When Eliud Kipchoge set the official men’s marathon world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2018, he was wearing original Nike Vaporfly 4% on his feet. When Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year women’s marathon world record a year later, she was wearing the Nike Vaporfly Next%. And when I ran the London Marathon in 2021 in the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, I beat my personal best by six minutes.
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These controversial 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, it’s designed for speedy marathons and it lives up to its promise. The Vaporfly Next% 2 is pretty much the same as the Vaporfly Next%, with small tweaks to the upper to make the shoe more breathable. Nike also made the Next% 2 slightly cheaper — a rare move for the shoe giant — but perhaps a reaction to the market, with most running brands launching their own carbon-fiber plate racing shoes. Read our Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 review to find out more about Nike’s most popular racing shoe.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 review: Price and availability
There’s no skirting around the price of this shoe — it’s expensive. The Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 was released in March 2021 and costs $250, which is $25 cheaper than the Vaporfly Next%. The Next% 2 is available in men’s sizing, from a US 6 to a US 15, and from a US 5 to a US 12 in the women’s sizing. In terms of colorways, the shoe launched in white and turquoise, but there’s now a couple of other special edition colorways to choose from.
At present, there is no word from Nike about when we can expect upgrades to this shoe, or indeed a release date for the Vaporfly Next% 3. Keep up to date with all the latest releases in our best Nike running shoes guide here.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 review: Design and fit
The Vaporfly Next % 2 is designed to help you run fast. The ZoomX foam is soft, yet extremely responsive underfoot and the carbon-fiber plate and rocker-geometry help for a faster toe-off.
Fit-wise, the Next% 2 is slightly wider than the Next%, meaning runners with wider feet should no longer feel their little toes rubbing against the edge of the shoe in the toebox. I found the shoe to fit true to size, although I wear a full size bigger than my normal everyday trainers when buying running shoes (confused? Read our how to buy running shoes guide).
Compared to the Next%, the Next% 2 also has some more padding around the tongue, which helps relieve the pressure of the laces across the top of the foot. There’s also a thick wedge of cushioning at the heel of the shoe, which stops the back of the shoe from rubbing against your ankle as you move. I liked this addition, as I’m one of those unlucky runners that struggles from blisters, but other runners found this gap meant they really had to pull the laces tight to feel like their foot was secure in the shoe.
Another big change between the Next% and the Next% 2 is the upper — the transparent, plasticky upper of the Next% was replaced with a fine knit for a more breathable feel. I’m not a runner who struggles with particularly warm feet, however, I’ve noticed on colder mornings, if I stand around too long before I get going in the Next% 2, my feet feel numb for the first few miles, so they’re definitely on the lighter, more breathable side of the scale than their predecessor. The knit hugs the foot and feels supportive and flexible on the run.
The shoe has reinforced areas along the forefoot to add extra durability to high-impact areas of the shoe. While this is definitely still a shoe you’d want to save for race day rather than hammering in training, compared to the Vaporfly 4% (which was thought to only last around 100 miles), the Vaporfly Next% 2 is far more durable.
The midsole is where the magic happens with this shoe. It’s extremely responsive underfoot and almost propels you forward, helping you to run faster. This is down to the ZoomX foam and the carbon-fiber plate, which runs along the full length of the shoe. There’s no doubt about it: this shoe feels fast and is that little bit better than pretty much every other carbon shoe on the market.
Some testers have described this shoe as feeling like you’re running on a trampoline and I’d have to agree. I made a last-minute decision to run in the Vaporfly Next% 2 for my last marathon and ended up beating my personal best by 6 minutes. Of course, it’s not all down to the shoes, but my feet didn’t rub or hurt once and I felt great running in them for 26.2 miles, having only worn them for a few speed sessions in training.
The outsole of the Next% 2 remains pretty much unchanged — this is definitely a shoe that has been designed for fast road marathons. I’ve worn the Vaporfly Next% on wet pavements and found the grip copes well, but I definitely wouldn’t want to test it on more difficult terrains, as the tread is very flat. That said, compared to the first Next% Nike has added some more ‘flexibility grooves’ on the outsole to give more traction in bad weather, but it’s still very much made for the roads.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 review: Performance
As mentioned above, this shoe lives up to the hype — it’s fast, it’s bouncy and there’s a reason why most of the elite runners at the front of the marathon have it on their feet. Compared to the more expensive Alphafly Next%, which Eliud Kipchoge wore for his 1:59 marathon in Vienna, the Vaporfly Next% 2 is much more stable underfoot. With the Alphafly, I felt like my ankles were going to give way running around corners and that my lower legs weren’t strong enough to deal with the propulsiveness of the shoe, however, I’ve comfortably run a marathon in the Next% 2 with zero complaints.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 review: Verdict
If you could bottle the feeling of putting on the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 for the first time, I’m convinced it would be enough to persuade even non-runners to sign up for their first race. If you can afford it, this shoe will help you run faster and even get that PR you’ve been dreaming of. It’s definitely expensive, and of course, isn’t an alternative to training and fuelling well, but it’s a fantastic shoe to race anything from a 10K to a marathon in.
If you’re looking for something cheaper, the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% is also a brilliant shoe for race day. Designed as the training partner for the Alphafly, the Tempo Next% has the same ZoomX foam and Zoom Air unit under the ball of the foot, designed to give a spring to your stride. It’s fast, comfortable, and built to last for miles.
For less than $200, you can also get the Nike Zoom Fly 4, which is similar to the Next% 2 in design and feel but has React foam underfoot, not ZoomX, so is cheaper. I’ve run a marathon in the Zoom Fly 3 and loved the cushioning and bounce and find them very similar in feel to the Next% 2.