Today is a big day! We’re going to be comparing two of the most exciting racing shoes on the market, the Nike Alphafly vs Vaporfly.
We’re going to talk about performance, jogging, marathon, lifting, casual wear, stability, upper, fit, midsole, outsole, and price. Then, I’m going to tell you which shoe you should or shouldn’t consider getting.
The Alphafly is the new top dog in Nike’s line. It’s their premium racing shoe with a carbon plate and it’s the successor to the Vaporfly Next% which in itself was a successor to the Vaporfly 4%.
I love the 4% and still got a lot of PBs that still stand from this shoe, but the newer ones are an improvement both in terms of performance and durability.
Let’s dive right into it…
Nike Alphafly vs Vaporfly
Let’s start with the most important part of this comparison, which is how it feels about to run in both shoes.
Both of them are brilliant and I think they’ve both really got a pretty strong case of being the best racing shoes out there.
However, it took a little bit of time to really embrace them compared to the 4%. As much as I love the 4%, I’ve really come to love these as well.
The Vaporfly is a fantastic shoe to run in. It’s fast, bouncy, lightweight, and a little bit more stable than the 4% and the Alphafly thanks to that slightly wider forefoot on it.
I was a little bit ready to take against the Alphafly just because it’s not the best-looking shoe in my opinion. That 40mm max cushion stack does look like it’s going to be really unwieldy. Also, I think lighter smaller runners might just think the Alphafly is too much shoe for them especially.
But once you start running at pace, it feels fantastic and these Air Zoom pods do make a big difference.
I’ve done about 43 miles in the Alphafly over different paces. Then I went back to the Vaporfly for a kind of a speed session doing some kind of 400-meter efforts and then followed by a kind of fast 2-mile run.
I have to say the Vaporfly does feel different. It still feels brilliant and it’s still one of the best shoes out there, but I do prefer that kind of slightly firmer feel in the forefoot of the Alphafly. The firmer feel of these pods does provide a more explosive toe-off than the Vaporfly Next% in my opinion.
Short Distances & Corners
I also thought the Alphafly wouldn’t be great over short distances compared to the Vaporfly because it is so large and unwieldy and there is that big weight difference. But I did a kind of all-out 5k in it and it was really good.
That 5k was pretty straight and flat and without tight corners because you don’t want to be doing that too often with that kind of stack height, which I do think it’s important to know about the Alphafly.
Overall, the Nike Alphafly certainly runs faster than it looks and so you could definitely do your short races in this as well. But I think once you get to longer distances, I do think the Alphafly is just better for cruising along in that fast pace and trying to hold it over those long-distance races.
There is still the case for saying that the Vaporfly would have the edge in short races just if there’s a lot of turns.
This brings us to stability…
Which is more stable?
The Nike Vaporfly is more stable than the Alphafly. It’s not the most stable shoe out there obviously because it’s still got the reasonably 40mm high stack. But if you’re doing a lot of turns of a 5k or 10k course, you might lean towards the Vaporfly over the Alphafly.
Tempo Runs & Road Racing
This is going to be tough. I have done some incredible things in the Vaporfly and I ran a sub-4-minute mile downhill in it. It is fast, light, and I almost can’t think of a better road racer than the Vaporfly.
With the Alphafly, when I really got up and on my toes moving fast down a road, I could see the economy in this shoe. I could feel those Zoom Air pods, the carbon fiber, and the ZoomX foam all giving back so much energy. It’s hard to argue against that.
Last but not least, we’ve got to talk about street cred. Eliud Kipchoge helped design both of these shoes, but when it came time to break the 2-hour barrier to become the first human to ever run a sub 2-hour marathon, he was wearing a prototype of the Alphafly. So, you have to give it to the Alphafly in terms of street cred. That’s a pretty hard one to beat.
These shoes aren’t exactly made to be your everyday trainers or your joggers. These are designed for pure training and race-day performance. These are Lamborghinis and they’re not meant to be running every day.
If you were to jog in them, you have to consider comfort.
In my opinion, If I was to jog an easy 10 miler, I would reach for the Vaporfly because it is less top-heavy, more comfortable, and more stable.
Both midsoles use Nike’s ZoomX. This is a very bouncy, very lightweight foam, and Nike paired it with a carbon plate, of course.
But the biggest difference between the shoes is found in the Air Zoom pods found in the forefoot of the Alphafly.
These Air Zoom pods are firmer and slightly more responsive than ZoomX foam. Also, they kind of change the feel of the shoe when you’re running, and I was really impressed at just how much they compress.
The Vaporfly also has ZoomX going throughout, but it’s a bit different from those Air Zoom pods.
Both shoes have a carbon fiber plate. You can’t see the carbon plate in the Vaporfly, but I actually like that in the Alphafly you can see that carbon fiber plate through the outsole.
Stack Height & Drop
The midsole stack is where all the Nike controversy comes from. Believe it or not, both the Alphafly and the Vaporfly boast a 40-millimeter stack height. Stack height is how big that midsole is. This 40mm stack is legal under the new rulings from World Athletics.
The drop is different between the two shoes, though. The Vaporfly Next% has an 8-millimeter drop from heel to toe whereas the Alphafly is only 4 millimeters.
I didn’t know that when I was first running in the Alphafly and it surprised me to hear that it was such a reasonably low drop and it didn’t feel that bad to me.
Related: Hoka Clifton 8 vs Nike Pegasus
Upper & Fit
The Vaporfly Next% has a Vapor Weave upper which is a very thin but very strong material that’s also slightly water repellent. Although this Vapor Weave feels almost plasticky, it’s a really strong durable material. It’s not super breathable, but it does feel like it really hugs your foot really well.
It has this kind of offset lacing system that gives you a really tight fit around the midfoot.
