The fastest running shoe in the world just got an update. Meet the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2. 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. It captured the attention of runners all over the world, as we speculated about whether the shoe had two carbon fiber plates, or a mini-trampoline in the midsole to propel Kipchoge to his historic finish. The shoe had neither. Instead, it had the single plate we’ve seen in most of the best carbon fiber running shoes, as well as two Nike Zoom Air units, and Nike’s responsive Zoom X midsole foam.
Widths: One width
While the first shoe was undeniably spectacular, for those of us who aren’t blessed with an athlete’s lower leg strength, it felt a little unstable, especially when running around corners. With the second iteration of the shoe, Nike addressed these issues, attempting to make it more stable underfoot for the everyday runner, not just the elite. But how does it compare to some of the best Nike running shoes on the market? Read my full Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 review to find out.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 review: Price and availability
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. There are definitely more affordable options on the market, such as the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2, or the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.
The shoe is available in limited quantities in the UK from 15 June 2022 and in the U.S. from July 2022. At launch, the shoe is only available in an all-white colorway, which Nike calls the "prototype colorway." The company has confirmed the shoe will be released in more colors in the future. At the time of writing, it’s extremely difficult to get your hands on a pair of these super shoes, but as we saw with the first iteration of the shoe, they are likely to become more widely available by the time we get to fall marathon season.
The shoe comes in unisex (men’s) sizing, from a UK 3.5 to a UK 14 (a U.S. 4 to a U.S. 15).
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 review: Design and fit
Out of the box, the Alphafly Next% 2 looks very similar to the original Alphafly, with a few minor tweaks. The most noticeable change is in the midsole — there’s still a huge stack of Nike’s Zoom X midsole foam and two Zoom Air units, which sit under the ball of the foot, but in the second version of the shoe, there’s also foam underneath these units. Nike says this is to offer more energy return and “ensure a smooth transition from heel to forefoot as runners go through their stride.” I’ll go into the other tweaks below.
Fit-wise, as mentioned, the shoe comes in “unisex,” or men’s sizing. This could be because it’s a small release, and Nike might release female-specific sizing in the future, but right now there’s not. 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 has slightly tweaked the upper of the super shoe, which now features an Atomknit 2.0 upper, designed to wrap around the foot. Nike says the upper is “engineered for containment in the forefoot, breathability above the toes, and comfortable padding under the laces.”
The shoe definitely feels breathable, and during testing, I appreciated the knit padding under the laces, which definitely added extra comfort across the top of the foot. There’s still a nice amount of padding around the collar of the shoe as well — during testing, I didn’t have any hotspots or issues with blisters. It’s a comfortable, well-fitting upper.
That said, it’s not an easy shoe to get on. I had to use the pull tabs to wiggle my foot into the shoe.
As mentioned above, Nike has tweaked the midsole of the barely legal running shoe. The drop on the Alphafly Next% 2 is 8mm, compared to the 4mm drop in the original Alphafly. What does this mean though?
The heel stack (the measurement from the ground to the top of the shoe’s insole) is already 40mm on the Alphafly, which is the World Athletics limit. In fact, the Alphafly is the reason why World Athletics introduced the new rules about stack heights in racing flats. In order to increase the drop (the difference between the midsole height of the shoe in the heel and the midsole height of the shoe under the ball of the foot), Nike needed to eliminate 4mm of foam. This is probably why Nike played around with the foam around the Zoom Air unit.
The second iteration of the shoe is also slightly wider at the heel, in an attempt to increase the stability of the shoe. That said, a shoe with such a high stack height and a bouncy midsole is never going to be as stable as some of the other popular running shoes on the market.
The outsole of the Alphafly Next% 2 has also undergone a slight redesign. Nike has changed the pattern on the rubber and used a thinner material in an attempt to reduce the weight of the shoe (the second iteration is heavier than the first). There’s also a more dramatic midsole cut-out, which shows more of the carbon fiber plate. This is still very much a road racing shoe.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 review: Performance
So how does all of that tech feel on the run? Fans of the original Alphafly will be pleased to hear that the essence of the shoe is still the same — it still makes you feel like you’re flying and it’s still super-responsive. I tested this shoe on a faster tempo run and a long run. I raced in the original Alphafly a number of times, clocking my half marathon and 10K PR in the super shoe.
Like its predecessor, the Alphafly Next% 2 isn’t designed for easy, or slower running. It’s almost clunky at a slower speed, as the carbon fiber plate naturally rocks you forward as you run, making it a challenge to run slow. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — you don’t buy this shoe for jogging around the park.
While I loved the original Alphafly I had two issues with it — firstly, how unstable it felt around corners. During a fast half marathon that involved laps in lockdown, I felt like I was going to topple over when turning in the shoe and that instability made me opt for the Vaporfly Next% 2 over the marathon distance. Secondly, the shoe put a lot of strain on my calves, which were in pieces the day after my race. I put this down to the fact the shoe was designed for an athlete, not a mere mortal like me, who tends to overpronate in the final miles of a race.
During testing, I found the second version of the shoe solved these issues. It definitely feels a lot more stable underfoot, however it does still struggle around super twisty corners. I wouldn’t wear it for a track race, for example. That said, most road marathons aren’t asking you to constantly twist, and this makes an excellent shoe choice for a fast finish over 26.2.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2 review: Verdict
For the masses, this is an improvement on the original Alphafly. It’s a joy to run in, and if you could bottle and sell the feeling of flying along in perfect conditions in this shoe, everyone would want to run a marathon in it. That said, it’s super expensive, and for a lot of people, far too expensive to justify.
If you are in the latter, now is a good time to invest in the original version of the shoe, which is likely to be on sale following the launch of the Alphafly Next% 2. If you’re looking for a more affordable racing shoe, take a look at the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, the Asics Metaspeed Sky+, or the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2, all of which are bouncy and responsive racing shoes.
Finally, if you’re looking for an everyday running shoe, this definitely isn’t one worth spending your money on. Instead, opt for something more durable, such as the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 2, which has the same midsole foam as the Alphafly, but is built for easy, comfortable training miles. But, if you want one of the fastest shoes around, definitely check out the Alphafly Next% 2