Nike Alphafly 3 Review: Holy Lightning, I Wasn’t Ready For This!

Alastair shares his expert take on the Nike Alphafly 3, focusing on their innovative features, PLUS his performance review of these super shoes.


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Welcome to this Nike Alphafly 3 review, where I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on this incredible race day super shoe. Those of you who’ve been readers of Trail & Kale for a while will know we’ve tested quite a few race day shoes here recently, which is just as well because it allows me to fairly compare the Alphafly 3 to its competitors out there right now.

I was very excited to put these running shoes through some proper testing as I really wanted to be able to compare a shoe worthy of competing against the HOKA Cielo X1, which continues to be a fantastic performer in its own right.

Stick around to the end of this review to learn about the Alphafly 3’s key specifications, the top features and how they benefit you on the run, my performance review, and finally whether they’re worth the premium price tag. All that, and more to come in this Nike Alphafly 3 review, but if you still have questions after reading, please drop them in the comments down below.

Nike Alphafly 3 Review | Trail & Kale Running Co.
Nike Alphafly 3 Review | Trail & Kale Running Co.

🔔 As a reminder, we also create video reviews of all the running shoes we test, so be sure to watch our Nike Alphafly 3 video review, next, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for reviews of all the latest running shoes as they drop.

The Key Specifications

  • Price: $285
  • Sizing and fit: They fit true to size and have a medium width – not narrow like the Vaporfly.
  • Weight: 7.2oz (204g) for a size US(M)9 (my pair).
  • Drop: 8mm.
  • Toe box width: Medium.
  • Stability: Neutral, with subtle support coming from the wide carbon fiber plate.
  • Upper: Atomknit omni-stretch upper that’s breathable and hugs your feet really well. Integrated tongue with padding for lacing protection. Notched laces secure laces when tied. 
  • Midsole: 2x air zoom units in the forefoot and full zoomX foam for max bounce and energy return, and a full length carbon fiber plate (Flyplate) for maximal propulsion.
  • Best for: half and full marathon racing but I also love them for speed work (tempo runs, and interval training).

Who are the Nike Alphafly 3 well suited to?

So, who are the Nike Alphafly 3 shoes really for? Officially, they’re tagged as marathon racing shoes, perfect for tackling anything from half marathons to the full 26.2 miles. However, I’ve been using the Alphafly 3s for more than just those long-distance training runs or races.

They’ve been one of my go-to for interval training, speed sessions, and even tempo runs. The reason? I just can’t get enough of the way they feel, and let’s face it, how fast they are. So, even though they are marketed primarily for marathons, if you’re looking to boost the pace and enjoyment of your training runs, or perhaps you don’t race often but still want to experience a fast, bouncy ride during your workouts, then these shoes might just be what you’re looking for.

If this sounds like you and you’re ready to invest in a premium (and yes, expensive) running shoe, then the Alphafly 3 will be a great fit.

What’s the best alternative to the Alphafly 3 right now?

Well without a doubt I’m going to say the Hoka Cielo X1, which is one of the best Hoka running shoes right now. If you’re not familiar with that running shoe or you haven’t read our review yet, definitely follow that link I just posted, it’s one hell of a race day super shoe.

I’m having so much fun in it, and manage to get a run in them at least once a week, even with all the shoe testing I have to do for new reviews.

Expanding on those key statistics and explaining what they actually mean for you on your run

Before i share my performance review, I’m going to break down some of the key features of the Nike Alphafly 3, and explain what these innovations bring to the table, for you, as a runner.

The breathable upper is crafted with Nike's AtomKnit mesh technology
The breathable upper is crafted with Nike’s AtomKnit mesh technology

Let’s start with the upper, as it’s pretty special in my opinion; it’s crafted with Nike’s AtomKnit mesh technology. This material is designed to stretch omnidirectionally, essentially meaning it can expand in four directions.

