The Vaporfly Next% 3, now in its 3rd iteration, has the perfect combination of propulsion and cushioning which is why it’s one the most popular and successful marathon racing shoes. It has a full length carbon plate and a full length ZoomX midsole. It costs $250.
The Alphafly Next% 2 also has a full length carbon plate and a full length ZoomX midsole but it also has two large Zoom Air pods in the forefoot for extra responsiveness. It’s Nike’s premium racing shoe and one of the most expensive shoes on the market. It costs $275.
Which of these two racers is the shoe for you?
The midsole of the Vaporfly Next% is made of ZoomX foam which is super light and super bouncy. It allows the Vaporfly Next% to be one of the lightest racing shoes on the market with enough cushioning for a full marathon.
The midsole of the Alphafly Next% is also made of ZoomX foam but it also has the two Zoom Air pods in the forefoot which add extra cushioning and extra spring to each toe off. The Alphafly Next% also has enough cushioning for a full marathon but the extra air pods make it weigh more than the Vaporfly Next%.
The stiff carbon plate of the Vaporfly Next% is angled upwards in the forefoot but it isn’t rounded so it doesn’t function as a rocker: it gives you a forward-tipping sensation with each toe-off which is unique to the Vaporfly Next%
The Alphafly Next% also has a stiff carbon plate in its midsole but the front of it is rounded so it acts as a rocker during transitions.
The Vaporfly Next% is better suited to shorter races because it is lighter and doesn’t have as much cushioning as the Alphafly Next%. The Alphafly Next% is better suited to longer races like the marathon and ultramarathons because of how much extra cushioning and bounce it provides.
Stability is better in the Alphafly Next% because it has a wider forefoot which flares out at the base. You don’t have to slow down as much when turning tight corners in the Alphafly Next%.
Ride transitions are smoother in the Vaporfly Next% because it has a full ground contact outsole whereas the Alphafly Next%’s midfoot floats above the ground so you transition from the rearfoot, straight to the forefoot, skipping out the midfoot.
The outsole of the Vaporfly Next% uses thick, hard-wearing rubber on its forefoot which has great durability but feels slippery on wet surfaces.
The outsole of the Alphafly Next% also uses thick rubber on its forefoot but it’s softer and more flexible so it has better traction on wet surfaces but it has lower durability than the Vaporfly Next%.
The upper of the Vaporfly Next% is made of very porous mesh which is extremely breathable. It doesn’t absorb much water and it conforms to your foot well. The tongue of the Vaporfly Next% is lightly padded and not gusseted so it slides downwards during runs. Foot lockdown in the Vaporfly Next% is very good: there is no heel slippage. It fits true to size and is only available in one width.
The upper of the Alphafly Next% is made of Atomknit 2.0 which is even more porous and more breathable than the Vaporfly Next% . It’s a bootie construction so the tongue is built into the upper and not separate. Foot lockdown is below average. It fits true to size and is only available in one width.
If you’re a runner looking for a cheaper racer for shorter distances like a half marathon or shorter, the Vaporfly Next% is the better option for you. It has smoother ride transitions, a more durable outsole and gives you a forward tipping sensation during every toe-off.
If you’re a runner looking for a more cushioned racer for longer distances like a marathon or ultramarathon, the Alphafly Next% is your shoe. It has more responsiveness because of the Zoom Air pods and it has more cushioning. It is also more stable which helps you maintain good form during the later stages of races.