Is the Nike Alphafly 3 truly the perfect marathon race shoe? The performances by Kelvin Kiptom and Sifan Hassan certainly has our attention! But let’s talk about the fit, feel and features of the Alphafly 3 in this review to see what all the hype is about with this newest carbon plate running shoe.
The Nike Alphafly, which was released in 2020, was designed to build on the success of the Nike Vaporfly and take things to the next level. These two shoes have truly changed the landscape of marathon racing shoes in the last few years.
The Nike Alphafly Next% 2 has been making headlines ever since it helped Eliud Kipchoge set the World Marathon Record in Berlin in 2022. But of course it started with the Eliud Kipchoge unofficial 1:59:40 in 2019, which was run in the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.
And now we have the Nike Alphafly 3 being used by Kelvin Kiptum to set a world record of 2:00:35 and Sifan Hassan running the 2nd fast women’s time ever at the 2023 Chicago marathon. Which leads us all to ask, is it the shoes??? Is it so much lighter we don’t have to say Next% anymore??
Like any new model there are those who prefer the previous version and those who love the updates. I’ve been running in both to compare the differences with what I feel vs what Nike says has changed.
Hopefully this review will help you decide if the Alphafly 3 is worth your time or just give you some fun info on this game changing shoe.
For me it’s a really fabulous shoe, but I’m not sure I think it’s the King of all Carbon Plate racing shoes. Maybe I need to sign up for a race and find out!
Let’s dive in now to some details around this technology and whether it will benefit you.
Nike Alphafly 3 Review
The Alphafly is a much more comfortable long run shoe than the Vaporfly and it’s easy to see why it’s the choice shoe for marathon runners. There’s a beautiful bounciness to the shoe, while still feeling stable. If you’ve not yet tried any of the Alphafly models, it’s a significant difference from your daily trainer.
As noted, there is a bounciness to the ZoomX, an insanely thin Atomknit mesh upper, a feeling of support in the arch and the pop of that full carbon plate.
Somehow they managed to carve out just a bit more of the shoe to drop 15% weight and yet maintain the level of cushion that’s necessary for the speed. With a shoe at this level, even minor adjustments are big and those two things alone are huge.
The combination of the longer wider carbon fiber plate and ZoomX foam and the Zoom Air units make the Nike Alphafly 3 one of the most technologically advanced running shoes on the market.
While training smart is the first 95% of getting there, we know that gear can make that last bit of difference. In fact, Nike has banked on that for years and the price of these carbon fiber shoes we all keep shelling out for means we believe it too.
All of this being said there are some pro’s and con’s to the fit and function of this shoe which I will share more in detail below. You can make your own decision on the look of the shoe…for some it’s fine and others seem to really, really hate it. I feel like that might change once there are additional colorways available.
Let’s dive in with some of the top line info that we all need to know about a shoe!
The Nike Alphafly 3 “Prototype” model was made available to the public January 2, 2024. That’s why you’re seeing only this color and the prototype testing number on the side. Future colorways will become available, just like with previous models.
- Neutral Carbon Fiber Shoe
- Maximal shoe (big stack height of 40mm)
- Weight: 7.8 oz men’s, 5.8 oz women’s (weight is debated and different on a ton of sites, which is odd)
- Heel drop: 8mm
- 2 colors currently
- Not available in wide
- Previous Model: Nike Vaporfly Next%2
- Find it here on Nike.com for $285, so you can enjoy their 30 day trial policy!
I think I’m going to diverge from the party line and say I just don’t feel massively different in the 3 than the 2. So I’d finish off the life of my Alphafly 2 before running out to replace them. Others disagree and would prefer this shoe immediately.
BUT I have not raced 26.2 in both shoes to make a super long effort comparison, instead I’ve used them for a variety of different speed workouts from 800m to mile repeats to tempo runs.
Nike Alphafly 3 Fit and Feel
There were two big complaints with the Alphafly 2: it’s hard to put on and it is uncomfortable on the arch. Have these been resolved? Ehhh kinda.
V62 on the shoe actually indicates the number of upper iterations in the prototype!
I found that the 3 is moderately easier to put on, but this is still by no means a wide shoe. So apologies to the wide foot runners or those who love a wide toebox, this is not the best carbon plate racing shoe for you. I’d say the Adidas Adizero is probably the widest I’ve tested.
That being said, I didn’t size up this time either and I’m glad. The toebox is maybe a shade bigger, but nothing truly notable.
A little heel tug and you are securely in your race shoe.
The upper is their newest AtomKnit 3.0 and is slightly softer than previous versions. As noted, the tongue area is also slightly more narrow making the rest of the shoe even more open and breathable. Because it’s a sock like fit with no movable tongue, this is really just a little top of foot protection and keeping you locked in.
When it comes to the arch, you’re still going to feel that raised midsole, but less. It didn’t seem quite as stiff or high, but again has not gone away entirely.
I found that as I started running in either shoe, the sensation went away and I wasn’t overly concerned about the arch. BUT for others this has been a major area where they struggled with blisters.
I’m not someone who needs arch support and it’s definitely a weird feeling when you first put on the shoe. Weird enough that it’s immediately noticeable and thus, often commented on. But this is an intentional design point from Nike.
While I do love a heel lock lacing on most shoes, that’s not an option here. Luckily I didn’t have any issues with the heel pulling out and there is just a tiny amount of padding that prevents any rubbing or blisters.
The lack of padding in the HOKA Rocket X2 ripped my foot apart, so I’m a big fan of even this small amount.
I think the overall sock like fit and tightness of the shoe is probably what keeps you locked in without the additional lacing style.
Zoom Air Pods
One of the key features that sets the Alphafly apart from the rest is its innovative Zoom Air pods in the forefoot. These pods are designed to provide responsive cushioning and energy return, making them ideal for long-distance running.
