Nike Vaporfly 3 Review: FAST, But At What Cost?

Join Alastair as he explores the trade-offs between speed and comfort in Nike's lightest elite racing shoe.

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Writing this Nike Vaporfly review had me a little stumped at times as they are elite running shoes that have many positives to highlight, but just as many features that I just couldn’t get behind, and not for lack of trying either. I know these race day shoes spark a lot of curiosity among those who have run in its predecessor or are looking at the competition right now, like the Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris, Hoka Cielo X1, or the Nike Alphafly 3, for example – and I’m here to help.

If you’re currently caught in the dilemma of choosing the right race day shoe (I wouldn’t blame you, there are so many out there right now), whether for a 10K, a marathon, or anything in between – you are not alone. The Vaporfly 3 stands out as a potential good option for several reasons, and today, I’ll break down who it’s really for and how it compares to its closest rivals.

This review is set to be interesting because I’ve been switching between the Vaporfly 3 and Alphafly 3 a lot lately, along with other top race day shoes like the Hoka Cielo X1, and with only a $25 difference in price between this one and the AF3, yet distinct features setting them apart, choosing the right one can be a bit of a puzzle – a puzzle I’ll solve for you today.

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

The Vaporfly 3, priced at $260, is built for speed, yet its narrow design raises internal questions about fit, particularly for those with wider feet but even medium width feet like myself.

🔔 As a reminder, we always create video reviews of all the running shoes we review, so you can watch our Nike Vaporfly 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.

Read to the end, as I share more about my hands-on experience with this hyper lightweight contender and help you decide if it’s the right pick for your next race, but if you still have questions after reading, please drop them in the comments down below. Ready? Let’s go!

The Key Specifications

  • Price: $260 at nike.com (US) | £240 at sportsshoes.com (UK)
  • Sizing and fit: True to size in length, and medium/narrow width BUT it has a very narrow footbed. Sorry wide feet runners, I’d recommend you head straight over to my Cielo X1 super shoe review for a better fit.
  • Upper: Super breathable Flyknit upper. Notched laces secure them when tied. Asymmetrical lacing system and tongue.
  • Midsole Cushioning: Full ZoomX foam for bounce and energy return, and a full length carbon fiber plate (Flyplate) for maximal propulsion.
  • Weight: 6.5oz (184g) for a size US(M)9 (my pair) – WOW that’s light! For reference, see these stats (size US(M)9) from other recent super shoe reviews: AF3 is 7.2oz and 8mm drop | Cielo X1 is 8.9oz and drop is 7mm | Hyperion Elite 4 is 7.6oz and 8mm drop | Rocket X2 is 7.6oz and 5mm drop | Cloudboom Echo 3 is 7.7oz and 9.5mm | New Balance SC Elite v4 is 8.4oz and 4mm
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Toe box width: Medium.
  • Stability: Not very stable.
  • Best for: it’s a super shoe best for race day, and speed training like intervals and tempo runs.

👋🏼 Please consider supporting Trail & Kale Running Co by purchasing through our links, we may earn a small commission if you do so. It won’t cost you anything, and you’ll be helping to support our small business so we can continue providing content like this review. We appreciate you, and your support!


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

Let’s start by elaborating on some of the key features mentioned above to help provide more useful insights to what they actually mean for you and your run – it will also help set the stage for my performance review in just a moment.

Priced at $260, the Vaporfly 3 aligns well with the elite tier of super shoes, closely competing with the likes of the fantastic HOKA Rocket X2, which is slightly cheaper at $250.

The Vaporfly 3 is tailored more towards medium to narrow foot widths
Vaporfly 3 is tailored more towards medium to narrow foot widths

Focusing on the fit and feel, the Vaporfly 3 is tailored more towards narrow feet. Despite having average, low volume feet myself, I was quite surprised by the narrowness of this model. There’s ample room in the toe box, and the upper is roomy enough, however, for those with wide feet, this shoe will feel way too snug, particularly along the footbed which is exceptionally narrow.

This narrow footbed places the bottom of your foot partially on the inside edge of the upper when wearing them – this is best demonstrated in my video review for those who are curious to learn more about this.

This design choice seems to cater to runners with very slim feet, possibly inspired by, and I’m just guessing here, elite Kenyan athletes. Thus, if your feet are on the wider side, you’ll find a much better fit with the Nike Alphafly 3.

The Vaporfly 3 features an extremely breathable Flyknit upper
Extremely breathable Flyknit upper

The Vaporfly 3 features an extremely breathable Flyknit upper, I mean just look, you can clearly see my socks through the gaps in the weave.

It’s impressively light and soft, offering substantial padding around the heel which keeps it comfortably away from the heel counter, reducing the risk of rubbing.

The shoe’s asymmetrical lacing and tongue might not appeal to everyone aesthetically, but it’s part of Nike’s attempt to be quirky and stand out from the competition right now! More thoughts on this lacing system shortly.

A notable update from its predecessor includes a thinner outsole that reduces the shoe’s weight, bringing it down to a mere 6.5 ounces. This makes it lighter than the Alphafly 3, the HOKA Cielo X1, and the Rocket X2 – but not lighter than the Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris which, incredibly, weighs only 6.3oz (179g).

The waffle design of the outsole also enhances traction compared to the Vaporfly 2. At the heart of its performance features, the Vaporfly 3 uses Nike’s ZoomX foam for excellent energy return and a springy feel, further amplified by a carbon fiber FLYPLATE integrated into the midsole, as seen in the photo below.

