Look on the podium of any major marathon, and you’re likely to see a pair of Nike Vaporfly Next% running shoes. These shoes made waves in the running world for two reasons — the thick wedge of ZoomX foam and the carbon fiber plate, which helped for a faster toe-off on the run. This is a fast shoe, designed for speedy marathons, not daily runs around the park, and the Vaporfly Next% 3 aims to be more stable than ever, to help the everyday runner run stronger and faster.
Weight: 6.5 oz (M), 5.3 oz (W)
But how does it compare to the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 and the rest of the best carbon fiber running shoes on the market? To find out more, I put the shoe to the test over a number of different running workouts.
Read my full Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 review below, as well as my Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 face-off here. Not for you? Check out the best Nike running shoes on test here.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 review: Price and availability
The Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 launched on March 6, 2023, a year after the Vaporfly Next% 2's March 2022 arrival. 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.
The shoe is currently available in men’s sizes US 6-15, and women’s sizes US 5-12. The shoe is on sale in three different colorways — pink and orange, white and jade, and all white. If you’re on a budget, now is a good time to buy the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, which is likely to be on sale now the newer shoe has been released.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 review: Design and fit
As mentioned above, the Vaporfly Next% 3 has been designed to be more stable than the older versions of this shoe and you can see this with some of the design changes Nike has made. While the stack and drop are the same, the Vaporfly 3 has a new upper, a tweaked midsole, and a different outsole. Nike says this is to improve stability and increase energy return in the racing shoe.
Fit-wise, these still fit true to size. I wear a UK 5/US 7.5 in all Nike running shoes, and a UK 4 in my everyday sneakers. (Confused? Here’s our guide to how running shoes should fit.) I did find the Vaporfly Next% 3 was a lot roomier in the toebox than previous versions of this shoe, although I wouldn’t be tempted to size down here — you don’t want your toes pressed up against the end of the shoe on race day.
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 — on the run, I could see my socks through the upper.
The lateral lacing is designed to reduce pressure on the top of the foot during the race, and there’s a light amount of padding on the tongue. I did notice that the the tongue on the Vaporfly 3 comes up a little higher than it has done on previous iterations of the shoe, although I didn’t have any issue with it digging into my ankle. As with previous versions, there’s a good amount of padding around the collar to prevent blisters. Like most of the best carbon fiber shoes on the market, these aren’t the running shoes to wear for most of your long training runs — you’ll want to save them for race day, so these little tweaks hopefully mean they won’t rub or chafe on the day.
The Vaporfly Next% 3 has a redesigned midsole, with more of Nike’s lightweight, responsive ZoomX foam underfoot. ZoomX is Nike’s premium midsole foam, used in the Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Alphafly Next% 2. Unlike its use in the Nike Invincible 3, in the Vaporfly it’s designed to propel you forward and give you a decent amount of bounce, even by the end of a marathon. 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. If you look at the midsole from the side, you’ll notice a chunk missing. Flip the shoe over, and you can actually see the Flyplate.
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. Nike has also added an offset heel seam on the midsole to reduce friction on the back of the heel.
I did have some slight issues with heel slippage on my first few outings on this shoe and found I had to use the heel lock lacing to ensure my foot stayed secure in the shoe. This could be down to the slightly roomier fit, and the new upper, which is definitely a lot more relaxed.
Finally, the outsole has had an overhaul on the 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.
The heel of the outsole also has had a redesign — it’s now got a stepped pattern along either side of the Flyplate cut-out.
Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 review: Running performance
This shoe is fast, bouncy, and can easily cope with anything from a 10K to a marathon. It’s slightly softer underfoot than the Vaporfly Next% 2, but only slightly. This does mean I found it didn’t feel quite as fast underfoot on the run, however, I’m sure I’d appreciate the extra bounce in the final miles of a marathon. That said, this is still a firm carbon fiber shoe compared to the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, but it is slightly plusher than it has been before.
This is still a fast running shoe, and if you’re new to the Vaporfly line, you’ll feel like you’re flying when you put it on for the first time. The combination of the ZoomX midsole foam, the full-length carbon plate — which helps roll you onto the ball of your foot for a faster toe-off — and the lightweight design helps you to run fast. It’s a lot more stable than the likes of the Nike Alphafly Next% 2, and while I never had an issue with stability in the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, the wider heel did help testing these on the track, and for races with tight corners.
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, no carbon fiber 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 review: Verdict
If you can afford it, the Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 is a fantastic shoe to have on your feet on race day — it’ll help you pick up the pace without trying as hard, and you’ll feeling like you’re flying. I loved testing this shoe, and for me, it’s still the best carbon fiber shoe in Nike’s roundup.
That said, the changes made 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.