Tom's Guide Verdict
A seriously fast shoes for serious runners
An extremely exciting shoe
One of the fastest shoes in the world
Can feel a little unstable
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
A word of warning — these shoes will make you feel like you’re flying. The Alphafly Next% was first seen on Eliud Kipchoge’s feet when he ran his famous 1:59 marathon wearing a prototype of the Alphafly Next% in Vienna in 2019. When it was released in January 2020, it quickly became one of the most sought-after running shoes in the world. It’s seriously fast, seriously lightweight, and seriously cushioned.
Widths: One width
However, at $275, all that speed does come at a price. But how does it compare to some of the best Nike running shoes on the market, and running shoes like the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2? Read our full Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% review to find out.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% review: Price and availability
At $275, this is one of the most expensive running shoes on the market. When it was first released, runners had to submit PR times on the Nike Run Club app to get on the waiting list. While it’s now much more widely available, this shoe is definitely targeting runners who are looking to set records.
The shoe is available in women’s and men’s sizing, in a range of different colors. The women’s shoe comes in sizes US 5 to US 12, the men’s shoe comes in sizes US 6 to US 15. The shoes only come in one width, but the larger toe box should fit most runners.
As the Alphafly has been around for a while now, you’ll often find old colorways are on sale for cheaper prices, so if you’re lucky, you might be able to grab a bargain. You should also take a look at our Nike promo codes page to see if there are any current offers you can apply to your order. There are rumors about an Alphafly 2 running shoe circulating, but at the time of writing, Nike has not said anything.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% review: Design and fit
These shoes are designed to go fast on race day. In fact, if you’re spending $275 on these shoes, you’ll probably want to save them for your races, and definitely won’t be plodding around the park in them. While Nike said they’re durable enough to do a few hundred miles, the company also released training companions, like the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%, to take the load of training miles.
The Alphafly Next% gives you maximum cushioning, with a thick wedge of Nike’s ZoomX foam, two Zoom Air units in the forefoot, and a carbon fiber plate. The result underfoot is like running on a trampoline, and definitely takes some time to get used to. No shoe I’ve ever run in compares to the sensation of the Alphafly Next%, which literally makes you feel like you’re flying as it propels you forward on each step.
The Alphafly Next% fit true to size — I wear a UK5 in the Nike Pegasus 38 and chose the same size in the Alphafly. That said, like all running shoes, it’s worth sizing up a half, or a full size from your everyday running shoes.
The upper of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% is made from Nike’s newest Flyknit material, named AtomKnit. The fabric has been steamed and stretched, designed to deliver a lightweight, contoured fit around the foot, to support it and hold it in place as it sits on all that bouncy foam. The upper is super breathable and holds onto a minimal amount of water, preventing you from being weighted down by bad weather.
When compared to the upper of the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, the AtomKnit feels tougher — there’s very little stretch or give to it. For such a chunky shoe, the Alphafly is deceptively light, and you can tell Nike have made savings wherever it could — there’s almost no padding on the upper of the shoe, with some slight cushioning around the heel to prevent the shoe from slipping, but nothing else.
Here’s where the magic happens. The midsole contains a thick platform of Nike’s ZoomX foam, which is responsive and bouncy, as well as two visible Zoom Air units under the forefoot. These Zoom Air units act as springs under the ball of your foot, helping you achieve a faster toe-off. In fact, the faster you run and the harder your foot hits the ground, the more the Zoom Air unit compresses, and the higher the level of rebound. Again, like I mentioned above, this does take some getting used to.
Of course, like all of the best carbon fiber running shoes on the market, there’s also a carbon fiber plate, which differs depending on the size of your shoe. In smaller shoes, the plate is more flexible, and it gets stiffer in larger sizes. I wore a UK 5 (or US 8) and found the plate to be pretty flexible.
These three elements of the midsole work together to create that super-responsive sensation underfoot in the Alphafly Next%. They are far bouncier than Nike’s other popular marathon shoe — the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2. The stack height is also higher on the Alphafly Next%, which has a height of 35mm in the forefoot and 39mm in the heel, compared to the Vaporfly Next% 2, which has a height of 32mm in the forefoot and 40mm in the heel. Although the difference is merely a few millimeters, I definitely feel higher off the ground in the Alphafly Next%. Can’t pick between the two? Read my Alphafly Next% vs Vaporfly Next% 2 face off here.
One look at the outsole tells you this is definitely a road racing shoe, and on roads, the grip is superb. (Due to the stack height, I wouldn’t recommend wearing the Alphafly on trails, instead, check out our best trail running shoe guide for that.) The rubber outsole is thicker under the forefoot, which is where most runners need it, according to Nike. Nike say they created the outsole using data from hundreds of runners, placing traction where it’s needed most.
I’ve tested these in a number of different weather conditions on the road, and never had an issue with slipping, even when the pavement was wet.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% review: Performance
There’s no doubt about it, these shoes are fast. I’ve set a half marathon and a 10K PR wearing them, and have felt like I was running faster, without putting as much effort in. These shoes aren’t built for easy or slower miles, and it’s actually difficult to slow down in them. Without a doubt, they are one of the most exciting, and fastest shoes on the market.
That said, as a 3:50 marathon runner, I felt like I didn’t have the calf strength to cope with these shoes. The bounce-back from the pavement felt absolutely fine during the run, but the next day my calves ached. You also definitely feel a lot higher from the ground, and despite the wider forefoot, a little more unstable running around corners in the Alphafly Next% than you do in other racing shoes, although how much this matters when you’ve got a shiny medal and a new PR is up to you.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% review: Verdict
The Alphafly is the most super of the super shoes on the market right now. The air pods make it feel faster than any other shoe out there, plus the fact that Kipchoge wore it for what Nike called "the ultimate test run" proves how ground-breaking the shoes are. If you’ve got the budget, and you’re looking for an exciting shoe that’ll help you break records, this is a brilliant one.
That said, if you slightly overpronate in the final miles of a marathon, or you’re looking for something a little more stable and a little less money, the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 is a fantastic racing shoe.
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, which has the same midsole foam as the Alphafly, but is built for easy, comfortable training miles.
Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.