Monday, December 11, 2023

Nike Alphafly 3 Multi Tester Review: 13 Comparisons

Article by Michael Ellenberger, Ben David, Ryan Eiler, and Derek Li

Nike Alphafly 3 ($285)


Michael: I don’t remember a shoe being quite as hyped as the Alphafly 3 - maybe it was the relatively similarities between Alphafly 1 and 2 that really whetted runners appetites, or maybe the recent success of the Vaporfly 3 (showing that Nike is still innovating, if incrementally!), but there is undoubtedly some genuine excitement about Nike’s latest and greatest marathon racer. 

I’ve become an Alphafly devotee (well, relatively) in the recent past; I wore version 1 (v1) for my brutal 2:25 2023 Houston Marathon performance - certainly not the shoe’s fault, but man! Rough day - and several workouts adjacent, and switched to the AlphaFly v2, for my 2:21 PR at Grandma’s in 2023. There are some (most notably top American Connor Mantz) who swear by the first generation; I don’t have all that strong of a preference between the first two iterations, with potentially a slight preference for the mildly firmer, more kinetic-feeling v2. 

But, Vaporfly 3 intervened between AF2 and now, and seems a massive hit; I think many folks who found the Vaporfly line lacking a little something specifically for the marathon distance were enamored by VF3, myself included (though I never gave it an opportunity in a race). 2024’s Alphafly seems a blend of new (VF3) and old (AF1/2), so there is lots to be excited about.

Derek: I’ve set my two fastest marathon times, and countless superb long run workouts in the Alphafly 1 so I’m really looking forward to seeing what version 3 can offer, after what is generally considered to be a dud in version 2. I had zero fit issues with version 1 but experienced horrible arch blistering with version 2, so that’s another aspect I will be paying close attention to. 


  • materially lighter by 24g / 0.85 oz  : Michael / Derek
  • terrific upper (easy to put on!) : Michael / Derek
  • smoother follow-through than any previous Alpha : Michael  / Derek
  • improved but not removed arch height: Michael / Derek
  • durability outlook: Michael / Derek
  • much smoother transition, no harshness: Ben
  • fit is comfortable and not intrusive or imposing: Ben
  • absolutely a pleasure at every pace: Ben
  • Impressive foot containment for such low weight; incredible midsole energy return: Ryan Derek
  • Excellent overall stability and outsole grip for the stack height (Derek)


  • still that ‘Zoom Air’ feeling - if you don’t like it, you won’t be swayed here! Michael/Ryan
  • may not appeal to those looking for an aggressive, fast race day shoe: Ben/Ryan/Derek
  • front pods make for an artificial, mechanical transition: Derek
  • tongue-less design leaves laces to do a lot of the lockdown work Ryan / Derek
  • lacks the forefoot rebound of Alphafly 1 (Derek)
Tester profiles are at end of the article after Comparisons. Ryan has a 2:17 marathon PR, Michael a 2:21 and 1:07 half PR's, Derek a 2:39 PR while Ben's are 3:15 full marathon and 1:30 half,


Estimated Weight 7.15 oz / 203g US9

Sample Weight: men's 6.93 oz / 196g US8.5

24g / 0.85 oz lighter than Alphafly 2

20g / 0.71 oz lighter than Alphafly 1

Stack Height: men’s approx. <40 mm heel / 32 mm forefoot ( 8 mm drop spec) 

Platform Widths v3: 85 mm heel / 65 mm midfoot / 115 mm forefoot

                           v2: 95 mm heel / 68 mm midfoot / 115 mm forefoot

                           v1:  90 mm heel / 60 mm midfoot / 110 mm forefoot

 $285  Available January 2024

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Michael: This is an Alphafly, and we’ve got Atomknit, but there’s something a little softer and more welcoming here than before. There’s a newness to this shoe we didn’t have to AF2, and it’s exciting. Size-wise, I was surprised by how snug my 8.5 was; in a racing shoe, I don’t think I’d size up, but if you’re in-between I suspect you’ll be trending towards the larger size. The shoes aren’t easy to put on (you still need to tug that heel hold), but they are much easier and I found the light heel counter to be much more comfortable than the stiff version of old.

The most common question I’ve got when discussing this shoe pre-review is of course about that arch - a stiff, raised arch in AF1 and AF2 was by far the prevailing criticism we heard online - and while I have positive news, it comes with a mild caveat. The arch in the AF3 is undoubtedly lower and less pronounced. Full stop. But whether it will bother you may still require some mileage because, truthfully, I did not have an issue in either previous model of the Alphafly. That’s not to say I didn’t notice it - and I notice it less here - but it’s one of those things that, had I not read about it online, I never would have thought about it for more than a minute or two at try-on (and I certainly never had blister issues there). So, as always, your mileage (or lack thereof) and arch shape may vary.

My personal biggest “issue” in the Alphafly was a mild snugness in the toebox that, when running over two hours or so, would present hotspots. It does feel like we’ve got more space up front here - they definitely feel roomier (not too much so!) and more accommodating, but I haven’t done a run in them over 10 miles, so I can’t speak to the true hotspot issue.

