By Kieran Alger
Now in its third generation, the original marathon super shoe has morphed. The core ingredients of the recipe that made the first-gen shoe a huge racing hit hasn’t changed. You still get the super foam midsole, carbon plate and stripped-back lightweight uppers. But that magic combination has been tweaked. The Nike Vaporfly 3 now has a slightly softer stack of ZoomX foam in a reworked geometry and new uppers.
So have the changes improved a good thing? Read my Nike Vaporfly 3 review to find out.
* Note - The Nike Vaprofly 3 and the Nike Vaporfly Next%3 are the same shoe
Stack Height, Drop, Weight and Price
Despite adding to the wedge of ZoomX foam in the midsole, Nike managed to shave a little off its already-lightweight racer. The Vaporfly 3 now comes in at 6.9 oz / 195g in a UK men’s size 8.5 test shoe.
That makes it one of the lightest carbon race shoes going. In truth, when you’re running, you probably won’t notice the 01.oz saving over last generation Vaporfly. But you will when it’s up against heavier alternative carbon running shoes.
The Nike Vaporfly 3 stack height stays the same. There’s a big 40mm wedge in the heel and sizable 32mm in the forefoot for an 8mm heel-to-toe drop. It’s lost some of its directness but despite the big stack, it’s still more stable and reliable than the Alphafly Next%2.
At launch the Nike Vaporfly 3 price was set at $250. That’s a match for the likes of the HOKA Rocket X2, the Under Armour Velociti Elite and the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+. While the Saucony Endorphin Elite, the Alphafly and the new Adidas Prime X Strung 2 are all notably pricier.
Racing and speedwork
40mm heel / 32mm forefoot
Weight (Size 10)
6.9 oz / 195g
Suggested Retail Price
True to size
The original Vaporfly DNA is still very much in evidence here. The Nike Vaprofly 3 still combines lightweight uppers with a big stack of light and punchy PEBA ZoomX midsole foam and a foot-long, scooped carbon plate to add spring and stiffness. But there are some quite significant changes here too.
The stack height stays the same but Nike has added more volume to the ZoomX midsole, with updates to the midfoot to improve stability and protection, particularly deeper into races. There are strategic cutaways to save weight and a new bulkier, protruding heel extension that shifts from the aero-looking heel flick to something that’s much more blocky.
The new Flyknit uppers are lighter and very notably looser, more airy and breathable. You can see your socks through the large holes in the toe box uppers. The heel collars stick with the minimal interior padding that wraps the heel and the offset lacing remains. The thin, foot wrapping, racy tongue is now much longer. And slightly odd, a bit too long.
There are changes to the outsole, too. The forefoot is still generously covered with protective rubber while two patches strengthen the higher impact heel zones. However, that rubber covering is now thinner. In part to enable a bigger volume of ZoomX foam without raising the stack height.
Finally, the forefoot grip pattern now has a waffle design for improved grip and traction.
In my tests, I ran in a UK 8.5 which is my regular running shoe size. They fit was secure in the heel and across the midfoot with good hold, no pinching and no worrying movement on the big ZoomX platform.
However, I did find they came up slightly long in the toe box. If you like an inch between your little piggies and the end of the toe box you’ll get that here. That extra room wasn’t distracting on the move. It may even help reduce the risk of black toenail issues if you’re taking on 2-3 hour long runs or marathons.
Overall, I’d recommend going true to size in the Nike Vaporfly Next% 3.
In my tests, I’ve covered close to 200 miles in the Vaporfly 3 and that includes multiple marathon race tests (some that went well, some not so well), plenty of all-out interval sessions, plus shorter distance races and slower runs. I’ve tested on track, road and some light off-road river paths and at a wide range of paces.
The most important thing to note is that Nike has changed the ride. By comparison to shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Pro or the Nike Alphafly Next%2, the first and second generation Vaporfly Next% were much more direct. You felt much more connected to the road under foot and because you felt more road coming up through the midsole, that tended to encourage faster foot turnover. You almost had to be running in good form with higher cadence to get the most out of them. But when you hit that form and flow, things felt fast and efficient.
Nike’s updates change the softness and volume of the ZoomX midsole and that has eliminated some of that stripped back raciness. The cushioning is now more pronounced. It’s still not as voluminous as the Alphafly but it’s moved in that direction.
However, it’s swings and roundabouts. What you lose in ground contact, you nget back in long run comfort – when things aren’t going so well. The Vaporfly 3 now offers much more protection when you’re on tired legs, tired feet and your form gets a bit ragged. They’re more stable too.
Deep into marathons if you’re dropping off your race pace, that’s very welcome and they’re definitely now a more accessible shoe for runners at all levels. But as a fan of a stiffer, responsive ride, I think the tweaks have dulled what made the Vaporfly different from the newer rivals. I’d still prefer to race a marathon on the Vaporfly Next% 2.
The Vaporfly Next%3 uppers are considerably roomier with boosted breathability. You certainly don’t get the secure, hugging race fit of the Alphafly Next% 2. The large perforated uppers create a feeling of space and flex in the toe box. At times that boarded on being too loose and you can feel air flowing over your toes. On the flip, that lets a lot of water in.
Oh, and those strategic midsole cutouts can catch stones.
This is undoubtedly another excellent race shoe from Nike. It’ll almost certainly appeal to a much broader running crowd and it’ll happily power runners chasing PRs across distances up to the marathon and beyond.
They’re light, fast and built for speed. However, if you were a fan of the more direct, stiffer, ground feel of the first two Vaporfly shoes, then you won’t get that same ride here.
The Vaporfly Next% 3 have taken a few strides closer to the ride of the Alphafly Next%. If the Vaporfly 2 encouraged – almost demanded – locked in form, the Vaporfly 3 midsoles are much more forgiving. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will depend on your personal preferences.
Fans of the old Vaporflys might want to look at the HOKA Rocket X2 which now offers notes of that early Vaporfly ride. Fans of the Alphafly looking for a more stable, more nimble and agile alternative, will likely find a happy home in the Vaporfly 3.