By: Matt Setlack
This post will outline my personal impressions of the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flat. It will begin with how I acquired two pairs of them, then show photos of the shoes from various angles and finally compare these shoes to other Nike shoes that I have worn.
I have worn these shoes a total of 56.5 km so far; broken down as three easy runs and one Chicago Marathon 2018. Nike claims that these shoes are the fastest running shoes in the world. I am not sure that I agree.
At $320 CAD ($250 USD) plus tax per pair, these are by far the most expensive running shoes I have ever worn in my entire life. They are over twice the price of pretty much every racing flat I have worn. Are they twice as good? That is yet to be decided.
On a Quest for the VaporFly 4%
Purchase Attempt #1 - Almost Getting Ripped off by a Scammer
It all started about six months ago when the original version (photo below) of the Nike Vaporfly 4% came out. I looked for the shoes on practically every website online but could not find a size men’s 10.5 US anywhere. Eventually, I saw that a “friend” on facebook happened to be selling them. This friend claimed to be from Kenya and to be sponsored by Nike. He sent me a number of photos of the shoes and I even signed up for a World Remit account in preparation for transferring him the money. However, there were a number of red flags that came up throughout the whole process and I decided not to carry through with the transaction. I am 99% sure that this person was a scammer and am very glad that I did not send him any money.
Purchase Attempt #2 - Online Purchase
I was eager to buy a pair of the newest version of the Nike Vaporfly 4% racing flats called the Flyknit as they had previously “dropped” (i.e. were made available for purchase) in Canada on 01 Oct 2018. Unfortunately, on 01 Oct 2018, I received the text notification while I was sleeping at 3 am and by the time I woke up at 6 am, they were all sold out online. I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. Therefore, I stayed up late on Wed 03 Oct 2018 because I had read online that the Vaporfly would drop on 04 Oct 2018.
On Wed 03 Oct 2018, while I was in Chicago, I stayed up late waiting for the release of the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flat. I looked at various options of buying them. Should I buy them online or in person? Should I buy one pair or two pairs? Unfortunately, they did not go on sale in the early hours of 04 Oct so I went to sleep.
On Thurs 04 Oct 2018, I woke up abruptly at 9:12 am when my mobile phone dinged with an incoming message from Nike to say that the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit had “dropped”. I immediately jumped out of bed, pulling the charging cable out of the wall as I frantically opened my laptop and hit refresh. When I signed in, less than 60 seconds later, Nike.com told me that there were no size 10.5s in stock. How can that be, I asked? I then looked at other websites where the Vaporfly was supposed to be sold: runningwarehouse.com had removed the Vaporfly entirely from their website, Eastbay continued to give me an error when I tried to checkout and various other sites simply did not have any stock remaining.
Purchase Attempt #3 - Purchase in Person
In a last ditch effort, I drove to Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Chicago that day as they said they would be selling them at their store starting at 12 pm on 04 Oct. I arrived at the store at 11:45 am but could not initially find parking. I was so focused on buying these shoes, that I even considered parking in a “no parking” area and taking the chance of either paying for the ensuing ticket or possible tow fees. I thought that I would consider that the “Vaporfly tax”.
I arrived at the Fleet Feet store and there were about 20 people lined up outside. The first thing I did was look down at the sizes of other’s feet and make an estimate of how many size 10.5 US shoes they might have left once I got my turn. There was an electric energy in the air and everyone was really friendly and talkative. Strangers became friends. Everyone was really kind and wished “good luck” in the Chicago Marathon to everyone else. They only allowed about 5 people into the store at one time and all of the shoes were stored in a back room. I was surprised when the employee brought out two pairs of 10.5 Vaporflys for me.
I felt like I was part of a drug deal or something (not that I would know). Like on the movie Requiem for a Dream when all the drug addicts show up at a grocery store because there is supposed to be a shipment of drugs there. I walked down the street with many hundreds of dollars of USD cash in my pocket as I didn’t want there to be any complications with the transaction. I am glad that I did not get mugged.
Because the Vaporfly was so challenging to find anywhere, I did not only buy one pair but I bought two pairs! I even thought about buying five pairs after the Fleet Feet store manager announced that each customer was allowed to buy five pairs max. Thankfully, I did not buy five pairs.
My Initial Impressions of the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
I opened the box and was initially impressed with how they looked but my mind was not blown. Considering how much hype there was behind this shoe, I was expecting A LOT more. I picked them up and immediately noticed how stiff the sole was as I bended it back and forth in my hands.
The shoes fit true to size. They did, however, fit more snug than training running shoes such as the Nike Pegasus 34 and 35. I tried on a size 11 just to make sure and the size 11 was definitely too loose for me. Considering the exorbitant price of these shoes, I wanted to make sure they were perfect.
