Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 Review – Next 2 Percent 2021
The somewhat ugly Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%2 are the fastest things I have ever put on my feet and with that ugly vs speed conundrum in mind, I spent several days performing a variety of run types and logging my data with Stryd for this review
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%2 Review
Verdict: No question, the fastest shoe I’ve ever used.
What more do you need to know? You know you’re going to buy a pair to maximise your training and get the best finish you can.
- Very, very fast. Free Speed for ALL RUNNER GAIT TYPES
- Comfortable and perfectly cushioned for long races
- Very expensive
- Best speed gains probably for heel-strikers
- Only for straight-line speed on the road
- Probably won’t last anywhere near as long as your current ‘trainers’
- Silly side-lacing
- Perhaps best worn tight, unsure about elastic laces in triathlon
- Can be difficult to get your size/colour in stock
It’s all about the Pebax foam.
You unpack the shoes for the first time and whilst you probably won’t be unduly surprised by the thick sole that can be found on many shoes these days, you will notice the laces and tongue heading off at a weird angle towards the outer side of the shoe. Did you get a defective pair? A: No.
Are they especially light? A: No, not especially so but they are light.
Then you see the super-weird pointy sole protruding at the back, kinda like someone dragged the sole out of the sole-making machine a little too quickly before the foam got a chance to dry. Ugh! then comes the sticky out bit bulging inwards underneath the balls of your feet. Weirdness upon weirdness.
It’s gonna be embarrassing wearing these folks.
Ok, OK, you’ve heard good things about them so at least put your feet in them before sending them back. Now, are you sure you got the right size? They feel quite tight even though you followed the rules and got a slightly larger size than regular shoes. Oh, wait a minute. What’s that at the back, jeez that’s annoying. There’s something inside the shoe at the rear that sticks into your Achilles/heel area.
Are you going to persevere or not? A: At $250/£210 a pop you always knew you would persevere 😉 Decisions, decisions. Once you go outside you won’t be able to return them.
You step tentatively from your carpeted hallway and onto the hard, flat unforgiving pavement outside. Oh. Wait a minute, they’re quite bouncy. Very bouncy actually, that’s promising. You could buy your kids some of these if the garden’s not big enough for a trampoline. Nice.
You’ve heard they are not stable. Actually, they’re not too bad on that front. Walking those first few steps you get some sense of how Neil Armstrong may have felt in a somewhat alien environment. It’s kinda like each heel is balancing on two trainline rails. You can hardly feel those rails whilst walking but you can feel the bounce, there’s bounce everywhere with every step from the back of the shoe and from the front of the shoe. Bouncy McBounceFace would be happy.
It’s time. When at least one foot is still on the ground that ain’t running. Stop walking, c’mon and move off. Slowly does it; you might twist and break your ankle…or something.
There are seemingly strange sensations everywhere with every step, with every bound and with every leap of faith as you progress through your warmup
Let’s cut to the chase
At whatever speed you run at these are fast. From warming up at 6:00/km through to decent speeds below 4:00/km and onwards to 3:30/km and I topped out at something like 2:50/km over various intervals. Naturally, those faster intervals were somewhat shorter than I remember them to be 10 years ago. It’s rumoured I got older in the interim period but that’s still running fairly fast.
I’ll give you some thoughts in a minute on the shoe tech but, if I’m brutally honest, I don’t care about that at all. These shoes are simply the fastest things I have EVER worn, they feel between 5 and 10 secs per km faster than everything else that has graced my feet. Maybe my imagination is getting carried away?
4:00/km is the same as 240 secs/km – so I’m saying these feel 2% to 4% faster by saving 5 to 10 secs per km.
However, let’s not get carried away. In my reality, some of my tests were on intervals and I did also notice increased HR compared to normal levels. In reality, the gains over 10k for me are probably more like 1-2%, which is still something to be very excited about.
Other People Are Claiming 3-4% Improvements On These
Yeah, they are. Nike is saying their tests suggest something similar.
