If you’re looking for a super shoe with an accommodating fit and a super lightweight build, the Vaporfly 3 is an excellent choice. It has good stability and a soft, propulsive ride.
If you want a really durable super shoe that you can use for training as well as racing, the Vaporfly 3 is not for you- its ZoomX foam is extremely soft and delicate.
If you’ve run any race in the past 3 years, from a 5K to a marathon, you would have seen a plethora of Vaporflys on the starting line.
The Vaporfly is the most popular and the most publicized super shoe because it was the original and because it’s the most widely available. It’s also become relatively affordable now because you can purchase it (older versions) on various promotions at factory outlets and on the Nike website.
In many ways, the Vaporfly has become the default marathon super shoe because of its popularity and its pricing.
But even though it’s the most popular, it doesn’t mean it’s the best. I reviewed the Vaporfly Next% 2 two years ago. Since then I’ve put many miles on it- I’ve trained in it and I’ve raced in it.
The Vaporfly 2’s lack of stability prevented me from truly falling in love with it. I found the stability lacking, especially in the last quarter of races. I’ve also found its toe spring to be less aggressive than others, so it doesn’t offer as much of a forward-tipping sensation.
In the Nike super shoe pecking order, the Vaporfly isn’t top of the range. It’s priced $25 below the Alphafly Next% but due to its more comfortable fit and lighter weight, it’s the more popular of the two Nike super shoes. Most of the elite Nike-sponsored runners also use the Vaporfly over the Alphafly.
It’s been two years since the Vaporfly 2 was launched so this new version has been highly anticipated. It’s one of the biggest launches of the year and it has been updated from the ground up.
The Vaporfly 3 weighs a mere 6.5 oz (184 g) for a men’s US9 which is feather light considering it’s 40 mm in the heel, 32 mm in the forefoot.
The Vaporfly 2 also measured 40/32 but the Vaporfly 3 has 2 mm more foam and 2 mm less outsole rubber compared to its predecessor. The new version is 0.1 oz (3 g) lighter than the Vaporfly 2.
The first time I held the Vaporfly 3 in my hands, I was impressed with all the small details like the listed weights of all the components on the outsole and the small symbols on the tongue.
My first run was a workout that consisted of 10 x 1 kilometers and overall, my first impression was a very positive one. The thing I was most impressed with was how much more stable it felt compared to the first two versions.
The ride felt softer and more cushioned than the Vaporfly 2, especially in the forefoot so there was a less prominent forward-tipping sensation. I enjoyed the roomier, more accommodating fit of the new upper and transitions also felt smoother.
I was able to maintain a decent pace throughout the workout and I was even able to speed up in the last couple of reps on tired legs.
The upper of the Vaporfly 3 is overall an improvement over the Vaporfly 2. The biggest change is how much more accommodating the midfoot and forefoot are, so now it fits more like a comfortable trainer, rather than a snug racer.
I find the fit to be true to size still and wide footed runners should find it more comfortable than any previous Vaporfly. The Flyknit has larger holes in it than the previous version and it’s more breathable than any other racer on the market.
The tongue is not gusseted but the laces go through a loop on it so it doesn’t slide around. The tongue has ample padding to protect the top of your foot from lace bite and the signature offset lacing is still present but doesn’t make a huge difference compared to other shoes which have regular lacing.
There’s an internal heel counter and padding on the inside of the collar so heel lockdown is great when using a runner’s knot. I find that the collar conforms to my foot better now so there’s no large gaps around my ankle like in the last version.
The Vaporfly 3 is a much better long-distance racer for marathons when compared to previous Vaporflys. The extra cushioning, the lighter weight, and the stability improvements all add up to create a super shoe package that is hard to beat.
It doesn’t feel as fast as the Vaporfly 2 because of the added cushioning, so you sacrifice a bit of speed but in my opinion, it’s worth it. It’s the lightest super shoe to be released this year yet it still has a really soft, squishy ride with deep, bouncy cushioning provided by the one-of-a-kind, ZoomX foam.