When I walked around the store in the shoes, I heard a sound as the shoe glue that was attaching the upper to the sole become slightly detached. This is the second time I have had this issue with a pair of Nike racing flats. For a pair of shoes that costs $320 CAD ($250 USD), this should not be happening. The quality of construction appeared to be a bit on the shoddy side,
Running in the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
I did a short 40 minute jog in the shoes just to make sure they felt good, which they did. The very first thing I noticed was how soft and comfortable the foam was. I believe Nike calls this foam the ZoomX foam. The second thing I noticed was the sound they made when they struck the pavement; exactly the same as in the Nike Breaking 2 Commercials. They have quite a high stack height (31mm in the heel and 21mm in the forefoot, I believe) and do feel similar to the Hoka Cliftons. When I ran in the Vaporflys, I felt almost like I was running on stilts (highly exaggerated, but you get the idea). When you look in the mirror, you look taller because of the stack height.
Photos of the Vaporfly 4% flyknit
The following photos were taken by myself. The shoes that are shown below have a total of 56.5 km on them.
The tongue is integrated into the upper. When you slide these shoes on, it feels like you’re sliding your foot into a sock. The flyknit upper is quite stretchy and breathable.
The forefoot/toe box felt quite snug the very first time I tried them on and it didn’t seem to change at all even after I wore them for 50+ km. It feels like you are wearing a sock. I think the flyknit material was a smart marketing decision by Nike because of how stretchy it is, it accommodates a large breath of different forefoot widths, which means more people will purchase the shoe after trying them on in the store (compared to a shoe, like the original Vaporfly 4% or Zoom Fly that has a non-stretchy upper material).
Another thing that I do not like about the Vaporfly Flyknit is that the sole gets crinkles/creases, which make it look much more used than it actually is. This is a pretty minor thing for me.
Durability seems okay so far. In any effort to save weight, I believe that Nike has put minimal black rubber on the outsole. Although it is good that the shoe is lighter, the white foam is not nearly as durable as the black rubber as you can see in the photo below.
Comparison with other Nike shoes I have worn
The photo below shows a few other Nike running shoes that I wear. The two on the left are training shoes and the two on the right are racing flats. From left to right, Nike Pegasus 35, Nike Pegasus 34, Nike Zoom Fly (the predecessor to the Nike Zoom Flyknit that came out in 2018) and the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit.
Weight - I weighed all of these shoes myself. They are all men’s size 10.5 US and the weight for each pair of shoes (i.e. one left shoe and one right shoe) are as follows: Pegasus 35 is 572g, Pegasus 34 is 600g, Zoom Fly is 510g and Vaporfly Flyknit is 416g.
The photo below clearly illustrates how much narrower the mid-foot of the Vaporfly Flyknit is compared to other shoes. You can also see that the amount of grip/tread on the forefoot of the Vaporfly is much less than the amount of grip/tread on the Zoom Fly.
Vaporfly 4% Flyknit versus Zoom Fly
Width of Mid-Foot - One of the biggest differences between the Zoom Fly (left) and Vaporfly Flyknit (right) is the width of the mid-foot. At the narrowest point, the Zoom Fly’s mid-foot is 69mm while the Vaporfly Flyknit’s mid-foot is 56mm. That is a difference of 13mm (1.3cm) or in other words the Vaporfly is 19% narrower in the mid-foot, which is a big difference!
The mid-foot of the Vaporfly Flyknits is the narrowest midfoot of any shoe I have ever worn (and I have probably run at least 30,000 km). One of the first things I noticed when I tried them on was that the inside of my feet (in the mid-foot area) seemed to hang in space off the inside of the shoe; there is no foam beneath the inside of the mid-foot. I personally do not like this. I believe that in an effort to save weight, Nike has trimmed away the foam that would normally be in the inside mid-foot area. In addition to foam weight savings, Nike is also able to save weight (and cost) on the carbon fibre plate that is in the soles of these shoes.
Width of Heel - The width of the Zoom Fly heel is 87mm while the width of the Vaporfly Flyknit heel is 82mm. The difference is 5mm as can be seen in the photo below.
Weight - For men’s size 10.5 US, I personally weighed the Zoom Flys to be 510g and the Vaporfly Flyknits to be 416g. That is a difference of 94g per pair.
Some of my other racing flats are the Brooks Hyperion (390g per pair), the New Balance 1400V5 (438g per pair) and the Brooks T7 (414g per pair). In terms of weight, the Vaporfly Flyknits are around the same weight as some of my other favourite racing flats.
Stiffness - The Vaporfly Flyknit is the by far, the stiffest shoe I have ever worn. This takes a little getting used to. The shoes do seem to give you a pop on every foot strike. I am impressed that even though the shoe is really stiff, my heel does not lift out of the heel cup at all while running.
