Nike’s third-gen marathon carbon super shoe is still one of the best and the lightest in class but refinements have altered the ride from the Vaporfly 2

Despite the arrival of dozens of rival carbon-plated super shoes since its launch, the Nike Vaporfly 2 held its own as one of the most popular go-to race shoes for PB chasers everywhere. Even Nike’s own Alphafly struggled to supersede it as the number one race shoe. So when the covers came off the Vaporfly 3, the obvious big question was: could Nike improve on one of the best running shoes that’s already delivering so much? I laced it up and ran many miles, including a marathon, to find out. 

Men’s Fitness verdict

We’d have forgiven Nike for making a carbon copy of its excellent v2 super shoe. Instead it’s made refinements that may divide opinion but there’s no doubting the racing pedigree of the Vapourfly 3.
  • Light, punchy and energetic
  • Softer midsole for more protection
  • Lost some stiffness
  • Less secure fit

How we test the best running shoes

Our testers put each shoe through their paces over a mixture of distances and paces to see where they excel, and clocked up significant distances in each one to examine how they wear over time. Each reviewer focused on speed, stability and comfort during test runs, while also assessing the effectiveness of any high-tech features on offer. Their detailed reviews are sure to help you choose the right running shoe for you.

Nike Vaporfly 3 features

The Nike Vaporfly 3 sticks with the winning combination of minimal, lightweight uppers, a big stack of responsive midsole foam and a foot-long carbon plate. But there are some big changes that make this a very different shoe to the previous generation. 

You’ve still got the scooped carbon flyplate running through the middle. But there’s now more Peba-based Nike ZoomX foam in the midsole which also includes some new cutaways to save weight, as well as a redesigned heel shape. The aero-looking heel flick is now much more blocky. And there are changes to the midfoot to improve stability, particularly deeper into races. 

The new Flyknit uppers are lighter, looser, more open at the front and much more breathable. The heel collar design is largely the same with minimal pads rather than full cushioning and Nike has retained the offset laces to help with locking your foot in place. Slightly oddly, the thin, foot-wrapping tongue is much longer now. 

The outsole has been tweaked too. You still get a good forefoot covering of protective rubber and a couple of patches on the higher impact heel zones but that covering is now thinner (to allow for more ZoomX foam without increasing the stack height) and the forefoot grip pattern now has a waffle design. 

Nike Vaporfly 3 weight

At 6.9oz / 195g in a UK men’s size 8.5 test shoe, the Nike Vaporfly 3 shaves a slither off the weight of the Vaporfly 2 and is now the lightest carbon shoe going. You won’t notice the difference between the second and third generation shoes on the run but you will compared to other super shoe rivals. From the moment you lace them up they’ve got a nimble, disappearing and race-ready feel. 

The Nike Vaporfly 3 stack height stays at 40mm/32mm with an 8mm heel-to-toe drop. Despite the Alphafly-esque high stack, it still delivers a more stable and reliable platform to run off.

Nike Vaporfly 3 performance

In my tests over more than 50 miles, including a full marathon and plenty of miles at mixed paces on varying terrain, the Nike Vaporfly 3 felt fantastic. For me it remains one of the best race shoes on the shelves with the credentials to power plenty of runners to PBs across distances from the mile to the marathon. 

However, if you were a big fan of the Vaporfly 2, there are some things you should note. The changes have altered the ride, and whether that’s for the better or not will depend. 

The most striking difference is the now softer ZoomX midsole foam that’s taken some of the stiffness and firmness out of the ride. That boosts the cushioned protection – great if your form goes ragged deep into a marathon – but it also dampens some of the all-out raciness, too. The Vaporfly 2 demanded and encouraged locked-in form; the Vaporfly 3 midsole is more forgiving. 

Should you buy the Nike Vapourfly 3?

It’s still wonderfully light, lively, compact, agile and fun with good spring and roll. That helps spare tired legs deep into longer runs. The uppers are much roomier, with more flex and space in the toe box, at times even a little loose and certainly not as secure as the tight, hugging race fit of the Alphafly 2. The boosted breathability on the Vaporfly 3 is really noticeable. You can feel the air flowing over your toes. Though it lets quite a lot of water in – so watch out for puddles. 

Overall, I’d say this is another great race shoe from Nike. Is it better than the old Vaporfly? That depends. You now have a shoe that’s more democratic and versatile. It’s light, fast and punchy when you’re flying in your best form and now offer better protection, better stability and a more reliable platform to run off when you’re not. But you are trading some of the all-out raciness to bag those benefits.