Hey runners, gather around because we’ve got some exciting news! Nike just dropped the official release date for the much-anticipated Nike Alphafly 3, and it seems it’s time to lace up for something revolutionary.
Now, the Alphafly series has had its fair share of glory, record-breaking moments, and yeah, a bit of controversy too. But here’s the big question: Can the Alphafly 3 finally put those doubts to rest?
Spoiler alert – some die-hard Vaporfly fans are making a U-turn towards the Alphafly 3. We’ll spill the beans on that later in the article.
Here’s the lowdown on the current Alphafly saga: The Alphafly 1 has stolen the show, leaving the Alphafly 2 in its dust. Why? Well, it’s considerably lighter, and that makes a world of difference, especially when you’re tackling marathon distances.
So, buckle up as I will dissect the Alphafly 3, exploring its design, innovations, and all the juicy improvements – especially when pitted against its older sibling, the Alphafly 2.
No more suspense – let’s dive right into the exciting world of the Alphafly 3!
Nike Alphafly 3 Release Date
Officially, the Nike Alphafly 3 will be available from January 4th, 2024, with a price tag of $275 – mark that date on your calendar!
Curious about the inside scoop, I caught up with Elliot Heath, Nike’s product line manager. When I asked him about the release date, he said, “The Alphafly 3 will come out January 4th, 2024. We’re excited to get it out to as many athletes as possible. The prototype colorway kind of calls out their testing program and the athletes that helped us bring a shoe like this to life because we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
Now, if you’re racing against time (pun intended), let me give you the quick rundown. I’ll zip through what Nike tweaked and what they left untouched in the Alphafly 3. Then, we’ll unravel the details.
Here we go!
Alphafly 3 – All You Need to Know
The Alphafly series has become some of the most popular running shoes ever, especially when gracing the feet of the legendary Eliud Kipchoge.
Remember that jaw-dropping sub-2-hour marathon? Yeah, that was in an Alphafly prototype. And Kipchoge’s current men’s marathon world record? You guessed it – he was rocking the Nike Alphafly 2.
Nike had testers clocking up to 200 and 250 miles in the Alphafly 3 before settling on the final prototype. But here’s the kicker – the magic ingredients that make these shoes game-changers? They’re still right there in the mix.
That ZoomX foam is now on a continuous bottom, ensuring smoother heel-to-toe transitions, no matter how your feet hit the pavement. And hold on, the midsole changes? They’re not just for show – they’re reshaping how your engage with those Zoom Air units.
The carbon fiber plate has been widened on the medial side to improve stability. Nike has adjusted the last so the Alphafly 3 now is more accommodating in the arch to reduce some points of irritation.
The new one-piece AtomKnit 3.0 upper has got a radial knit that adds more compression and breathability zones. Fresh, right? We’re not just running; we’re running in style with these upgrades!
According to Brett Schoolmaster, Nike’s senior pro director on running footwear, the Alphafly 3 is shedding some serious weight – we’re talking a 15% reduction. Picture this: lighter on your feet, smoother on the run.
Now, what’s the game plan for the Alphafly 3? It’s got its sights set on delivering a triple threat: better transition, supreme comfort, and rock-solid stability. Sounds like the dream trio for any runner, doesn’t it?
The Alphafly 3 isn’t just hitting the pavement without some serious testing. According to Elliot Heath, there were about 62 different versions of the upper and a cool seven variations of the midsole before they nailed down the final prototype. That’s some serious dedication to perfection right there.
Nike went all out, making the Alphafly 3 their most tested racing shoe ever. Over 300 athletes, ranging from elites to those conquering a four or five-hour marathon, put these bad boys through the paces, influencing every nook and cranny of its design.
Alright, let’s talk about the star of the show – the midsole. I think this is where the real magic happens.
Midsole of the Alphafly 3
Examining the Alphafly 3 from a material standpoint, Nike continues to refine their foam manufacturing processes. Interestingly, they’ve stuck with the trusted ZoomX material for this iteration.
