The Nike Vomero 11 is well-designed running shoe for general conditions, ideally suited to runners who seek out high cushioning and run mainly on flat routes though cities and on moderate trails.
The Vomero 11 was my first experience with the Nike Zoom Air and Flywire technologies, and I am generally happy with the shoe, specially I was impressed with the fit and cushioning performance.
I ran with the Vomero 11 over multiple surfaces, including asphalt, trails (mild to moderate), hard and soft ground, and a bit of concrete. This included distances from between 6 to 20 km per run.
Nike Zoom Vomero 11 General Info
From a first impression, I often judge running shoes first based on the midsole fit, as this is one of the most important aspect of the shoe design (from my viewpoint).
A secure midsole fit means the shoe will stay in place and provide the best protection and responsiveness to your feet. In short, the Vomero 11 midsole fit is very good for my feet.
On steep downhill trail sections for example, my feet stay in place and don’t slide forward with my toe being crushed in the toe box. This is a testament to the excellent fit and design of the shoe.
In reference to other shoe designs, the Brooks Pure Grit 2 has always stood out for me as one of the best fitting shoes I’ve had the pleasure to wear, specifically because the asymmetric midsole fit provided such a secure connection between my foot and the shoe.
The engineered Nike Flywire technology does a great job of securing my foot at the midsole, which I feel, is at the heart of why it performs well for me.
The overall design of Vomero 11 is sufficiently robust, with a stiff heel cup structure and minimum flexible sole. The Vomero fits snug but feels very comfortable on my feet.
I often have issues with the back of my heel rubbing up against the inside of the heel cup on many shoes. The Vomero 11 doesn’t seem to have this problem, the reason being that the top of the heel cup is thick but soft, so it grips against your upper heel, and holds the shoe in place.
Many other shoes I have run on are designed to have contact between the back of the foot and inside of the shoe (which is where my problems come from).
Like many products, running shoes have a pretty straightforward design. In the end there’s really just a few components, and it’s how all the materials work together that make a shoe work well (or poorly) for a particular runner.
I’m sufficiently happy with the overall construction of the shoe, but the primary reason to look at the Vomero 11 is for its high cushioning.
Nike Zoom Vomero 11 Cushioning
Cushioning is an interesting part of the shoe design. Generally a high-cushion shoe will have a lot of cushioning under the heel, and less under the forefoot.
This usually results in a heel-toe drop and means that you’ll feel a cushioning effect during the heel strike, and feel minimal cushioning when the front of your foot contacts the ground.
Generally, increased cushioning is achieved by adding foam, and energy is absorbed as the foam deforms. Other designs include large geometric deformation of an energy absorbing structure, such as the On Cloud Runners.
The Vomero has a shoe design which provides cushioning under the heel as well as the front of the foot through the implementation of Air Zoom units and Lunarlon foam.
The thick insole additionally provides a very plush feeling below the foot. In practice, this translates into a smooth heel-forefoot transition while running.
The Vomero includes two energy absorption systems, Air Zoom units and Lunarlon foam. The Lunarlon foam includes a soft foam core (which is placed just below the insole of the shoe) that is then encased in a firmer foam carrier (which then connects to the tread material).
The softer foam is near the forefoot while the firmer foam is under the heel. Then, the Zoom Air units are included as well for main energy absorption.
The design philosophy is that the two energy absorption systems work together to provide a smooth ride with high impact energy absorption, what you could call, a cushioned running experience.
I have run on other high-cushioning shoes in the past that relied on an internal structure to absorb and recover energy, specifically the On Cloud Runners (2012 version).
With the Vomero 11, I can feel a discernible difference as compared to running shoes which rely on foam for energy absorption, and the ride provides a smooth transition from heel to toe.
This is slightly reminiscent of the On Cloud Runner shoes, which use rubber ring structures that deform when your foot impacts with the ground, and then spring back into shape.
