Up and Forward! Broader Stature, Broader Uses! 9 Comparisons

Article by Joost de Raeymaeker, Jacob Brady and Sam Winebaum

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next % 2 ($275)

Introduction

Sam: The Alphafly Next % 2, Nike’s pinnacle marathon and long racer gets significant updates “focused on refining the construction of the shoe to take all runners through the marathon distance with improved stability and transition.” 

Specifically we see:

  • it moves to a 8mm drop from 4mm becoming a 40mm heel, 32mm forefoot stack shoe allowing a more rolling motion with slightly lower profile and pressure Air Zoom pods with Zoom X cushion below.

  • 5mm wider on the ground at the heel and forefoot

  • a higher more structured heel counter, foot sitting more deeply in foam sidewalls, more contoured sockliner and especially more platform width and drop make the rear and midfoot more stable and help the foot more easily transition forward, even from a heel landing.

  • a new thinner outsole with mini lugs and changes to the forefoot and rear cavities

  • a new Atomknit 2 upper that is more open and at the same time more structured/stiffer as it literally stands up on its own with a slightly thicker less stretchy knit tongue

  • 0.5 oz / 14g  weight gain due to wider base to come in at about 8 oz / 227g US9.

Our three testers Joost a 2:26 marathoner, Jacob 2:49, and Sam about 3:40 on a good day, all with experience in original Alphafly and most all the other super marathon shoes. put the latest Alphafly to the test!

Pros:

Smooth, stable, friendly ride: Jacob/Sam/Joost

Changes from the first version lead to a more well-rounded shoe that should work for a range of runner forms, paces, and preferences: Jacob/Sam/Joost

Remarkably lightweight for the cushion, protection, and rebound: Jacob/Sam/Joost

Versatile. Can easily be used as a trainer for longer faster (and even not so fast) runs Sam/Jacob/Joost

Very stable, 5mm more base width front to back, foot sits deeper in midsole  Sam/Jacob/Joost

Spacious toebox with locked-in midfoot and heel: Jacob/Sam/Joost

Industry-leading effortlessly fast, propulsive ride: Jacob

Less low feeling heel, easier pretty much any pace forward roll to toe off Sam

Improved more gripping outsole Sam/Jacob/Joost

“Slower” marathoners should not be afraid of picking this shoe Sam

Cons:

A bit mechanical in feel given the giant stack and broad platform  Sam/Joost

0.5 oz / 14g weight gain to 8 oz / 227g  is not much, but there. Sam

Wish base width increase was reduced somewhat to reduce weight and  increase agility  Sam

Change from pure all out racer to a more balanced all around focused platform may not please all. Sam

Not quite as leg-saving as some other supershoes Joost 

No sustainable or eco-conscious design choices evident or called out:  Jacob/Sam

Stats

Approx Weight: men’s 8 oz  / 227g (US9) 

 Samples: men’s 7.76 oz / 221g US8.5 

v1 7.28 oz / 207g US8.5

Stack Height: men’s mm 40 heel / 32-33 forefoot  heel mm / mm forefoot, 7-8 mm drop

v1 40mm heel / 36mm forefoot, 4mm drop

Available now. $275

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: The Atomknit 2 upper is a single layer of fishnet like, stretched mesh. It is completely unlined, highly breathable and low moisture absorbing. It differs significantly from v1’s and any other upper I can recall  in being able to “stand on its own ” By that I mean it has enough inherent structure to the material to not collapse anywhere when off the foot yet on the foot it wraps securely, completely, and with no pressures.  

Contributing to an all of a piece fit is that the knit, unlike v1’s, is in a seemingly random pattern with more depth or 3D structure  whereas the v1 is more linear and flat and a bit softer 

It also differs from v1 in having a far higher, more stout, and more padded heel collar. It is not easy to pull on as the knit tongue and opening has minimal stretch, a great sign for such a minimal thickness upper and for rear lockdown. Once the foot is seated with a resounding thud, the rear of the shoe is totally locked down and on the run is very stable and secure, and for me more so than any other super shoe to date.

The lacing system features a pliable external plastic strip through which webbing lace loops run. So, except at the last lace up hole, no laces touch the foot as one would see in the usual in and out of holes approach as found in v1. 