Ben: My first impression is that this is the AlphaFly we’ve been waiting for. It’s comfortable. It’s smooth. It’s not clunky (like version 1) or overly cumbersome (like version 2), nor is it overly harsh (as I found all versions of the VaporFly to an extent). My initial sense is that it works best (and supremely) as a marathon shoe: It’s hard to think of another carbon-plated shoe that is this fluid and easy at long runs at uptempo paces. It is quite clearly designed to just go and go and go and in various ways democratizes the shoe far more so than the previous two versions. I had no issues with the arch, with the shoe’s width or with sizing. 

Maybe unlike Michael, I actually found the fit to be spot on. With V1, I had to wrestle the shoe onto my foot using the tabs at both the laces and the heel, then would experience some ‘lace bite’ while on the run. As for the arches, I have normal arches and never had trouble with the V1 or V2 in this regard. I likewise don’t have any arch trouble with the V3. If I found V1 to be very snug, I actually found V2 to be somewhat bulky and baggy. I’d often have to stop to re-adjust the lacing. To me, V3 sits right in the middle of this, in the proverbial sweet spot. It slid right onto my foot with no trouble. 

For my size 9, I found the fit to be true to size, not at all pinching in the toe, no harshness and not at all loose.. I also didn’t find the shoe to be too narrow, which is almost always the case for me when it comes to Nike shoes (I have multiple examples of this dating way back to the early Pegasus models, many of their trail shoes and certainly the VaporFly’s version 1-3).

Ryan: As the shoe that’s come the closest to breaking two hours on a certified marathon course, there’s of course a ton of hype here (as of one day after launch, it’s sold out at And somehow it almost seems that its $285 price tag is justified, amid a sea of competing shoes that come in around the same mark, as well as the Adidas Evo 1 which goes for $500 (if you can get it).

Version 3 of the Alphafly continues the line’s tradition of a wild aesthetic and a ridiculous serving of midsole energy. The shoe pulls on in a sock-like fashion, as you grab the rear loop, step down on the pliable heel, and pull your foot into the tongue-less Atomknit 3.0 upper.  The combination of midsole bounce and lightness on foot is immediately grin-inducing.

I’d rate the spaciousness of the upper as “moderate”, and the fit as true to size. While there’s not a ton of extra room up front, the lack of any sort of overlays makes the Atomknit upper conform to the foot well, giving you a feeling of extra space. Even though there’s a clear focus on marathon-appropriate comfort and low inertia, the mesh is still quite strong. I wouldn’t prefer it for 10k or faster running, or for anything that has a fair number of turns involved, but for running marathon pace in a straight line, it’s more than adequate. Breathability is top notch, as the weave leaves plenty of openings for airflow.

The heel counter is very minimal, and there’s only some solid structure to it starting about halfway down. It makes the shoe fairly easy and comfortable to put on, and you need to step down on it to a large degree to pull your foot into the tongue-less design. I never got the feeling that my heel was lifting or out of place, but this more pliable design does allow the heel to move to and fro more than more traditional, robust heel counters. 

Like Michael, I experienced no issues with the arch design here, and it doesn’t feel any more prominent as compared to most other super shoes.

Derek: The guys have already gone into great detail for the upper. I’d say the shoe fits maybe marginally shorter than v1 and v2. I went a half size down in v1 to get a bit more midfoot over the pods, and I might well try that again here. 

As is, at TTS, my metatarsophalangeal joints are right over the AirPods so it should be the best spot to get max response. I do have space in front of my toes to size down so it’s an option I might explore later when stock levels normalize. 

One thing to note is that Nike have gone with a sockliner with a larger arch “wing” in the Alphafly 3. That should help resolve arch rubbing for most people. 

The upper is very breathable, and so far I only had one longer run where I experienced some arch rubbing on the left foot about 16 miles into my run. I’ve since gone 18 miles without problems, albeit with a slightly thicker sock as insurance. 

The overall fit and lockdown of the shoe is very good, with the forefoot being a little higher volume than in v2. I think that’s a good move as it makes the shoe a little less restrictive for the toes and more comfortable for the marathon distance. 

Midsole & Platform

Michael: The Alphafly’s motif has always been a combination approach of ZoomX cushion in the rear, and Zoom Air “air pods” up front, sandwiched with more ZoomX foam. And of course, an embedded carbon plate (which, let’s be real, seems to get talked about less and less as we see it more!). This is differentiated from the Vaporfly line, which (while also plated) is a continuous stretch of foam, relying more on geometry (and plating) and less on that mechanical, Air Zoom unit. 

That said, while the Alphafly 3 sits on a narrower (by 10mm) heel platform than v2, it has a more continuous stretch of mid foot foam similar to the Vaporfly 3’s. Nike says this change provides “a more continuous (than Alphafly 2) bottom for smoother heel-to-toe transitions.”

