Nike Zoom X Vaporfly Next% Review: Can A Pair Of Trainers Actually Make You Run Faster?

Eliud Kipchoge, the winner of the London Marathon, wore the shoes on Sunday.

For those following the London Marathon, the runner dressed as Big Ben getting stuck at the finish line wasn’t the only thing to grab our attention. You also couldn’t miss the neon green trainers worn by many of the elite runners, including Eliud Kipchoge, winner of the men’s race – and Sir Mo Farah.

Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly Next% are described by the brand as its “most innovative running trainer yet”. They are a new and improved version of the controversial Zoom Vaporfly 4%, which make you run on average 4% faster. This claim has been proven through independent data crunching by The New York Times, prompting debate over whether they give runners an unfair technological advantage.

The Next% trainers have been revamped “from toe to heel” to incorporate feedback from Nike’s elite runners – so, when HuffPost UK was sent a pair, I couldn’t wait to give them a try.

AmyPackham

The shoes look and feel odd. The outer material is highlighter green and so thin it’s see-through, while the sole is a thick white platform. I’d feel like a futuristic Spice Girl, heading out for a jog. They lace up to the side, which is a bit counterintuitive, but the first thing I notice is how light they are – almost as if I’m barefoot – and, standing up, I’m shocked at how bouncy they feel, too. I spend a few moments jumping up and down just to see how high I can get in them. Fun.

I note that they’re not the comfortable, cushioned fit I’m used to with my own Nike running shoes. But I’m trying to stay open-minded – because if they’re good enough for Mo...

So can a pair of trainers actually make you run faster? I tested them out by running my usual 5k route wearing them, and running the same route the day after in my usual running trainers.

‘The Fast Shoes’

Pace: 8.49 minutes per mile

Time: 26.54 minutes for 5k

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I’m trialling these on a Saturday afternoon. They’re uncomfortable to walk in, a bit like I’m wearing platforms, but the second I start running, I notice the benefits. They’re so bouncy that, as soon as my feet hit the ground, they spring off the floor again with little effort. My strides are bigger too, probably because of the boost of energy I get every time my foot is airborne.

I try not to run faster subconsciously (placebo effect and all that) but sometimes feel as if my legs are working on their own – springing up with no effort on my part. Once I get into the groove of the run, I relax into the shoes and how they feel. Near the end, up a hill – when I’m usually running out of steam – my breath quickens and I start to get stitch – but the shoes are doing a lot of the work. The thin outer layer is a dream, too – breathable and airy for my sweaty feet.

When the 5k route is over, I don’t feel as exhausted as usual, and could definitely carry on, despite running on just five hours sleep and – if I’m being honest – a slight hangover from my Friday night out.

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‘The Normal Shoes’

Pace: 9.21 minutes per mile

Time: 28.18 minutes for 5k

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It’s Sunday morning when I head out in my normal running shoes – a pair of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus, which I’ve loved dearly for about three years. I can immediately tell the difference when I start running. My feet hit the ground a bit like a dead weight, compared to the previous day’s bouncy run. Yeah, these old friends are comfy, but I’m reminded of the effort it takes to physically lift each foot up again, before it hits the ground. I comfortably run in my usual pace and energy.

I’m running after 12-hours of sleep and zero hangover, so naturally, this should be the faster run. During the route, I don’t feel like I’m necessarily going that much slower – but my legs definitely feel like they’re working harder than the day before. As I near the end of the route, I genuinely don’t know whether I’ve run quicker or slower than yesterday’s run. What I do know, though, is that I finish with less eagerness to carry on.

AmyPackham

Verdict

An overall difference of about a minute and a half – not ground-breaking, but also not surprising. The Zoom Vaporfly Next% is an impressive running shoe, for sure. The trainers are light and bouncy and do make me run faster. If I was training for a race and had my eyes on a specific finish time, I’d be inclined to invest in a pair – if elite runners are wearing them, surely they’re worth the cash.

But as the majority of my running right now is leisurely, mainly for the mental and physical benefits rather than trying to get my time under a certain hour, forking out on some expensive shoes isn’t top of my priority list.

The shoes aren’t yet available to buy, but if you’re interested you can get notified when they are.