The system allows the laces to wrap securely over the integral knit tongue with tension through the webbing straps and strip providing the lockdown. The lacing system is very easy to adjust , no struggles to move the laces through the webbing loops and once laced up never any adjustments for me. Incredibly consistent to tie and once tied over the foot feel lacing approach here, and front to back.

The glued in sockliner changes from a flat type to a more contoured one at the arch. There is clearly more arch support at mid foot now from this sockliner and the addition of 5mm of platform width. A noticeable sense of arch support from the sockliner subsides after a few runs.

The toe box is generous in height and width and as with the rest of the Atomknit non-stretch with denser knitting creating a toe bumper and the height. It is clearly true to size for me, as was v1.

Joost: The Alphafly 1 wasn’t my favorite shoe, let’s just get that out of the way. I just didn’t get why people thought it was the ultimate marathon racer. Like many others after Kipchoge’s sub-2 marathon distance event, I was quick to jump on an initial order when they first came out and got the black and green colorway. It was an online sprint to get this marathon shoe!  When it arrived, I took it out for a fast workout, only to get an enormous blood blister on the side of my big toe. Something in the toe lift inside was causing some serious friction. The ride was  ok, though mechanical, as most people can attest. 

I sold them to a friend and ordered the green Ekiden colorway a half size up to pick up while passing through Europe. At half a size over my usual M9.5, they just never felt tuned in to me and so I never used them in any official race. I occasionally take them out for a medium paced long run, but never really enjoy them very much and according to iSmoothRun, they only have 6 runs on them and a total of 125km (78 miles). 

To cut a long story short, when the opportunity came to review a pair of the new Alphafly 2, I was glad I received my first ever Nike super shoe at no charge for review, after spending a lot of money on numerous (I checked, it’s 9 pairs) of Vaporfly and Alphafly. I gambled and asked for my normal M9.5, hoping to not end my review with blood in my shoes.

Opening the box, the Mint Foam/Volt/Coconut Milk/Cave Purple (that’s the official name) colorway looks great in person. The photos don’t do it justice. Initial struggles of getting into the shoe aside, the fit was spot on for me. No obvious friction anywhere and ample space in the toe box. 

The Atomknit 2 upper is a thing of beauty. 

It’s incredibly thin, more transparent even than the previous version, yet molds around the foot. It’s more structured and doesn’t stretch and stands up on its own.

Sam has already mentioned the lacing system. The laces themselves are different from v1. They’re now ribbed on both sides for an enhanced secure knot. 

No fear of them untying on their own. There’s still noticeable arch support when walking around in the Alphafly 2, but the new sockliner goes up further on the medial side and risk of arch friction is eliminated this way.

Some people have been complaining about heel blisters due to the higher collar and more extensive cushioning, but I haven’t had any issues myself. 

You might have to dial in your sock game if you run into issues, at least until the shoe is properly broken in.

The first few steps get you that familiar Alphafly marshmallow feeling, but due to the reconfigured forefoot with 4mm less stack and additional width, the sensation is a little less obvious.

Jacob: The Alphafly 2 is an elegant, high quality modern running shoe. I really like the subdued colorway with soft blue mesh. It is not bold or flashy like many past Nike racers. It looks substantial and uniquely designed, but less dramatic than its predecessor with a wider platform and more conventional outsole.

On foot it is perfectly true to size for me with an ideal fit, being secure throughout but spacious and airy in the toebox. The laces hold very well and the strip of padding below the lacing system and thicker knit tongue help with comfort and reduce lace bite, which can be a problem in thin uppers. The Atomknit upper material is extremely thin and transparent while also holding its shape, a fairly remarkable design. The heel is more conventional than recent NIke racers with a low rigid heel counter transitioning to semi-rigid higher up and a softly padded collar. It’s all around well-designed. 

However, I am disappointed to see no sustainable design choices called out, especially after the experimentation with the Alphafly Nature.

Underfoot it is soft and deeply cushioned but not overly squishy or tippy. It feels consistent and like a solid platform. Overall, I had excellent first impressions and try on. 

Midsole

Sam: The midsole is composed of three components: ZoomX PEBA foam, a carbon plate and dual Air Zoom pods. Same materials as v1 but after that the Alphafly 2 midsole and its geometry quite radically changes. I sense the ZoomX is slightly softer and given the new wider base there is also more of it to absorb shock.

The drop goes to 7-8mm as I measure with a 40mm heel of and a forefoot of about 33mm.

