Review: Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

nikeThe 7 things I hate about you
You’re vain, your games, you’re fragile
You’re impossible to buy
You make me fast, you make me fly
I don’t know how many to buy
The other shoes, they’re good
When they act like you, just know it ain’t true
I want to be with the one I know
And the 7th thing I hate the most that you do
You make me love you

Thanks to Miley Cyrus for letting me adapt her song, “7 Things I Hate about You.” It captures perfectly how I feel about the nonpareil Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%.

I never had any intention of buying the Vaporfly 4%. $250 for a pair of shoes!!!! Are you insane???!!!! I scoffed. I fully intended to stick to my loyal Saucony Kinvaras and Adidas Bostons for races. My friends jumped into the pool. Let them waste their money, I thought.

Thanks to Strava, I knew exactly how much and how hard they were training. Come race day, I knew what to expect from them. They donned their Vaporfly 4%, and obliterated their old PRs. Oh, sure, training helps in getting PRs, but the margins by which they achieved them. . . it couldn’t be all explained by training.

Race after race, they were killing it.

It was killing me.

I had to watch in the sidelines and watch them grow smaller in the distance as they raced ever faster. I had to have THOSE SHOES.

After several months of stalking and annoying various people, I finally got my hands on a pair of those precious, precious Vaporfly 4% and wore them for the Run for the Red Poconos Half in May. One run was all it took for me to drink the Kool-aid.

The Good

BELIEVE THE HYPE. How many times have we gotten something only to have our expectations crushed by reality? No danger here unless you think these shoes will magically have you sub-3 without training. Listen, even Kipchoge had to train for his incredibly close attempt at sub-2.

There are no words to describe the feel of the Vaporfly 4%. People described it as rocky (as in a rocking chair or rocking horse) or springy, which is close, but not quite right. I never knew what people meant when they described shoes as being lively or dead. After wearing these shoes, I now understand. There’s a sprightliness. My feet are ALIVE. The difference between the Vaporfly and all other pairs became really apparent when I warmed up in an old pair of shoes and then wore the VFs for the race. I threw that old pair away because it was quite dead. I also realized that if I ever trained in VFs, I could never ever wear any other shoe because these SPOIL you for life.

The uppers are super light. You barely feel anything around your feet.

They really do make you faster. The 4% in the shoes’ name comes from the average improvement in running efficiency. I noticed it myself. It was very warm and humid on the day of Run for the Red Poconos, far from ideal running temperatures. I backed away from any thought of going for a PR and decided to run by effort because I knew the warm temps and humidity would slow my pace. Imagine my surprise when in the early (and flat) miles of the course, I noticed that I was easily clicking off 8:00 min miles. It didn’t feel that fast in those shoes. The effort I put out for an 8 min mile in the VFs were equivalent to 8:15 min miles in any other shoe. Despite the challenging weather conditions, I eked out a 29-sec HM PR (1:42:58; 7:51 pace). After the race, I calculated what my time would have been if I had been running about 15 sec per mile slower. I figured that by wearing the VFs, I ran about 3.5% faster, which is within the range of improvement that VFs have. The hype is real.

These shoes don’t need to be broken in. I’ve never had a pair of shoes that molded to my feet so quickly. Aside from a test run of 2 miles on a treadmill, I wore the shoes for the first time at a race (defying the adage of not trying anything new at a race). You can put these shoes on your feet and go.

The Bad

Nike Zoom VaporFly 4% is expensive – $250. These are the most expensive running shoes I own. Frankly the VF is one of the more expensive shoes I own period. For a hobby that is supposedly cheap, Nike is quickly making it very very pricey.

The VFs are fragile. Based on what my friends have said, the shoes start to show wear at 100 miles and don’t last beyond 200 miles. As such, I save my shoes for racing and not for training.

The Ugly

They’re expensive.

They’re fragile.

They’re freaking impossible to buy. Running shoe stores and Nike stores NEVER have them in stock. Instead you have to wait when another batch is released (kinda like Hamilton tickets). The last time they were available for sale was in April. I don’t know when they’ll be back out.

The Verdict

There is no other way to say this. The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is sui generis. There is no shoe like it.

I want to hate these shoes. I hate how expensive they are. I hate how elitist they are. I hate how impossible to find they are. But most of all, I hate how much I love these shoes. I can’t quit you.

If you can afford it and find them, go buy these shoes. You won’t regret it.

Fun ad with Shalane Flanagan

Other excellent reviews

Wired’s review

Fellrnr’s excellent personal review

10 thoughts on “Review: Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

  1. Interesting. NY Times had a recent article on this shoe which seems to support the hype:

    I only tried Nike shoes once, Nike Free some 10 years ago. Felt great at first, but started to fall apart at around 100 miles. I typically get at least 400-500 from my Mizunos, with one pair of Ronins (which I used exclusively on a treadmill) lasting me for more than at 1000! So I pretty much swore off Nike then. But let us know how this one feels in a couple of months, maybe it’s of a sturdier variety.

    • Sad to say based on my friends’ experience, the Vaporflys also seem to last around 100-200 miles. Because of that I only wear mine for A races since I can’t get a spare pair to save my life.

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