Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Review Analysis (2021)
Last update : December, 2021
The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% is a carbon plate competition shoe that elite athletes Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei used to crush the world marathon records.
The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% is the spearhead of Nike’s carbon collection. It’s the shoe with which Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei broke the world records in the men’s and women’s marathons. Need we say more?
Weighing in at 7.4oz/210 g, the Alphafly Next is not as light as the Vaporfly but is state-of-the-art. It takes the most advanced features of Nike: carbon fiber plate, ZoomX midsole foam, and Zoom Air units. The result is an explosive cushioning that delivers a ride as effective as comfortable for competition. Testers were impressed, even if some note that the massive stack (40 mm heel height) could cause stability issues.
The Atomknit upper is breathable with a relatively snug fit: the lockdown is precise to limit the risk of imbalance.
Finally, as with all racing shoes like these ones: you pay for performance, not durability. The durability is better than with the Vaporfly but still limited, which will make more than one runner keep these shoes only for race days.
In summary, the Alphafly is the best of the Nike series if you are looking for performance. However, its steep price tag ($275) and cutting-edge configuration aim primarily at the advanced athletes who need the best.
Please read our complete Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% review for more information.
- Effective and comfortable cushioning for competition
- Precise foot lockdown
- Good space even for wider feet
- Above-average durability for a carbon shoe
- The new ‘Nature’ version is more ecological with 50% recycled material (by weight)
- Some runners note stability issues
- The low heel-to-toe drop may not be suitable for everyone
- Really expensive shoe
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Complete Review Analysis
If you were blown away by the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2, hang on tight because the AlphaFly takes things even further.
Even though the original version dates back to 2020, Nike has updated it to 2021 with the Nature version (in nice cream color) that contains 50% recycled materials. Not bad!
The AlphaFly is THE shoe of Eliud Kipchoge, world record holder of the marathon in 2 h 1 min 39 s and, more recently, Olympic champion at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
So, can this little piece of technology work for you for daily training and competitions? That’s what we’ll find out in this detailed analysis. Buckle up!
If you’re going to pay $275 for a shoe, you might as well take all the options! As Kipchoge’s prototype shoe, the AlphaFly’s direction was very much influenced by the champion. Understandably, it features all the most cutting-edge technologies of the brand.
We find, of course, ZoomX: a Pebax-based foam, a type of thermoplastic elastomer known for its natural flexibility and responsiveness. Under the forefoot, two Zoom Air bags (visible in the photos) complete the platform for an even more effective push at toe-off.
Then there’s the secret weapon, the one that revolutionized the running world and has since been often imitated (and even equaled?): the carbon fiber plate. Full-length, it improves the propulsion at each stride. In short, for the same effort as with a ‘traditional’ shoe, you go faster.
The resulting feel is fairly firm under the foot, but it’s for the best: with 40 mm stack under the heel and 36 mm under the toes, we are not on stilts, but we are not far! More seriously, the firmness of the platform helps to improve stability and, therefore, safety.
On a side note: despite its very thick sole, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next is still within the official World Athletics (WA)’s regulations.
What about the ride and performance? It’s what we will see in the next section.
The testers are unanimous: the cushioning and the feel of the ride of the Alphafly are fantastic. We often talk about energy return and bounce, but if there’s a shoe that embodies it 100%, it’s this shoe!
The results of Nike athletes speak for themselves. Beyond Kipchoge that we have already mentioned, Brigid Kosgei broke the women’s world record marathon in 2 h 17 min 1 s with these running shoes.
There’s one more thing to note that distinguishes the Nike Alphafly Next from the Vaporfly: its heel-to-toe drop. It’s low at 4 mm, which may be surprising for this shoe. For pure heel strikers (more than 80% of the running population), the feeling may seem different. Therefore, it’s essential to test, especially considering it’s Nike’s most expensive running shoe.
Finally, we note that the midsole is firm for more stability. Despite these precautions and a precise foot lockdown (see next part), some testers still deplore stability problems, especially during sudden changes (direction, speed). Once again, it’s necessary to test, especially if you overpronate.
Foot lockdown (upper)
Exceptional shoe means exclusive technology. Rather than Flyknit, Nike’s ‘classic’ knit upper, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% features Atomknit.
Despite its seemingly flexible design, testers note that this mesh is not stretchy and even gave them a hard time putting on the shoes—it takes some effort, and you will need that pull tab. The advantage is that after that, you are all set. It won’t move!
So, while other carbon shoes like the Nike Vaporfly tend to offer a casual or even too loose lockdown, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly offers a snug (almost tight) fit. That’s also the case at the heel collar to prevent slippage even though there’s minimal padding there. This configuration has the merit of improving the stability for a safer run, especially for the track or high-speed runs.
The very precise lockdown doesn’t reduce the volume inside the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly. Thus, the sizing and the fit are standard. Even the forefoot and toe box are ample enough for wide feet. However, some runners noted that the design of the midsole led to a narrow midfoot, so it’s something to watch out.
Finally, you probably assumed it, but the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next is very light, with only 7.4oz/210 g for men and 6.5 oz/184 g for women. It’s a little more than the Vaporfly 2, but we’ll let it slide just this once.
Grip and durability
It’s always the big question with this type of racing shoe: at this price, how long will it last?
The good news is that reviews seem to converge on the Alphafly is more durable than the Vaporfly. Runners note that the shoe shows visible wear quickly: the many shallow grooves of the textured rubber disappear quickly, but, luckily, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the shoe anymore.
You won’t achieve the same durability as a classic shoe with a thick and integral carbon rubber layer, but the overall result isn’t too bad. Let’s bet on 250 miles. We let you be the judge of the value for money.
Like with anything extreme, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% can divide runners. Nonetheless, it’s an outstanding shoe with grand ambitions (and some of them already fulfilled).
Its high stack height, low drop, carbon plate, and ultra-lightweight design make it an elite model for seasoned runners looking for a new record at the half or full marathon.
|Heel stack height||40 mm|
|Forefoot stack height||36 mm|
|Weight (men)||210 g/7.4 oz|
|Weight (women)||184 g/6.5 oz|
|Athletes||Brigid Kosgei, Eliud Kipchoge|
|Softness (1-5)||3 – Moderate|
|Bounce (1-5)||5 – Very bouncy|
|Distance||Mid, long, 10k, half marathon, marathon|
Comparisons – Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% vs.:
Nike Zoomx Vaporfly NEXT% 2
See the side-by-side comparison with our comments.
Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2
See the side-by-side comparison with our comments.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
It fits true to size, as confirmed by the tests we reviewed.
The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly is the shoe of choice of marathon champions Kipchoge and Kosgei. Suffice to say; this shoe is not only suitable for the marathon: it’s specifically designed for this race. Of course, it mainly depends on your preferences. If you find this shoe comfortable on your long runs, there should be no problem with the marathon.
Kevin is the founder and editor of Runner’s Lab. He started running in 2015 and completed his first marathon in Rotterdam in 2016. He’s also worked for Under Armour from 2016 to 2018 and helped launch their running collection in Europe (in particular the HOVR shoes). In addition, Kevin is a 300-hour certified yoga teacher (Sivananda) and uses this experience to run more mindfully with a focus on well-being over performance.