The traditional (and I think correct) view on this is that while the Vaporfly allows for a more explosive footstrike and pop of power, the Alphafly is a little more rhythmic, and allows runners to lock into a pace. 

Well, if you liked Alphafly 1 and 2, you won’t be disappointed here - and if you hated those two entries, there may not be enough to sway you: the Alphafly 3 remains an Alphafly. It’s lighter to be sure and by a lot  24g / 0.85 oz than Alphafly 2 in my US8.5 at 6.93 oz / 196g US8.5. 

Its light weight is probably its biggest benefit, and I don’t mean to detract from it - but it still has that mechanical, Zoom Air-driven ride. You’ll feel it, and you’ll definitely hear it! I found it similarly effective in maintaining that pace, just allowing a runner to slip into a fast cadence without effort, but the AF3 is a little softer and more gentle than its predecessors, which makes that hard effort feel just a little easier. There’s still that kinetic, almost manufactured-fast feeling, but it’s more tempered now. 

So, lighter, softer, faster - what’s not to like? I don’t really have a lot of negatives with the midsole and geometry here at all. As always, I’m mildly concerned that an errant rock will derail my PR effort, given the massive swatches of uncovered, rock-sized foam here (and really, I’d be hesitant to wear these in winter snow and ice for that reason!), but that’s nothing new, nor is it necessarily unique to Alphafly. 

And, as I’ve detailed above, you’re still relying on those Zoom Air units for energy return, and that has its own - very distinct! - feeling. It’s perhaps the least noticeable here that it’s ever been, but it’s here and, well, you’ll notice! They’re bouncy, they’re fun, but they’re distinctly Alphafly.

Ben: To me, the midsole is the story of the AlphaFly 3. The continuous underfoot design makes for a smooth transition and extremely fluid running. While versions 1 and 2 might have felt mechanical, version 3 runs more like a ‘typical’ shoe (if you can call something as engineered and state-of-the-art ‘typical’). The air units remain highly noticeable and add supreme punch, even at more moderate paces. For me, activating them felt easier and more natural than in both of the previous models where, on occasion, I had to go ‘looking’ for them with every step. This clearly is not an everyday trainer, but it works at a more loping pace in ways that other versions did not. 

Ryan: I largely agree with what the guys have said above: if you don’t love the feeling that the Zoom Air units deliver, you’ll be better off sticking to the Vaporfly. Without embracing their apparent and somewhat artificial feel, you might not feel able to entirely settle into a fluid groove. The air units have a decidedly different personality than the ZoomX midsole around them, and while they are explosive and I felt helped to stabilize the forefoot portion of my stride, they certainly take some getting used to.

In addition, they are loud enough that it took me a couple miles for my brain to accept the fact that I was running normally, and not slapping my feet on the ground in some odd fashion. Once you get used to it, the sound is completely fine, but the hollow popping sound they make isn’t one that you usually hear coming from a shoe.

I like that they’ve removed the midsole gap between the heel and the forefoot here. It tones down the disconnectedness of those parts of the shoe, and allows for more of a roll-through than was previously possible. I agree with Ben, in that it's a shoe for special occasions only, but it may appeal to a wider range of paces as a result of this modification.

What will come as no surprise, the rest of the ZoomX midsole is characteristically explosive and bouncy. The heel can feel a bit narrow, but this is a shoe that mostly relies on propulsion out of the forefoot anyway. There is a tremendous depth of cushion that will do wonders to keep legs fresh through a full marathon.

Derek: I’m going to be a little contrarian here and say the ride of the shoe is closer to Vaporfly 3 than either of the two previous Alphafly versions. It’s great that Nike have gone back to a softer formulation of Zoom X with the Alphafly 3, but I was a little disappointed that Nike opted to stick with a 8mm drop. My understanding is that their research found the 8mm drop to be optimal for most runners for the marathon. I would have liked for a little more differentiation from the Vaporfly. 

As is, the underfoot cushioning, while excellent, seems to represent a more cushioned and softer version of the Vaporfly 3. The feel is more uniform from heel to toe now, whereas in Alphafly 1, the heel was significantly softer than the forefoot and in Alphafly 2, the heel still felt slightly softer than the forefoot. 

The carbon plate curve feels shallower (even though it probably isn’t) and the transition from midfoot to forefoot is mellower for me than VF3. 

Finally, in terms of vibration dampening, the AF3 represents the best shoe on the market for this, even when compared to AF1 and supra-max cushion trainers like the ASICS Superblast, Adidas Prime X, or NB SC Trainer 1. While the overall stack numbers for AF1 and AF3 are about the same after correcting for differences in heel-toe drop, the outsole rubber compound is softer in AF3, and I think this gives the shoe better vibration dampening than AF1.


Michael: Nike’s retooled this basically entirely; long gone is that that weird (but cool) scalloped pattern on AF1, here is a more traditionally-grooved rubber similar to what we saw on v2. At least in the forefoot! Out back, we’ve got exposed foam with some reinforcements. I mixed treadmill (where I like to test grip on the treadmill belt - some shoes can’t do it!) and outdoor running, including some mild wet (though nothing major in this testing period) and had no issues. In fact, I was really impressed by how clean and fresh the pair looked after a couple runs - I distinctly remember beginning to hack off the lateral forefoot on my AF2 after my very first workout.

