomX foam of the Nike is far more forgiving and enjoyable to have underfoot. The Brooks feels much firmer and blocker than the VF3, although it is the more responsive shoe. In comparing the outsoles, the Nike’s contiguous patch of rubber felt more inspiring than the strips of firm rubber used in the HE3. The Vaporfly wins without a doubt here.

Jacob: I agree with Ryan. The VF3 is on another level in many aspects compared to the HE (Version 2 for me). Primarily, the VF3 ride is more exciting, bouncy, leg-saving, and propulsive. The HE2 feels pedestrian in comparison. It’s a fine uptempo trainer but not a world-class racer like the VF3.

Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Endorphin Pro 3 doesn’t quite achieve the same level of softness that the Nike’s ZoomX does, but both shoes share phenomenal fatigue-reducing midsoles. The Saucony has a much snappier ‘toe roll’ style through its Speedroll geometry, whereas the Nike likes to transition in and out of the midfoot. I had significant durability issues with both the rubber and the upper material on the Saucony, although this is the one super shoe that might rival the Vaporfly’s breathability. The EP3 has a similarly comfortable upper and spacious fit for multi-hour efforts, but I prefer Nike's intricate, no-overlay upper for its strength and innovative design. The Vaporfly wins this battle in my book.

Sam: I agree with Ryan the Endorphin Pro has a snappier, more decisive final roll but to get there is not as elegantly consistent back to front or as stable. I find its foam relatively soft and its heel lower in feel while its plate is more “present” and harder to get past at midfoot. One key difference the Endo Pro has no real counter while the VF3 does and this translates to a less secure hold and less rear stability overall for the Saucony. 

Sally: (W8 in both) I will begin by saying the Endo Speed (every version) is one of my all time favorite trainers. Saucony fits my slightly narrow woman’s foot like a dream and wins in the comfort category. The Endo Pro is a great race day shoe that capitalizes on its Speed Roll geometry, rolling your foot forward to toe-off. My running style and gait responds better to the VF3 geometry and feels more natural to me. Two great shoes but VF3 for the win.

Joost (M9.5 in both): I really loved the Endorphin Pro 3. When I received my review pair, I took them out for a local training marathon with a running group right away and didn’t regret that choice once. It’s incredibly lively and works at all paces. Durability of the upper wasn’t as good as I expected, though. It’s a more relaxed, easier going shoe than the VF3, but come race day, the VF3 has the edge for me.

Endorphin Elite (RTR Review)

Renee: The Elite is a massively stacked shoe so it feels much higher from the ground as compared to the VF3. The Elite has an aggressive forefoot rocker that pushes a fast cadence. I found that the forefoot rocker was too aggressive for me for a marathon distance, but I think faster, better conditioned runners can handle it. The VF3 has a more natural and traditional ride and is a better choice for a variety of race distances. Plus, it’s a much lighter weight. Sizing is comparable, but the Elite has a bit more length. 

Sam: Agree with Renee on the aggressive rocker and front of the Elite. While equally as rigid, the Vaporfly flows more easily for me.

Sally: Agree with Renee and Sam here. The Elite is a wild shoe with a very aggressive rocker, needing a “strong” runner to tame it. Fun to run in, yes, but I would be scared to run a long race in it. VF3 is the more natural ride and my choice for race day.

New Balance SC Elite v3 (RTR Review)

Sam: Softer, more mellow and easy going the SC Elite 3 really leans trainer more than racer for me. It has a 4mm drop in combination with its bowed rear Energy Arc delivers a pleasant if not that efficient at speed ride for me. It is the friendliest of super shoes to the all business VF3.

Ryan: Sam nails it all around. The SC is arguably the most approachable super shoe out there right now. I use it for all sorts of long, hard workouts, as it saves my legs from feeling beat up — and I think there are faster shoes for racing. Its mellowness also lets you roll from midfoot to toe more fluidly, as it feels less aggressive all around. The Nike has a far superior upper, especially considering the NB relies too heavily on its laces for lockdown. While the SC has a tremendous amount of pleasant cushioning thanks to a super soft midsole and a deep lengthwise channel underfoot, the VF3 is certainly more propulsive. The NB is still a very stiff, high performance shoe, but it lacks the raw efficiency of the Nike when speed is your top priority.

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro (RTR Review

Ryan: Mizuno dropped this wild child on us last year, and it surprised me by providing a much more stable and propulsive ride than its looks would indicate. While the rebound characteristics of the Mizuno and the VF3 are different – the Nike has a softer feeling on impact – I’d argue that the energy return of these shoes is very similar when running at hard effort. However, the VF3 is far more versatile, handling moderate (or tired) running much better, and is better suited to shorter efforts as it is a more practical choice and feels like it sits much closer to the ground. While both shoes encourage a midfoot strike, it's somewhat easier to roll up onto the toe of the Mizuno at toe-off due to its geometry and midsole construction. Walking around in the Wave Rebellion can feel quite awkward with its beveled tail, but it isn’t as noticed after a few miles of moderate running. The upper of the VF3 is far more sophisticated than the Mizuno’s upper, providing a better foothold in a more targeted way, as well as more ventilation. The Mizuno runs at least a half size shorter than true size, whereas the Nike fits true to size.

Joost (M9.5 in both): My Wave Rebellion Pro’s have been staring at me from the top of the shelf here in my home office. I used them for a 15k race and they felt terrific. Like Ryan noticed, the weird feeling of the missing heel disappears when you pick up the pace and they return an amazing amount of energy once you get going. I’m a little apprehensive about using them for a full marathon, though. When tired, the VF3 allows you to run more naturally. 

Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): The only reason I didn’t use the Xtep in Chicago last year was because the Xtep fits a little small. I ended up ordering a pair of VF2 instead. One of my local athletes has been using my pair of Xtep with great success, using them in the Lisbon Half Marathon at the beginning of the month, running the best time by an Angolan in more than 10 years in the process. They felt as surprisingly different and new as the Vaporly 4% when they first came out. I might give them a try for a marathon if I can get my hands on a size 10, but for now, my next marathon will be in a pair of VF3.

Puma FAST-R (RTR Review)

Renee: The FAST-R is more comfortable to run in than it looks, but the forefoot was a tad narrow for me. Both shoes have comfortable, yet race-fitting uppers. The FAST-R requires a fast and strong forefoot strike to engage the plate/speed, and I felt too slow to engage it. The VF3 is a fast shoe for a variety of paces. While I like the outsole of the VF3, the FAST-R PUMAGrip outsole is unmatched. That said, the FAST-R is a much heavier shoe in comparison. 

Sam: Strongly agree with Renee here. Back on the heels or even getting close to them on landing in the FAST-R I had a hard time getting past the rigid carbon at midfoot. VF3 is equally as rigid but its stiffness is spread evenly rear to front with a final roll thus handles slower paces and heel striking better with an overall smoother if more monotonous flow with its lighter weight  really noticed.

Jacob: The Fast-R is a fun fast shoe but not on the level of the VF3 in low weight, overall ease of running, fatigue reduction, nor speed. The Fast-R has more flexibility, lower cushion, a much snugger fit with notably less toe box volume, and incredible forefoot traction. The Fast-R is more flexible and softer in the forefoot which requires more work to run and isn’t as silky smooth. It also requires a faster pace for me and more of a forefoot strike to feel smooth whereas the VF3 is more forgiving. The Fast-R is fun to run especially for occasional workouts but is not as performant of a race day shoe for me for any distance. 

Ryan: I’m in agreement with Renee here. While the Fast-R looks radical, and uncomfortable, its midsole and upper were a pleasant surprise. That said, the shoe’s stiffness can be hard to work with and didn’t feel like it paired with the midsole quite as well as the Flyplate/ZoomX combo does. The Puma wins on grip, however this grip comes at a significant addition in weight. I think the more symmetric geometry and rebound properties of the VF3’s midsole make it a more approachable shoe, suited to a wider range of efforts. For harder efforts though, if the Puma was a touch lighter, it’d be a viable competitor to the Vaporfly. The Nike wins this fight thanks to its highly refined and more breathable upper, more balanced foam/plate pairing, and a much lower inertia.

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Tester Profiles

Ryan Eiler 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 2020-2021 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K. Ryan has a PR of 2:19 from the 2022 Maine Marathon.

Renee is a former U.S.Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who agreed against her better judgment to run her first marathon at age 54; she has since run the past nine Boston Marathons, two NYC Marathons, and one Chicago, with the WMM Six Star Medal now in her sights. With a Boston PR of 3:25:55 in 2022 (9th place in AG) and two consecutive 2nd place in Age Group awards in NYC, she is about to run in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championships at the London Marathon on October 2, 2022 (W60-64). She also competes in USATF races with the team Greater Lowell Road Runners. To add meaning to her Boston Marathon races she runs with Team Eye and Ear and has raised over $260,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Sally is 5’2’’ and 105 pounds and lives in Marblehead, MA, training outdoors year round. 

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He recently won his M50 AG at the 2022 Chicago Marathon in 2:29. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. Please check out Joost's coaching service here

Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

Jacob is a runner and general endurance sports enthusiast. He runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over four years and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob races on road and trail at a variety of distances from 5k to 50k. He has a recent PR of 2:49 in the marathon. In addition to running, he does hiking, biking (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skiing. He is 27 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and 155 lbs / 70 kg. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets lucky,, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run or nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

The Vaporfly 3 was provided at no charge by Nike for review with no other compensation for writing this review. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Anonymous said...

I just got my first pair of Vaporflys (3s) and LOVE the arch. Any daily trainers offer something similar?

Al Stewart said...

I hope Nike doesn’t alter the ride and fit of the Vaporfly just because that’s what shoe companies do. I have 3 pairs of Vaporfly Next % and they are an absolute game changer. As a competitive 72 yr old , 178lb triathlete these incredible shoes allow me to run at any pace faster and with way less road shock. One pair is my designated race shoe, the other 2 pairs do just about everything else. I have over 350km on them with no noticeable reduction in pop or shock absorption. True I only run about 30km a week but I use them for all running except trails. Aside from some foam split in the heel which gorilla glue fixed no issues with durability. And the only running shoe I can comfortably wear without my orthotics. Please Nike don’t tinker too much with this truly outstanding running shoe.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the original VFs and the VF 2s. I bought the VF 3s and will have to toss them. I don’t like how my heel feels like it’s sinking. They are also are clunky like the Alpha Flys, so not a great 5K shoe. There’s definitely no roll forward like the VF 2s. I also notice slight pain in the front of my knees wearing the VF 3s that I don’t experience with the VF 2s. I have been racing competitively for 35+ years without any problems, so it’s definitely this shoe. I would not recommend the Vapor Fly 3s for anyone with knee pain.