Ahead of London Marathon, the preamble turned to tech and the brand new Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoe, the latest and fastest shoe from the running brand that sponsors them both.
Pics have been circulating for a while now of a touted ‘5% shoe’, but back in April, Nike confirmed the next generation of the shoe that was born from the breaking2 project, and it seems most relevant to start here.
Firstly, the NEXT% resembles the original 4% ELITE shoe that Kipchoge (and Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa) wore more then it does the latest flyknit 4% predecessor. The aesthetic and profile look similar with the asymmetrical toe off, contoured sole with more defined tread pattern and the larger profile heel and midsole height.
The similarities don’t stop there as a prominent swoosh returns to the front of the shoe, rather than the drop swoosh on current models. Nike used the drop swoosh to identify what models contained ZoomX in the midsole, so perhaps that’s the end of that indicator.
Looks aside, the NEXT% has some key component updates.
The Vaporweave upper (a woven upper made of a TPU and TPE blend) is designed to be lighter (it’s very thin but strong), but also to reduce weight increase from moisture, which the flyknit upper is susceptible too (this was one of the main features behind the very limited Nike Flyprint too). Nike claim a 75% reduction in moisture retention, meaning the shoe stays as light as possible for the entire race.
Off-set laces help reduce pressure points on the top of the foot, in particular to the main tendon that connects to the big toe. Again, the repositioned toe off strip at the front of the shoe indicates that maximising all forwarded motion from the shoe meant reappraising what worked and what did not, with feedback from the athletes being paramount.
Another main changes runners will notice are the stack height and change in drop height. There’s a 15% increase in ZoomX foam in the midsole, meaning more shoe especially under the forefoot (3mm more), but this has meant a change in the drop height too, from 11mm to 8mm, making the NEXT% a ‘flatter’ shoe. How this reduction in stack height will translate in performance terms in the latter stages of the race, only time will tell, but Nike claim the shoe is now more stable. For comparison, the Pegasus 35 has a drop height of 10mm.
Consumers will be happy to see a bit more rubber on the sole, but this was down to feedback relating to traction in the wet, resulting in the more anatomical shape on the forefoot. At the rear, there are two extra rubber patches to aid with traction at the rear of the foot.
Extra little points of note when handling the shoe is the heel counter now has a soft collar at the ankle to reduce any chaffing and more significantly, has an internal heel counter to add some security to the fit of the shoe. Elements like these were stripped out originally to save weight, but with the improved upper, it seems they have made it back into the design.
In fact, the most impressive thing is that the shoe weight stays the same; the 13g reduction in the upper means the 15% more foam offset each other, plus there was clearly room for a few creature comforts to be included.
On sizing and fit, the Flyknit version of the 4% came up small (much to the annoyance of many ordering online), but when asked on sizing Nike confirmed that these would be true to size, much like the pre-Flyknit/original versions.
ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%