Nike says the new midsole configuration promises a seamless transition and a propulsive sensation, regardless of where your foot lands on the shoe.
The emphasis on speed is palpable in the midsole design. Departing from the previous Alphafly models, where the midsole curved before reaching the Air unit, the Alphafly 3 takes a different route. Now, it boasts a continuous full-length ZoomX midsole configuration stretching from heel to toe. This structural shift aims to enhance the shoe’s overall speed-centric performance.
Analyzing the ZoomX in the testing prototype, there’s a noticeable departure from the traditionally squishy feel. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that prototype foams often undergo changes before reaching the final version.
Here, I think there’s a hope for a return to that sought-after squishiness that most runners desire, especially in a super shoe like the Alphafly.
The Alphafly has always had a heel component and then a break before the forefoot. Now the Alphafly 3 now has a continuous midsole.
In my opinion, this update aims at unlocking performance for all runners, ensuring a smoother transition, regardless of foot strike or potential changes in foot strike throughout the marathon – because let’s face it, things can get a bit unpredictable as the miles add up.
The synergy between the full-length carbon fiber Fly plate and the Air Zoom units is where the magic happens. They team up to maximize that propulsive feel and deliver top-notch energy return to the athletes.
In the earlier Alphaflys, they really went all-in with an aggressive rocker in the forefoot area. They carved out this space between the heel and the forefoot, all with the mission of getting you more involved. The deal was simple – hit that midfoot landing, and you were in for a ride, fully engaging those Air units and soaking in that sweet energy return.
The Alphafly has always been about encouraging you to get up on your toes, rewarding a clean forefoot strike that loads up those Air pods, and propelling you forward off that extreme toe rocker.
This is where the magic happened – it was like running on a trampoline, incredibly bouncy, delightfully rolly, and fiercely aggressive underfoot.
But, the Alphafly 2, well, it was a bit more well-mannered, and honestly, it sucked some of the fun out of the Alphafly series. Nike decided to stretch out the toe rocker in the Alphafly 2 and nudged it back a tad, toning down that bounce and aggression that made the Alphafly, well, the Alphafly.
Again, in my opinion, this shift took away some of the shoe’s edge, and perhaps that’s why the Alphafly 2 didn’t receive the same enthusiastic reception.
Now, here comes the Alphafly 3, blending the best of both Alphaflys with a dash of Vaporfly 3 vibes. It sounds pretty promising because what we’re looking at is a return to that more aggressive forefoot, reminiscent of the OG Alphafly. I think that’s where the sweet spot lies.
The Alphafly 3 adopts the zoned heel and forefoot areas, drawing parallels to the design seen in the Vaporfly 1. Notably, the Alphafly 3 bids farewell to the decoupled heel and forefoot region, eliminating that dead zone that used to sit right under your arch, which brings us to…
Zoom Air Units
The Air Zoom units in the Alphafly truly shine as heroes within the cushioning system, showcasing remarkable efficiency in returning energy back to the runner.
Let’s zoom in for a closer look (no pun intended)…
As you can see in the image below, it appears that the Air unit placement in the Alphafly 1 and the Alphafly 3 aligns, maintaining a similar toe rocker.
On the flip side, in my personal running experience with both the Alphafly 1 and Alphafly 2, I distinctly felt that the Air unit in the Alphafly 2 was shifted slightly farther back. This adjustment resulted in a less aggressive push when trying to get up on the toes, ultimately impacting the propulsion compared to the original Alphafly.
Looking at the picture below of the Alphafly 2, Nike had started the forefoot zone, the darker orange, which also wraps up over the heel zone. This design made a shoe that cradled the heel and enabled the heel zone to flex independently from the rest of the shoe.
However, this approach presented a snag. The elongated forefoot area in the Alphafly 2 created a dead zone in the middle of the shoe.