The geometry now features a wider base, 5mm wider front to back, with the foot sitting deeper in the midsole side walls for stability

The central cavity seen from the bottom is now far wider and deeper with the smaller toe area cavity now longer to the front I think assisting with a more distinct softer final toe off roll with the softer foam. 

The Air units are now separated from the outsole by a thin layer of Zoom X and it appears the thin plastic plate separating the pods from outsole in v1 may have been removed or is for sure less thick so less road noise with the outsole and plastic piece thinner. The Air Zoom pods appear to be at least 1mm lower profile and the combination of outsole, foam above and Air Zoom units when pressed is clearly softer and lower pressure than in v1.  

There is ZoomX down the edges of the front cavity creating some new structure and stability as before the outsole was suspended and collapsed in the gap just behind the rear of the triangle in the photo above showing v1 to the left and v2 to the right.

The result is a very stable, consistent feeling, easier to roll racing and I would also now say training midsole design. It is amazing to think that the exact same stack height as the Vaporfly, more or less produces such a distinctly different feel: broader, more stable, and yes less agile feeling as well yet with inclusion of the Zoom Air pods more explosive off the front (for mid and forefoot strikers for sure but also more heel strike oriented runners as I am) 

At the same time it gains some new found roll as the Vaporfly has. The additional drop of 4mm is clearly part of the now easier roll as is the broader heel which now (if you land back there) helping keep forces directed forward. This is followed by the softer and lower profile assembly around the Air Zoom units backed by softer Zoom X below them and thinner outsole all compressing more easily  so less vertical bounce leading to clearly noticed more forward roll for me than Alphafly 1.

I did notice the shoe required a dozen or so miles of break in, most noticed at the arch, where it seems the now more contoured supportive sock liner and foam seemed to settle into an appropriate level of support for the big stack and midfoot gap.

Joost: What to add to Sam’s minute description of the new midsole configuration? When I first looked at them, I was wondering where the 4mm had gone, since there was now some extra foam under the air pods. It wasn’t until I put the previous version next to this one that I noticed the Zoom Air Units themselves were obviously thinner. Air pressure of the pods is also noticeably less. There is also less midsole foam above the Air Units.

A wider base makes for a more stable shoe, which is a good thing with this much foam under foot. 

There is now a deeper cutout in the midsole in the midfoot to heel area, probably to make up for some of the weight gain from the wider base. I did get a pebble stuck in that area on one of my runs, so you might want to check this if you run on gravel or offroad with them. The pointy end of the heel has also been chipped off and is now more square. I doubt this has any measurable effect except maybe in a wind tunnel, but it’s an easy way to distinguish both versions of the shoe from a distance.

Jacob: The Alphafly 2 midsole is composed of Nike’s ZoomX PEBA foam, a full-length carbon plate, and two Air Zoom units in the forefoot. There is a lot of foam and it extends beyond the back of the heel which increases stability, and performance for heel striking, all combining to lead to a cushioned and energetic running experience. 

The high-level design is the same as the revolutionary Alphafly 1 with several key differences that lead to a refined performance of the Alphafly 2, most notably higher drop and a wider platform, which together add stability and make it easier to run. 

Sam and Joost detail all the changes from v1 to v2, so I’ll just highlight my favorites: the thinner air pods, ZoomX foam between the pods and the ground, and removal of “floating” outsole rubber lead to a quieter, smoother forefoot feel without losing the propulsive effect of the geometry. 

Outsole

Sam: The outsole and particularly the front outsole is completely changed. The thickness upfront goes from 6mm at its thickest point under the pods to 2mm all over upfront with a “chamfered” design that angles its edges over the midsole to protect it.

Instead of waves the new outsole has a combination of raised edge lugs and filled ones of varying sizes with holes to lighten (and I think give flex) cut through. The exposed front cavity is also now larger and longer but not as wide. Whereas before there was a void below the outsole to the air pod at the rear of the opening, there is now a wall of foam lining the cavity. 

The thin plate below the pods is gone or at least now thinner and embedded in the new layer of foam that sits between pods and outsole,

Pressing the rear of the front cavity one clearly feels more support, more of a continuous landing surface in the area directly between the pods than in v1. A more stable landing, more connection between pods and the ground, less energy lost maybe the reasons for this change? 

