Welcome to Take My Money, a column where we geek out about our favorite products.
We all have our vices. For some, it’s expensive cars, for others gambling, and then there’s me: running shoes. I never intended to burn small fortunes on something that simply gets me from point A to B, but after I slipped into my first pair of the Nike Zoom X Vaporfly 2, I knew I was a goner.
My initial few steps may have been all Bambi legs and headlights (they’re literally shaped like a rocking horse to propel you forward), but I quickly slipped into a natural cadence. Running at my usual 9-minute mile pace felt good, but when I rolled up the speed to a 7-minute mile pace it felt great.
The clash of speed and ease, force and grace—things I rarely experience in tandem on a run—didn’t go unnoticed.
So began my love affair with the Vaporfly.
My husband claims they’re cheating (and as a lifelong runner, and a running shoe tech, we value his opinion)—they’re too fast, too aggressive, he says. And he’s not alone. Many people argue their efficiency is considered “technology doping.”
But if the Vaporfly is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It’s a bitching shoe. One that all runners owe themselves to experience at least once.
What Are the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Running Shoes, And Why I’m Obsessed
Let’s take a step back and discuss what makes a good running shoe. There are all kinds of shoes for all kinds of runners. Stability, motion control, ultra-cushioned, or minimalistic speed. Whatever your preference, odds are you’re steadfast.
The Vaporfly qualifies for a category all its own. It features the speed (and then some) of a lightweight racing shoe, with the comfort and cushion amateur marathon runners gravitate towards.
My first experience was with the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%2—a mouthful the brand (thankfully) recently shortened to Nike Vaporfly 2. But the more updated version of the shoe, the Nike Vaporfly 3, is now available in more colorways and sizes.
The gen 2 and 3 versions of the shoe share a lot of similarities, though you’ll find the Vaporfly 3 has more room in the toe box, less volume on the lateral side of the outsole making it a bit lighter and even less clunky, and has a bit more cushion akin to the Nike Alphafly 2.
They fit like a glove
At first glance, the Vaporfly might appear as if it’s missing something. In comparison to standard runners like my Adidas Boost and Nike Pegasus, the midfoot insole comes in at nearly half the width. Yet, my foot has never felt more at home.
They fit like a sock, featuring a cotton heel grip to prevent the Achilles tendon from rubbing the back of the shoe (a detail my glorious heel blisters from high school cross country earned me the right to obsess over). The snug fit helps create a better connection with the ground, perfect for quick transitions—exactly what the shoe promises to deliver.
They put a pep in my step, literally
A lot of people associate the comfortability of a running shoe with cushioning (besides the weirdos who prefer barefoot running—I said what I said). The soft and bouncy PEBA-based foam in the Vaporfly brings a new definition to the term.
PEBA foam has a high cushioning-to-weight ratio, meaning it brings all the cush without the weight. Typically, highly-cushioned shoes run slow, and lack spring.
This is where the Vaporfly excels.
Nike uses deliberate architecture to suspend a carbon-fiber plate in the foam, delivered at just the right angle to propel you forward at impact. The result: a unique blend of snappy urgency and bouncy cushion—perfect for high-mileage efforts.
The shoe does the work for me
There’s a reason runners wearing Vaporfly’s snagged 31 out of 36 male and female podium spots in the six most prestigious marathons in 2019.
Vaporfly’s score four-percent energy savings per foot fall in comparison to other racing shoes like the Adidas Adizero Adios 3 shoe (1), which basically means you’re spending less gas per step than you would wearing another shoe.
Your shoes can’t do all the work, but they can enable you to run faster for the same effort. It might be the shoes, it might be placebo. What I can confirm? Running feels noticeably easier in my Vaporflys.
I can’t do speed work without them
Trust me, I’ve tried. In an attempt to keep my precious (and pricey) Vaporfly’s pristine I’ve slipped back to my old pair of Nike Pegasus and Adidas Boost from time to time. But no less than 30 seconds into my run, I regret it.
The sweet speed of the Vaporfly’s have ruined me for all other running shoes whether I’m lacing up for race day or speed work. My Vaporfly’s make running fast, dare I say, fun. What can beat the sweet flirtation of a shoe that’s thinking about my next step before I even land?
What’s Not So Good About the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Running Shoes
Not the best everyday running shoes
I shouldn’t say I can’t run without these shoes because I do…almost every day. When it comes to slow and steady runs (which is admittedly most days of the week) the Vaporfly isn’t your guy. It’s snappiness begs to move faster. When you want to run slow, you need something with a bit more cushion like the Hoka Mach 5. That said, I prefer running in my Vaporfly for all forms of running including slow runs over inferior shoes in my closet like my dusty Nike Pegasus and Adidas Boost.
The Bottom Line
Nike Zoom X Vaporfly is arguably one of the fastest running shoes money can buy. They’ve earned the high price tag by giving runners an unparalleled comfy and snappy ride, boasting four-percent energy savings per step. If you, too, feel the need for speed, you won’t regret taking these zippy running shoes for a spin.