I covered why these kinds of shoes might work in my review post on the Hoka One One Carbon X 2. There’s probably a similar argument that can be applied to the carbon plate in the Hokas and in the Nike, a carbon plate WILL have the chance to return more energy if the plate is deformed by a heel strike and deformed further if there is a heavier runner running faster. I’m lightish at 70kg, certainly not exclusively heel striking and far from an elite runner.
For me I’m striking mid-foot to forefoot over shorter distances and then maybe heel striking when I tire over longer distances or when I specifically change to run that way.
So I’m going to get something from the plate but maybe less than some of you might.
For me and these Nike racers, it comes down to the foam. I reckon it’s the foam that’s giving me the majority of my 1-2%.
Indeed on my last pair of new Hoka Rincons, I specifically noticed that they were much faster for me when new…I’m talking within the first 50 or maybe 100 miles. After that, they are still perfectly usable but the foam is compressed and just not giving me as much energy back and then I reckon I’m slower. With 50 miles on the Vaporfly that energy return still seems to be there, so I have great hopes for their longevity, we’ll see.
The Ride & The Longevity
Striking mid- to forefoot I find these shoes VERY comfortable. Yes, they are a little unstable but I’m perfectly fine with that. If they were cheaper or if I were significantly richer I’d use these shoes for every single road session. But I am mindful that the life I have left in them now is for 1 or 2 important races later in the year, so they are already back in the box.
I don’t know what to do about running one of my races later this year, part of which will hopefully be on a hard trail surface. The Vaporflys are probably going to be OK unless there’s any kind of dampness or sogginess on the grassier areas but I’m not sure. I’ve only run a couple of SLOW KMs on grass and there was nothing noteworthy to report as I was being cautious and avoiding copious amounts of deer poo.
I would also say that these shoes also need a little extra caution on road races where there are hard turns or U-turns, just remember they are built for straight-line speed.
Main Test – Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 Review
Over a period of 2 hours, I ran several out and back KM intervals with the Vaporfly, Rincon 2 and Hoka X 2 on the same day on closed roads at various speeds faster than 4:00/km in my local Bushy Park (Home of parkrun).
I claim no scientific basis for these tests.
The key takeout is that the ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 delivered faster speeds and higher watts from a lower effort (HR).
- Compared to the Carbon X – every single comparable KM was slightly consistently faster (4 secs/km), with slightly higher wattage (2-4w), every single KM had **a lower HR (2-5bpm)** and the same cadence.
- I always used the Vaporfly as the 2nd shoe in each ‘like-for-like’ KM test ie I was more fatigued when using the Vaporfly – although I felt fine.
- My heart rate was notably more elevated than normal at these speeds in each shoe. I had consumed some caffeine before the 2 hours of tests.
- I might cast some doubt on the Stryd power data as it is hard to point the Stryd pod correctly forwards because of the stupid lace design.
Want some more stats? This guy (@Whiskey Mystery) has performed a series of detailed treadmill tests with Stryd and the Vaporfly (link). He was testing speeds slower than 7:00/mi or 4:20/km. I would agree with him that the VaporFly seems to get better the faster you run and specifically at speeds faster than in those tests.
Indeed, doing 30-sec reps as fast as I could after the KMs then the Vaporflys simply had me going faster than I could possibly achieve with the X 2. I just couldn’t get to those speeds and repeat them with the X 2 (faster than 3:00/km and around that speed). The Vaporfly is DEFINITELY the faster shoe. It’s just quantifying ‘how much faster?‘ that’s tricky.
I used my PowerDots that night to pre-empt some sore legs the next day but my legs were OK, tired but not sore. Maybe I could have tried harder after all ;-). The point of mentioning that is that the cushioning may have worked wonders to reduce harmful impacts on my legs.
I’m not going to repeat any of this fast stuff because I just start to break at those speeds these days!
Other things to watch out for
- Tightness – I had plenty of room around the toes but the midfoot section was fairly tight. A bigger pair of shoes would have been the wrong size. However, it took a fair while to carefully get myself into these shoes. That’s perfectly fine for any kind of run-only activity but think carefully about that if you are planning to use them for a triathlon. I suspect, but don’t know, that a tight fit is best for me but I’m not at all sure that I would get that with the elasticated laces I would need for a fast transition.