Further back where the front outsole ends, the outsole now extends (with that new layer of ZoomX just above)  towards the rear with a bit of an overhang to create what I feel is more of a levering forward in combination with the lower pressure and lower profile air units, something I can slightly sense. This is instead of the prior singular focus on a vertical landing at the pods and bounce directly up and off the pods.

I have not run on wet roads as of yet but did on my standard seaside loops with brief sections run on a thin layer of fine sand on concrete and pavement, a great test of grip.  The Alphafly 2 had surprisingly good grip in this test, among the best of any shoe this year. I think the fine array of newsman lugs, the thinner more flexible front rubber and the holes through all contributed to the solid grip.

Beyond some outer paint over the foam scuffing at the heel and also interestingly on the inside of rear grooves, the outsole itself at about 30 miles is like new. Also interestingly, my wear pattern is similar to Joost’s below and he is much faster with much more of a midfoot landing than I have. Given the wear pattern and the pronounced rear rocker, I seem to be landing further forward than normal even at the slower paces (9:15-10:15) I have run the Alphafly at for much of the mileage to date.

Joost: I agree with Sam. The new outsole configuration, especially in the forefoot, offers a little bit more flexibility and cuts the weight where possible with the holes. Grip has been good and the few patches of wet road I’ve run on so far have not offered any challenges. I suspect some of the difference in the noise levels of the Alphafly – this version is a tad quieter than the loud thuds of v1 – are also due to the different outsole and addition of some Zoom X below the pods whereas before it was just rubber and the plastic piece below the pods. Definitely an upgrade in my opinion.

Durability is great. There’s hardly any wear on the outsole of my review pair after 172km (107 miles). 

Jacob: The outsole is impressive for a road racing shoe, being smooth, grippy on a range of surfaces, and durable. The near full coverage of rubber and mini lugs lead to great traction even on sandy pavement and dirt. Durability is critical to value in a very expensive racing shoe, and though I only have around 30 miles in testing so far, see very minimal wear. My initial wear combined with Joost and Sam’s experience indicates the Alphafly 2 outsole is likely above average in durability which is great and makes the price more palatable.  

Ride

Sam: The ride is very stable, energetic, highly cushioned, consistent, predictable and quite mechanical. There is almost no sense of the road below or even that your feet are “in the game”. It cruises along no matter the pace, feeling about the same. 

It reminds me more of the Tempo Next % than the Alphafly 1 which had a softer feeling lower heel and required a real focus on mid foot landings.  Interestingly, the considerably heavier Tempo Next “trainer” actually requires faster paces to shine than the Alphafly 2 does for me.  Clearly, Nike took more inspiration from the Tempo Next than Alphafly 1 (or Vaporfly Next) in the ride design of the Alphafly 2  

Here, of course, midfoot landings to really take advantage of the rebound of the Zoom Air pods are still very much on the menu although with the lower pressure softer air units they are not as explosive in rebound and not as “required” as before. We can also now more easily and with more stability and loss of forward motion heel land on the wider base with the foot more deeply embedded in the midsole sidewalls, the heel collar higher and more secure and the sockliner more arch supporting. The ride is just plain more practical for more runners. 

I have run a variety of paces from easy 10 min miles plus to half pace for me so about at 7:30-7:40 miles and all paces were steady, consistent and smooth if not quite as wildly rebounding off the front as v1 where I had to stay there or else things got sloppy, low heel feeling and far more awkward.  

To accelerate just lean forward a bit and focus on landing and rebounding off the pods. It works super well, reminding but in a different way, of the easy to find groove of the forward pronating “groove” of the original Vaporfly from 2017. But here in the Alphafly 2 with a more centered focus on the pod . 

It’s a strange feeling as the ride at faster paces feels almost as identical to slower ones except one feels more air pod rebound as pace increases. The new softer, easy to find final more rolling toe off from the softer lower pressure pods and I think softer more flexible front (thinner outsole)  really comes into play and noticed, this last not something I felt much of in v1 and a big plus for me.

The Alphafly now has a more friendly if a more mechanical,  “safer” and consistent ride one that is less connected to the road and is a touch more ponderous given its width and height  Yet, this is exactly what almost all of us but the very fastest and of great form need to run our fastest long races all the way to the finish. I keep thinking this is the shoe that may help those close to their Boston Qualifier get over the line. Of course, Kipchoge is happy and fast in this very shoe so not to worry it is too tame. 

