The Nike Alphafly is Nike’s miracle shoe which has the running world under its spell at the moment. There were already widespread rumours about the shoe, but Nike only announced the shoes’ official name last week. They baptized them as the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%. The Alphafly NEXT%’s predecessors, The ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% were already an enormous success for Nike. The Alphafly can be seen as the culmination of the Vaporfly. The Alphafly first found the spotlight thanks to the groundbreaking performance of Eliud Kipchoge, who managed to break the 2-hour marathon barrier whilst wearing them. After that extraordinary performance, the Alphafly again dominated headlines when the World Athletics federation (formerly the IAAF) banned Kipchoge’s version of the shoe.
The ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% has proven itself as the fastest shoe ever. Winner of the New York Marathon of 2019, Geoffrey Kamworor, wore them. Eliud Kipchoge, world record holder on the marathon, surpassed everyone wearing them. Brigid Kosgei set a new world record with them. And, in 2019, six of the biggest and best-known marathons in the world (New York City, Chicago, London, Berlin, Boston and Tokyo) saw 31 out of 36 podium places taken by athletes running on the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%. A year earlier when the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% hit the market, 25 out of 36 podium places were conquered by athletes wearing these shoes.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%
Learn more about the characteristics of these running shoes
Lightweight Atomknit Upper
A ZoomX midsole with more foam than the Vaporfly
Two visible Zoom Air Units
A full-length Carbon Fibre Plate which thickness has been adapted with every shoe-size to ensure the perfect balance between ingredients
TO EACH (SIZE) ITS OWN (CARBON PLATE)
The big secret of the Vaporfly and the Alphafly is found in the ZoomX midsole. This Pebax Foam cushioning material is really soft and provides maximum shock absorption. See it as a marshmallow: it sinks in during landing and springs back at take-off. This helps to reduce fatigue while running. Next to the ZoomX foam a carbon fibre plate has been added to the sole. This plate turns the shoes from marshmallows into small trampolines. Everything is focused on forward, bouncy movement and an absolute minimal loss of energy. The curve in the carbon plate also helps you run faster by smoothing out and speeding up heel-to-toe transition. It actually almost ‘forces’ you to run on your forefoot. In the new Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% the carbon plate differs in thickness per shoe size. This wasn’t the case with the Vaporfly. By adapting the thickness of the carbon plate to the size of the shoe the responsive characteristics are optimized for every shoe size.
The Nike Alphafly
Running 4% more efficiently may not sound like a lot, but when spread over 42 kilometres it can have a significant impact on your finish time. When, for instance, cutting 4% from a marathon time of 2:10:00, you will end up 3:30 minutes faster. For top athletes this can be the difference between a good result and a new world record. Therefore it is not surprising that athletes came to the Vaporfly, like bees come to honey.
The Vaporfly is part of Nike’s competition silo. Other shoes in Nike’s competition silo are the Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2, a fast training shoe, and the Zoom Fly 3, which can function as a training as well as a competition shoe. Currently, the Vaporfly NEXT% tops the list of competition shoes, but not for much longer. It looks like the Vaporfly will lose its top position to a new shoe. Last October, Eliud Kipchoge, a top distance runner, finished a marathon under the 2 hour barrier for the first time in history. A feat which over the years was tried time and time again in vain, and which in many peoples’ eyes was impossible. Kipchoge ran the INEOS 1:59 Challenge Marathon in Vienna, and finished it in 1:59:40.2. Which shoes did he wear? Guess. A prototype of the Nike Alphafly of course!
CARBON, ZOOM AIR AND ATOMKNIT
Kiphoge’s Alphaflys were a prototype that were specially made for him. Every tiny detail was adapted to his needs. These spectacular shoes provoked so much discussion on what should and shouldn’t be legal when it comes to racing shoes that the World Athletics organisation drew up stricter rules for running shoes. Kipchoge’s Alphafly was banned and that seemed to be the end of the matter. Nike, however, wouldn’t be Nike if they didn’t have an adequate response to this ban. Shortly after the World Athletics organisation presented their new rules, Nike announced the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%; a racing shoe that complies with these new rules.
Good news: the shoes will not just be available for Kipchoge and his companions, but also for the general public.
The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% contains more ZoomX foam than the Vaporfly NEXT%. The shoes feature one carbon fibre plate, instead of the rumoured 3 plates. The heel is similar to that of the Vaporfly NEXT%, with mainly midsole material and two strips of rubber as the outsole. Two visible, highly responsive Zoom Air Units have been added underneath the forefoot. The Alphafly is completed with an Atomknit upper. This material is very thin, doesn’t retain moisture and is light in weight.
Legal or illegal? Eliud’s Alphaflys.
The Alphafly has the running world under its spell. In response to the hype around the Alphafly, the World Athletics Association (formerly IAAF) has drawn up stricter rules for running shoes that are used during official competitions. The sole shouldn’t be thicker than 40 mm and can only contain one plate, regardless of the used material. This sidelined the Alphafly that Eliud Kipchoge wore during his record breaking performance. Although it kept the crowd under its spell, it now appears that the Alphafly that is hitting the market soon will be a stripped down version of Kipchoge’s shoe. A shoe that will fit in the World Athletics Federation’s rules.
Eines aber dürfen wir auch nicht vergessen: Es ist nicht nur der VaporFly oder Alphafly, der den Job macht. Zu einem erfolgreichen Lauf oder gar Rekord gehört Talent, stundenlanges Training und auch mentale Stärke. Man kann die schnellsten Schuhe aller Zeiten tragen, aber nur wenn man auch die anderen Faktoren berücksichtigt, ist es möglich, innerhalb von zwei Stunden eine so außergewöhnliche Leistung wie einen Marathon zu erbringen.
Since Nike introduced the Vaporfly and its successors, there has been a sudden revolution in the running world. More and more brands have introduced their version of competition shoes with a carbon fibre plate. Many top athletes however still opt for the Vaporfly and it’s not very often that another shoe finishes before it.
What is Nike’s secret that makes the Vaporfly so much faster, and therefore so popular with athletes? The average racing shoes before the Vaporfly were lightweight with a low offset and a fairly flexible sole. And fast they went. Nike’s Fly shoes, however, are so revolutionary because they are almost the exact opposite of traditional competition shoes. The Vaporfly is fairly stiff, has a lot of foam and a much higher offset. Everyone running in these shoes is suddenly a lot faster. Many attribute the top performances to the rigid carbon plate, but the large amount of foam underneath the feet must also have something to do with it. It certainly isn’t there just for its looks.
Simon Bartold, a biomechanical engineer, put his knowledge to good use and gave the interesting insight that it might actually be the foam in the shoes that is Nike’s secret ingredient. Research into the Vaporfly 4% and NEXT% showed that only 1% of the increase in efficiency comes from the Carbon plate. The biggest increase, however, comes from the Pebax foam. Bartold explains that vibrations are released during running. Your body and muscles work hard to absorb these vibrations. This hard work causes muscle fatigue, and fatigue results in a lesser performance.
Bartold therefore assigns the magic of the Vaporfly and the new Alphafly, to the ZoomX midsole. Think of it as a soundproof layer in a music studio that prevents external noise. Because the ZoomX midsole effectively absorbs the vibrations instead of the muscles, the muscles do not have to work as hard and therefore there is less physical fatigue. The Alphafly contains even more ZoomX foam than the Vaporfly, which seems to open up a new world for athletes.