So you want to buy a pair of Nike super shoes, but you can’t decide between the (probably reduced) Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, or the brand new Nike Vaporfly Next% 3. To help you work out which carbon fiber running shoe is best for you, I’ve been running in both and will put the two head-to-head below. The bottom line is, both shoes are designed to help you run fast, and if you’re looking to PR your next race, the Vaporfly Next% is a good choice.
Before drilling down into the similarities and differences, it’s important to note that these are both top-of-the-line racing shoes. 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. In fact, Nike has released training companions, such as the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%, which are designed to take the load of your training miles. If you are looking for more of an everyday running shoe, we’ve rounded up the best running shoes on the market here.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Price and availability
The Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 launched on March 6, 2023, a year after the Vaporfly Next% 2 launched in March 2022. The Vaporfly Next% 3 is slightly more expensive than the Next% 2 in the UK, costing $250/£235 — the Next% 2 cost $250/£225 when it first hit the market. The shoe is available on Nike.com and in third-party retailers now.
As the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 is now over a year old, you’re likely to find it on sale at various running stores and websites. If you’re on a budget, this is definitely the more sensible option.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Design, fit and feel
The Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 is designed to be more stable underfoot, and you can see this with some of the design changes Nike has made to the shoe. While the stack and drop are the same, the Vaporfly 3 has a new upper, a tweaked midsole, and a different outsole. Nike say this is to improve stability and increase energy return in the racing shoe.
The Vaporfly Next% 3 has a redesigned midsole, with more ZoomX foam underfoot. To save on weight (the Vaporfly Next% 3 is slightly lighter than the Next% 2), Nike has removed a chunk of foam on the outside of the midsole and at the bottom of the shoe. The heel geometry has changed too — the newer shoe has lost the aggressive point at the heel, and is now slightly wider for a more stable experience.
The Vaporfly Next% 3 upper is a Flyknit yarn which has a lot less structure to the tighter upper on the Vaporfly Next% 2. It’s almost see-through and is a lot more similar to the upper found on the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3. It’s definitely more airy and breathable. The lateral lacing is the same, although the tongue on the Vaporfly 3 comes up a little higher, and the padded heel collar is the same on both shoes.
Finally, the outsole has had an overhaul on the newer Vaporfly Next% 3. As Nike has added more ZoomX foam to the midsole, it looks as if the brand has removed some weight from the outsole by making it a little thinner. There’s still reinforcement on key impact zones, and a new waffle pattern to give you a decent amount of grip on the roads, even in wet conditions.
I wore both of these shoes in my normal size — a UK 5/US 7.5 and had no issues with fit. I did find that the Vaporfly Next% 3 felt a little roomier, although this could be down to the new upper, which is definitely a lot more relaxed. I also had some slight issues with heel slippage on my first few miles with the Vaporfly Next% 3 and had to pull the shoe tight and use the heel lock to get a secure fit.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Differences underfoot
So how do these differences translate on the run? I’ve done a lot more running in the Vaporfly Next% 2, wearing it over the marathon and half marathon distance. I got my half marathon PR wearing the Vaporfly Next% 2, and ran my marathon PR in the New Balance Fuelcell Elite V2 earlier this year.
The first thing I noticed is that the Vaporfly Next% 3 definitely feels a lot softer underfoot than the Vaporfly Next% 2. It’s still a firm carbon fiber shoe compared to the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, but there’s a little more cushion here to protect the legs in the final miles of a marathon. I also found it doesn’t quite feel as fast as the Vaporfly Next% 2, which really encourages you to run on the ball of your foot for a faster toe-off. That said, the plusher ride is definitely something I’d appreciate in the final miles of a marathon.
Another slight concern I have with the Vaporfly Next% 3 is the outsole durability. It definitely looks a lot thinner, and I wonder how many miles it would last on the road. That said, neither shoe is designed to last hundreds of miles, but will easily get you though a couple of long runs and around the course on race day.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Which is best for you?
So, which should you buy? Both the Vaporfly Next% 3 and the Vaporfly Next% 2 are fantastic shoes to have on your feet at the start line of your next marathon. They’re both designed to help you run fast, and they both feel a hell of a lot more stable than Nike’s other super shoe, the Nike Alphafly Next% 2.
The changes to the shoe are subtle — there’s a little more cushion and a little more protection in the Nike Vaporfly Next% 3, but I’m not sure there’s enough to persuade me to spend the extra money, especially as you’re likely to be able to grab a bargain on the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 right now. The Vaporfly Next% 2 is slightly firmer, but the changes to the newer shoe aren’t transformative, and both versions of the shoe would give you a high level of performance on race day. Both still top the list of the best carbon fiber running shoes on the market.