I really appreciated the leading- for any super shoe rear stability and hold, the easier transition to the pods and the more pronounced softer very final toe off. 

Jacob: The ride is smooth, effortless, cruising, stable, cushioned, and directed. I think it’s the best example of a modern propulsive, leg-saving, plated distance shoe I have run. I have felt Nike road racing shoes led the industry in smooth, effortless speed ride characteristics and that continues with the Alphafly 2. I am amazed by the running experience. 

First, the underfoot feel is stable and consistent. There is a lot of foam and the geometry of the shoe encourages me into a specific form, that feels comfortable and is easy to sustain. I notice no tippyness and no overly soft feel. For me it’s an easygoing landing, a quick and directed transition forward, then a smooth trampoline spring off the toe. It makes running fast comfortable and shockingly low effort. 

I tested the Alphafly 2 at everything from recovery (8:30 min/mi) to sprinting speed paces, including a tempo block, mixed pace shorter interval workout (threshold to 5k), and a 5k race (5:30 min/mi). Generally, it ran well at all paces, showing excellent versatility. 

At easy paces the locked-in cruising ride is not evident, but it’s still comfortable and stable (and tries to get me to go faster). 

At the faster end, the level of springing off the ground—sending me forward—increases but the depth of cushion also becomes more evident and is a bit more in the way. 

Though it would not be my choice for a 5k race, it felt great for a 5:15 mile and thus would be in the mix for a 10k, certainly a half marathon, and my current top pick for the marathon and longer. For long workouts or moderate pace long runs (upper endurance through marathon pace), it is amazing, but I also feel that I want to save the magic for race day. 

Joost: Like Sam and Jacob, I tested the Alphafly 2 at different paces and found it to be a lot easier to run at basically any pace than v1. It feels very stable, rolls off nicely with the 7-8mm drop and gives you back a lot of the energy you put into it. It never ceases to feel like a lot of shoe, though. It’s also always very much “present”, not the shoe you can forget about when you’re running. That feeling was even more present in v1.

The Alphafly 2 also continues to feel disconnected from the ground and due to the added width feels even less nimble and maneuverable than the previous version. You definitely get the feeling you’re running on a layer of marshmallows, but somehow they’re marshmallows that push you up and forward.

In my long runs with tempo speed work, I have had the feeling that they work very well, but while a shoe like the Vaporfly gets out of my way and lets me run more like I naturally run, I don’t get that feeling with the Alphafly and it feels harder to keep up the pace when I get tired legs and feet.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Nike’s Zoom X racers are about providing very different “experiences”. The flexible, more old school light and lively Streakfly is for me a delightful super light trainer. The Vaporfly Next is the agile plated racer that for me is my half and below Nike. 

Finally the Alphafly 2, while Kipchoge’s shoe of choice, sort of “democratizes” the super shoe for more runners, even slower ones. It has a very stable, consistent ride that combines Air Zoom pods’ rebound with now a higher drop and wider platform in the mix to help those of us (like me) without consistent front landings or explosive high knee drive more fully benefit from the combination of lots of leg saving Zoom X, the carbon plate, and the Air Zoom units.

Its pricing at $275 is the highest of any super shoe and on that basis and for what you get , I guess one could say it is the “most” super shoe.  It has a huge amount of the secret to super shoe leg saving performance ZoomX now on a broader more stable platform, a very well integrated carbon plate and with propulsion and forward roll enhanced by now more effectively implemented Air Zoom and outsole. 

And of course it has a wildly evolved and beautiful upper that fits me perfectly. The upper makes no compromises on hold or comfort. I found it totally locked down and forgotten once laced up and the lace up is easy and fast even if the pull on requires a shoe horn!

While not quite as bouncy off the front as there is 4mm less Zoom X and less pod height and pressure,  I’ll take the higher drop (less forefoot stack which was mostly rubber) as the Alphafly is now much easier to transition off the heel with new shades of the Vaporly’s more rolling action in the mix. 

Is it too much? Maybe for shorter races and the pocket book but it is nonetheless a fabulous experience, one that, within reason, one can now not only race in (for me likely half and above) but also train in at a variety of paces. This versatility increases its value for me given its super high pricing, something I could not say about the Alphafly 1.