The Alphafly has an Atom Knit upper which is tighter than Vapor Weave. This new knit almost looks like a fishing net. However, I didn’t find that it hugs my foot as well as Vapor Weave.
The Atom Knit is very open and very breathable and it’s designed to kind of drain the water rather than repel it.
Overall, both shoes are very comfortable for me to wear for long periods. There are no hot spots and there’s reasonably enough room in the toe box for a racing shoe. I think they’re both really good uppers and there’s nothing really to give it to either one of them.
When it comes to the fit, I’m true to size in both of these shoes. Both are pretty comfortable and, again, there’s enough room in the toe box.
I have to mention that that unique little heel piece that they put inside the heel pocket in each of the shoes is genius. This is a tiny piece of foam that you would think is probably stupid, but it does a really good job of holding your ankle in.
On & Off
It’s easier to put the Vaporfly on because you actually have this full unlaced tongue and upper. You can open it wide open and get your foot in there really easily. The Atom Knit upper on the Alphafly is actually made to feel more like a sock. It is so tight and constricting and it’s actually hard to get your foot in there.
Talking about uppers, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about laces.
Why do laces get their own category?
Well, if you’re a shoe geek like me, you obsess over laces. They’re such an overlooked part of technology and they are integral to a well-performing shoe.
What I look for in laces is:
- Are they stretchy?
- Are they smooth or coarse?
- Do they come untied?
I don’t like and I don’t trust smooth laces because they tend to come untied, which is the worst thing to happen if you’re really concentrating on your run and you have to stop to tie the laces again.
I absolutely love the laces that they use on the Alphafly. They are coarse and they almost look braided. There is no chance of this lace coming untied. So, I trust the laces on the Alphafly and I don’t trust those laces on the Vaporfly as much.
Now, where the Alphafly definitely loses to the Vaporfly is in weight…
The weight is also fairly substantially different.
The Vaporflys are roughly 6.9 oz in men’s size 9 (195 grams) and the Alphaflys are roughly 7.4 oz (209 gram). As you can see, the Alphafly is significantly heavier.
Just picking them up side by side, I don’t like how heavy the Alphafly is. I don’t know if the weight is coming from the sole, the Air pods, or the upper, but it is a considerably heavier shoe.
Outsole & Durability
There’s a belief that a lot of these carbon plate soft cushioned shoes only last 100 or 150 miles. I always think it’s been a bit overstated because I’ve used the Vaporfly 4% for at least 300 or 400 miles and they still feel pretty good to run in.
I’ve done a marathon, at least one half marathon, and a few 10ks, and the feel of the Vaporfly hasn’t changed so far to me. It must be 74 miles in it or so now and it feels pretty much as good as it did out of the box. There are no real signs of wear and tear in the outsole.
Similarly, there’s a lot of rubber in the outsole of the Alphafly and I do think this is going to last a few hundred miles as well. After 43 miles, there’s really nothing on the shoe that is falling apart.
I certainly haven’t felt any loss of bounce in the midsole from either the ZoomX foam or the Zoom Air pods. I don’t know what your dollar per mile is going to be, but you are going to be saving these shoes for your training sessions and then your races.
In terms of grip, both shoes have got good grip on them. I would say on the Vaporfly, the outsole feels more like a high-performance tire and on the Alphafly, it has more texture.
I will preface this with caution. Do not lift in either one of these shoes. They’re too tall and unstable, they’re too squishy, and they’re not meant for lifting.
When I actually took the Alphafly into the gym, I really struggled to find a way to stand on the shoe. I was constantly falling forward and backward. It was a workout in and of itself just to stay stationary on this giant platform.
But if I had to lift in one of these shoes, I would choose the Vaporfly as it does feel a little bit more stable, but I would not want to lift in it.
If you’re going to buy an expensive shoe, maybe you want to wear it out and show it off.
I did wear the Alphafly around the office and I went out to dinner in it, and I can say it does start a great conversation, but it’s just not comfortable to wear around.
If I had to pick one or the other, I would probably go with the Alphafly just because you get a lot of great looks and it starts a great conversation. However, neither one is particularly comfortable for walking around in. So, for that purpose, I’m probably choosing a different shoe, but if I had to pick, again, I’ll pick the Alphafly.
The Alphafly is a considerably more expensive shoe than the Vaporfly. I believe the MSRP for the Alphafly is actually $275 which is more than the MSRP of the Vaporfly which is $250.
So, if you’re cost-conscious, you’re saving money by going with the Vaporfly. But I really believe that if the shoe is going to help you run faster and stay healthier, then price shouldn’t be that big of an issue.
Before giving you my verdict on both shoes, one slight weird thing about this Alphafly though is that every start of every single run I get a little bit of arch pain in my right foot. It’s not a problem because it goes away after a few minutes, but it’s a little bit weird.
I do think the Alphafly is a bigger upgrade on the Vaporfly than I expected especially over those long-distance runs. It’s surprising to me how good it is when you’re at the pace. It does feel a little unwieldy when you’re running kind of easy miles in it, but it’s not designed for easy miles.
It’s also not really designed for kind of cambers or sharp turns. So, if you are going to take a more niggly course, then maybe the Vaporfly will be a better option.
I think some people would just be put off by the size, look, and weight of the Alphafly. The Alphafly is considerably heavier than the Vaporfly, but I didn’t really feel that when I was running.
I think if you’re a pretty lightweight small runner, you might just fancy the Vaporfly more and I wouldn’t blame you for that. It’s still a fantastic shoe, it’s still a very fast shoe, and it’s still going to help you set your PBs over any distance.
But for me, the Alphafly does just edge it and I think I would probably spend the money and get it if I was buying just one of them today.
That’s it. Thanks very much for making it to the end of this Nike Alphafly vs Vaporfly comparison.
Do let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about either shoe.