So, if you happened to land flat or your foot strike lost some crispness, leading to a flatter landing, it felt like the Alphafly 2 would compress or cave in precisely under your arch – a sensation I found less than pleasant, and I’m not alone in this sentiment.
In fact, it got to a point where I stopped mid-run and took off the Alphafly 2, thinking I might have broken the plate or the Air unit. The midfoot collapse was a nightmare and stands as one of the major reasons I’m not a fan of the Alphafly 2.
Now, in contrast, the Vaporfly 3 executed this concept much more effectively. The Vaporfly 3 boasts a distinct forefoot and heel zone, and in my opinion, they operate seamlessly and more efficiently.
As a forefoot striker, the Vaporfly 3 has been a game-changer for me, offering a breath of fresh air and a significant upgrade from the Vaporfly (yes, the Vaporfly) one and two, mainly due to these two zones functioning independently and harmoniously.
Now, with the Alphafly 3, it’s evident that Nike has taken a different approach. There’s a distinct forefoot zone and a clearly defined heel zone.
What stands out is the substantial support enveloping the heel area, where both the forefoot and heel zones collaborate to stabilize the heel. This, in my opinion, sets the stage for a promising ride with the Alphafly 3.
The forefoot zone appears more compacted, reminiscent of the design we saw in the Alphafly 1. This suggests that the Alphafly 3 is, one again, designed to offer a more aggressive ride and a heightened sense of propulsion, particularly for forefoot strikers.
As for midfoot or heel striker, the inclusion of material in the midfoot region, I believe, is poised to deliver a much smoother ride. This thoughtful design shift seems to cater to a broader spectrum of runners, enhancing the overall experience with the Alphafly 3.
The Lightest Alphafly
Nike took a crucial lesson from the feedback on the Alphafly 2, often deemed a bit hefty for a super shoe, especially in comparison to the Vaporfly or the Asics Metaspeed Sky+.
As shared by Elliot Heath, Nike went all out to shed some pounds off the Alphafly 3, making it the lightest Alphafly to date.
Even a glance at the outsole reveals strategic carving in both the heel and forefoot regions, a deliberate move to trim down weight as much as possible. Yet, it’s not just about shedding ounces – these cutouts also play a role in actively engaging the Air Zoom units.
Now, you might wonder, how does Nike pull off keeping the outsole as light ensuring top-notch traction, especially in less-than-ideal conditions like a wet course?
Outsole of the Alphafly 3
This brand-new outsole material not only brings more stability to the table but also manages to be lighter without compromising durability.
During the extensive testing phase, a consensus emerged among the athletes trying out the Alphafly 3 – they appreciated its slightly more democratic nature. With a broader base and perhaps a tad less aggressive feel compared to the Vaporfly, it seemed to resonate with a wider range of runners.
According to Elliot Heath, one of the first times that they tested the Alphafly 3 in a really big major space was the London marathon, and guess what? It was a rainy day.
Athletes reported that the traction held its ground admirably, seamlessly transitioning from dry roads to wet ones without missing a beat. A major player in this wet-weather prowess is the revamped lug pattern on the outsole.
Now, let’s talk stability. The carbon fiber plate takes a subtle step – a bit wider in the midfoot to offer a smidge more stability.
But fear not, the overall outsole and the shoe’s bottom maintain consistency, ensuring a stable feel throughout. It’s all about striking that delicate balance for an optimal running experience.
Upper of the Alphafly 3
The upper of the Alphafly 3 has undergone a notable transformation, and it appears to be a strategic move to trim down even more weight.
Visually, the upper is a stunner – a thin mesh that practically lets you see through it. Now, the big question: How does Nike achieve such a feather-light upper while ensuring the much-needed security and lockdown, especially during those grueling long distances?
Enter AtomKnit 3.0, a version of Flyknit making its mark in their lineup. This isn’t just about being light; it’s about delivering an on-foot experience that feels practically weightless. Athletes, especially during those extended runs, want an upper that’s not just secure but feels like it disappears on the foot.