Nike’s update, or really complete redo of the Alphafly, does change its character from explosive front rebounding racer with a somewhat narrow window of ideal forms and uses to something broader in utility and practicality, not only for different runner types but for a greater range of run types. It’s a steady consistent yet so light, well cushioned shoe I keep reaching for even when the day’s pace is on the slower side or I have other shoes to test.

Sam’s Score: 9.57 /10

Ride: 9.6 Fit: 9.8 Value: 9.1 Style: 9.3

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Jacob: The Alphafly 2 is a remarkable shoe. The fit is comfortable, roomy around the toes but otherwise locked in, easy to lace up, secure, and very breathable. Underfoot it is stable, springy, smooth, propulsive, fast, leg-saving, and fun. The ride is directed, makes it easy to lock in and cruise, and it gives back an incredible effort to pace ratio especially around marathon pace. 

It leans towards the forgiving, comfortable, cruising modern plated shoe with less focus on quickness and pop compared to shorter-distance racers. It runs well at most paces and is very usable for training and likely for a variety of runner types and speeds. 

For negatives, the only one I have is value: the lack of sustainable design is disappointing and along with the high cost, this does make this shoe a high price to pay even for top-of-the-line performance (both personal dollar and environmental impact). 

Functionally, I would recommend it for all runners looking for a half or full marathon racing shoe and I think it will lead to a lot of enjoyment and PRs.

Jacob’s Score: 9.67 / 10

Ride (50%): 10 Fit (30%): 10 Value (15%): 8 Style (5%): 9.5

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Joost: It would only make perfect sense for Nike to make a more democratic version of the Alphafly, given the fact that most elites prefer the Vaporfly while the Alphafly seems to be a huge success with mainstream runners Over here in Luanda, whole running and walking groups (yes, they buy them for walking as well!) have nearly all members wearing a pair of Alphafly in the hopes of running their best. Peer pressure? Probably, but even the price they go for locally (up to 50% over SRP) doesn’t seem to stop people from getting them.

Personally, I much prefer v2 over v1, due to a slightly easier ride, more stability and a better upper. I probably won’t use it to race a marathon, though. Not because it wouldn’t be a good choice, but because there are shoes that work better for me. It will definitely be in my rotation as I train for my next marathon, for those long runs with fast work in them. They are of course very expensive, but from what I can assess so far, they are also very durable, so even if you don’t choose to race in them, they can still accompany you through a number of marathon training cycles.

Joost’s Score: 9.24/10

Ride (50%): 9.2 Fit (30%): 9.8 Value (15%): 8 Style (5%): 9.9

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Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next % 1 (RTR Review)

Sam: Covered in detail above. The Alphafly 2 is more stable, more varied pace and stride type friendly and a bit heavier due to its wider platform. It is a much more versatile shoe for me, able to tackle just about any run type or race. The Alphafly 1 is more exciting and dynamic but more limited to racing and shorter distances for me.  Clear preference for v2 for me.

Jacob: I agree with Sam. The Alphafly 1 is a great shoe, but in comparison it feels more extreme, weird, less stable, and less smooth. It is more prone to lace bite and its traction is worse. It is harder for me to stay on form/pace in the Alphafly 1 than the Alphafly 2. The Alphafly 2 being heavier is the only con in this comparison for me. I think the Alphafly 2 feels just as fast and is more easy going at speed. It’s an easier to use refinement of the Alphafly 1. 

Joost (M9.5 in v2, M10 in v1): The Alphafly 2 is the better choice, being more stable and usable at any pace. Most elite runners actually prefer the Vaporfly over the Alphafly, so any regret over the fact that the Alphafly v2 is less of a racing purebred than v1 is probably limited to those people who v1 worked great for. Personally, v2 any day.

Nike Vaporfly Next % 1 & Nike Vaporfly Next % 2  (RTR Review)

Joost:  (M9.5 in both): My second all time favorite marathon shoe is still the Next%. My undisputed #1 is the original baby blue 4%. The ride of the Vaporfly feels more natural to me than the Alphafly in either version. It’s also a more maneuverable shoe, something to keep in mind come marathon day if you’re running a course with lots of turns and bends. The Alphafly is definitely more cushioned and better for training so I would pick it over the Vaporfly for that use, but in races of any distance, I would go with the Vaporfly.

