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INTRODUCTION

In 2017, Morgan Stanley predicted that the Vapormax is definitely the ‘next billion dollar’ franchise. In those days, we never thought that could happen. The VaporMax wasn’t a good good running footwear, and boy, it looked ugly. They still do.

As it works out, shoe reviewers lead to poor soothsayers. This past year, Nike’s CFO mentioned that the Vapormax, React, Air Max 270, and the React series made over $2B in retail sales.

A year is quite a while – specifically for a brand which is at kissing distance of the $40 B earnings threshold.

So for the Vapormax to have hit the $1 B milestone alone is no more a far-fetched thought. Nike recently disclosed their full-year revenues for June-May 2018, and their gross margins were up almost a complete percentage point. Having worked in the market, we know that this is difficult to achieve.

Nike explained that the rising profits were helped by the bigger prices (driven by expensive lifestyle sneakers including the V-Max) and better margins from selling directly online.

The way we view it, Nike is a $40 B brand which behaves just like a start-up. It routinely discards convention and jumps in to the deep end of footwear strangeness. If something fails, they move to the next new thing. In Nike, there’s no such thing as design fatigue. Unless you’re discussing the Nike Monarch, that’s.

Naturally, this technique creates the inevitable flow of hits and misses. But so long as that path causes practically half the share of the global footwear market, the failures are only useful stepping stones.

So why may be the VaporMax so popular? The 100% Air sole doesn’t have even foam, so that it lacks the plushness of, say, the adidas UltraBoosts or Nike’s ZoomX based shoes.

And before we call the Vaporfly ugly, we ought to consider the actual fact that the Nike React Element ’87 is actually in a constantly sold-out state. Perhaps Balenciaga, with their outlandish sneakers, had a spot after all.

And the V-Max isn’t an inexpensive shoe. Including sales taxes, many persons can pay $200 at a high price.

But we are able to understand the VaporMax’s appeal – it looks expensive, projects an aura of exclusivity, and attracts attention. The VaporMax may be the footwear exact carbon copy of ‘bling’, and in the same class as other shiny objects like designer watches, handbags, and jewelry.

For some consumers, that’s an excellent enough reason. It can help that Nike has released the Air VaporMax in many upper variants, so there’s something for everybody.

Simultaneously, how Nike markets its products may be the stuff business case studies are constructed of. The Nike VaporMax isn’t the to begin its kind, yet became the most successful.

A decade ago, Reebok released an extremely similar shoe called the DMX Extreme. Its midsole had gas-filled columns beneath the heel and the forefoot – similar to yours truly.

Now – we’re not saying that Nike copied the DMX Extreme, because in the same year, Nike released the Shox Experience. Rather than foam columns, the heel had pod-like (see image above) Air bags. From a Nike viewpoint, the VaporMax can be an evolution of the Shox Experience in a full-length form.

The Nike Joyride, alternatively, can be an unapologetic copy of the Puma NGRY beads. Unlike the VaporMax, there’s no precedent within Nike’s historical products.

Concurrently, you can also argue that since Puma used a transparent chamber because of its ‘Jamming’ model, and isn’t that predicated on Nike’s Max Air bag? So who’s copying who’s debatable.

The idea being, Nike, like Apple, isn’t always the first ever to the market. But every time they release something, they do so with a watertight product online marketing strategy which means that similar products from days gone by are simply that – buried and forgotten just like the historical footnotes they are.

Similar to the older full-length Air Max design, the translucent VaporMax sole is an extremely neutral platform which is aesthetically an excellent fit for just about any upper design.

The first generation of the Air VaporMax with a Flyknit upper premiered in Spring ’17, accompanied by several variations during the last two years. During writing this review, we’ve the typical Flyknit V-Max in its 3rd year, a 1998 Air Max Plus inspired version, the V-Max 2019 and even one with a calf-high gaiter. Increase that over twelve limited releases.

While all of the V-Max models have different upper fits, they share an identical midsole construction. So while this review is of the Nike VaporMax Flyknit 3, the ride experience will never be very different irrespective of which VaporMax model you have.

THE RIDE EXPERIENCE

The VaporMax was probably very complicated to create and get right. But, Nike has spent years perfecting the foam-less Max Air concept. The Air Max 2003 was among the first Nike shoes to drastically reduce midsole foam from the cushioning equation and rely mostly on Max Air.

This template was further refined on the Air Max 2006 which, not counting the insole, used no foam at all. Nike made small tweaks to the 360 platform through the years, and the Air Max 2017 was the last of its kind before it had been retired.

Therefore the VaporMax platform is currently the brand new de facto standard for Nike’s full-length Max Air concept. Similar to the older gen Max Air, the brand new sole uses little if any foam. (the VaporMax plus has some)

Well, there is foam – not in the midsole, however in the dual-density sockliner. It really is interesting to notice that Nike runs on the firmer base foam for the insole, a material that was last seen on the 2006 – 2008 Bowerman series jogging shoes. Even Skecher’s Hyperburst midsole is made from a similar material.

