Running in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 for the first time will bring an extra spring to your step. With every footstrike, the generous 40mm of Nike's ZoomX foam underfoot and full length carbon footplate give noticeable extra propulsion over a traditional running shoe.
The energy return is really impressive. So much so, it could well be an entirely new sensation that you haven't experienced before – even walking in them initially feels rather peculiar.
However, once you're running, and have clocked a few dozen kilometers to adapt to this new feel underfoot, you may well be hooked on some new found speed.
Other notable features include offset laces, distinctive protruding point at the back of the sole, wider than normal toe box, and highly breathable knitted mesh upper. We found them good straight out of the box for a 15km run.
Your feet are really well connected and secure in the shoe with no rubbing, and this continued to be the case throughout testing. They're great looking too, so be prepared for some envious glances from other runners as you pass them by.
Price and release date
These shoes follow in the footsteps of the highly popular Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, but at $250 / £209.95 / $310.00 they're a little cheaper, while benefiting from the same speedy sole configuration.
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 were released in 2021 and are available in a wide variety of global markets.
At 206g, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 might not be the lightest racer out there - others tip the scales at just below 200g – but they still unquestionably fall into the lightweight category.
You've got the choice of two colorways: Aurora Green/Chlorine Blue/Pale Ivory/Black, which we tested here, and Glacier Blue/Chile Red/Pale Ivory/Black, which has a red flare if you want something more eye-catching.
Now the details, and let's start with the sole – after all, this is one of this shoe's biggest differentiators. With a sizable heel stack height of 40mm (World Athletics' limit), and 8mm drop, there is a good chunk of Nike's very own ZoomX foam underfoot, it's immensely light, bouncy and soft, designed to give high energy return.
There's also a full-length articulated carbon plate, which brings both added energy return as well as stability and responsiveness, thereby avoiding any marshmallow-type feeling that could be a factor with all this cushioning.
The outsole is largely exposed ZoomX foam, with the forefoot area covered in a more durable piece of grippier black rubber, plus two much smaller white strips on the edges of the heel, which are slightly serrated for a touch of extra traction.
This stripped-back approach has obvious weight-saving results, but a couple of obvious sacrifices would be longevity as well as grip in the wet. Don't even think about going off-road in them – they're strictly for road or track use.
The innersole appears fairly standard – there's no noticeable differences to regular ones – but it's glued and stitched in place, which may or may be to your personal preference. We liked it, for the one overriding benefit that it won't budge at all, which can sometimes be an issue with those that aren't secured, leading to rubbing and possible blisters.
It is worth noting that all of the above (i.e. the entire sole) is the same as its predecessor the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. The difference lies in the uppers.
In Nike's quest to be lightweight and breathable, the form of the shoe is almost skeletal, with only features that are absolutely essential. We like this a lot.
It's made from an engineered woven mesh (different to the Next% which uses Vaporweave) – this has lots of little holes so you can see through to your socks if you look closely – plus it's relatively soft and pliable while remaining durable.This means it’s highly breathable as well as quick drying.
In terms of padding, there's touch incorporated on the inside of the tongue, and a much more generous 4-5mm strip placed at the top of the heel. The toe box is slightly larger too, but not overly so.
The laces are brilliant – the perfect length (which is a simple thing to get right, but some brands don't manage), with additional stitching that gives lots of small notches.
Each of these is a gripping point to make sure your bow is really secure and won't slip, which is a really neat feature we haven't seen before. The laces are offset, angled to the outside of the shoe, which neatly accommodates the Nike tick and is a style statement, though we're not sure if there's much performance advantage.
One final flourish of detail is some discreet wording printed on the side of the midsole, reading: "Measured in the lab, verified with medals and records''. Make of that what you will.
From the moment you put them on, the bounce of the ZoomX foam is unmistakable and quite impressive.
We found the 40mm stack height and bounciness took a bit of getting used to (particularly if you've been wearing a more traditional pair of shoes) – so much that it felt like slightly different muscle groups were being worked round the back of our legs and glutes.
You might feel a little stiffness the day after running in them the first few times.
They're niggle-free straight out of the box, and padding and sizing are very well executed. The strip of padding on the heel cup works a treat, keeping the trainer locked firmly in place, totally connected to your foot.
There's plenty of room in the forefoot, and your foot feels well supported by the mesh upper.
It felt like there was slightly less support on the inside of the sole of the heel, which would perhaps suggest it's best avoided by under-pronaters (that is to say your ankle rolls inwards), but if you run in a more neutral style, they'll be fine.
Not that we had the chance to test much in the wet, but never once was there a feeling of lack of traction on the dry roads and flat surfaces they were tested on.
In terms of longevity, this is likely to be limited by the ZoomX foam on the sole. How long it will retain its springiness is hard to say, and the unprotected rear outsole section will show signs of wear quicker than shoes with full length rubber sole.
All in all, this is a performance running shoe, good for speed work and race day. It's very comfortable, very well built and brilliant all round.
Buy it if
You want the most innovative and cutting-edge gear
The full-length carbon plate, new foam and minimalist upper take this shoe to the next level.
You want free extra speed
If you've got your eye on a new PB, this shoe could give you the edge.
You want to turn the heads of other runners
There's no mistaking that this is a high-end performance shoe that'll garner attention.
Don't buy it if
You want a versatile, lifestyle cross shoe
This shoe isn't engineered for everyday wear
You intend on using them off road
These are thoroughbred road racing shoes
You under pronate
These are best for neutral running styles.
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