Jacob: Both shoes are amazing modern racers with propulsive, fatigue-reducing rides, excellent fit, and are fun to run in. The Vaporfly NEXT% is my overall favorite road racing shoe. I wore it for both my marathon and 10k PR’s. While testing the Alphafly 2, I raced a weekly 5K series in the Alphafly 2 one week, and then the VF two weeks later. The VF felt dramatically lighter, lower, more connected to the ground, snugger, and faster. I liked my race in the AF 2 but the VF felt much more suited to this shorter distance. That’s the key comparison. 

The AF2 is my choice for a marathon as I think it feels so locked in at my marathon race pace (6:20 min/mi) whereas the VF feels like it wants to go faster. For the half marathon, I’m not sure which I’d choose and would have to try racing the AF2 to know for sure—leaning towards the VF though. For 10k and below, the VF is my pick as it is much lighter, more responsive, and quicker moving. The AF2 is more comfortable and smoother at slower paces, and has better traction. Aside from the cost, the AF2 is a good training shoe, whereas I will save the VF for race day only.

Sam: I am with Jacob on the comparison and uses of each. That said if I had neither right now and had to choose with a focus on marathon or half plus training uses it would be the Alphafly 2 whereas if my focus was half or shorter, it would be a Vaporfly Next.

Tempo Next % (RTR Review)

Sam: The Alphafly 2 is more logically a successor to the Tempo Next % than to the Alphafly 1. The Tempo Next % has been my favorite faster tempo shoe since it came out as it combines a stable heel of React, a plate and with Zoom X and Air Zoom upfront. The Alphafly 2 is much lighter, all Zoom X, less noisy for sure and has a more refined and comfortable upper. 

Interestingly, it also has a wider range of pace uses for me than the Tempo Next %.  At $200 vs. $275, but older colors are often much less, if training in a fast big stack shoe is your need, Tempo Next % is a better value, and Tempo Next is actually higher stack than Alphafly and above World Athletics race standard as they measure. If you want to combine long racing with long training and want the ultimate then Alphafly 2. 

Jacob: The Tempo NEXT% and Alphafly 2 are similar in ride quality (cushioned, propulsive, directed, fast) but I think the Alphafly 2 feels much more polished due to a myriad of factors: The Alphafly 2 has significantly lower weight, a less constricting upper, better traction, more stability, is quieter, and is faster to get from landing to toe off. Functionally, I think the Alphafly 2 can replace the Tempo NEXT%. Practically, the $75 higher price, does incline me to save the Alphafly 2 for races. Also, the Tempo NEXT% has thicker outsole rubber which could lead to more durability. Further increasing the Tempo NEXT%’s training value is that its higher weight makes it so that I can save the ultimate easy fast running experience (Alphafly 2) for race day.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3  (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): I’m a big fan of the Endorphin Pro 3. It’s a lot more fun to run in for me, as it feels more natural, but still has the advantage of the huge stack height and plate of any modern marathon racer. I’ll probably go with the Alphafly for my longer training runs with tempo work in them, but I would pick the Endorphin Pro for races up to the Half Marathon. It might be a toss up for the marathon and I would probably only decide on the day itself, depending on how I feel.

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3  (RTR Review)

Sam: The Pro 3 has a more aggressive ride largely due to its Energy Rods. It is somewhat harder to transition off the heel and for that matter to toe off than Alphafly 2 unless at faster paces. Unlike Alphafly 2 is not ideal for slower training paces. Taking the Energy Rods out of the equation, its new softer cushion approaches Alphafly Zoom X more closely than Pro 2’s did but is still somewhat firmer in feel. Its narrower heel platform makes it less stable than Alphafly. Its upper is fine but lags Alphafly 2 in heel hold and security. It is a more resolutely elite focused shoe than Alphafly 2. 

Jacob: They are both quality high cushion marathon-focused modern racing shoes, but the AP3 is less smooth, less propulsive, harder to run, and not as secure. Both are relatively stable, but the less rebounding cushion of the AP3 is a bit more stable. I was testing the AP3 at the same time as the AF2 and thus had several direct comparison runs. I raced both for a weekly 5km and was 18 seconds faster in the AF2 and felt better, as if the shoe was running for me more. The AP3 felt heavier (even though it’s lighter) and harder to move. I also ran the same 12 mile route at a moderate pace (6:40-7:15 min/mi) back to back days in the AP3 and AF2 and thought overall the AF2 is easier to run and feels faster. The AP3 has a denser cushion and a more natural feel. For racing the AF2 is my clear pick for all distances. 

