The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% is the most anticipated running shoe since, well…ever. Why? Its predecessor, the Nike Vaporfly Next% has been the top road racing shoe for over a year. Before that, the Nike Vaporfly 4% was the undisputed king of the roadways. The third shoe in the trilogy was bound to be extremely hyped. And then, Eliud Kipchoge added to the Nike Alphafly mystique by wearing it to break the freakin’ 2-hour marathon barrier.
All of the above has led to today. Thousands of runners eagerly await the July 2nd release date so they can use the Alphafly to set PRs and climb onto race podiums. Is the Alphafly worthy of all the hype? TLDR, yes! But keep reading for the full performance review.
Note: For those interested in how the Alphafly Next% stacks up against other top of the line road racing shoes, we recently published two detailed comparisons:
Nike’s pebax cushioning, ZoomX, is the foam used in the midsole. And there’s a ton of it. The, now standard for Nike’s road racing shoes, full length carbon fiber plate is sandwiched between the two layers of ZoomX. The heel’s cushioning level and bounciness feel a lot like the Vaporfly Next%.
But the forefoot is completely different. There’s a nice slab of ZoomX in the forefoot above the carbon fiber plate. Below the plate, however, Nike changed things up from the Vaporfly. Right above the outsole, Nike placed two large volume Zoom Air bags similar to what’s in the Lebron 17. We’ve previously seen Zoom bags this size in basketball shoes but never in a running shoe.
If you’ve read WearTesters for any length of time, you know we love Zoom Air. The Zoom Air in the Alphafly Next% doesn’t disappoint. It’s bouncy and returns most of your energy. This was a solid improvement from the Vaporfly and lets the Alphafly shine in speed workouts. The more you’re on your toes, the better the Alphafly feels. The addition of the Zoom bags encourages you to get up on your toes and run faster. And that’s exactly what you want during long distance road races.
The Alphafly Next% traction is really close to perfection. The wavy-patterned rubber fully covers the forefoot (except for a small cutout in the middle to save weight) and does not slip. Ever. Nike has finally nailed secure traction on its flagship racer. On the heel, the camouflaged rubber coverage on both the lateral and medial sides is quite generous for a racing shoe. And the rubber used is nice and sticky. In terms of the outsole sticking to every surface, it’s perfect.
The imperfection comes from durability. I’ve run 50+ miles in my pair and the waves on the outsole are intensely fraying along my strike path. At this rate, the entire lateral side of my forefoot will be bald way before I hit 250 miles. I won’t be running directly on the foam or Zoom Air bags because the rubber below the wave pattern is still fairly thick. However, I’m worried it may affect the shoe’s awesome traction over the long term. This isn’t a huge issue since these are racing shoes. Durability is never the top priority on a racing shoe. But if Nike had used a slightly harder rubber, the Alphafly’s outsole setup would have received a perfect rating.
Support was an issue for a lot of people with the Vaporfly Next%. The Vaporfly had a narrow base and felt tippy when turning or on uneven ground. The Alphafly Next% rectifies a lot of the support issues with a few tweaks.
Nike flared the forefoot’s midsole out wider and used the two Zoom Air bags as outriggers. This was appreciated as the Alphafly is tall. It has a forefoot stack height of 35mm vs the Vaporfly’s 32mm (they’ve got a 39mm and 40mm heel stack height respectively). The heel midsole flares wide too which is a big change from the Vaporfly. There’s also a strip of fuse around the bottom of the upper where it connects to the midsole. Fuse is Flyknit and glue melted together. It’s stronger than normal knit and adds side-to-side support to help prevent rollovers.
The Alphafly is a bit tippy around tight 90°-ish corners. Gradual corners (like you’d find on a track) are not a problem. I’m impressed that Nike was able to improve upon the previous generation without adding too much weight. Racing shoes aren’t known for their support but the Alphafly has enough to get most people through race day.
The Alphafly Next% upper is made of Atomknit. Atomknit is Flyknit that’s been steamed and stretched. It’s coarser and less stretchy than Flyknit but still fits like a knit. It doesn’t absorb much water on long runs but I’m sure it absorbs more than the Vaporweave upper on the Vaporfly Next%. That said, it doesn’t come close to absorbing as much sweat as a typical mesh running shoe.
The tongue area is a stretchier layer of Atomknit with a built-in pad to relieve lace pressure. The lace holes go through fuse overlays on both sides of the foot. The laces themselves are still small but of medium thickness with serrated edges. The serrated edges keep the laces from pulling free while wet during runs. I also liked the serrated edges because it’s easier to get a handle on them. I think we’ll start seeing these serrated laces on more models as they seem to “lock in” better than traditional, smooth-edged laces.
The Atomknit upper is one big sock. The sock like fit may start tight for people with wide feet or high insteps, but Nike’s thought of that. The designers gave us tongue and heel pull tabs to assist in sliding on the shoes. The knit quickly breaks in and stretches to provide the 1:1 fit that knit shoes are known for. The sculpted achilles pillow is a nice touch but, similar to the Vaporfly Next%, the heel is minimally cushioned. Runners with heel spurs or bony heels may dislike the direct contact with the big heel counter. However, if you didn’t have problems with the Vaporfly’s heel, you won’t have problems here.
The Alphafly Next% fits true to size but is wider than its predecessor. Grab your normal Nike shoe size or the size you purchased in the Vaporfly (assuming you didn’t go up half a size to get extra width). The heel and forefoot on the Alphafly are wider than the same areas on the Vaporfly. The midfoot and arch area are very snug but that’s needed to support the sock like fit. The Alphafly will accommodate a wide range of foot types.
I started by referencing the fact that the Nike Alphafly Next% is the most hyped running shoe ever. It lives up to the enormous hype. It’s the bounciest road racing shoe on the planet (though the Saucony Endorphin Pro gives it a run for the money).
The $275 price tag will feel extravagant for all but the most serious runners but the experience is unique. If you love running and racing, and have the cash, the Nike Alphafly Next% is a luxury that’s extremely fun to have in your closet.
Thanks to Nike for sending a pair to test. Nike was not given any editorial control of the review. This review is based on our weartesters’ experiences using the shoes for speed workouts, trail runs, treadmill training, long runs, casual wear, and more.