When Nike debuted their Vaporfly 4% marathon shoes over half a century ago the world the course has changed. Records have fallen, laws have been changed, and rivals have struggled to create their own “super shoes.” Fast forward six years and every running brand has its own racing shoe that pairs a carbon fiber plate with a chunky foam wedge to help runners propel themselves forward.
From local 5Ks to urban marathons and mind-blowing 100 mile world records, the carbon-coated shoe adorns the feet of elite athletes and amateurs aspiring to set a personal best. But despite super shoes from Saucony, Adidas, Asics, Brooks and more, the Vaporfly is still one of the most popular racing shoes.
Now Nike is updating the Vaporfly. This comes in the form of the ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 3 – we’ll call it the Vaporfly 3 for simplicity. The expensive $250 (£235) shoes have a new, more sculpted look and are lighter than the existing Vaporfly shoes. Nike also claims they return more energy than their previous versions, though it’s not clear exactly how much more. These changes are the first since the Vaporfly began dominating race lineups in 2021.
The biggest change to the Vaporfly 3 is its design. Nike designers have reshaped the midsole by removing a large chunk of foam. Triangular pieces of foam are chipped off at the heel. A foam wedge was cut from the side of the boot and another from the sole. The result may not be as smooth as the previous version, with a more blocky look.
Changes have been made to make the shoe lighter, potentially reducing effort with every step. Sports equipment for elite athletes looking to set records is often made as light as possible. “Every little component of a shoe is measured by weight,” says Elliot Heath, senior footwear manager at Nike, adding that “reducing grams” in the shoe has reduced the shoe’s weight by 4%. (The male US 10 weighs 198g compared to 215.7g for the Vaporfly 2).
The various parts of the shoe’s foam are covered in small ridges, which reduces the amount of foam used on its surface. The Nike designer says that with these changes to the shoe, the company has also tried to make it more stable. This is in response to a common complaint that the Vaporfly can feel insecure and tricky around corners.