A hard-hitting heel-striker will of course wear those down faster than a true forefoot runner (setting aside which of those is most efficient; it’s not as 1:1 as some may believe) but I do think most runners can readily get years of racing (depending on the number of races they do, of course!) from these. I am overly cautious (and blessed by an influx of shoes) and tend to stop racing in shoes somewhere around 120 miles, maybe 150 if I love them. But Nike has suggested these can go to 250-300, and (in my preliminarily look!) it’s definitely not the outsole that will stop you.

I’ll add one minor quirk that was raised by my Instagram friend (and Runner’s World’s own) Jeff Dengate - be very careful when taking these off not to put too much pressure on that rear heel “step.” Jeff severed that portion of ZoomX from his pair, and I’ve done as much to the heel of the Pegasus Turbo more than one. It’s tempting to use that little outrigger as leverage - don’t do it!

Ryan: The rubber nubs at the toe of mine have already degraded significantly after ~20 miles of moderate/hard running, however, the rest of the midsole has held up nicely so far. 

The two orange sections under the Air Zoom pods are the most prominent parts of the midsole, and ensure that they are the first to make contact with the ground. 

I had no issues with grip, and the ‘Fast Shot’ outsole’s slightly waffled rubber of the up front gave me plenty of confidence while running at a hard effort. There’s more midsole exposed here than in the past, but the rubber patches on the heel got a passing grade in my testing. I did notice a bit of midsole graining along the inner edge of the channel which exposes the Flyplate, but not enough to warrant concern.

I share Michael’s sentiment here — these will probably hold up nicely through 200-250 miles, although the question will come down to whether you’ll actually want to race in them after 150 miles of degradation.

Derek: Outsole durability and grip on wet surfaces has proven to be very good, with durability seemingly almost as good as AF1, despite using a softer rubber compound than before. There is a little more exposed midsole now and I got a lot of indentations on the midsole after doing a long run with half of it on a sand path. Fortunately, nothing pierced the foam, and the indentations actually went away after a couple of days.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Michael: It’s not often that I get this excited for a new racing shoe; we’ve fortunately reached a point where there is relative parity across brands, and many non-Nike manufacturers are offering top-tier racers (often at non-top-tier prices, to boot!). But there’s something special about a new Nike racer after 1.5 years of the Alphafly 2, and I’m happy to say these are worth the wait.

Runners who were already invested in the Alphafly will find lots to love here; the AF3 is more similar than it is different, and while it’s a great departure from its predecessor than the Alphafly 2 than was from the original, we’re still talking evolution, not revolution. 

You’ve got ZoomX (lots of it) and Zoom Air units (softened, but present). You’ve got a more comfortable upper and more accomodating fit, with an arch that should work for a host more runners. And you’ve got an outsole that should stand up to your PR marathon, and several after that. 

Perhaps it’s manufactured, but there’s been a bit of a divide of late - Coke or Pepsi? Apple or Samsung? Alphafly or Vaporfly? The AF3 and VF3 aren’t the same shoe - in fact, they’re very much branching off in their own ways - but Nike has cross-pollinated the technologies enough that I don’t think runners need to feel locked in one or the other (and especially at the marathon distance). The Alphafly 3 is terrific for its energy return and rhythmic, keep-on-rolling geometry. The Vaporfly is light, fast, and dynamic, and we’re never not going to see it on the feet of top performers. 

Nike has long been my favorite racing brand, but some recent entries - Adios Pro 3, namely, but also Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro, 361 Furious Future, and even New Balance SC Elite v3 - have meant you can’t just say “go with the Nike.” I don’t think we’ll ever come back to those days - and the sport is better for it, to be sure, competition is good! - but with the Vaporfly 3 and Alphafly 3 tandem, I do think Nike has once again retaken its spot atop the podium. 

I’ll give the caveat that I have not (yet?!) worn the latest adidas (the long-winded Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1), but I’ve worn nearly all the latest super shoes (and some upcoming options, too!) and can’t say the Alphafly 3 is materially worse in really any way. And, as I’ve tried to describe, it’s a lot better in many ways, too. 

This is a flagship product and an important review, so I hate to leave the final verdict as anything too ambiguous. 

The Alphafly 3 is the my favorite - and the best - Alphafly yet. It might even be the best racing shoe yet . In a world with so many wonderful, carbon-played, super-foamed offerings, I expect this to be the most successful and popular Alphafly ever exactly because it’s taken what’s worked in the Alphafly and Vaporfly lines and brought it together. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for me, and it might well be for you, too.

(P.S. Read the comparisons for more! That’s where the fun is!) 