Although I was originally very optimistic about the Cloud Runner energy absorbing ring design, I eventually stopped using them since I didn’t feel that they work that well (despite the awards they have won) due to the fact that the rings collapsed completely, but are not stiff enough to absorb a significant amount of impact energy (in my opinion, in the future maybe I’ll run tests with pressure sensor).
Beyond the ring technology, the Cloud Runners didn’t have much cushioning in the foam of the sole, so once the rings collapsed, it was like running on a dense piece of rubber.
Additionally, the energy recovery from the On shoes never felt really significant, since it relied on the mechanical stiffness of the rubber, and once the rings collapsed, they were not able to absorb any more energy.
But, it “felt” like they were doing something. Eventually I started to develop a pain in my right hip, after I stopped using the Cloud Runners the pain dissipated, and I haven’t used them again.
Conversely, the Vomero utilizes a real system, between the Lunarlon foam and the Air Zoom technologies, which seem to offer a real benefit to me.
In my experience, the energy absorption works great on flat surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, and hard surface trails. This was the first time I have run on a shoe with a shoe utilizing the Air Zoom units.
The Air Zoom units are essentially pressurized air structures with deform under impact, and due to the internal pressure of the sealed units, the structure springs back to its original shape very quickly.
This means there is a somewhat controlled deceleration of the foot during running, followed by a recovery of the stored energy.
The touted advantages include the fact that they are lightweight, since you’re using the pressure properties of a sealed air pocket to absorb impact energy, as opposed to dense foam (which would be heavier than the equivalent air volume).
I’m naturally inclined to running on trails in the woods and mountains, and generally don’t venture onto hard surface roads unless necessary.
In this way, I expect the Vomero 11 to help me run for longer distances on hard ground due to the reduction in fatigue of my joints, that results from too much exposure to hard ground running.
Since you are compressing a sealed air unit, there is a definite spring-back as the internal air pressure forces the material to spring back to its original shape as your foot transitions from the heel to forefoot while running.
The design philosophy is that less energy is “lost” during a stride since the internal air pressure is continually exerting a force between your foot and the ground as you transition from the heel strike.
The energy absorption in the shoe means that your muscles, tendons and ligaments need to dissipate less energy from the impact of your feet on the ground.
There is a definite benefit when running downhill, as I often do in the woods. The Air Zoom technology works well to absorb the heel and forefoot impacts that you generally have when going downhill at speed.
There is also the psychological benefit of a “responsive” running shoe to consider. When I’m out running I will generally go through phases of energy, sometimes feeling sluggish and tired, other times feeling free and fast.
When you have a shoe that provides a noticeable spring-back in the heel, you may feel more energetic yourself and more easily push through a running wall, or other psychological barrier when you’re out for long distances.
I get that feeling with the Vomero 11’s (and as well with the On Cloud Runners) and it makes for a more enjoyable run over long distances or during the week after work. Of course, you need to try out such a shoe yourself to see if your mind is equally influenced.
In general, extreme cushioning comes at the expense of “ground feel”. Runners may choose a minimalist shoe such as the Roclite 285 because they want to the able to feel the ground beneath their feet.
This can be important on uneven trails and mountain excursions, where it is a definite benefit to be able to balance dynamically on rocks and soft trails where you need to adjust your balance while landing or moving quickly down a mountain trail.
This is more difficult to do with an air cushion system, since the features of the trail are essentially “hidden” in the absorption properties of the large cushioning.
This isn’t really a critique against the Vomero 11 overall design, since it isn’t a trail running shoe, but is useful to know incase you run off-road occasionally.
The amount of cushioning you need for a trail shoe is personal choice, lately I have generally preferred the Salomon S-Lab Soft Ground for mountain and long distances, and only use the Roclite 285’s in Spring when a lot of the trails still have snow and the ground is soft.