- The heel/Achilles ridges at the inside rear of the shoe will be in the wrong place if you wear anything but the mildest of orthotics.
- Longevity – I don’t know how long these will last and don’t plan (yet) to run them to the point of uselessness. 100-150 miles should be fine. I’m hoping for considerably more than that.
- As already mentioned it’s possible that Stryd data could be skewed because of the lace design of the shoe but the HR vs Pace data speaks for itself.
Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 vs NEXT% 1: What’s new?
Essentially it’s just the upper that has been re-engineered perhaps making these slightly more durable and slightly more comfortable…but no faster.
- Newly engineered mesh upper with better breathability and foothold.
- Padding is added to the tongue to prevent lace pressure
- More durability around the toe box area
- More toe room to let your toes spread
Competitor’s Carbon Plate Shoes
These all have carbon plate tech of some sort
- Adidas Adizero Pro (discontinued)
- BUY: Adidas Adizero Adios Pro (current) – novel carbon rods and a small carbon plate deliver a fast shoe at all distances. A contender for the best marathon shoe.
- BUY: Asics Metaracer (current) – built more for shorter distance speed over 5k and 10k
- Asics METASPEED Sky – helps runners who get faster by increasing their stride. Due 2021
- Asics METASPEED Edge – helps runners who get faster by increasing their stride and cadence. Due 2021
- Brooks Hyperion Elite (discontinued)
- BUY: Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (current) – At £210 this is over-priced and not as good as cheaper shoes. Give it a miss.
- Hoka’s Carbon X (V1, 2019, discontinued)
- BUY: Carbon X 2
- BUY: Hoka Rocket X (current) – At £140 this is a sensible performance all-rounder for training fast and for your B race.
- BUY: New Balance FuelCell RC Elite – A top-level 5K to marathon racer at £210.
- BUY: New Balance FuelCell TC – At £180 you would use this in rotation as a training shoe as you aim to use the ELITE version for your Races.
- BUY: Nike AlphaFly NEXT% 2 A marathon PB shoe that’s more for the masses but rarely in stock and £260. This is heavier, costlier and bulkier than the Vaporfly, possibly less stable too.
- BUY: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% – A soft, super-cushioned ride for your A race, providing it’s on the road. If you can find some restricted stock and have £240 to blow, get a pair. Great for all the longer distances but AlphaFly edges it for a marathon if you have the choice.
- BUY: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 – Same sole as the Next% and different upper. Different price…CHEAPER at £209. I’m going to get a pair for an HIM.
- BUY: On Cloudboom – a firm ride for 10k and 5k and probably over-priced at £170
- BUY: On Cloudboom – a firm ride for HM and Marathon and probably over-priced at £160
- BUY: Saucony Endorphin Pro – a much, much better choice for a firmer shoe over long distances than the On Cloud. £190
Note: All buy links go to the manufacturer/brand site.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 Specifications
- Brand – Nike
- Type – Shoes
- Style – Active
- Material – Mesh
- Parts Number – CU4111-100 or CU4111 100
- Functionality – Cushioning, Slip-resistant, Wearable
- Upper Material – Synthetic Leather, Fabric
- Sole Material – Rubber Sole
- Upper – Low Cut
- Toe Type – Round Toe
- Heel Type – Thick bottom
- Closure – Lacing
- Style – Sports
- Applicable Season – All Season
- Heel to toe drop – 8mm
- Arch Support – Neutra
- Pronation type – Neutral (might take thin orthotics, which I use)
- Weight – UK 9.5 – 212g per shoe
- Terrain – Road
- Distance – Long distance, race.
Buy Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2
My recommendation is to check the Nike.com website first. You can waste a lot of time chasing ads for the best price only to eventually find the only one left in stock is size 14 or that the popular sizes have all had their prices doubled. But even the Nike site can have out of stock situations in some sizes. Amazon is NOT a good bet either. All the Nike Vaporfly shoes on Amazon (UK) are from 3rd parties and there seems to be no Nike Storefront on Amazon. Some 3rd party Amazon listings are eye-wateringly expensive.
Good Luck! The banner below links to Nike.com if you want to get one and check stock.