Michael’s Score: 9.8/10 (loud, a bit rock-friendly, but otherwise… amazing)


Ben: The best super shoe for you remains a highly personal decision. I suspect that this will only increase as brands create increasingly more idiosyncratic models designed for specific paces, distances and running types. That said, I believe that the AlphaFly 3 will be received as the best super shoe on the market. Is it the fastest? Not sure. It is, to me, the most comfortable, the most accessible, the easiest to run in - all without sacrificing speed and weightlessness. Undoubtedly there will be people who still reach for a more aggressive ride, but this is a highly democratic, approachable shoe. While the price seems high today, other brands are getting closer and closer to Nike prices as we speak (and some have in fact cracked the $300 barrier - i.e. Adidas - or are about to, i.e. On Running).

Ben’s Score: 9.6/10 (great and super smooth but is it truly the best shoe to race a marathon?)


Ryan: Michael’s recap above puts many of my thoughts more eloquently than I could have, so I’ll reiterate some of the same ideas with my own twist. Just because this is “The” Alphafly doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone, yet it is without question a ferociously fast shoe for distance racing. It’s a small but noticeable improvement over previous versions without any steps backward, so if you were a fan of its predecessors, you’ll be happy with V3.

It’s not as clean of a ride as the Vaporfly, so there’s still a clear buying decision to be made here. Assuming you’re a Nike acolyte, are you into the smoother, snappier feel of the Vaporfly, or does the poppy, more exotic cadence of the Alphafly suit you better? The answer really comes down to preference, and that’s that — I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that question.

I love the Alphafly’s depth of cushion and the invincible feeling that its advanced midsole delivers during those first few steps. The upper is a fantastic blend of comfort and securement, fitting true to size and with the right volume for this type of shoe.

What I don’t prefer so much is that it makes its highly engineered midsole very apparent every step of the way. There’s no mistaking that you have Zoom Air units under each foot, from both the distinctive ride they deliver, as well as the sound they make. If you’re willing to engage and embrace that part of the shoe, there’s probably not another shoe out there that’s as fast as this one, but if you prefer a more natural ride, you may dislike the personality here.

Ryan’s Score: 9.6/10 (Deductions for artificial and somewhat prescriptive Air Zoom units, laces doing most of the lockdown, early graining on the rubber at the toe)


Derek: Of the latest crop of current super shoes, the Nike Alphafly 3 easily takes the crown for most easygoing and cushioned marathon racer. The geometry, while somewhat vanilla, is predictable and should suit the vast majority of runners.

I’ve done some 1500m intervals in the shoe at marathon effort, as well as two 18-milers in the shoe and as others have alluded, the transition is smoother now that there is continuous midsole from heel to forefoot. I do find that the forefoot spring still pales compared to AF1, and the rocker is not quite as aggressive as I would have liked, but the heel is a good compromise of soft cushioning and stability. 

The most important verdict now: degree of mechanical assistance. How does it fare? It’s good, but it’s not the best. I think the degree of roll-through assistance is slightly better than Vaporfly 3 (VF3). Of course, AF3 has a much bouncier ride as well. One major factor for me is the lack of plate feel under the forefoot. 

With my benchmark AF1, the forefoot is very soft and springy but that softness is felt under a base of firm and broad, stable plate, and when you load the shoe, you can feel yourself pushing into the plate and getting that energy return back on toe-off. A very similar feeling is observed with the forefoot of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky OG. 

With AF3, everything is soft and bouncy, and you don’t feel the plate (or indeed the pods) as much and so there is a sensation of less responsiveness. It’s not purely subjective, as I’ve done some side by side comparisons with AF1 and the heart rate response at similar paces reflects a lower energetic cost with AF1 as well. 

I feel that the kind of running style that would benefit from AF3 is the same kind who would enjoy the VF3. The fit is overall diplomatic enough that most feet should be fine in it at true to size. Runners with a strong calf action might still like the shoe, but would probably get more oomph from a lower drop shoe like the NB SC Elite 4 or the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro. 

Derek’s Score 9.62

Ride (50%) 9.5 Fit (30%) 9.8 Value (15%) 9.5 Style (5%) 10

Smiles Score 😀😀😀😀1/2

12 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

Nike Alphafly 1 vs. Alphafly 3(RTR Review)

Michael: Some swear by v1 or v2, but as described above, I didn’t have a strong preference - the Alphafly 3 is softer (which is where people preferred v1) and lighter, and overall just a better shoe. The Alphafly 1 (and its successor) does have that disconnected midsole, which gives a more ‘1-2 rocker’ feel (if you’ve worn it, you’ll know), so if you love that, you’ll lose it in v3… but the Alphafly 3 is a strong evolution of a great product.

Ben: Noted extensively above. AlphaFly 1 feels more race ready than the 3, though also more mechanical. Some found it too narrow and had arch problems with the 1. I found the 3 to be more comfortable over a longer period of time, with a much smoother transition. I’d choose the 3. 

Derek: I wear US9.0 for AF1 and could go with either 9.0 or 9.5 for AF3. A US9 AF1 is lighter than a US9.5 AF3 so that really muddies the pros and cons here. I prefer the grip and general lockdown of AF3, but the more dynamic ride and forefoot propulsion of AF1. From a mechanical assistance standpoint, I think AF1 is still a little bit better for me. No consistent arch rubbing with either model for me. 

