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Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% Flyknit review

A training partner to Nike’s faster racing shoes

A photo of the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% side on
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

A brilliantly fast running shoe, with the durability of a training shoe.

Pros

  • +

    More durable than other fast shoes in Nike’s collection

  • +

    Same Nike Air unit as Alphafly Next%

  • +

    Secure lacing system

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Cons

  • -

    Poor grip on wet surfaces

  • -

    A little clunky at slower speeds

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    Stack height isn’t legal

If you’re looking for a fast training shoe, I think I’ve found it. The Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% Flyknit has the speed of a racer, but the durability of an everyday running shoe. Designed to be the training partner to some of Nike’s speedier running shoes, such as the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2, the Air Zoom Tempo Next% is built for long training miles, not race day. But who is the Air Zoom Tempo Next% built for, and how does it compare to some of the other best Nike running shoes on the market? 

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% Flyknit specs

Weight: 279g (M) 225g (W)
Drop: 10mm
Type: Road
Neutral/stability: Neutral
Widths: One width

The Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% contains the same ZoomX foam and Zoom Air unit as featured in the Nike Alphafly Next%, but the outsole of the shoe is far more durable than the famous racer. I’ve run more than a hundred miles in the Air Zoom Tempo Next% and found them seriously snappy and responsive — they feel fast, and help you get that faster toe-off, even on tired legs. Read my full Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% review below.

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% review: Price and availability 

The Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% retails at $200 and is widely available on the Nike website and other running stores. The good news is that as the shoe was released in September 2020, you can often find last-season colorways on sale for a cheaper price. At the moment, Nike has not released any information about an update to this shoe. 

The Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% comes in a number of different colorways for both men and women. The men’s shoe runs in sizes US 6 to US 15, the women’s shoe runs in sizes US 5 to US 12. The shoe only comes in one width — regular, but unless you have especially wide feet, they should fit most runners. 

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% review: Design and fit 

These running shoes are designed to be fast. The Zoom Air unit in the forefoot helps propel you forwards with every step. There are two different midsole foams: the faster, bouncier ZoomX foam at the front of the shoe, and Nike’s more durable React foam at the back of the shoe. The shoe also has a carbon composite plate, which helps rock the foot forward for a faster toe-off, but again, the plate is more durable than that you’d find in Nike’s faster running shoes. 

There is a slight downside to these shoes: they are not technically legal. In 2020, World Athletics released new rules regarding the stack height of running shoes, which can not be over 40mm for road races. The Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% has a stack height of 46mm on the heel of the shoe, and 36mm at the front of the shoe. This means if you’re planning on reaching the podium at your next race, you definitely won’t be able to wear these on race day. 

A photo of the laces on the Nike Tempo Next%

(Image credit: Future)

Upper 

The upper of the Nike Tempo Next% is paper-thin, as you’d expect from a racing shoe. In fact, the lightweight Flyknit design is very similar to that found in the Alphafly. The upper is designed to wrap around the foot, offering support where it needs it, but aside from that, there’s not much going on. It’s designed to be thin and breathable, and it ticks those boxes — there’s no danger of your feet overheating wearing these shoes. 

Another feature worth mentioning is the sideways lacing of the Tempo Next%. Nike says the asymmetrical lacing is designed to keep the foot securely in the shoe and prevent any hotspots on the top of the foot as you move. It does this well — having run hundreds of miles in the shoe, I’ve never experienced any slipping. 

A photo of the upper of the Nike Tempo Next%

(Image credit: Future)

Nike has also added heel pods around the heel of the shoe for comfort. Again, these feature in the Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Alphafly Next%. They’re meant to prevent rubbing and blisters in racing shoes you might not have run a lot of miles in. That said, the heel of the Tempo Next% literally tore my feet to shreds on the first few runs. Granted, I am pretty blister-prone and this isn’t all too rare an experience for me, but it wasn’t comfortable, or pretty. I definitely found the tougher Flyknit upper took some ‘breaking in’, but once you’ve done this, you’re good.

A photo of the Air Zoom pod on the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%

(Image credit: Future)

Midsole 

The midsole of the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% contains two different types of foam. In the front of the shoe, there’s Nike’s ZoomX foam, which is lightweight and responsive and used in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 as well as the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run. Under the heel of the shoe there’s Nike’s React foam, which is a little firmer and more supportive and used in the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

As well as the two different foams, Nike has added an Air Zoom unit to the midsole. This sits underneath the ball of the foot and helps for a faster toe-off. It’s the same Air Zoom unit in the Alphafly Next%, and it definitely works — the sensation is almost like running on a bouncy castle at first, you definitely feel the push off as you run, and it takes some of the efforts out of running fast.

There’s also a carbon composite plate, which isn’t as harsh underfoot as the carbon plates you’d find in Nike’s other racing shoes, but it still gives that rocker-geometry we’ve come to expect from Nike. The carbon plate is also more durable in the Tempo Next%, allowing runners to clock higher mileage in the shoes before they are ‘worn out’. 

A photo of the outsole on the Nike Tempo Next%

(Image credit: Future)

Outsole 

The outsole of the Tempo Next% is designed to be durable. Nike says the placement of the rubber is based on data from hundreds of runners, putting traction under the parts of the foot that most need it. This shoe is durable and will last you a long time (I did about 500 miles in my first pair, and only replaced them because the inner ripped when I slipped my shoe off without untying the laces). That said, it’s definitely a road shoe. There’s not an awful lot of grip on uneven surfaces, although the stack height of this shoe means you probably wouldn’t want to put it to the test on anything other than concrete. 

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% review: Performance 

The result? This shoe helps you run fast but is also able to keep up with the training schedule required of marathon runners. It’s quick enough to wear for speed sessions and durable enough to run long distances at race pace. They definitely feel a little clunky and stompy when you’re trying to run at a slower, easier pace, but they’re not really designed for that kind of running, so this isn’t really something to judge the shoe on. 

The Tempo Next% definitely feels a little firmer underfoot compared to the Vaporfly Next% 2, or the Alphafly Next%, but they’re also built to last in a way that the racing shoes definitely aren’t. I found they had enough bounce underfoot to give me the energy I needed on tired marathon training runs, but also, I didn’t worry about wearing them day after day, like I would with the Vaporfly Next% 2.

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% Flyknit

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Future)

I will say, for runners who need a shoe with support, I’d steer clear of the Tempo Next%, as the stack height does make this shoe a little unstable, especially on tired legs, or around corners. I’d also opt for a shoe with a lower stack height for easy runs, as you want more comfort and cushion on easy days. 

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% review: Verdict 

Despite the (illegal) stack height, the blisters, and the slightly sketchy grip, these are one of my favorite running shoes ever. I wore them solidly for my last marathon, and then raced in the Vaporfly Next% 2 with zero issues on the day. They’re the perfect mix of durability and speed, and they look great, which doesn’t matter, but also kind of does. 

Faster runners will love the Air Zoom unit and the ZoomX foam at the front of the shoe, as it really does propel you forward with each step. Really fast runners might feel like they’re cheating when they’re training in these. If you can’t afford one of the more expensive racing shoes in the Nike line, you could race in these — I won’t tell anyone. 

That said, if you’re a beginner, or you’re after a running shoe that will cope with easy, slow miles, I’d opt for the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38, or the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run over these, as they’ll be more comfortable in the long run (pun intended). 

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 four 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.