Anyway – we digress. There’s no foam lasting below the insole, therefore the firmer base creates a smooth, hot-spot free base for the foot to rest on. The firm insole also acts as an insulating barrier from the hard section of the VaporMax sole. For instance, the top portion of the forefoot Max Air bag is fused right to the upper.

The largest sensory difference between your one-piece Max Air bag and the VaporMax design is you could distinctly feel the columns of Air compressing and rebound. With the older full-length design, the cushioning experience wasn’t very focused. You could believe that something was going on in the cushioning underneath, but was hard to pinpoint what or where.

Not with the Air VaporMax. The heel cushioning is one unit as the forefoot is made up of five different chambers. Thus, the compression of the midsole is zone-based.

The heel is noticeably better to compress compared to the front, and that’s where you’ll feel almost all of the Max Air cushioning.

Unlike other Nike shoes with heel Max Air, you can feel the outer and inner side cushioning working independently. In the event that you load your bodyweight on the lateral side, the pods on that side compress. And vice versa.

The 2008 Nike Shox Experience may be the VaporMax within an embryonic form.

At some level, the Air VaporMax reminds us of the 2008 Shox Experience – another shoe that used targeted Max Air cushioning. Remember though, that the V-Max is nowhere as softly cushioned as other foam-based Nike shoes just like the Turbo, React as well as the Joyride. If cushioning comfort is what you would like, then the VaporMax isn’t the shoe you get.

The forefoot is a lot firmer compared to the heel, and that’s not merely because of the lower-volume pods. The forefoot is protected with four bits of thick outsole rubber. This thickness plays a part in the cushioning firmness.

Most outsoles prosper on dry roads and sidewalks, therefore the V-Max isn’t an exception. The tiny Urethane lugs have a solid bite over asphalt and concrete sidewalks. That said, the empty sections between your pods ensures that there’s a reduced surface designed for grip. The smooth, plasticky material may also squeak on smooth tiles.

So long as you don’t wear the V-Max on dusty or wet smooth flooring, you’ll do swimmingly.

So what is it possible to wear the Air VaporMax for? Are they best for running? Not really.

When seen from the lens of performance running, the Nike Air VaporMax is somewhat just like the Joyride. Both shoes are cushioned (the Joyride a lot more so) and stylish enough for daily casual-wear use but flunk of running footwear standards. The uber-soft Joyride is a tale for a later date, so we’ll cover that in another review.

There are two explanations why the VaporMax isn’t an excellent running footwear. The cushioning difference between your softer heel and relatively firmer forefoot ensures that the transitions usually do not feel linked and efficient. You’re far better off in the Pegasus Turbo or the Nike React Flyknit.

The outsole – or the shortage thereof – may be the second reason the VaporMax Flyknit 3 isn’t a running footwear. There’s not enough outsole so that you can push off towards the finish of the gait cycle. For the reason that sense, even the Air Max 2015-17 was an improved running shoe.

MAY BE THE NIKE AIR VAPORMAX DURABLE?

So long as you don’t puncture the bubbly Air bag, you’re good. The hard Urethane outsole lugs and the rubber lugs execute a decent job of resisting abrasion, so 350 – 400 miles sounds nearly right.

This is beneath the assumption that the Air VaporMax can be used for informal wear rather than performance running. Because if you do run in them, wearing down the chambers might potentially bring about a blowout.

Much like any Max Air shoe, there’s a little chance that the pressurized chambers are certain to get punctured and lose its cushioning. Hence, this infographic suggests an exceptionally low and high toughness range.

THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT

Material-wise, there’s not really a lot happening on the Flyknit upper. It’s manufactured from a single little bit of elastic Flyknit along with a tongue and heel collar.

However, you get yourself a proper lacing system here with six rows of lacing associated with a Flywire cabling system. The last row is specially helpful in getting the collar band sit flush around your ankles.

Assuming you have experience wearing stretchy knit uppers from adidas or Nike during the past, then your interiors of the V-Max Flyknit 3 will feel familiar. The upper fits such as a glove with the expected snugness in the toe-box and forefoot.

For an optimal fit experience, wearing a thin couple of socks helps. In this manner, the forefoot doesn’t feel overly narrow. The toe-box ceiling kisses your feet, but then that’s typical for elasticated uppers.

The knit upper isn’t totally without structure. The upper the main VaporMax sole unit rises beneath the rearfoot to cup the heel. There’s also fused welding over the heel, therefore the foot has a lot of support. Likewise, a Urethane toe-cap guards the foot against bumps.

PROS AND CONS

If it wasn’t clear from the prior section, the VaporMax has among the finest Flyknit upper fits with a secure yet comfortable interior. That’s definitely an advantage in our eyes.

There’s a good amount of rearfoot cushioning for everyday wear use. Besides, it’s fun loading your weight on the gas-filled columns to see the obvious compression and rebound.

Outsole grip is great on the highway and paved walking paths. The tiny lugs dig in to the coarse surface for superior traction.

Yet, the VaporMax Flyknit 3 is bound in its versatility. The segmented Max Air midsole with varying degrees of cushioning doesn’t lead to seamless transitions. The reduced contact section of the football shoe type boot doesn’t help either.