The new Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is finally here.
The Swoosh on Wednesday unveiled the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, the much-anticipated successor to the Zoom Vaporfly 4%. Nike's announcement comes just ahead of the London Marathon, where two Nike runners—Mo Farah and Eliud Kipchoge—will debut the new Nike running shoes.
Designers and engineers made the Nike NEXT% cushier and faster than the first iteration and gave it better traction underfoot, tailoring the shoe to the feedback of their elite runners. With an eye on finally breaking the two-hour marathon barrier, the upgrades to the Vaporfly all support the same goal: a faster, more comfortable run.
“This shoe is truly the result of our athletes, sport scientists, engineers and designers closely collaborating throughout the entire process of design, testing and manufacturing,” Nike VP of Running Footwear Brett Holts says in Nike's announcement. “We are all so excited to see the NEXT% continue to push the limits of human performance on marathon courses around the world.”
Nike made a host of upgrades to improve on the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit.
Designers say a major goal was to include more ZoomX foam in the forefoot after many elite runners asked for bigger cushion. But the bigger cushion couldn't mean bigger weight, so Nike labored to shave material from the original model to accommodate the bolder midsole.
The result? Nike says NEXT% has about 15 percent more foam but weighs the same as the 4%. A redistribution of the midsole foam also decreased the heel-to-toe drop from 11mm in the 4% to 8mm in the NEXT%.
There's also a new upper. Nike replaced the Flyknit upper with a new material called Vaporweave. Engineers created the new material after runners at the soggy 2018 Boston Marathon noticed the Flyknit upper soaked up too much water and weighed the shoe down. With that feedback, Nike made Vaporweave to hold less moisture for a drier, lighter marathon.
Nike then threaded an offset lacing system in the new shoe after some runners felt too constricted by the outgoing model. The new laces roll slightly down toward the outside of the shoe to alleviate the tightness and allow for more blood flow to the feet.
Traction got a boost, too, after athletes told Nike they needed more grip in wet conditions. Designers merged the custom traction patterns from their elite runners' shoes and added deep outsole grooves for better handling on wet pavement and improved cornering.
The original shoe was named the Vaporfly 4% because it boasted a 4% improved running economy over Nike's fastest (at the time) marathon shoe, the Zoom Streak 6. But the Nike NEXT% doesn't just focus on efficiency gains—it's focused on what's ahead.
Nike dramatically increased the number of runners who tested the shoe before production, which in turn boosted the number of hours the shoe was on the road before settling on final designs. Nike says the focus now is squeezing the next percent out of every runner, not just elite runners.
A big change runners will notice is the shape of the midsole. Nike crafted the midsole to match the "Elite" version of the original Vaporfly, which Kipchoge wore in Nike's Breaking 2 marathon attempt. The Elite midsole shape makes its way into the retail version of the Vaporfly NEXT%.
The original Zoom Vaporfly 4% promised to be a more efficient running shoe, and it wasn't long before it delivered on that promise.
Nike put a carbon-fiber plate into the Vaporfly to increase the shoe's stiffness, and they cushioned it with ZoomX foam, which provides up to 85 percent energy return, according to Nike. That carbon-fiber plate sandwiched into a bed of ultra-responsive ZoomX foam ensured the 4 percent energy savings that Nike was after.
Scores of lab tests proved the shoe right, and it started to dominate on the world marathon circuit—and soon toppled world records.
Runners wearing the Vaporfly crowded podiums at major marathons around the world in 2017: Shalane Flanagan and Geoffrey Kamworor won New York; Galen Rupp and Tirunesh Dibaba owned Chicago; and Edna Kiplagat and Geoffrey Kirui took Boston.
Then, the 4% became the center of the running universe that year when Kipchoge ran the "Elite" version of the Vaporfly to a blazing 2:00:25 marathon at a Formula 1 race track in Italy as part of Nike's attempt to break the two-hour marathon barrier. In 2018, he wore another custom version of shoe in the Berlin Marathon on the way to setting the official marathon world record of 2:01:39.