Although I wouldn’t take the Vomero 11’s on a serious mountain excursion, I would trust them on moderate alpine trails in good weather conditions, as you would find on a race such as the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland, which is mainly asphalt with just the final leg on a well-mainlined hiking trail.
However, concerning trail running, be advised that there’s very little toe protection, and a random rock strike to the toe will be rather painful (as I have found out).
Nike Zoom Vomero 11 Sole Unit
The robust sole concept goes well with the Air Zoom cushioning system, since your foot is rather well protected from the ground.
Since the energy of impact is taken up by the air system, the sole doesn’t need to flex a lot, as your foot surface will be accommodated to by the flexing of the inner sole and air system.
The front flex of the Vomero is as expected in a robust shoe, it flexes near the ball of the foot, but isn’t designed to flex as much as your foot naturally does (as compared with a shoe such as the Nike Free RN for example).
The treads of the sole are textured, but flat, making the shoes more optimal for running on flat ground such as easy trails or asphalt/concrete.
The tread material is rather hard, and therefore does not flex or bite into the ground very much. Therefore, wet inclines should be avoided since the treads to not have enough gripping ability on wet and slippery ground.
Nike Zoom Vomero 11 Upper Info
Generally I look for uppers construction that are flexible and connect the foot to the sole.
The Vomero 11 uppers construction is based on the Nike Flymesh technology, which is described in the marketing materials as: flexible, breathable, lightweight, and durable.
This is a pretty generic description, and I can’t imagine running with a shoe that doesn’t have those traits.
In short, I find most of the marketing description to the true, but I would like to have more breathability, as my feet were starting to heat up after 10 km (although I was wearing CEP wool running socks).
The flexing of the uppers appears to work quite will with the overall shoe design.
I have run on a few different shoe types where the uppers would begin to fail at key flex points, generally at the transition point between the uppers material and the toe protection area.
My Salomon trainers in particular had this issue. I don’s see any obvious design problems with the uppers that would lead to premature failure, which in my opinion is one mark for a well-designed shoe.
The uppers include the Flywire cable technology in the midsole, which connects the lacing area of the uppers to the sole, the polymer wires essentially wrap around the sides of the foot, and are designed to keep the foot secured with the shoe while running.
Design inspiration is said to have come from suspension bridge technologies (http://www.complex.com/sneakers/2013/07/know-your-tech-nike-flywire), and could be considered a good example of cross-over design trends between architecture and clothing.
This concept is quite close to my heart as I’m also working in the transfer of architectural concepts to wearable designs.
The design philosophy, as with bridge construction, is to use the minimal amount of material in order to reduce the weight of the structure.
Overall I’m quite impressed with the Flywire technology, which provides a very secure and comfortable fit, on par with the Brooks Pure Grit 2 shoes, and better than my Salomon S-Lab Wings.
The Vomero 11 also includes a full-length inner sleeve, which I believe contributes to the excellent fit. Even if I don’t fully tie the laces, the shoe has a very nice glove-like feel.
Nike Zoom Vomero 11 Conclusions
Overall I like the Nike Vomero 11. It’s not an ideal shoe for all my running adventures, but I plan to continue running around my neighborhood and to work (19 km one way). Is it a perfect shoe? Of course not.
What do I not like about the Vomero 11’s and what would I like to see changed? To start with, I would like to have more room in the toe box area. This would allow for more foot expansion during long runs.
Additionally, a larger forefoot width would allow for increased foot spreading, which is the natural way your foot absorbs impact while running.
The spreading of the foot means a larger surface area, and therefore better impact force distribution. I would also like increased breathability.
I like to run with CEP wool-based socks, and after 10 or 15 km my feet were starting to feel rather warm. The combination of great mid-sole fit and high cushioning make the Vomero an ideal choice for my day-to-day running needs.
At $140 the Vomero 11 is not a cheap shoe, but it delivers a solid value that should last a long time, and not fall apart after one season.
We thank the nice people at Nike for sending us a pair of Zoom Vomero 11 to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.