This feature is crucial for a racing shoe of this grandeur as it allows the upper to adapt beautifully to the movements of your feet, accommodating things like toe splay and other dynamics. When you lace them up and slip them on, the upper feels like the shoe is giving your feet a gentle hug, thanks to this flexible, accommodating structure that stretches to the form of your foot. Yes, like a sock! 🙂

The upper feels like the shoe is giving your feet a gentle hug
The upper feels like the shoe is giving your feet a gentle hug

Additionally, the interior of the AtomKnit mesh is surprisingly soft and it offers insanely good breathability. The inside of the heel counter has well designed cushions to help with locking your heels into the shoes, which the image below shows.

The inside of the heel counter has well designed cushions
The inside of the heel counter has well designed cushions

Ventilation and internal temperature regulation are important properties to bear in mind when shopping for a super shoe, as running at such intensity will mean your feet are going to naturally get hot.

The shoe also features an integrated tongue, which essentially means it has a sock-like upper without a separate tongue piece. This design can sometimes lead to less padding in the tongue area, but thankfully, the Alphafly 3 includes just enough to prevent lace pressure from bothering the top of your foot.

Moving on to the midsole of the Nike Alphafly 3 then… First off, it’s essential to highlight that this shoe incorporates two Air Zoom units, noticeable by the orange sections on the outsole, and of course the bubble on either side of the shoe.

this shoe incorporates two Air Zoom units
This shoe incorporates two Air Zoom units

These units are not just for show; they offer substantial bounce and energy return in the forefoot area. This is crucial when you’re racing, as you primarily want to propel forward from your forefoot; this is the way (and it’s also proper running form ;)).

Heel compression of the ZoomX foam across the entire midsole
Heel compression of the ZoomX foam across the entire midsole

For those who might heel strike, don’t worry—the Alphafly 3 includes responsive, yet highly cushioned ZoomX foam across the entire midsole, coupled with a full-length carbon fiber plate (Flyplate) that runs from the heel to the toe. This setup enhances energy return and provides dynamic propulsion, helping you strive for your best race day performance. See below for a picture of the carbon fiber Flyplate showing its face on the underside.

Carbon fiber Flyplate and outsole
Carbon fiber Flyplate and outsole

This shoe features an 8mm drop from heel to toe, which is fairly standard for a high-performance super shoe like this.

It also tips the scales at just 7.2 oz for a US Men’s size 9, making it one of the lightest running shoes I’ve covered on Trail and Kale, and possibly the lightest super shoe on the market right now.

Nike Alphafly 3 Review | Trail & Kale Running Co.

When you first pick them up, it’s insane how light they feel, which is a massive advantage, especially over marathon distances. The lighter the shoe, the less strain on your muscles, which means less effort required to carry you to the finish line.

Despite its minimal weight, the Alphafly 3 doesn’t skimp on cushioning or support though – something that hyper lightweight shoes often miss the mark on. It masterfully balances lightweight construction with the necessary cushion, bounce, response, and propulsion. This combination likely contributes to its premium pricing, but it’s clear that a lot of innovation and performance features are packed into this lightweight package.

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What’s new in the Alphafly 3 compared to the previous version

This brings me to the updates between the Nike Alphafly 3 and its predecessor, the Alphafly 2. Here are some of the key differences:

  1. The Alphafly 3 is lighter than the previous version, making it the lightest Alphafly to date. This reduction in weight contributes significantly to performance, allowing for a more efficient run.
  2. The carbon fiber plate in the midsole has been widened. A wider plate enhances stability during your runs, which can be particularly beneficial if you experience pronation issues. This added stability is a big plus for your biomechanics over longer distances.
  3. The updated AtomKnit upper is designed to stretch omnidirectionally. It’s not only super breathable and durable, but it also wraps snugly around your foot when you slip it on. This tailored fit eliminates any loose fabric and prevents slippage inside the shoe, ensuring you don’t lose energy, which is crucial for a racing shoe.
  4. The ZoomX midsole is now fully connected with the rest of the shoe, which means there’s no gap between the heel and forefoot segments. This design enhances the shoe’s energy return and reduces the noise during runs.

