The original Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% was a hard act to follow, so Nike played it safe with the first update of the shoe by simply swapping the upper for one made from its Flyknit material. That shoe attained legendary status by adorning the feet of Eliud Kipchoge when he smashed the world record for the marathon at the Berlin Marathon in 2018.
Since the Flyknit Vaporfly was also more widely available than the original, if no cheaper, it also became more popular with amateur runners keen on wearing the fastest shoe possible in the hope of blowing the doors off their PBs.
Any kind of substantial change to the design of the Vaporfly is, then, a sizeable risk for Nike. And the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is certainly a substantial change. The upper, midsole and outsole of the shoe have all been updated, in response to requests from Nike’s elite athletes like Kipchoge and Mo Farah.
Nike has replaced the Flyknit upper with a new material called Vaporweave, which is lighter and absorbs less water, keeping the shoe lighter in wet conditions. The outsole changes also help on that front, with the new grip design on the forefoot providing more traction in the wet, something Kipchoge suggested after he ran the Berlin Marathon in the rain in 2017.
The midsole now contains 15% more ZoomX foam than the previous Vaporfly, the extra weight of which is offset by the lighter upper so it’s no heavier than the Flyknit Vaporfly. The bouncy ZoomX foam combines with the curved carbon plate in the shoe to provide a cushioned but speedy ride.
A thin foam pod has been added to the heel area to support the achilles, and Nike has also changed how the foam is distributed to reduce the heel-toe offset of the shoe from 11m to 8mm, which the company says will provide a more stable feeling and extra energy return at the toe-off.
The ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% shoe will launch in a bright green colourway that will be hard to miss on start lines, and Farah is set to wear it for the London Marathon this weekend. It will be available to buy in London from 25th April, and from 28th April it will available through the Nike Run Club app in the US.