Ask and you shall receive. While running shoes don’t exactly share the same weight as the sermon on the mount, the statement rings true with the announcement of Nike’s new ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, an update to one of Nike’s most groundbreaking shoes in recent history, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. The shoe will debut on the feet of several elite runners at the London Marathon this Sunday, April 28, and be available the same day to the public—in limited quantities and unisex sizing only, for $275.
Building on the foundation of ZoomX energy-return foam and curved carbon-fiber plate, the behemoth running brand’s unique technology that claims to improve running economy by 4 percent (backed by an independent study in the journal Sports Medicine), the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% should retain all of the 4%’s biomechanical magic and adds a drop of reality via some much-needed real-world race-condition updates.
Based off of feedback from athletes like marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, alongside Olympic medalists Mo Farah, 2017 New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan, and 2017 Boston Marathon winner Geoffrey Kirui, the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% adds traction, a lower heel-toe offset, a new upper, and more energy-saving foam—among other tweaks.
Runners recognize the Vaporfly 4% from the bright feet at the pointy end of the race corral (17 of the 36 podium finishers at last year’s World Marathon Majors wore some version of the Vaporfly 4%), but the new updates should mean they’re also better for those farther back in the pack.
According to Elliott Heath, Nike’s running footwear product line manager, the increased traction will serve a more “wide range of conditions” including slippery paint on roads near aid stations that can become a treacherous obstacle for runners.
Nike also points to the space-age upper that uses a new material based off of sailcloth. Called Vaporweave, it’s meant to be more breathable and less susceptible to soaking. (You can thank feedback from Shalane Flanagan at last year’s Boston Marathon slopfest for this feature.) Not just for messy conditions, the lighter fabric also helps out when its hot and bone dry. “The upper is good for athletes looking to keep their core temperature low by dumping water on their heads,” Heath says. “[Even when soaked] the performance will stay the same.”
Underfoot protection is also the name of the game for marathoners of all levels, and Nike has engineered an increase in midsole foam—while keeping weight the same. “We get the same amount of input on impact protection as propulsion,” says Brett Holts, Nike’s vice president of running footwear. Nike says the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% will help keeps legs fresher longer, even for more mortal runners. “Athletes say they get back to racing faster after a hard race,” he adds.
The increase in foam will mostly fall in the forefoot, reducing the heel-toe drop from 11mm to 8mm. Nike says this is to “provide a more stable feeling and help maximize energy return at the critical toe-off.” It does seem more in line with most of today’s running shoes and should make the Vaporfly less forwardly tippy, but it will be interesting to see how it affects the ride and roll.
If, like many Nike-sponsored athletes, you liked the idea of the 4%, but felt it was a little bit too theoretical and not practical enough, Nike says the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% might just be the answer to your prayers.
ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% Updates:
- Breathable Vaporweave upper
- Offset lacing on the upper to relieve pressure on the top of the foot
- Thin foam pod for Achilles relief
- Added foam in the midsole
- Reduced heel-to-toe offset from 11mm to 8mm
- Better traction and tread on the outsole
Same As It Ever Was:
- Retaining the full-length carbon-fiber plate for increased stiffness and Nike’s trademarked 4% increase in efficiency (although a study has shown it’s as much about the foam as it is the plate)
- Even with increased foam and traction, Nike says the weight remains the same as the 4%
To get yours, get in virtual line in the Nike Run Club App on Sunday, April 28 in the U.S.