In my initial review of the first Alphafly, I joked about it being the loudest running shoe that meant there was no way you could sneak up on a runner in a race and pass them without them hearing you coming a mile off. This version, however, does not have that issue – PHEW! :oD

Performance review

Congratulations for making it this far in this in-depth review, you’re clearly serious about buying these running shoes. How do they actually perform on the run then? As I mentioned earlier, these shoes are built for speed, and they certainly deliver. Surprisingly, despite not focusing on speed training recently due to testing multiple new trail running shoes, when I laced up the Alphafly 3 for my first 10km run in them, I was blown away by their speed; reminiscent of the Hoka Cielo X1 which helped me hit a new 5K PR (after 8 years) in my first run in them.

Nike Alphafly 3 Review | Trail & Kale Running Co.
Nike Alphafly 3 Review | Trail & Kale Running Co.

They pushed me faster than I anticipated, outpacing my current cardio condition. This is something you might have noticed too with new shoes that offer a lot of energy return and bounce; they can propel you faster than you’re prepared for, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a testament to the advanced design of these shoes.

The run was not only fast but also comfortable, thanks to the ample cushioning in the midsole and the ZoomX units under the forefoot, which is my preferred area to push off when I’m running at higher speeds. Plus, it’s been really hot here in California, and the breathability of the upper has been a godsend.

Now, briefly comparing the Nike Alphafly 3 to the Cielo X1

Both shoes have their strengths and weaknesses, and I love both. It often comes down to how I feel on the day as to which I pick up for a speed session. The Cielo X1 has a pronounced rocker silhouette that propels you forward effortlessly on longer runs. The Alphafly 3, on the other hand, is notably lighter, making it my go-to for shorter, high-speed runs like a 5K where I might aim for a personal record. However, both are incredibly breathable and comfortable, suitable for high-speed running in any conditions.

If it’s particularly hot, the ultra-breathable upper of the Alphafly 3 is there to help keep your feet cool; it’s almost like it’s not there at all, which is perfect for those sweltering days.

Nike Alphafly 3 Review: Holy Lightning, I Wasn't Ready For This! 2 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

I also want to touch briefly on the outsole of the Alphafly 3, which often doesn’t get much attention. You might think the slick rubber at the rear wouldn’t offer much traction, similar to a Formula 1 tire, but these shoes grip surprisingly well. Even in wet conditions, the fine tread pattern at the front has provided stable, secure traction, allowing me to navigate tight turns and dodge through crowded paths effortlessly.

In essence, whether I grab the Alphafly 3 or the Cielo X1 might just depend on the weather or my mood, because both are exceptional. These shoes are proof that you can have wildly different styles and still achieve top performance.

➡ If you’re enjoying this review do me a favor, drop a comment down below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more running shoe reviews just like this one. If you’re familiar with these running shoes, share your thoughts on them in the comments.

Is the Nike Alphafly 3 worth buying?

I’m absolutely loving the Alphafly 3, and you’re probably here to see if I think they’re worth the scary big $285 price tag. If you have that kind of budget, then my answer is a resounding yes. For me, these are currently one of the top two race day super shoes available.

If you’re someone who doesn’t mind investing in high-quality gear and you’re looking to maximize your investment, I’d recommend not limiting these shoes just to race days, they’re fantastic for speed sessions too.

So, whether you’re looking to push the pace on tempo runs, use them during interval training, save them for race day, or all of the above, the Alphafly 3 performs excellently across all these scenarios. Plus, using them more frequently means you’ll be more accustomed to how they feel when it’s time to race, enhancing your confidence and performance.

If you’ve got the budget, appreciate great design, and want the best in class right now, then absolutely go for these shoes or the Cielo X1 – you won’t be disappointed in either.

Thank you for reading this Nike Alphafly 3 review, I hope you found the insights helpful – and if you did, consider sharing it with friends who might also find it useful. And don’t forget to subscribe to our Newsletter, to ensure you don’t miss our other running shoe reviews as they drop. Your support means a lot, and I look forward to bringing you more running shoe reviews you can rely on. Until next time, take care and keep running. -Alastair

Nike Alphafly 3 Review (VIDEO)

Did you know we also create shoe review videos on our YouTube Channel too? Click the image below to watch our Nike Alphafly 3 review on YouTube next.

Nike Alphafly 3 Review: Holy Lightning, I Wasn't Ready For This! 3 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure
As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.


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