Drinking the KoolaiD
The Vaporflys will likely make you faster mainly because of the fact that you THINK they will make you faster. I am sure the technology in the shoe will actually make you run faster but 4% faster is quite a lot. In my opinion, the majority of the 4% gain comes from you thinking you will run faster. You think that you have an edge when you line up on the start line against competitors who do not have the shoes (and the runners without the Vaporflys are likely thinking, in the back of their mind, that you have an advantage that they do not).
Nike has done a brilliant job with the marketing of the Vaporfly. What Nike has done reminds me a lot of a story that I read when I was in elementary school. The story went something like this.
A group of elementary school athletes were about to compete in the national track and field championships. They were all very nervous considering the level of competition. Before the day kicked off, the young athletic team were called together for a meeting with their head coach. The coach, who was very intelligent and had worked as a professional chemical engineer in a previous career, had with him a couple bottles of a clear unknown liquid. The coach told the athletes that he had been working on this liquid for years and that it had been proven to improve athletic performances in all events. It was simply spread onto the muscles and it would work. The athletes trusted their coach and so they genuinely believed that this liquid applied to their muscles would certainly improve their performances. All the athletes the liquid before competing and sure enough, the runners ran personal best times and the jumpers jumped higher than they had ever jumped before. This clear liquid was amazing; everyone who used it was setting new personal bests.
It was not until the competition was over that the students were again called together. The coach explained that what he had given the athletes to spread on their muscles was simply baby oil, no special potion or scientifically proven magic gel. The athletes had performed because in their minds, they felt like they had a technologically advantage over the other athletes and that helped push themselves harder than ever before. Remember that whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.
Racing a Marathon in the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
I wore these racing flats for the Chicago Marathon on 07 Oct 2018. It was raining and the road was wet for the entire race. When I lined up at the front of the start line, pretty much “everyone and their dog” was wearing a brand new pair of these shoes. Nike deliberately released these shoes just a few short days before Chicago Marathon, one of the biggest marathons on earth.
Lack of Grip - The grip/tread on these shoes is not great for wet roads and very poor when you are running on the painted sections of roads (such as white painted crosswalks and centrelines). When I ran on the paint (the was wet from rain), the shoes slipped backwards. I reverted to running in between the painted lines.
“Suction Cup” Issue - Another issue I had while running in rain in these shoes was that they had a tendency to “suction cup” onto the road (for heel strikers). Based on the cutout sections in the sole beneath the heel, when your heel strikes the ground, the soft sole squashes outwards, then when your heel lifts back off the wet pavement, you feel a suction under your heel. Kind of hard to explain; it is something you have to experience for yourself.
Stiffness - These shoes are very stiff and if you’re not used to it, then I think you might possibly end up using different muscle groups.
Fit - The forefoot of the Flyknit is quite snug and fairly narrow; more narrow than the Nike Zoom Fly. When I ran the marathon in the Flyknit, I got pretty major blisters down the centreline of each of my feet between the ball of my foot and the outside edge of my forefoot. It looked like my foot skin had folded over down the centreline.
Rounding Turns - When I ran around a 90 degree turn in these shoes, I felt like there was very little support for the ankle and that my foot was almost going to flop over on the side. I felt like I need to be very conservative on the turns because the upper is not very supportive and because the stack height is so high.
For Sale - Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit (men’s SIZE 10.5 US)
Brand New - If you would like to purchase a pair of size 10.5s, I have a brand new pair available. They are brand new and have never been used. They are in the original packaging. Located in Alberta, Canada. Willing to ship anywhere in Canada. Please see photos below.
Second Hand - If you would like to buy a lightly used pair of size 10.5s, they are also available. They have been worn for 56.5 km and are still in excellent condition. The photos at the start of this review show the condition of the second hand shoes. Update: as of 15 Jan 2019, the used pair of Vaporflys are no longer available.
Overall thoughts oF the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit
Overall, I am impressed with the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flats. I like that they are fairly lightweight, I like the bounce/pop that I get from the carbon fibre plate in the sole (and possibly because of the ZoomX foam as well). They are very comfortable if they fit your foot.
The biggest issue I have with these shoes is that the forefoot is a little too narrow for my foot. I have never had any issues with the Zoom Fly forefoot width (but the longest I raced in those was only 21.1 km rather than 42.2 km). I am also not a fan of the exorbitant price tag of $320 CAD ($250 USD) per pair, which is over twice the price of nearly every other racing flat I have worn in my life.
If you are looking for a pair of Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flats in size 10.5 US, please contact me using the “Contact” link at the top of this page. If you have any questions or would like me to expand on any particular area of the shoe, please let me know.