So you’re looking at the best carbon fiber running shoes and have settled on the Nike Alphafly Next% 2 or the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2.
Both running shoes are designed for going fast on race day, not on gentle plods around the park — in fact, both feel pretty unstable when running slowly. While Nike says they’ll last longer than a couple of races, you definitely wouldn’t want to be doing all of your training or long runs in either of these shoes. They both have a carbon fiber plate and the same Zoom X midsole foam, but which Nike racer do you want on your feet for your next race?
I’ve been lucky enough to do a good amount of running in both shoes over a number of different sessions.
You can read my in-depth Nike Alphafly Next% 2 review here, and my Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 review here. If you're looking for a more affordable or a more durable shoe, check out our best running shoe guide, or take a look at my Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 vs Pegasus 38 face-off.
So which should you choose? Read our Nike Alphafly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 face-off to find out.
Nike Alphafly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Price and availability
The Nike Alphafly Next% 2 is the newer of the two super shoes, released in limited numbers from June 15, 2022. Its predecessor, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%, was first seen on the feet of Eliud Kipchoge, as he became the first man to run a marathon in 1:59. The Next% is now widely available, and likely to be discounted following the release of the newer shoe. However, with the second iteration of the shoe, Nike has addressed some of the stability issues that runners experienced with the first iteration of the shoe, attempting to make it more stable underfoot for the everyday runner, not just the elite.
Like the original Alphafly, the Alphafly Next% 2 doesn’t come cheap. Sure it’s designed for the everyday runner, but the everyday runner with a spare $275/£274.95 in their pocket for a racing shoe. By comparison, the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, which was released in March 2021, costs $250/£229 in the men’s version and £224 in the women’s shoe.
Nike Alphafly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Design, fit and feel
While both shoes are designed for racing, they feel very different underfoot. Let’s start with the stack height: the Alphafly Next% 2 has a stack height of 40mm in the heel, and 32mm in the forefoot. This is slightly different from the first iteration of the shoe, which had a heel drop of 4mm.
The Vaporfly Next% 2 also has the same 8mm drop, with a stack height of 40mm in the heel and 32mm in the forefoot. The two use the same ZoomX foam, which is bouncy and responsive underfoot, and both have a full-length carbon fiber plate.
That said, where the Vaporfly Next% 2 has a pure foam midsole, the Alphafly Next% 2 has two Zoom Air units, which sit under the ball of the foot to deliver a real bounce as you toe-off. In the second version of the shoe, there’s also foam underneath these units and Nike says this is to offer more energy return and “ensure a smooth transition from heel to the forefoot as runners go through their stride.” These Zoom Air units give the shoe a completely different feel to the Vaporfly Next% — the toe-off is slightly firmer thanks to the addition of the Zoom Air units, and on your first run, you really feel like you’re flying forwards in it.
Both shoes have a similar, knitted-style upper; in the Alphafly Next% 2, this is the AtomKnit, Nike’s latest version of its FlyKnit upper. Both uppers are super lightweight and breathable, with minimal water absorption on the run. They also both have an asymmetrical lacing system, which is designed to put less pressure on the top of the foot, and a pillow around the back of the shoe to give you extra cushioning on the heel.
When it comes to the outsole, both are designed for road running and don’t have a huge amount of traction. On both shoes, there are two strips of rubber on the back of the shoe, and rubber on the forefoot, covering the key impact zone. There’s also exposed foam on both the shoes.
Fit-wise, I found the Vaporfly Next% 2 to fit true to size, although I wear a full size bigger than my normal everyday trainers when buying running shoes (confused? Read our guide on how to buy running shoes). In the Alphafly Next% 2, I found the shoe comes in “unisex,” or men’s sizing. This could have been because I received my shoe in a small release, but I found I had to go up a half size.
In the original Alphafly, I wore a UK 5, in the Alphafly Next% 2, I wore a UK 5.5 to get the same fit, although this is likely because of the unisex sizing — none of the male runners I know went up half a size in the newer shoe.
Nike Alphafly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Differences underfoot
So here’s where it gets interesting. Both shoes have a rocker geometry, which encourages you to roll onto the ball of your foot as you move, helping you run faster — and both do just that. After running in both shoes, I’d say the main difference between the Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Alphafly Next% 2 is in the Zoom Air units and the cushioning. The Vaporfly Next% 2 feels slightly more nimble underfoot — it allows you to really attack the corners and sprint out of them, and I’ve comfortably worn them for some speed sessions on the track without any issue.
By contrast, the Zoom Air units paired with the thick wedge of ZoomX foam on the Alphafly Next% 2 really do make you feel like you’re flying, but only on those long, straight parts of your long run. Nike has made some huge improvements to the shoe when it comes to making it feel more stable underfoot — the heel is wider, and the less aggressive heel drop does remove some of the wobbles I felt when running in the first shoe, but it’s still not the best around corners. That said, while I wouldn’t wear it on the track, I have found during long runs, my pace surprised me, and it felt easier to run fast, which is exactly what you want from a super shoe.
Nike Alphafly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Which is best for you?
Both the Alphafly Next% 2 and the Vaporfly Next% 2 are absolutely fantastic running shoes, but which should you choose for your next race? It’s hard to pick — both will definitely help you run faster, and probably PR your next race, but I’d say while the Alphafly Next% 2 is a huge improvement on the original Alphafly, its weaknesses are still the same. It definitely feels more stable than the first version, but it still struggles around corners, and fans of the Vaporfly Next% 2 are unlikely to be converted.
That said, the Alphafly Next% 2 comes into its own over longer distances, and if you’re running a fast, flat course, like the Berlin Marathon, it’s a brilliant shoe to have on your feet. The Vaporfly Next% 2 could easily cope with a quick 5K or 10K, and you wouldn’t need to worry about doing fast, twisty laps in this shoe.
Of course, the cost comes into play here too. The Alphafly Next% 2 is the newer shoe, and therefore, the more expensive. Whereas you might find the Vaporfly Next% 2 on sale, the Alphafly Next% 2 is unlikely to drop anytime soon, meaning if you’re not willing to spend the better part of $300, the Vaporfly Next% 2 is the shoe for you. The original Alphafly might be discounted, and you can read my Nike Alphafly Next% vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 comparison here.
Either way, both are excellent choices for race day. If you’re looking for a cheaper shoe, the newly released Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is also a brilliantly fast, carbon fiber running shoe worth checking out.