Nike Alphafly 2 vs. Alphafly 3(RTR Review)

Michael: I’d be repeating myself over the above, but I suspect the most common question here is - should I get the Alphafly 2 on sale, or the Alphafly 3 at retail? And, honestly, for all the praise I just heaped on the Alphafly 3, I would not hesitate to race again in the AF2. It’s a stellar shoe - it’ll remain a stellar shoe for years to come - and you won’t lose any time off your next performance by not having the latest and greatest. The Alphafly 3 is better, but that doesn’t make the Alphafly 2 anything other than a genuine super shoe. 

Ben: The 2 never worked for me. I found it to be bulky and cumbersome. The 3 is generally the opposite of those qualities: smooth, fast, wearable

Adizero Adios Pro 3 vs. Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

Michael: This has always been my ‘if not Nike’ shoe - if I’m not wearing Nike, I’m wearing the Adios Pro 3. That relationship doesn’t really change with the AF3. The Adios Pro 3 remains distinctly its own thing - more wobbly, slightly softer, and overall springier than the Alphafly line. You put energy into the Adios Pro 3 - anywhere, frankly, heel or forefoot - and you’re getting a whole boost back out. It’s an awesome shoe, but it still feels mildly out of control for me and, especially at the marathon distance, I prefer the smoother-rolling, more even-keeled feel of the Alphafly. Alphafly 3 doesn’t change that equation.

Ryan: I agree with Michael’s characterization of the differences here. The Alphafly is the more composed of the two, has a nicer, more comfortable upper, and is lighter. However, as both shoes are tremendously effective, I think the choice here comes down to personal preference. I still prefer the Adios Pro 3 because of its spunky energy, but I can understand why folks might not want to manage such a lively stack of foam for 26 miles. Although the Adios Pro 3 is harder to manage, I still prefer its feel underfoot to the artificial and very noticeable Air Zoom units under the forefoot. I also prefer the smooth, rock climbing-esque outer rubber of the Adidas to the Nike’s slightly lugged outsole. This one’s a tossup on performance, and will come down to whether you prefer a monolithic slab of energetic Lightstrike in the Adidas, or a more composed but artificial propulsion of the Nike. Both fit true to size, but the Adidas has a smidge more room in the toe box.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. The AF3 works better for me in just about every way. More forgiving underfoot, more bouncy, better fit, comparable outsole grip, and more assistive rocker. 

Nike Vaporfly 3 vs. Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

Michael: I’ve covered this one at-length above; the Vaporfly 3 is the best VF yet, and both the AF3 and VF3 really feel like next-generation offerings. The choice here is largely personal - the mechanical roll of the Alpha, or the dynamic bounce of the Vapor. I like the Alphafly for the marathon, and the Vaporfly for anything shorter.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. Very similar rocker for both, but AF3 noticeably more bouncy and forgiving underfoot. VF3 feels more planted and stable around corners for me. Overall the AF3 is the more fun ride and clearly the better choice for a marathon. For the half and shorter, I’d probably go with VF3.

361 Furious Future vs. Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

Michael: 361’s latest offering is really good! It has a disconnected midsole that’s reminiscent of the first two Alphafly offerings especially, and a hyper-bouncy foam that’s genuinely fun to run in, paired with a really well-done upper. I do prefer the Alphafly 3, but if the Zoom Air units turn you off from the Nike, then the 361, at almost $100 less ($180) is worth your consideration.,

Ryan: The 361 has arguably as much softness and bounce as the Alphafly 3, but its heel and toe are separate entities, so its transition isn't as smooth as the Alphafly 3’s, which now has a continuous slab of ZoomX in the midfoot. The 361’s upper also seems to have taken notes from Nike’s Atomknit upper, as it offers a similarly spacious, lightweight, but capable mesh, with a few extra overlays to ratchet up the foot containment. Both shoes are tremendously fun, albeit not too versatile. The Alphafly wins this battle in my eyes, as it delivers a more sophisticated ride that is easier to manage than that of the 361 and its bouncy, super soft heel and split midsole. However, there’s something to be said about the big price differential here. The fit of the 361 runs a half size longer.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. I struggle with heel slippage in the 361. The 361’s foam is a bit denser and requires a stronger calf action to generate the forefoot propulsion though it is a ride I find more energetic and efficient than AF3. If I could solve the fit issue, I’d actually prefer racing in the 361, but I can’t so the AF3 is the overall safer bet for me.

New Balance SC Elite 3 vs. Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

Michael: I know New Balance is overhauling its racing line for 2024 (we don’t have them in-hand yet, our preview is here), but the SC Elite 3 remains a really solid offering - it’s more traditionally platformed than the Alphafly, with a more plate-driven toe-off as opposed to the kinetic spring of the Zoom Air. That’s not to say the NB isn’t fast - their foam is one of the best in the game, and I really appreciate the smooth ride of the SC Elite 3 as one that will keep you moving forward even if your form is breaking down. It’s more “in control” that a Vaporfly or Adios Pro, to be sure… but not quite as fun as the Alpha, in my book.

