I know what you’re here for, so I’ll give you the verdict up front. The Nike Vaporfly 3 is the best Vaporfly ever made. I previously had the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% in that slot, slightly edging out the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit, the Vaporfly model that boasts the most comfortable Vaporfly upper.
Why is the Nike Vaporfly 3 my new favorite Vaporfly? It’s mostly a bunch of small changes but the result is an overall better shoe. And while it’s still got its share of minor flaws, Vaporfly fans will enjoy this iteration of one of the world’s most coveted running shoes.
Nike Vaporfly 3
Release Date: April 2023
Weight: Men’s 6.5oz., Women’s 5.6oz.
Sizing: True to size
- Rundown: The Nike Vaporfly 3 is the most cushioned, comfortable, and stable Vaporfly to date thus making it the best Vaporfly to date.
Courtesy of the ZoomX and carbon plate combo, the Nike Vaporfly 3 packs the same bounce and pop as the Vaporfly 2. But, I’ve heard others haven’t had the same experience and didn’t feel as bouncy. This is likely attributable to the proliferation of plush, bouncy-foamed, carbon-plated racing shoes in the running industry. It’s now much harder to stand out with the same old technology. It’ll never feel like the first time.
Many people are now in the post-honeymoon phase with modern super shoes and are starting to see more of the flaws. And yes, all marathon racing shoes have flaws. It’s not about choosing which shoe’s strengths and weaknesses are the best fit for your running style.
And that’s why I like what Nike did this year. A bunch of small tweaks that make the Vaporfly 3 feel like an all-around better shoe. Let’s start with what I view as the biggest change, the stability.
With my ankles, weakened from years of rushing back too fast from sprained ankles so I could play more basketball, I’ve found previous Vaporflys too tipsy. The narrow build and plush ZoomX meant my body was always working harder than it should to stabilize myself. But with the Vaporfly 3, Nike has widened the base making it feel much more stable in the heel and forefoot. Cornering is so much more secure as is tackling the occasional uneven ground or cobblestones. The midsole shaping is a small change that pays huge dividends in the stability department.
In addition to the midsole shape change, Nike changed the traction pattern from the wavy rectangle look to a more traditional nub-like pattern. The new pattern gave me a better grip in many circumstances including wet weather. The Nike Vaporfly 3 is still going to have some slippage in wet weather but it’s not as bad as it was before.
Even though the wet traction improves, the durability didn’t. The new outsole shows wear fairly quickly. I’d expect it to last as long as previous Vaporflys but nothing like some of the other, more durable, marathon shoes.
Where the durability didn’t improve, the breathability went up a notch. The flyknit upper lets in a steady stream of air, keeping the foot as cool as possible. The only other marathon shoe that matches this level of breathability is the Saucony Endorphin Elite. The Vaporfly 3 was a great pick for a 5k I ran in May (with temps that felt more like July). The rest of me was pouring sweat but my feet were relatively comfortable.
The only time you’ll have an issue with the breathability is during races held in the dead of winter. That’s when you’ll need some merino wool socks or a couple of layers. And in addition to being breathable, the upper is the most comfortable Vaporfly upper outside of the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit (and its water-retaining, amazing knit upper). It’s more accommodating, lightweight, and breathable than any before it. Overall, the upper takes Nike’s road racing shoes up a notch. Here’s to hoping this type of upper will make appearances on upcoming Alphaflys and Streakflys.
What Needs Work
As I mentioned above, the Nike Vaporfly 3’s outsole rubber durability needs work…but I’m guessing Nike choose weight savings over a more long-lasting rubber compound. It’s a trade-off. Likely the right one for a high-end marathon racing shoe, but it will send some people looking for a different shoe.
The other thing that annoyed me is the tongue, the only negative from a great upper. It’s weirdly tall, wide, and offset. It’s hard to get it in the right place when lacing up the shoe and that’s never a good sign. It’s not gusseted and can move around a lot while running. I had constant tongue slippage. It didn’t cause any discomfort or blisters, but it was annoying for a big tongue to move so much. Nike needs to add a stitch or two to connect one side of the tongue with the upper for future colorways, similar to how Puma fixed the original Deviate Nitro Elite.
Neither of those issues are dealbreakers but as long as you’re aware of them before buying, you won’t get any unpleasant surprises.
Is the Nike Vaporfly 3 wide foot friendly?
The Nike Vaporfly 3 is not wide foot friendly. It’s the widest Vaporfly to date…but wide footers will still have to deal with the narrow last. If you’re a wide footer that made it work by going up a half size in previous Vaporflys, you’ll get a similar fit here.
Is the Nike Vaporfly 3 worth $250?
Given the current price band of marathon racing shoes ($200-$275), the Vaporfly 3 is about right. You’ll get what you pay for.
Nike Vaporfly 3 Summary
The Nike Vaporfly 3 is a great update. Stability, breathability, and comfort all improved while the Vaporfly line stayed bouncy, plush, and lightweight. The Vaporfly 3 is going to be many people’s racing shoe of choice. It puts Nike back in the upper echelon of marathon racing shoes for those (like me) who weren’t all that enthused with the Vaporfly 2 and Alphafly 2.