Nike Vaporfly 3 Review (2023): The Best Carbon-Plate Racer?
Published on: 06/22/2023The ZoomX Vaporfly Next 3 is the star of Nike's running collection. This carbon shoe is a high-tech gem designed for pros but accessible to everyone.
One of the best carbon-fiber plate racing shoes; now even more comfortable.
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s what you need to know.
The new Nike Vaporfly Next 3 super shoes retain the highlights of previous versions, with a few notable improvements. The 40 mm heel stack (the official competition limit) with an 8 mm drop and a full-length carbon plate, FlyPlate, are back.
The main improvement is in weight and comfort. The shoe weighs 0.18 oz/5 g less while offering more ZoomX foam. To achieve this, Nike has trimmed some rubber from the outsole. This could impact durability, so keep an eye on it.
Overall, the Vaporfly Next 3 continues to deliver the high-performance that has made the collection so successful. It’s a star shoe for all runners looking for a new PB at the half or full marathon.
Please read our full review of the Nike Vaporfly Next 3 for more information.
- Incredibly light (and lighter than v2)
- Breathable upper
- Greater stability
- High-performance cushioning, as explosive as ever
- Lockdown could be improved
- The tongue can be irritating
A lot has changed since the launch of the original Vaporfly, the 4%, in 2017. At the time, the results were so impressive in official runs that the international federation (World Athletics) had to intervene to regulate their use. What’s more, virtually all running brands have since launched at least one carbon shoe model.
So the big question is whether the Nike Vaporfly in its third edition is still the queen of its class, and whether it’s the best choice for you if you’re looking for a top-of-the-range carbon model.
Should performance and comfort be at odds? In the case of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 3, the answer is no. This is made possible with their ZoomX midsole, which offers an easy, comfortable stride.
In addition, without being large, the mesh upper is breathable and flexible to adapt to different foot shapes and provide effective yet discreet lockdown.
Finally, with a weight of just 6.4 oz / 181 g for the men’s model (5.8 oz / 164 g for the women’s version), the Nike Zoomx Vaporfly Next 3 is clearly one of the world’s lightest shoes in 2023.
Men’s vs. women’s version
The Vaporfly 3 super shoe is available in two versions, but this is primarily a question of color. The rest of the features remain unchanged in terms of cushioning and lockdown.
If you have narrow feet, the women’s model may be more suitable. And vice versa: the men’s version may be better suited to wider feet.
Stack, drop and underfoot feel
The Nike Vaporfly Next 3 features a maximal cushioning sole (like the previous version) with 40 mm stack height in the heel and 32 mm in the forefoot. This thickness helps absorb shock when running on asphalt for long periods.
Overall, the underfoot feel is rather soft, though slightly firmer than in the past. It’s a far from the firmness of a Saucony Endorphin Pro, for example.
The heel-to-toe drop of 8 mm is standard and suitable for all runners.
The ZoomX foam equips the midsole. It’s a space-industry technology composed of Pebax, an ultra-light, highly bouncy material that doesn’t deform over time. ZoomX works in synergy with the integrated carbon fiber Flyplate and a rocker design to provide optimum responsiveness. The result is more efficient propulsion with every stride, especially at toe off, allowing you to go faster than with other shoes for the same effort, even on tired legs.
Type of support
The Vaporfly 3 is a “neutral running shoe” model, offering neutral support. Previous versions were known to be a little unstable. The Nike Vaporfly 3 is a little better, but you have to be careful: remember, this is not a classic trainer.
Is this the right shoe for overpronators?
This racing shoe is not specifically designed for overpronators (it’s not a stability shoe). If you’re an overpronator, it’s best to look for a more stable shoe with support suited to your type of pronation. However, there’s nothing to stop you trying them out, but you’ll need several sessions to get a good idea. Given the price of these race shoes, this can be an expensive trial.
Protection and breathability
The upper of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 3 uses engineered/technical mesh that offers excellent breathability. So your feet stay (relatively) cool during exercise—moreover, the Flyknit upper offers just the right amount of flexibility for comfort without compromising precision fit.
However, some testers would have liked more structure in the upper. Indeed, the upper has nothing but Flyknit. So there’s no internal reinforcement, which can be strange for competition shoes, especially if you’re used to more supportive footwear. In practice, the lockdown is excellent, but takes some getting used to.
