Sometimes, your eyes can be your own best judge when it comes to making a decision on which pair of running shoes to buy next.
Sure, reading the Vaporfly vs Alphafly reviews, checking out the product specs, and listening to trusted influencers all play an important role.
But at the end of the day, there is arguably no greater endorsement than looking at runners in action and seeing which shoes they are actually wearing.
Over the past 5 years or so, just looking at the feet of any major marathon starting line will show you that the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly are two of the most trusted shoes by a large percentage of the world’s most serious runners.
With their unmatched investment in research and development, the Vaporfly and Alphafly are truly as good as it gets in the realm of performance racers.
After all, the Vaporfly was developed through an initiative called “Project Breaking2,” where Nike set out to create a shoe that would help runners break the ambitious 2-hour mark in the marathon.
Subsequently, the Alphafly became a “little sister” shoe of the Vaporfly that made some further modifications to push the boundaries even further.
With that said, these two premium racers won’t be for everyone. If you’re not a serious marathoner or looking to set a PR in a distance race, then these probably aren’t the shoes to top your list.
However, if you’re determined to take your performance to the next level, then you’d be in elite company to rock either of these proven winners.
Keep reading for a more comprehensive breakdown on all there is to know about the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly!
Nike Running Shoes At A Glance
Nike running shoes have long been praised in the running community for their innovative designs, durability, and performance.
After all, the legendary story of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman pouring rubber into his waffle iron to spark his imagination for outsole tread ideas is often credited as the birth of the modern running shoe revolution. Since that day in 1972, Nike has been at the forefront of innovation in the running shoe industry, with a specific focus on enhancing performance in the world’s most elite athletes.
Nike takes a holistic approach to designing its running shoes, integrating a range of technologies, materials, and engineering principles to create a superior running experience.
Targeting various runner types and needs, Nike tailors its running shoes to suit different running styles, surfaces, and performance objectives. From everyday training shoes for recreational runners to high-performance footwear for competitive athletes, Nike offers an array of options to cater to a wide spectrum of runners.
Key features commonly found in Nike running shoes include responsive cushioning systems to enhance energy return and minimize impact, breathable, lightweight materials for efficient foot movement, stability features for enhanced support and control, traction features for grip and durability, and innovative lacing systems for personalized comfort and lockdown.
Nike Vaporfly: What Are You Getting?
The Nike Vaporfly has been a revolutionary running shoe since its introduction in 2017.
Designed for speed, the Vaporfly features a carbon-fiber plate that helps propel runners forward, resulting in faster times. The shoe’s Flyknit upper provides a breathable, lightweight fit while the ZoomX foam cushioning ensures a responsive ride. Additionally, the Vaporfly’s aerodynamic design and grippy outsole are perfect for racing and other types of uptempo running.
Nike’s Vaporfly has been praised by runners for its ability to help them achieve personal bests. The shoe’s unique features have made it a popular choice for a variety of runners, from elites to casual runners. While the Vaporfly is not the most affordable running shoe on the market, its performance and prestige have made it a worthwhile investment for many runners.
Nike Alphafly: What Are You Getting?
The Nike Alphafly represents a technological marvel in running footwear. Featuring a full-length carbon fiber plate sandwiched by a layer of ZoomX foam, the Alphafly delivers unparalleled energy return and responsiveness. This innovative construction allows runners to go faster with less effort, propelling them towards new personal bests.
The Alphafly is notable for its incredibly lightweight and breathable upper, providing a barely-there feel for unmatched speed. An anatomically designed upper with a breathable translucent mesh forefoot and a secure midfoot and heel structure delivers the perfect blend of flexibility and support. The shoe also boasts a sufficient toe box design to ensure comfort during those long runs.
Additionally, the Alphafly is designed with a rocker-shaped sole to promote smoother transitions, resulting in a more efficient stride. This design feature, combined with the high stack height and soft, responsive cushioning, helps alleviate stress on the foot and allows for less aggressive footstrike, saving valuable energy and reducing fatigue over the course of a run.
Vaporfly vs Alphafly Design Comparison
Now that you have a general idea of what makes the Vaporfly and Alphafly tick, let’s dig deeper into the specific engineering of each shoe.
Both of these shoes feature premium lightweight, breathable mesh uppers.
The Vaporfly uses a Flyknit upper. This is one of Nike’s premium mesh upper products. Some other upper features of the Vaporfly that runners find notable include:
- An offset heel seam and internal padding to reduce irritation in the rear of the foot
- Offset lacing system and flat, stretchy laces to help ensure a custom lockdown
- Minimalist feel that keeps the run light and airy
While the engineering in the Vaporfly upper is top-notch, there are a couple of things not all runners love. Some note that the toe box is a bit too snug for their liking, but with the lightweight fabrication of the mesh, it is far from constrictive.
In addition, in an industry where the gusseted tongue has become somewhat of a standard, the Vaporfly surprisingly does not offer this feature, which can potentially allow debris to enter the shoe if they are ever taken into cross country terrain.
The Alphafly features Nike’s newest Atomknit 2.0 upper. While this innovative feature offers much of the same lightweight breathability of the Flyknit used in the Vaporfly, there are a few distinctions to note.
Runners note that the Atomknit 2.0 has a bit more padding throughout the tongue, collar, and heel. This makes the upper feel overall more comfortable and secure than in previous models of the Alphafly, which were noted as being a bit flimsy with some ankle gaping issues arising after extended wear.
You will be hard-pressed to find a runner who has anything negative to say about the ZoomX midsole in the Vaporfly. In fact, it is arguably the feature that allows the Vaporfly to make its mark as an elite racing shoe.
ZoomX is Nike’s lightest, softest, and most responsive midsole foam. Considering that it was derived from a foam originally developed in aerospace engineering, you can see that the technology behind ZoomX is next-level.