The Vaporfly 3 have carbon fiber FLYPLATE integrated into the midsole
Carbon fiber FLYPLATE integrated into the midsole

These innovations provide outstanding forward propulsion and energy return which is essential for racing performance.

Given their high-end price tag, I always advise against just reserving super shoes for race day. Modern durability and design mean you can, and should, utilize them in your speed training sessions like tempo runs and intervals as well. Familiarize yourself with how they feel on your feet and under foot during various runs so that when race day arrives, you’re fully adapted to their unique dynamics.

Investing $260 in a running shoe warrants getting your full money’s worth, and enjoying them across multiple sessions to truly appreciate their capabilities, and ultimately get as much fun out of them as possible.

👋🏼 If this is your first time on Trail & Kale, welcome! This site (and our YouTube channel) are designed to help you run your best, through our training plans, 101 run tips, and insightful, honest running shoe reviews, just like this one. Subscribe to our Newsletter to get full access to our Training Plans, and to stay up to date with all the latest running gear reviews.

The features of the Nike Vaporfly 3 that work really well, and some that could be improved for the Vaporfly 4

Congratulations on making it to my performance review of the Nike Vaporfly 3! The Vaporfly 3s are fun to run in; they’re exceptionally quick and provide fantastic propulsion, however, it’s important to note that they aren’t perfect by any means.

Vaporfly 3 is not a very stable running shoe, even though Nike says it is, due to the pronounced bump-out in the midsole at the heel

Nike markets the Vaporfly 3 as a stable running shoe, attributing this stability to a pronounced bump-out in the midsole at the heel. Despite this design intent, I find that the shoe doesn’t deliver on the promise of stability – not even close!

For runners who require stable shoes due to pronation or other gait issues, the Vaporfly 3 will feel a bit precarious. This instability largely stems from its narrow design, as seen in the photo below where I compare them to the outsole width of the Alphafly 3 in my video review on our YouTube Channel.

The Vaporfly 3 instability largely stems from its narrow design
The Vaporfly 3 instability largely stems from its narrow design. Here it is next to the Alphafly 3 – look how narrow it is in comparison.

The Vaporfly 3 seems tailored for runners with exceptionally slim feet, or elite athletes with very streamlined foot profiles.

If stability is a concern for you, you might consider alternatives such as the Cielo X1 or the Rocket X2 from HOKA, or even the Nike Alphafly 3. Despite the issues with stability, the Vaporfly 3 does excel in other areas.

Vaporfly 3 midsole is not only cushioned but also responsive, providing the kind of push-forward feel and energy return you want in a race shoe.
Its midsole is not only cushioned but also responsive, providing the kind of push-forward feel and energy return you want in a race shoe.

Its midsole is not only cushioned but also responsive, providing the kind of push-forward feel and energy return you want in a race day super shoe.

The Vaporfly 3 has an extremely breathability upper, which ensures that your feet remain cool and comfortable, enhancing the overall enjoyment of your run when operating at a high intensity – however, I am not personally a fan of the asymmetrical lacing system, which is shown in the picture below.

Vaporfly 3 asymmetrical lacing system
Vaporfly 3 asymmetrical lacing system

While Nike might be aiming for a unique aesthetic with this feature, I find it a unattractive and it doesn’t seem to offer any tangible design benefits, and personally, I struggle to achieve the snugness I desire.

The asymmetrical design extends to the tongue, which slopes to one side, adding to the quirky nature of the shoe. It’s a bit too quirky for my taste, especially compared to the more traditionally designed Alphafly 3, which offers a better fit on the upper.

Both the Vaporfly 3 and the Alphafly 3 feature notched laces, which are designed to help secure the shoes tightly so they don’t come undone during runs, as long as you tie them tightly.

Nike Vaporfly 3 Review: FAST, But At What Cost? 1 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

Let me know in the comments: what you think about the asymmetrical design of the upper? Does it appeal to you, or do you prefer a more conventional look?

➡ 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 Vaporfly 3 worth buying?

The big question then, and probably the reason you’re here: Are these shoes worth the $260 price tag?

From my perspective, I would hesitate to spend that amount on these racing shoes, primarily due to the fit and lack of stability.

The lacing system and the narrow design underfoot don’t suit my foot shape (which by the way is very much average), particularly around the mid-foot and arch area, leading to less comfort than I would expect for $260.

However, for runners with very slim feet, the Vaporfly 3 could be a fantastic choice. It’s incredibly light and fast.

👋🏼 Please consider supporting Trail & Kale Running Co by purchasing through our links, we may earn a small commission if you do so. It won’t cost you anything, and you’ll be helping to support our small business so we can continue providing content like this review. We appreciate you, and your support!

If speed and a minimal lightweight feel are high on your priority list, and something you value highly then these aspects might justify the investment for you. Yet, if I were to add another $25, I’d lean towards the Nike Alphafly 3. In my experience, it offers better value for money even though it’s more expensive. It fits a wider range of foot shapes more comfortably and feels faster, making it a superior option for more runners.

Thank you for reading this Nike Vaporfly 3 review, I hope you found the insights helpful – and if you did, consider sharing it with friends who might also enjoy it. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Newsletter, so you don’t miss our other in-depth 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

YouTube Video review

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

Trail & Kale Running Co. Nike Vaporfly 3 video review on YouTube
Alastair
Alastairhttps://www.trailandkale.com
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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