Puma FAST-R Nitro Elite (RTR Review)

Sam: Another wildly futuristic shoe the FAST R has a similarly stable heel built of a super light EVA. Upfront it has soft and very energetic Nitro foam. The issue for me, and where the Alphafly pulls ahead is at midfoot. The rigid 3D carbon of the Puma at midfoot is hard to get past pasat anything slower than say my 10K pace where it might be better choice than Alphafly 2 for me, whereas the Alphafly 2 really doesn’t care what your pace is. Fast or slow it remains smooth flowing. The FAST-R upper is fine and true to size but is not quite as polished. comfortable and secure as the Alphafly’s.

Jacob: The FAST-R has a different vibe than the Alphafly 2, being more speed-focused, much snugger (notably narrower), lighter, snappier, more flexible, more overtly energetic in the forefoot, and has a bit more ground feel. The FAST-R has less of a smooth roll and less directed propulsion, requires a bit more from the runner, and prefers a forefoot strike. The AF2 is easier to run at all paces. In testing, I raced the FAST-R and AF2 for the same 5k course and ran a faster time in the AF2. The AF2 seems less suitable for the 5k due to weight and depth of cushion but it worked fine for me. I could imagine runners with a forefoot strike would prefer the FAST-R but for me with a midfoot/heel landing the geometry of the AF2 provides me with more easy speed and lower effort running. For most runners for the half and above I think the AF2 is the clear pick as the FAST-R is harder to stay locked in for a longer time and is less energetic at slower paces. 

New Balance RC Elite 2  (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): The RC Elite 2 is a great training shoe, but it might be too soft for racing for most compared to the Alphafly. I’ve been using the RC on and off in my training and they now have 445km (277 miles) on them. I expect them to still last a lot longer. For racing, I would definitely choose the Alphafly.

Sam: Agree with Joost here. RC Elite 2 is too soft for me. Pleasant to train in but even there not quite the more solid directed experience and deep cushion with propulsion of the Alphafly 2.

Jacob: I generally agree with Joost and Sam—I would choose the Alphafly 2 for all race distances over the RC Elite 2. The RC Elite 2 is comfortable and a great cruiser, just like the Alphafly 2, but is missing the highly directed, fast, energetic ride of the Alphafly 2 and in comparison is closer to mushy and slower to get from landing to toe off. 

ASICS Metaspeed Sky 1 and Sky +  (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): I’ve recently purchased the Sky+ and have put a couple of long runs on them. The feeling up front has its similarities and its differences. The main similarity is the bounce of the foam under the ball of the foot, but you really need to put a lot of energy into the shoe to get it back as well. The main difference is that the plate in the Sky+ sits a lot closer to the top of the midsole, so it feels more like a stiffer shoe running on a softer surface, whereas the Alphafly feels more like a soft shoe altogether. The Alphafly is also easier to run at slower paces, which helps in training. For racing, I would definitely go with the Sky+ for anything up to a 15k. Over that, and depending on the terrain, I would probably go with the Alphafly.

ASICS Metaspeed Edge +  (RTR Review)

Sam: Similarities but big differences as well between these two. Both are very stable and consistent riding. The Edge is firmer in feel, more traditionally responsive and  “snappy” but, in comparison, and despite the Alphafly’s more “mechanical ” feel, lacks its character. I found it harder to change paces in as it really wants to settle into a set front to back groove while the Alphafly encourages you to find its front Zoom Air launch pad.  While great stuff,  Flightfoam Turbo is denser in feel and not as pleasing. The Edge+ is notably 0.75 oz / 21g lighter (and this is for sure felt) than the Alphafly 2 sitting on a narrower rear platform. The Alphafly 2 is more versatile as a longer race and training shoe as the Edge+ is not nearly as much fun at slower paces due to its firmer foam and narrower rear platform.  I prefer the simple and elegant Edge+ upper which has all the hold of the Alphafly’s with less complexity and a touch more comfort up front. And with a stout heel counter but thin more conventional tongue, it is easier to pull on that is for sure!

Tester Profiles

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. Please check out Joost’s coaching service here

Jacob is a runner and general endurance sports enthusiast. He runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over 4 years and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob races on road and trail at a variety of distances from 5k to 50k. He has a recent PR of 2:49 in the marathon. In addition to running, he does hiking, biking (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skiing. He is 27 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and 155 lbs / 70 kg. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’

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