Written by

Brandon Law

Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
The Zoom Fly is the more affordable training companion of the Vaporfly; the Vaporfly is the speedy and light race day shoe. Here we will be comparing these two shoes.
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The Zoom Fly 5 is the 5th iteration of the Zoom Fly series. It’s a training shoe with a stiff carbon plate in its midsole designed to give you a similar feel to the Vaporfly Next% 2 but in a more durable package. It costs $160.

The Vaporfly Next% 3 is the race day rocket which has set many marathon and half marathon records. It’s one of the lightest, most propulsive racing shoes that money can buy but it has an expensive price tag of $250.

Which one of these Nike carbon fibre shoes is the right one for you?

Similarity and differences: Zoom Fly 5 vs ZoomX Vaporfly 3

Shoe type
Expert score
Expert score
Expert score
9.50 oz
6.5 oz
Heel Drop
8 mm
8 mm
The Nike Zoom Fly 5 is a well-cushioned, carbon-plated training shoe suited to long, slow runs. It has excellent stability and a muted forward-tipping sensation during toe-offs. Version 5 has a more traditional, padded upper, a full-length ZoomX core which provides extra cushioning and a wider midsole base for extra stability. The Zoom Fly 5 is the slowest Zoom Fly version to date but also the most comfortable.
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 3 is a soft, bouncy super shoe best suited to marathons. It doesn't offer as much speed assistance as other top tier carbon racers because of its gentle forefoot rocker but it's incredibly lightweight and extremely comfortable. Version 3 has been improved in a number of areas including stability, cushioning and weight. The forefoot is softer so it doesn't feel as fast as the Vaporfly 2 but its ride is plusher and it has more long-distance comfort.
Recommended for
Daily training
Racing, speedwork, long distance racing
Cushioning type
Cushioning amount
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
some stability
some stability
true to size
true to size
Retail price

Sole unit: Zoom Fly 5 vs ZoomX Vaporfly 3

The midsole of the Zoom Fly is made of SR02 foam which is dense and firm. It has a full-length articulated plate embedded in it which gives it a forward tipping sensation.

The midsole of the Vaporfly Next% is made of ZoomX which is super light, very cushioned and very bouncy. It also has a full-length carbon plate in it which makes it so propulsive.

The carbon plate inside the Vaporfly Next% has a higher level of propulsion than the Zoom Fly because of its softer ZoomX midsole. The ZoomX foam allows the plate to bend downwards more during heel strikes so that when it is released, it launches you forward like a spring-board would. In the Zoom Fly, the spring-board sensation is minimised because the foam doesn’t have as much compression.

The midsole foam of the Zoom Fly is much more durable than the ZoomX midsole of the Vaporfly Next%. ZoomX is a very brittle foam which is prone to scrapes, dents and it loses its cushioning over time faster than React foam.

The Zoom Fly is more suited to daily training because of its higher durability whereas the Vaporfly Next% is better for races or key workouts due to its high price and lower durability.

Stability is better in the Zoom Fly than in the Vaporfly Next% because the Zoom Fly has a thinner midsole so your foot sits lower to the ground. The Zoom Fly’s midsole is also firmer than the Vaporfly Next%’s midsole so there is less lean bias and you don’t have to slow down as much when going around tight corners.

Both shoes have very similar outsoles with thick, hard rubber covering their entire forefoots. The Vaporfly has two long vertical strips on the heel whereas the heel of the Zoom Fly is fully covered with rubber. They both have exposed midsole foam on their midfoots but the main difference is that the exposed foam on the Zoom Fly holds up better over time than the exposed ZoomX of the Vaporfly Next% because it is firmer and more scuff resistant.

Upper unit: Zoom Fly 5 vs ZoomX Vaporfly 3

The Zoom Fly has a mesh upper that feels similar to a daily trainer. The upper of the Zoom Fly has superb foot lockdown and is also very comfortable. It has extra padding on the inside of its collar so heel lockdown is fantastic and there is no heel slippage. The Zoom Fly fits true to size but is not available in additional widths.

The upper of the Vaporfly Next% is made of engineered mesh which is even more breathable than mesh on the Zoom Fly. It also doesn’t absorb much liquid. The Vaporfly Next% has a lightly padded tongue which is not gusseted so it slides downwards during runs. There is padding on the inside of the collar and lockdown is as good as the Zoom Fly. The fit is true to size and only available in a standard width.

Which one to buy: Zoom Fly 5 vs ZoomX Vaporfly 3

If you’re a runner looking for a durable training shoe which is more affordable, the Zoom Fly is the better option for you. It has a foam midsole which is tougher than the Vaporfly Next%’s midsole and it has an upper which is more comfortable. The Zoom Fly is more stable than the Vaporfly Next% and $90 cheaper which is a significant amount.

If you’re looking for a racing shoe for race days or key workouts, the Vaporfly Next% is the shoe for you. It has a bouncy, cushioned ZoomX midsole and a high level of propulsion from its carbon plate. The Vaporfly Next% is much lighter than the Zoom Fly and it has a more breathable upper. It’s designed to break records and personal bests.

This expert review is written by

Brandon Law

Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
Brandon is a South African who lives and trains in Malaysia. He is a marathon runner who eats, sleeps and dreams running shoes. While most people wear shoes to run, he runs to wear shoes.