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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: The best racing shoe?

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Nike Vaporfly 2 review
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
209.95
inc VAT

An improved upper plus a price drop makes the Vaporfly 2 one of the best options for runners seeking PBs

Pros 
Lightweight, comfortable and fast
Lower price
Improved upper
Cons 
Still expensive
Not very durable
Heel rub
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The Nike Vaporfly was the running shoe that changed the game, with it helping to propel runners to PBs, Olympic medals and world records since its launch in 2016. In response to this success, pretty much every other brand released a carbon plate racing shoe in 2020, while Nike itself launched the Alphafly NEXT%, the shoe that Eliud Kipchoge wore to run the first sub-2-hour marathon.

Despite all this new competition, the Vaporfly NEXT% remains the shoe of choice for many runners. With that popularity in mind, it’s understandable that Nike has opted for a relatively modest update to the shoe with the Vaporfly 2, with perhaps the key change being the new lower price, since the Vaporfly NEXT% 2 costs £30 less than its predecessor.

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: What do you get for the money?

The Vaporfly is a bona fide racing shoe. That means it’s light, weighing 206g in the UK size 9 we tested, and it has a full-length carbon plate in the midsole. That plate is sandwiched in a big stack of Nike’s ZoomX cushioning. ZoomX is a soft, springy PEBA-based foam that provides a protective yet fast ride for your long-distance races. The plate both stabilises the squishy foam and adds propulsion to each stride, helping you to run more efficiently so you’re able to more easily maintain your race paces for longer. The shoe has an 8mm drop from heel to toe, and the stack at the heel runs right up to the World Athletics limit of 40mm.

As is normal for racing shoes, there’s not a whole lot of rubber on the outsole of the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, with a covering on the forefoot and two small sections on the heel. This keeps the weight down while providing grip where you need it most, but it doesn’t last as long as the full rubber outsole you’d get on a training shoe.

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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: What’s new?

The upper of the shoe is where all the changes have been made. It’s now a softer, more breathable mesh as opposed to the VaporWeave fabric used on the original Vaporfly NEXT%. Nike has added a reinforced section around the front of the toe box as well, and this helps to keep the upper off your toes to ensure there’s no rubbing. This was sometimes a problem with the VaporWeave upper, which had a tendency to bunch up at the front.

Another change is found on the tongue, where Nike has added a little cushioning to reduce the pressure on the top of your foot when you tighten the offset laces. This subtle change makes a difference on the run, with the mild pressure we sometimes felt with the Vaporfly NEXT% disappearing entirely.

There are no changes to the midsole or outsole of the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, which delivers the same impressively fast and comfortable ride of its predecessor. However, it does weigh a tad more than the original NEXT%, which came in at just under 200g in a UK 9.

However, perhaps the most important change of all is the price, with the second edition costing £210, £30 less than the original Vaporfly NEXT%. That’s also £50 cheaper than the Nike Alphafly NEXT%, and more comparable to the prices of carbon plate shoes from other brands.

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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: What’s the fit like?

We found that the Vaporfly 2 fit true to size, wearing our usual UK size 9. There’s a little more room in the toe-box than on the original NEXT%, but we were also true to size in that shoe.

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: What’s it best used for?

The Vaporfly 2 is a shoe built to run fast in, whether that’s on race day or during your speed and tempo training sessions. Given how light it is, the shoe is a great option for shorter events like 5Ks or even mile races, but the high stack of cushioning means that it’s also comfortable enough for the marathon, or even road ultramarathons.

In terms of the running efficiency gains you get from the shoe, these are likely to be the most telling in longer events such as half marathons or marathons, because holding your race pace will feel that little bit easier for longer. While the shoe isn’t going to run the race or do your training for you, it does provide a valuable benefit when it comes to logging a new personal best.

It's also a great short distance racing shoe of course, and it’s more stable than the Nike Alphafly and some of the other high stack shoes out there, which makes it a smart pick for short races on courses with lots of sharp turns.