The Zoom Air pods consist of thin fibers that compress and then quickly bounce back, providing a spring-like effect with every stride. This technology is said to be even more effective than traditional foam cushioning, as it allows for a quicker and more efficient transfer of energy.
Additionally, the placement of the pods in the forefoot is intended to promote a more natural and efficient running gait. The the Alphafly 3 they reduced padding above these to get back some of the spring off the ground that we want in a speedy shoe. And we do see some harder outsole pieces below the Air pods, which should help protect them more from anything you might step on.
Other key features of the Nike Alphafly 3 that set it apart:
- Full-length carbon fiber Flyplate that was made slightly wider for more stability and better transitions
- Reduced the width and heel from the Alphafly 2 which many thought slowed down the shoe (about 10mm from heel)
- Additional sole cut out to reduce even more weight
- Super thin Atomknit upper has a more narrow tongue area to reduce weight
- No padding in the heel collar (not unusual in Nike, but not comfortable for everyone).
- Outsole grip is similar to the Alphafly 2 and should handle rainy race day situations, but it’s absolutely NOT a durable outsole
The technology behind the Nike Alphafly 3 is centered around its carbon fiber plate combined with the cushioned midsole AND the forefoot Zoom Air units. The combination of the carbon fiber plate and ZoomX foam has been dubbed the “spring plate” by Nike.
The plate is embedded in the sole of the shoe and is designed to act like a springboard, propelling the runner forward with each stride. The plate is also designed to reduce the amount of energy lost during each stride, which allows the runner to maintain their pace for longer periods of time.
Hence the original name of 4%, which claimed to provide a 4% improvement in performance.
We’ve now seen more studies on the everyday runner to suggest that it might be more like 1% and then increase as your speed gets over an 8 min mile.
That being said Nike claims they’ve seen results for those all the way up to a 5 hour marathon in this shoe.
Nike ZoomX Foam Updates
The first time I tested out the ZoomX foam was in the Nike Invincible 3. It’s a stability shoe, but with the similar high stack and fabulous bounce. While that shoe wasn’t a winner for my foot, the bounce of the ZoomX foam in the Vaporfly, Alphafly and others was beautiful.
With the Nike Alphafly 3 that cushion is now continuous across the forefoot to midsole to heel of the shoe. It was broken up in the Alphafly 2 and the connection does make the shoe feel smoother.
Nike ZoomX cushioning is Nike’s latest innovation in running technology.
It’s a cushioning system that provides lightweight, responsive cushioning for a faster and more comfortable ride.
Made from a unique foam material that is 30% lighter than traditional foam and is designed to provide maximum energy return, allowing runners to go farther and faster. The foam also provides a softer landing and smoother transitions from heel to toe.
The cushioning is designed specifically for running, providing a more efficient and responsive ride that reduces strain on the body. With Nike ZoomX cushioning, runners can enjoy a smoother, faster, and more comfortable running experience.
The previous foam I was so in love with and still appears in others shoes is the REACT. So this is apparently a step up from that, where they claimed:
- 13% more energy return with every foot fall than the Nike Lunarlon foam
- 11% softer than the Nike LunarEpic
- 5% lighter than the Nike LunarEpic
Looking for a video review of the Alphafly, I’ve got you covered here.
Nike ZoomX Running Shoes
Since they also state “Nike ZoomX midsole delivers 85% energy return, the greatest of any Nike foam, to give you a propulsive feeling as you move forward,” I thought it might be useful to know what other models are rocking this feature.
What you’re going to quickly notice is that it’s in most of their racing shoes!
So it’s impressive to put it in a stability shoe for the everyday runner.
- Nike Vomero
- Nike Zoomfly 5
- Nike Alphafly 2 and 3
- Nike Alphafly Next%
- Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 and 3 (Find Vapofly 2 at Nike.com on sale!!)
- Nike Streakfly
- Nike Zegma (hugely popular trail shoe)
See all the ZoomX shoes available >>
Cons of the Alphafly 3
The biggest drawback of these racing shoes is going to be cost and lifespan. They are roughly $100 more than your average shoe and probably last about half the time.
Beyond that, all Nike’s run a bit narrow and this is no exception. You aren’t going to find a wide version to help accommodate a wider toebox or a wider running shoe fit all around.
- Not designed for everyday easy runs
- Can take a bit to get used to the feel of the shoe
- Definitely not for trails or anything needing good traction
- Unable to use an orthotic with these
- More ideal for long distance races than shorter (there you’re better with the Vaporfly)
- We are also seeing some Achilles injuries cropping up with folks suddenly running long distances in super shoes
It’s absolutely a really fun shoe to run in, but if I weren’t testing it would I shell out almost $300 for race day? Only if I was aiming for a sub 3:30 or faster marathon PR.
Why I Order Direct from Nike?
One. I look for the older model and it’s almost always on sale, where the price has gone up for it on other sites!! PLUS, I’ve heard of too many folks ordering from other sites where it’s cheaper to find out it’s not the right shoe. The knock off issue seems more prevalent with Nike.
Two. I’m a size 11 and honestly, a lot of running stores just don’t stock a ton in my size. Their 60-day return period because it means I can take them on a run to make sure they fit and feel the way I think they should.
The exception would be Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has a partnership with Nike making it easier to get deals and often extended sizes.
All right, I really hope this Nike Alphafly 3 review helped you in making a decision! I may not love every single shoe that I test, but I’ve found that just sharing the details helps you find a shoe that YOU LOVE.
And that’s all that actually matters.
Looking for other running shoe reviews??
- Nike Vs Adidas running shoes
- Nike Alphafly vs Vaporfly
- What is stack height
- Best Cushioned Running Shoes
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