Ahead of the launch of the Alphafly, here’s our first thoughts.
If you’re desperate to get your hands on a pair of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%, we have good news – they’ll be coming soon. The shoes that Eliud Kipchoge wore to break the sub-2 marathon in Vienna last October have received a lot of attention. They narrowly avoided a World Athletics ban, and according to Nike, it has been ‘engineered to the specifications of world-class runners as they challenge records and move the needle of human potential forward’.
In February, at their Olympic Summit in New York, Nike announced the launch of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% – a shoe with a full length carbon fibre plate and zoom air pods. We don’t have an official stack height from Nike, but Nike have told Runner’s World, ‘We are pleased the Nike Zoom Vaporfly series and Nike Zoom Alphafly NEXT% remain legal. We will continue our dialogue with World Athletics and the industry on standards for performance footwear that meets the needs of elite and everyday athletes.’ Nike believes, from their measurements, the shoe will be legal, but are waiting on confirmation from World Athletics.
At the time, Nike said, ‘Call it the ultimate test run: When Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier in Vienna this past October, he was wearing a prototype of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.’ The new Alphafly is not the same shoe Kipchoge wore, but is based on the technology he ran in.
Tony Bignell, VP of Footwear Innovation at Nike said, ‘For runners, records like the four-minute mile and two-hour marathon are barometers of progress. These are barriers that have tested human potential. When someone like Eliud breaks them, our collective belief about what’s possible changes. Barriers are inspiring to innovators. Like athletes, when a barrier is in front of us, we are challenged to think differently and push game-changing progress in footwear design.’
While it was rumoured that the prototype Kipchoge wore had three carbon plates, Bignell told Runner’s World this wasn’t correct. According to Nike, the three ‘critical’ components of the Alphafly NEXT% are the full length carbon plate, the Zoom X cushioning and the two Nike Zoom Air Pods, which have been added to the forefoot for responsive cushioning and propulsion. These are all updates on the shoe’s predecessor.
When speaking about Kipchoge’s Alphafly, Bignell told Runner’s World it would have been legal under the new WA regulations. The 40mm stack height regulation is based on a men’s size 8.5, Kipchoge runs in a 10.5.
What are the Alphafly like to run in?
Our Deputy Digital Editor, Jane McGuire, writes:
I’ve been running in the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% for a week and I haven’t broken any world records, which is a little disappointing, but that doesn’t mean that these ‘magic’ shoes aren’t for regular runners with less ambitious running goals.
Are they comfortable?
The first thing you’ll notice is the atom knit upper – it feels extremely lightweight, similar to the upper on the Vaporfly 4% but finer and tougher. You can almost see through the upper, which felt extremely breathable, ideal when testing in the heat. I can’t comment on how it copes with water as London has been rain-free for the short testing period, but Nike says it’s been designed to have ‘minimal water absorption’.
Before you set out for a run, you’ll notice the shoe is pretty difficult to get on. You’ll need to completely undo the laces (which are almost serrated in design, but they do lock into the eyelets well) and pull the shoe quite firmly to get your foot in. Once your foot is in, however, the knit cups your foot nicely and feels secure and comfortable. I much prefer the fit of these to the Vaporfly 4% – it’s much more rigid and less sock-like (and fits true to size, a major issue with the previous shoe).
What are they like to run in?
As you take your first few steps, there is no denying that you do feel strapped into something fast. This is undoubtedly my brain getting ahead of itself, but a version of this shoe was involved in a very significant and speedy moment in running history and that has an undeniable impact. Walking in them, however, I initially felt a little unstable. There is a lot of foam underfoot (just enough to be legal), but the biggest upgrade to the midsole has to be the zoom air pods in the forefoot.
When I spoke to Tony Bignell, VP of Footwear Innovation at Nike about the shoe, he said of the air pods: ‘If you look at general foams, they return 60-70% of your energy back, the Zoom X foam returns about 80% of the energy back and Zoom Air returns about 90%, so we’ve just taken out something that gives you 80% and replaced it with something that gives you 90-ish%. So you’re just making the system more efficient, more effective.’
On the run, this feels exciting. Like previous models, the shape of the shoe propels you forward and I found running at tempo pace easier than normal; the shoe feels more lively and at home when the pace increases. So much so, in fact, that it was a matter of consciously holding myself back in the warmup and cool-down miles. They are undoubtedly a quick shoe, but interestingly they feel stable enough to train in, rather than just save for race day like with the NEXT%. This is perhaps down to the fact they’re not being treated with the same kid gloves as previous models with Nike saying these are more robust. And they need to be. They’re anything but cheap, but if you can afford them and want to buy your own small slice of the Breaking2 pie, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.