Back in October 2018, Nike announced its release of the most groundbreaking shoe in recent history, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. A shoe said to improve running economy by 4%, built to meet the exacting needs of world-class marathoners. Numerous lab tests and the attempt to run a sub 2 hour marathon (under the Breaking2 Project) made these bold claims credible. So, let’s take a closer look at what makes this shoe so special.
With a focus on fast-paced performance, Nike developed a new range of running shoes built for record-breaking speed, featuring a carbon fibre launchpad and energetic foam. These included the Zoom Vaporfly 4% and less expensive, more widely accessible, Zoom Fly Flyknit.
I had a chance to put the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit to the test and get some answers.
A glove-like fit for your feet.
The Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit shoes feel just right from the moment you slip them on. The sock-like upper provides an extremely secure and comfortable fit, giving you confidence to run at a fast, fluid pace from the outset.
Running with ease.
The Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit combines Nike React foam technology, with the full-length carbon fibre plate found in the Vaporfly 4%. The key difference between the two models is the foam used: the Zoom Fly Flyknit uses React foam, rather than the ZoomX foam found in Vaporfly, and it does not come with the claim of making its users run more efficiently. That said, the shoe provides a wonderfully cushioned and springy ride that makes running at pace feel effortless and easy.
The first time I ran in the shoes, my legs clicked into autopilot. I was cruising on a faster paced run, feeling I could go for hours.
Having run 100k in them, I can confidently say regardless of how I’m feeling on any given day (lothargic, spritely or otherwise), the shoes put a pep in my step.
The technology behind it.
All human movement is gravity dependent. When we run, we are working against gravity, which affects our running gait and form.
Running brands are trying to develop shoes to minimise and utilise the effect of the 'ground reaction force', the force exerted on our body when we strike the ground. And 'energy return' denotes the amount of energy that a shoe is able to retain when force is exerted upon it by a runner's stride. Shoes like the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit can improve your running economy, by capturing and returning this energy (a bit like a trampoline).
Nike have made a number of significant technological advances to manufacture shoes that give runners the greatest possible energy return including:
- The use of a full-length carbon fibre plate that delivers a sense of propulsion and sits on top of a React foam.
- The Nike React technology in the midsole, which provides a soft sensation followed by a quick spring back. It basically bounces back to its original shape, to ensure a consistent underfoot feel and strike, mile after mile.
Will I run faster?
Don’t expect miracles, you won’t suddenly run like Eliudh Kipchoge or Mo Farah. The Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit won't suddenly make you stronger or faster. Strength and endurance come down to consistency in training and the intensity at which you train. What the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit are great for, is aiding running economy. Thanks to the full-length carbon fibre plate and Nike React midsole, the shoes return energy as force is applied, meaning it requires less energy to run every mile.
A shoe for PB seekers.
The Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit is the perfect partner for goal-orientated runners, training achieve a specific goal from 5k to marathon distance, say a sub 1.30 half marathon.
I would advise reserving the Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit for races and using another responsive model for training sessions. Something like the Nike Zoom Air Pegasus.
It’s important to note that other shoe brands like Brooks, Saucony and HOKA have their own technologies providing great energy return. Brooks with DNA Amp, Saucony with EVERUN and HOKA with their chunky, high-cushioned platform.
With so many existing technologies out there, it really comes down to a matter of personal preference. At Run4It, we advise you to try several different brands and models on, before you commit to one. After all, there's no such thing as a 'best’ running shoe!