The Vaporfly 3 feels like a “friendlier” super shoe that runners who don’t have perfectly neutral footstrikes can use. It has a wider base so I found cornering much easier than in any previous Vaporfly. The stable ride makes it feel better during slower paces and on long runs above 30 kilometers.
Versatility has improved and I enjoyed the Vaporfly 3 for all paces, from 6 minutes per km (9:40 per mile), all the way down to below 3 minutes per km (4:30 per mile) for short intervals. I feel that the sweet spot for me is marathon pace because of how soft the ride is. It didn’t struggle during interval sessions but I prefer a firmer ride with a more aggressive toe spring for the short and fast stuff.
The full-length, carbon fiber plate is integrated into the midsole very well and you don’t notice it all that much during uptempo runs- the ride isn’t very jarring. It’s more flexible than the plates in the Saucony Endorphins (Pro 3 and Elite) but I feel that the plate in the Vaporfly 3 has the perfect rigidity considering how soft the ZoomX is.
The aggressive toe spring is something that I miss when I run in the Vaporfly 3. When compared to shoes like the Endorphin Elite and the Alphafly 2, the Vaporfly 3’s toe offs feel flatter and not as propulsive. I enjoy feeling the upward curve of the plate underneath my toes and I think that’s the biggest thing missing in the Vaporfly 3, a strong forward-tipping feeling. During races, the forward tipping sensation helps to maintain speed towards the end when your legs are tiring.
The ZoomX foam has been tweaked to be slightly softer and while I think this change will suit most runners, it might be too soft for really fast runners. I think this is why elites like Kelvin Kiptum still race in the Vaporfly 2 which feels more punchy.
In the outsole the ribbed rubber forefoot has been replaced with a thinner, waffle pattern rubber outsole with holes in it to save weight. The result is a quieter ride with more padded landings and more ground feel. The new waffle outsole also provides better grip because it feels softer and has more bite.
The midfoot and the centre of the rearfoot has exposed foam on it. As usual, this exposed ZoomX foam is extremely brittle and gets scuffed very easily by the road so the Vaporfly 3’s durability isn’t great. On my pair, the paint has already peeled off on the rearfoot because the heel rubber doesn’t stick out as much. The previous version with the thicker outsole rubber was more durable.
The Vaporfly 3 has a flatter outsole than previous versions so ride transitions feel smoother because more of the outsole comes into contact with the ground. This comes into play during long runs- the ride feels fluid and more engaging that previous Vaporflys. It’s easier to get into a smooth rhythm in the Vaporfly 3.
The Vaporfly 3 is a very polished, thoughtfully designed racer and a great update to the most popular super shoe. I think this new version will make the series even more popular because it’s lighter, more stable and more cushioned than the Vaporfly 2. The biggest downside is that the Vaporfly 3 is less durable because of its outsole which has more ground contact.
I would easily pick the Vaporfly 3 over the Vaporfly 2 because even though I can pick up the Vaporfly 2 at a heavily discounted price, I feel that the Vaporfly 3 is better suited to my running style (slight overpronator) due to its wider base so it has more long-distance comfort. I would also pick the Vaporfly 3 over the Alphafly 2 because it doesn’t have a narrow midfoot that digs into my arch and gives me blisters.
If you were worried that Nike would mess the Vaporfly up, you can rest assured that the Vaporfly 3 is still very much a Vaporfly: a lean, agile, protective racing tool that is value for money. I was thoroughly impressed with the Vaporfly 3 and the improvements are much more substantial than I initially thought.
I think that now it’s geared more towards the full marathon rather than short races because of its improved stability and increased cushioning which make it feel slower but plusher than previous Vaporflys.
Compared to other top-tier super shoes, the Vaporfly 3 doesn’t feel as fast mainly due to its toe spring and rocker which isn’t as prominent so there’s less forward propulsion.