Ben: For me the AlphaFly 3 is faster, smoother and has much better lockdown. The SC Elite 3 felt slow and often sloppy to me. While some might prefer the SC Elite in training or for long runs, for a race of nearly any distance, I’d choose the AlphaFly 3 by a wide margin.

Ryan: The New Balance comes in here and an equally bouncy, but less serious ride in my opinion given its softness and simpler transition. The Alphafly is more highly engineered and feels as such underfoot, with more of a forefoot pop-off sensation than the SC Elite 3’s smooth heel to toe rockered roll. 

Both uppers are great and true to size, but again the Nike’s is technically better, through its Atomknit 3.0 which is lighter, non-reliant on overlays, yet still plenty capable. 

There’s also considerable more toe flex in the NB, making it a more versatile and approachable choice. What I didn’t particularly like about the SC Elite was its overly soft heel due to the massive cavity there, but I will admit that this is an opinion which others will certainly disagree with. 

I would choose the :Alphafly, hands down, for racing, however the SC Elite certainly has a place for folks who prefer a more inviting, less technical ride, or who like a soft and buttery heel-toe roll.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. I struggle with rubbing around the ankle bones for SCE3, otherwise it has a real fine rocker. The forefoot of SCE3 is to my mind just a little too firm for a full marathon, and so I prefer AF3 for the full marathon, but for shorter distances, purely on the midsole ride, I would say the SCE3 feels like the faster shoe. 

New Balance SC Elite 4 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for both SCE4 and AF3. I like the more conventional upper of the SCE4 but the circular knit of the AF3 is incredibly good and between the two, I prefer the upper of the AF3. The rides are quite different, with SCE4 moving to a lower drop in combination with relatively firmer foam, opposite the AF3 now with a 8mm drop and soft ZoomX. Both shoes have good outsole performance. In terms of stability the firmer platform of the SCE4 feels more stable across the board. All in all, you can’t really go wrong with either shoe. I think AF3 is just overall a more fun shoe to run in as it is a lot more bouncy and so my preference is AF3 for all distances. Mechanical assistance seems to be marginally better in AF3 for me.

Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Ben: This is actually a close one. Both are highly wearable, comfortable upon step-in, have an accommodating fit and a very smooth toe-off at most paces. I found the Pro 3 to be occasionally harsh at slower paces and would often beat up my Achilles. This has not been the case with the AlphaFly 3. I also believe the AlphaFly 3 provides far more bounce and pop late into a race than the Pro 3 does. I’d choose AlphaFly 3 but not by a wide margin.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. The AF3 has the same drop as the EP3, but has more stable and cushioning underfoot. The EP3 has the more aggressive rocker and works better for the 10k or shorter. I really enjoy EP3 for workouts. AF3 would be my preferred choice for the half and full marathon. 

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. EP4 felt like a step in the wrong direction for me, as it got softer but with a less effective rocker. It is a shoe I struggle to stay up on my toes in. Both shoes fit me very well, though AF3 has a bit better lockdown at midfoot. AF3 has the bouncier ride and the more effective rocker. Even though both shoes have a 8mm drop, the EP4 feels a lot flatter. AF3 also has the better outsole and the performance difference on wet surfaces is noticeable. Overall, I prefer the AF3 for all types of runs. 

Wave Rebellion Pro (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro is one of very few shoes that could be called more exotic than the Alphafly. With its beveled heel, it has an even more distinct feeling than the Alphafly, and it requires you to keep your weight at least partially forward (ie, you need to be pushing the pace) to make the shoe work properly. Which is another way of saying that the Mizuno is far less versatile than the Nike. By comparison, the Alphafly is very composed and easier to manage, both in its transition and its lateral movement. The Alphafly also wins on the upper design, as it has a more sophisticated and effective weave, which is lighter, more breathable, and in my opinion, more comfortable. I have to admit that I was shocked by how much energy the Wave Rebellion Pro was able to return to my stride. Judging on sheer propulsion, it can give the big dogs a run for their money. However, the ZoomX / Zoom Air midsole of the Nike delivers performance that’s more refined and composed in its energy return. The Nike wins this fight in my book, but I give Mizuno tons of credit for taking the risk to turn out a shoe that is certainly ‘super shoe’ quality. The Mizuno runs about a half size shorter than the Nike.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. I went out and got two more pairs of the Rebellion Pro 1 after my first testing pair. I love the ride of the shoe. That said, the shoe is not very soft underfoot and you do need strong calves to be able to sustain the running form needed to effectively engage the rocker for the full race distance, whatever you are running. For a half or shorter, there is no question I would go with the Rebellion Pro. For the full marathon, I’d say AF3 might be the safer bet to get me to the finish line. 