Fitting and sizing
For optimum fit, the Vaporfly 3 features an efficient lacing system and a thin tongue, although the latter can be a little temperamental and cause chafing. Nevertheless, the heel lock is secure and guarantees a good foot lock while running to prevent slipping. What’s more, the offset heel seam prevents chafing.
As for the fit, this race shoe has a standard size and corresponds to the usual sizes. You can therefore choose your usual size for running shoes.
Specialty: long distances and marathon
The Nike Vaporfly Next 3 is a race-day shoe that has been designed to excel at long distance racing (half marathon and marathon): thick sole, comfortable, bouncy foam, plate and ultra-light weight, everything is done to enable athletes of all levels to excel in the ultimate running discipline. You only have to look at the exploits of Kenyan legend Eliud Kipchoge, world marathon record holder, to see that the Vaporfly Next delivers exactly what it promises.
With their great comfort and lightness, the Nike Vaporfly Next 3 is perfectly suited to all distances. There’s no reason not to use it over a 10km; the question is whether this will give it the space to reveal its full potential. What’s more, shorter distances require less comfort, and a firmer model might be better suited depending on your preferences.
You can also use the Nike Zoomx Vaporfly 3 for speed workouts (e.g., splits, tempo sessions, fartlek). However, if you don’t have a competition in mind, the price may seem a little high.
Grip on different surfaces
The outsole of the Nike Vaporfly Next 3 (the part in contact with the ground) features exposed foam and rubber zones with a waffle pattern, notably under the forefoot. In practice, testers note that grip is good on urban surfaces (e.g. road, sidewalk). However, a little caution is required during rainy weather on wet surfaces.
Quality and Durability
Durability and price
A high-end model means a high price. The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next 3 is one of today’s most expensive models. You’re paying for a little jewel of technology with few equivalents on the market.
Unfortunately, the price doesn’t reflect their potential durability. Like most super shoes, the Nike Vaporfly Next 3 is rather fragile and your pair will struggle to exceed 500 km/300 mi. What’s more, this new model has even less outsole rubber, which may exacerbate the problem. Note, however, that this can vary from runner to runner: some destroy their shoes much more quickly.
Carbon footprint and animal protection
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly model to promote sustainable running, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next 3 may not be the best option. It doesn’t appear to use any recycled materials, and its lower durability means you’ll have to replace it sooner. Finally, we currently have no confirmation that the Nike Vaporfly Next 3 is vegan (Nike has not communicated on the subject).
The Nike Vaporfly Next 3 remains true to form. A super-fast road racing shoe to galvanize your performance. With a few grams less, a few millimeters more foam and a more comfortable fit (except for the tongue), the Vaporfly 3 is as effective as ever, but more comfortable on the foot.
Its main weakness remains its unconvincing value for money. It’s up to you to decide whether your records are worth the effort!
|Heel height||40 mm|
|Forefoot height||32 mm|
|Weight (men)||181 g/6.4 oz|
|Weight (women)||164 g/5.8 oz|
|Features||Carbon-fiber plate, Rocker|
|Distance||Mid, Half marathon, Long, Marathon|
Reference: Nike's official site
Comparisons – Nike Vaporfly Next 3 vs.:
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 2
The Nike Vaporfly 3 is a significant update to the previous model without being radical or revolutionary. Around 5 grams lighter, the 3 also features an improved upper that offers greater comfort than the previous version.
In particular, the heel fits more snugly with their seams better positioned to avoid friction. Nevertheless, the tongue may compensate for this gain in comfort by being irritating for some runners.
Then, while keeping the same stack height, the sole contains more ZoomX foam, with their reduced rubber content. As a result, running is more comfortable thanks to better cushioning.
However, less rubber may mean less durable shoes. We’ll have to wait for more data fields to decide, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Clearly, if you can find the Vaporfly 2 for much less, don’t miss out!
Nike Alphafly Next
Very similar, the choice between these two shoes depends above all on how you feel, your preferences and your budget (the Alphafly is more expensive…). The Nike Alphafly Next’s lockdown is a little more precise, but this may vary from runner to runner. See the comparison.