While you’ll want to avoid using the Vaporfly too much for training runs, since it isn’t the most durable shoe, it’s great for logging your key speed sessions and long runs in, and you’ll find that your legs recover faster compared to most other shoes. That’s especially true if you’ve been using an old-school racing flat with a firm ride and minimal cushioning.

Overall the changes to the upper are positive, with the shoe now having more room in the toe box in particular. The knitted mesh used is also more breathable than the VaporWeave on the original NEXT%, and we found it drained quickly when using the Vaporfly 2 in the rain.

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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: Is there anything else it’s not good at?

Many of the minor faults with the Vaporfly 2 are the same as on the original shoe. Like most pure racing shoes, it’s not all that durable, and you can expect the foam to lose some of its spring once past the 300km mark or so. That compares poorly to the 700-800km you’d expect to get from a more robust training shoe.

It’s also a shoe that really is best reserved for fast runs, and is a little too unstable to use for your general training. Runners who overpronate should avoid the shoe in general, as the high stack of soft cushioning is likely to prove too unstable for them.

Keep the Vaporfly on the road as well, because its relatively soft outsole will get torn up on the trails. You'll also not be able to use the shoe for track racing, since recent regulation changes have banned shoes with a stack height over 25mm, a law designed to effectively exclude most carbon plate racers.

All of the above can be said of the original Vaporfly NEXT%, but a new issue we had with the second version was some heel rub on our right foot. The back of the shoe has a similar design to the original, but the knit upper is slightly more structured and stiff than the VaporWeave on the original, and perhaps this created a little more room for the heel section to rub during our runs. It’s a minor problem that probably arose because we used the shoe for several days in a row while testing it out, so if you reserve the Vaporfly 2 for the odd key training session and races it might never come up. However, it is worth keeping an eye on and ensuring you get a secure fit at the back when lacing the shoe up for long events. Or, if in doubt, a little plaster on the heel will provide extra protection.

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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 review: Should I buy it?

The Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 is a relatively modest update, but an undeniably successful one. That’s mostly down to the fact the price of the shoe has dropped while the overall performance has remained the same. Then you have the improved upper, which provides a more comfortable fit around the toe box in particular.

So the shoe is a success, but is it the very best you can get? When the first Vaporfly NEXT% launched it was clearly the best racing shoe available, but there’s a lot more competition these days, with most brands launching their own carbon plate racer in 2020. There’s also Nike’s Alphafly NEXT% shoe (pictured below with the Vaporfly 2), which is now far more expensive than the Vaporfly at £260, but is our top pick when it comes to racing half marathons and marathons in particular.

For shorter events the Vaporfly is as good as or better than any shoe out there, being lighter and a little more nimble around corners than the Alphafly. The price drop is important because it brings it into line with most other carbon shoes, and at £50 less than the Alphafly there’s a good case for saying the Vaporfly is a better buy, since it’s still a brilliant long distance racing shoe and many runners might even prefer it to its bulkier sibling.

Outside of Nike the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro is a strong choice for a carbon plate racer, especially as it’s one of the cheapest going at £170. However, it’s very rarely available, so you’ll have to be on your toes when stock does come in to nab a pair.

Another great option is the Saucony Endorphin Pro, which is £190 and has a more stable, natural-feeling ride than the Nike shoes, though it’s also firmer underfoot. The carbon plate in the shoe is combined with Saucony’s Speedroll technology to provide a smooth, fast and efficient ride.

If all of those prices make you blanche, there are cheaper shoes with plates that offer a high level of performance. Hoka One One’s lightweight and speedy Rocket X is £140 and has a carbon plate in the midsole, while the Saucony Endorphin Speed uses a nylon plate but is otherwise similar to the Endorphin Pro in design. Using a nylon plate rather than carbon makes the Endorphin Speed a more comfortable, forgiving shoe that you can use for lots of training, and while it might not be as flat-out fast as the Pro, it’s still very quick and a shoe we’ve enjoyed racing in.

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