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro 2 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. Rebellion Pro 2 is softer than its v1, though it’s still a long way away from being considered a soft super shoe. It’s still decidedly firmer than all the super shoes, save the Brooks HE3 and ASICS Sky+ for me. That said, they have moved the rocker back and now the shoe feels more usable for heel-midfoot strikers than before. Overall, I find the rocker of the Mizuno to be better than the AF3. Both have excellent outsoles, and the wider platform of the AF3 makes it a more stable option for sure. I’d say the Rebellion Pro 2 is my front runner for the full marathon currently, and it’s a bit of a coin toss whether Rebellion Pro 1 or 2 is better for the shorter distances. 

Wave Rebellion Pro (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro is one of very few shoes that could be called more exotic than the Alphafly. With its beveled heel, it has an even more distinct feeling than the Alphafly, and it requires you to keep your weight at least partially forward (ie, you need to be pushing the pace) to make the shoe work properly. Which is another way of saying that the Mizuno is far less versatile than the Nike. 

By comparison, the Alphafly is very composed and easier to manage, both in its transition and its lateral movement. The Alphafly also wins on the upper design, as it has a more sophisticated and effective weave, which is lighter, more breathable, and in my opinion, more comfortable. 

I have to admit that I was shocked by how much energy the Wave Rebellion Pro was able to return to my stride. Judging on sheer propulsion, it can give the big dogs a run for their money. However, the ZoomX / Zoom Air midsole of the Nike delivers performance that’s more refined and composed in its energy return. 

The Nike wins this fight in my book, but I give Mizuno tons of credit for taking the risk to turn out a shoe that is certainly ‘super shoe’ quality. The Mizuno runs about a half size shorter than the Nike.

On Cloudboom Echo 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The On slots in here as a lower stack, much more straightforward shoe that leans more toward 10k-half marathon distances. It doesn’t have as much bounce or depth of cushion as the Nike, but it is more responsive and easier to learn. While both uppers deliver surprising comfort for racing shoes, with no overlays in sight, I felt like the Echo 3 didn’t have quite the same level of foot containment as the Alphafly. As for the ride, the Nike is a much more complex beast with its narrow soft heel and its Zoom Air units creating a unique ride. Contrast this to the On, whose ride is much simpler, more predictable, and far less noisy. I strongly prefer the outsole of the Alphafly to that of the Echo 3, as the Echo’s small patches of rubber haven’t held up all that well over time, and the split rubber in the toe hasn’t performed that well either. As these two shoes fall right around the same price point, I’d take the Alphafly every time. It packs a lot more refinement into a fun, highly efficient ride at a similar price point. Both fit true to size.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models, could possibly go US9 for AF3. Both shoes fit well, though with AF3 it is easier to dial in the fit. Despite relatively lower stack numbers, the Echo 3 has proven to be very mechanically assistive for me, at least on par with the VF3 if not a little more aggressive in the rocker department. Additionally, despite being a firmer type of shoe, it has exhibited excellent vibration dampening properties, much better than expected. For the half marathon or shorter, I would go with the Echo 3. For the marathon, I would go with the AF3 as the more protective ride. 

Tester Profiles

Michael is a patent attorney and graduate of Northwestern University Law School. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). Michael’s PRs include a 67:43 half-marathon (Chicago Half-Marathon) and a 2:21:19 marathon PR at the 2023 Grandma’s Marathon. Michael continues to race on the roads, and is chasing a sub-2:20 marathon and potential OTQ in the future.

Ben is the Senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, PA. A cancer survivor, he has run 21 marathons. He holds PRs of 3:15 for the marathon and 1:30 for the half. At 46, he still enjoys pushing himself and combining his running with supporting a variety of causes. Follow him on Instagram: @RabbiBPD or Twitter: @BDinPA 

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 solo time trialed the 2020-2021 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K. Ryan has a PR of 2:17:16, an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, at the 2023 Philadelphia Marathon after two other 2:18 efforts in the last year.


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.

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Michael Ellenberger said...


Anonymous said...

Multitester coming … ?

Anonymous said...

Great review.
I am wondering as I am a midfoot to heel striker and its 10mm less at the heel than v2 - would the Nike Alphafly 3 be to unstable for me as a heel striker? The Nike vaporfly was too unstable, the Saucony pro 3 was fine.
What is it like at slower paces ? Lets say 5 to 5.30 min per km range. Thanks in advance. S

Michael said...

First Anonymous - I hope so! I'm sure many are excited to get this one on their feet...

Second Anonymous - I responded on Reddit, but will sort of reiterate here that I may not be the ideal tester (which is why we have multi-testers!). That said, I can speak some to rear stability and say that it's certainly more akin to the Vaporfly than the Endorphin Pro 3 (which is rock solid back there). The new shaping does lend some stability but it's still a relatively wobbly shoe, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Can you please compare the alphafly v3 vs new balance sc elite v4?
Thank you for the very nice review!

Michael said...

No SC Elite 4 here, unfortunately (yet?) - but we’ve got reviewers on the team with both, so should get those comparisons soon.