With a stack height of 40mm in the heel and 32mm in the forefoot, the Vaporfly has a generous amount of ZoomX. However, it is not necessarily the foam itself that makes this midsole a racing aristocrat.
The full-length carbon fiber plate provides the patented bounce that has made it a favorite among marathoners. Some runners feel like this FlyPlate has an even more aggressive angle to it than previous versions, making it a bit firmer and more responsive than its predecessors.
The Alphafly has many of the same midsole specs as the Vaporfly.
It features ZoomX foam, a carbon fiber plate, and the same 40mm heel stack and 32mm forefoot stack.
However, what distinguishes this midsole from that of the Vaporfly is the presence of Air Zoom pods. These pods are visible under the forefoot and help establish a cloud-like running sensation for the Alphafly.
A couple other notes about the Alphafly midsole are that the 8mm drop is actually a significant increase over the 4mm seen in earlier Alphafly models. In addition, runners also feel like the midsole has widened noticeably over previous versions.
The outsole of the Vaporfly is noticeably thinner than in previous versions. It is said that Nike thinned down the outsole rubber to allow for more ZoomX in the midsole without increasing bulk. However, the company says that this does not sacrifice durability.
Not all runners agree with this, saying that they would never consider taking the Vaporfly off the track.
With that said, racers feel like the sleeker outsole is actually an upgrade for the newest version of the Vaporfly, with the outsole feeling less “slappy” without reducing traction.
The latest outsole updates to the Alphafly seem to mirror those of the Vaporfly.
The newest Alphafly has a thinner outsole made from a new blown rubber compound. The outsole grooves are not as deep as in previous versions, which has some runners wondering how the tread will perform on slippery surfaces.
Vaporfly vs Alphafly Feature Comparison
Let’s take a look and see how the Vaporfly and Alphafly compare along some of the most important purchase consideration points.
Point blank: neither of these shoes is going to make headlines for their durability.
They are not everyday trainers; they are not trail shoes. They are performance racers engineered with speed in mind.
Most runners agree that as racing shoes, they are good for about 100 miles before they start to break down. This is generally true of any carbon-fiber plated shoe, including many of the popular On Cloud products.
Now, does this mean that the Vaporfly and Alphafly are useless after 100 miles?
Not at all.
If they’ve been used on controlled surfaces and been well cared for, they can easily transition into life as speed trainers and be useful in this respect for a couple of hundred more miles.
However, just be aware that the specific performance features that put these shoes at the top of the list for competitive distance runners will begin to lose their efficacy after a few marathons.
With a slightly narrow toe box, it is generally recommended to go up half a size with the Vaporfly. However, thanks to its Flyknit upper, most runners agree that this shoe fits nice and secure without being constrictive.
Most runners agree that the new Atomknit 2.0 upper in the Alphafly is an improvement over the earlier models. It is noted to run true to size and has a slightly more padded upper than that found in the Vaporfly.
The main point of differentiation in these shoes’ cushioning is the Air Zoom pods found in the Alphafly.
In fact, the Alphafly evolved from the Vaporfly, with the Air Zoom pods arising to accommodate full marathoners who wanted a bit more of a lightweight, airy feel when running a full 26.2.
Other than that, the cushioning of these shoes is strikingly similar, with a heel-to-toe carbon fiber plate sandwiched between layers of ZoomX foam. The heel stack for both shoes is 40mm and the forefoot stack is 32mm, putting them right near the top of running shoes with ample midsole stacks.
Stability & Support
Neither of these shoes is considered a stability shoe. They do not feature a medial post for overpronation or any other corrective features to help runners alter problematic strides.
However, some runners do note that the thicker midsole stack in the newest Alphafly does have them feeling a bit more “invincible” with their strides.
As arguably the top two distance racers ever created, it should come as no surprise that both of these impressive shoes carry impressive price tags.
Expect to start out around $175 for the Vaporfly on most outlets, with the “bougier sister” Alphafly starting around $250.
FAQ – Vaporfly vs Alphafly
A selection of the most commonly asked questions regarding the Vaporfly and Alphafly.
What Is the Latest Version of Each of These Shoes?
It’s a little tricky for the casual shopper to know which Vaporfly model is actually the latest.
The original Vaporfly was stylized as the Vaporfly 4%. However, subsequent iterations have become the Vaporfly Next%, with the Vaporfly Next% 3 being the latest model on the market. This is often shortened to simply Vaporfly 3.
The Alphafly is in its second iteration, with the Alphafly 2, or Alphafly Next% 2, being the most recent version. And Alphafly 3 as a prototype.
Are These Shoes Good for Casual Wear?
These shoes are not recommended for casual wear.
They are simply not durable enough to withstand day-to-day use.
And since you likely invested in both of these as performance racers, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to be wearing them to run errands in.
Should I Buy Both of These Shoes?
You may be surprised to hear that there are quite a few runners who rock both the Vaporfly and Alphafly in their arsenal.
The general consensus is that the Vaporfly is the better shoe for 13.1 or less, while the Alphafly really shines as a full marathon option.
Obviously, the price tag on these shoes is something a casual runner will want to think about before selecting either shoe, but established veterans do like keeping both around.
Final Thoughts: Vaporfly vs Alphafly
There you have it: all of the exciting details of the Vaporfly and Alphafly.
It’s hard to be any more effusive about these shoes than we’ve already been, but they truly do a remarkable job of blending the lines between sport, science, innovation, and art.
The Vaporfly was designed specifically to help elite runners capture elusive goals, and the Alphafly has since been released to take that to the next level.
So if you are serious about shedding some serious time from your results, consider either the Nike Vaporfly or Alphafly today to help your dreams come true!