So you want to buy a great shoe, but can’t decide between the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2? Both are brilliantly fast shoes that have amassed numerous records. Eliud Kipchoge ran his famous 1:59 marathon with a prototype of the Alphafly Next% in Vienna in 2019. Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon world record at the Chicago Marathon in 2019 wearing the first version of the Vaporfly Next%. Both are incredibly light and incredibly fast.
While I certainly can’t claim to have been on the podium, or even remotely close to the lead pack in either shoe, I’ve been fortunate enough to run in both. I ran my half marathon and 10K PR (personal best) with the Alphafly Next% on my feet, and PR’d my most recent marathon with the Vaporfly Next% 2. It’s a tricky choice, but I will try to make it easier with this face to face. Read my full Nike Vaporfly Next test% 2 here, and below is my showdown between the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2.
Before we delve deeper into the similarities and differences, it’s important to note that these are both premium running shoes. While Nike says they’ll last longer than a few runs, you definitely wouldn’t want to do your entire workout in either of these shoes. In fact, Nike recommends that you don’t and have released some training companions, such as the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%, which is designed to take the load of training miles. If you’re looking for more of an everyday running shoe, we’ve rounded up the best running shoes in the market here.
Nike Alphafly Next% vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Price and availability
These two shoes are priced the same and both are on the higher end of what you’d probably expect to pay for a pair of running shoes. The Alphafly Next% costs $ 275, while the Vaporfly Next% 2 costs $ 250. While both are available in a number of different colourways, you have a little more to choose from when it comes to the Vaporfly Next% 2. In terms of availability, the Alphafly Next% is available in US 6 to US 15 in men’s size and US 5 to US 12 in women’s size. The Vaporfly Next% 2 is available in a unisex size ranging from US 3.5 for men (US 5 for women) to 15 US for men (US 16.5 for women). Both are only available in a shoe width, regular.
Nike Alphafly Next% vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: design, fit and feel
Here is where things get a little different, as both are running shoes with the same ZoomX foam, the design and feel of the two shoes is different. The Vaporfly Next% 2 is the updated version of the Vaporfly Next%, released in March 2019. The ZoomX foam is soft, yet extremely responsive underfoot and the full-length carbon fiber plate and rocker geometry help a faster toe -disabled. It’s quick and stable underfoot, and with the second iteration of the shoe, Nike made slight changes to the upper to make it wider and more comfortable.
While the Alphafly Next% also has Zoom X foam, the most notable difference is that the shoe has two Zoom Air bags in the forefoot, which sit under the carbon fiber plate. These really do the job and you notice the bounce under the ball of the foot with every kick. 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%, which has a height of 32mm at forefoot and 40mm heel. Although the difference is only a few millimeters, I really feel higher off the ground in the Alphafly Next%.
Both shoes have a knit style upper, in the Alphafly Next% this is the AtomKnit, Nike’s latest version of its FlyKnit upper. Both uppers are super light and breathable, with minimal water absorption while running. They also both have an asymmetric lacing system, designed to put less pressure on the top of the foot, and a pillow at the back of the shoe to give you extra cushioning in the heel.
When it comes to the outsole, both shoes are designed for the road and don’t have a lot of traction. There’s enough of it for you to do a road marathon in the rain, but I wouldn’t take any of these off-road shoes in any way. Both shoes also have rocker geometry, which we’re seeing more of with brands right now. It’s definitely more pronounced on the Alphafly Next% due to the Zoom Air bags, but both shoes work to propel you forward faster.
Side cut, both cut well. Although by that we mean your usual running shoe size, which should be at least half a size larger than your everyday sneakers. I wear a UK 4 in my everyday shoes, but have run in a UK 5 in the Alphafly Next% and Vaporfly Next% 2.
While we’ve explained how the two shoes are similar, there are also some key differences to note when looking at the Vaporfly Next% 2 alongside the Alphafly Next%. Firstly, the Zoom Air bags in the midsole and the higher stack height of the Alphafly Next% make the shoe very different underfoot. I felt a lot higher off the ground and a little less stable when riding on the track or in the corners. That said, putting the Alphafly Next% on for the first time is magic. You really feel like you’re flying and they really give you that extra boost on race day.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, that extra foam and airbags mean that the Alphafly Next% is slightly heavier than the Vaporfly Next% 2. The Vaporfly Next% 2 weighs 6.9 oz, while the Alphafly Next % is 7.4 oz. That said, unless you’re trying to make it to the podium, you’re unlikely to really notice this difference under your feet.
Nike Alphafly Next% vs Nike Vaporfly Next% 2: Which one is right for you?
So, between the Nike Alphafly Next% and the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, which one to choose? It’s hard to choose – both are really great shoes that will definitely help you run faster, and possibly promote your next run. On the one hand, the Alphafly is the coolest super shoe on the market right now. Air pods do it to feel faster than the Vaporfly Next% 2, plus the fact that Kipchoge wore it for, what Nike called, “the ultimate test” proves how revolutionary the shoes are.
That said, when choosing a shoe for my last marathon, I went for the Vaporfly Next% 2. As exciting as I found the Alphafly Next%, I found them a bit too much.. They were too bouncy and propelled me forward more than I expected. And, in all honesty, I didn’t feel like my legs were strong enough to cope. After I finished my 15 minute half marathon, my calves and shins were aching and I felt like I didn’t have the leg strength to handle the bounce the shoe gave me. I feel like they’re designed for the best of the best, not a middle-of-the-field rider like me.
In contrast, I wore the Vaporfly Next% 2 when I completed my last six minute marathon and loved their responsiveness throughout the run. I also found that my legs didn’t feel as tired the next day as they had been after previous marathons.
If you’re looking for something cheaper, the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next% is also a great shoe for race day. Designed as the Alphafly’s training partner, the Tempo Next% has the same ZoomX foam and Zoom Air unit under the ball of the foot, designed to give your stride a spring. It’s fast, comfortable and built to last for miles.
While there are a lot of fitter and faster riders than me, who upgrade to the Alphafly Next% and run their best run yet wearing them, there will also be plenty who stay with the Vaporfly, and I don’t blame them.