Comfort is key, but let’s not forget about lockdown – an essential factor in a top-notch running experience. Now, let’s zoom in on a subtle yet impactful detail in the AtomKnit upper, particularly in the midfoot area.
Here, you’ll find these containment yarns strategically running up and down, seamlessly locked into the eyestays. What’s the magic here?
It’s all about delivering that much-needed containment without tacking on unnecessary weight to the upper as a whole. It’s the kind of thoughtful detail that ensures your foot stays comfortably secure during every stride.
If you look at the heel, you’ll spot those familiar cushion pods – a signature element of the Alphafly and Vaporfly lineage. The philosophy here is all about precision – adding cushion precisely where it’s needed and steering clear of unnecessary padding in areas where it isn’t.
It’s a design approach that ensures targeted comfort and support, aligning with the ethos of maximizing performance without unnecessary bulk.
Vaporfly Fans Like the Alphafly 3
In the conversation with Eliott Heath, I asked, “Are you seeing certain athletes lean towards one or the other for certain distances and for certain racer types?”
His response was insightful: “The Vaporfly has been a staple in our line for a longer period. There are athletes who have a deep affection for the Vaporfly and prefer sticking with it. What I can share about the Alphafly 3 is that it has changed their perspective more than any other shoe in the past.”
Eliott elaborated, saying, “I think it’s due to that updated continuous midsole configuration, providing a sensation reminiscent of the Vaporfly in terms of a dependable propulsive feel, regardless of their foot strike. Especially late in the races, that’s been a significant breakthrough for them.”
He continued, “We’ve witnessed many of these athletes, particularly in the marathon, where the emphasis is on preserving the legs and optimizing performance beyond the 30 km mark, starting to gravitate more towards the Alphafly 3. It seems the Alphafly 3 has made a compelling case, particularly for those seeking endurance and performance in the latter stages of a race.”
Alphafly on the Feet of Elite Athletes
The Alphafly has earned its stripes as Eliud Kipchoge’s go-to shoe, witnessing remarkable feats on the track. While Kipchoge is undeniably the face of the Alphafly’s success, we’ve also witnessed notable achievements by athletes like Kiptum, leaving us to wonder if the Alphafly 3 will become his shoe of choice in the upcoming year.
According to Elliot Heath, “What’s great about Eliud is that he pushes things forward himself, but he’s also about the entire world and the running community. So, while he certainly led the way, I think he’s also proud that he’s led the way for others. Kelvin is out there breaking the world record, and I think we also have to say it’s Sifan Hassan’s shoe as well (…) and I hope the Alphafly becomes a lot of people’s shoe as well.”
Sifan Hassan’s remarkable performance in the Alphafly 3 during the London marathon further solidifies its status. Despite facing challenges like missing her water bottle and multiple stops, Hassan showcased an extraordinary debut marathon, closing substantial gaps and ultimately claiming victory.
The Alphafly, it seems, is not just a shoe for individual athletes but a symbol of triumph and potential for many in the running community.
The success stories surrounding the Alphafly 3 raise the bar of anticipation. On paper, this latest iteration appears not just promising but a clear step forward from its predecessors.
It feels like just yesterday when we were discussing the Vaporfly 3, and now, with the Alphafly 3, we’ve ascended to a whole new level. Personally, I can’t wait to dive into some marathon training and perhaps even tackle one in the Alphafly 3.
The hope is that the Alphafly 3 will follow in the groundbreaking footsteps of the Vaporfly, revolutionizing the running shoe game once again. While the Alphafly has always sported a distinctive look, I dare say the Alphafly 3 might just be the most eye-catching yet.
As the premier marathon racing shoe, the Alphafly has a legacy to uphold, and with these updates, it seems poised to become an even better marathon companion. The evolution of the Alphafly series continues, and I, for one, am eager to see how it transforms the marathon experience.
Again, the Nike Alphafly 3 will be available from January 4th, 2024, with a price tag of $275.