INTRODUCTION

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you need to know about Nike’s ‘Breaking 2’ project – the shoe behemoth’s initiative to break the 2-hour marathon barrier. Nike came so, so near the goal.

In what was an extraordinary feat of athleticism, Eluid Kipchoge ran a marathon distance in an archive 2.00.25, 2.32 seconds faster compared to the current world record. This recent piece in the Wired magazine covers the finer details with a thorough backstory.

Because of this event, Nike designed an idea shoe called the Zoom Vaporfly Elite. It had Nike’s completely new ZoomX midsole foam plus a Carbon fiber plate, and its own distribution was extremely limited – used only by the athletes who participated in the breaking 2 project.

Because the concept shoe has gone out of bounds for all of us lesser mortals, the publicly available models will be the Zoom Vaporfly 4% and the Zoom Fly. Both these shoes have a design language and show set which is inspired by the athlete-only shoe. All three models have an upper with similar aesthetics and a midsole with the initial plate embedded within.

Though Nike also sells the Pegasus 34 with an identical paint-job, the cheaper model shares little in keeping with either the Vaporfly or the Zoom Fly.

And before you get confused – the name Zoom Fly is a misnomer. Unlike all previous Nike shoes where in fact the word ‘Zoom’ in the name indicated the occurrence of a Zoom Air bag inside, this shoe is dependant on an all-foam platform. Incidentally, there is another Nike shoe by the same name a couple of years ago – that model did have a forefoot Zoom Air unit.

Coming to think about it, the use of the term ‘Zoom’ in the Zoom Fly’s name is a lttle bit odd. It neither gets the namesake technology in the sort of an Air bag, nor the newly introduced foam found in the Vaporfly Elite and the 4%.

The term Zoom is employed here as a figure of speech, with Nike marketing the Zoom Fly as a ‘fast’ shoe. Zoom can be an onomatopoeic word, descriptive as in ‘Zoom past,’ and has nothing with do with a genuine Zoom Air bag.

Nike isn’t wrong there. The Zoom Fly is an easy shoe, irrespective of its 33 mm heel stack. The brand new shoe owes its speed character to the initial, full-length Nylon plate embedded inside midsole. The plate is tethered to the forefoot but includes a relatively high selection of movement beneath the heel, thus generating an impact comparable to a springboard or diving board.

Internal plates or shanks aren’t a fresh concept. Shorter versions are generally found in trail jogging shoes, racing flats and so on. The rigidity supplied by the plate helps the stability and transition quality of the shoe, and used cases like trail running, protection may be the primary objective.

Mizuno may be the only brand which runs on the sizeable plate as part of its midsole, which gives almost all their shoes a characteristic ‘Mizuno-ness.’ A few of their models just like the Creation and Prophecy use a full-length ‘Wave’ plate while some use a rearfoot-only plate.

Though Nike will be loathe to admit it, the Zoom Fly’s chunky midsole bears an uncanny resemblance to Hoka One One jogging shoes.

Hoka was the first brand to popularise the max cushioning trend; and surprisingly, while their shoes were cushioned beyond belief, the ride was efficient. A thick forefoot translated into lower flexibility, which helped speedier toe-offs. We experienced this on the Hoka Clifton and the Bondi.

So vaguely speaking, the Nike Zoom Fly is a hybrid between a Mizuno and a Hoka. This original method of the midsole construction results in a ride quality which produces an event like none other.

A thick forefoot stack with a higher toe-spring is made a lot more rigid by the Nylon plate, which makes the ‘roll-off’ character of the forefoot more pronounced when compared to a Hoka. The plate extends completely to the heel, where it really is sandwiched between your two foam layers.

This design provides Zoom Fly its distinctly responsive feel, making transitions fast even for a shoe this cushioned. Because the thinner end of the plate is ‘floating’ in the thick stack of rearfoot foam, it includes a far greater selection of movement than, say, a Mizuno Wave Plate.

Distinct it can be, however the Zoom Fly isn’t for everybody. The stiff forefoot punishes those running any slower when compared to a 6:50/mile (4:20/km) pace; since when you go slow, the foot tries to bend the forefoot rather than rolling over it.

As the plate is highly resistant to bending, trying to flex it’ll cause fatigue – likely manifested by a sensation of numbness over long distance runs. This restricts the Zoom Fly’s versatility to specific use-cases only, which means this shoe isn’t a do-it-all kind.

The moral of the story is: If you run fast, read on the review. If you’re likely to utilize the Zoom Fly as a fairly easy run shoe, then we strongly advise never to. Get yourself a plate-free Hoka or a normal trainer just like the Pegasus 34.

DESIGN AND MATERIALS

The Zoom Fly’s design is modeled on the higher-end Vaporfly Elite (commercially unavailable) and the $250 Vaporfly 4%. The surface profile is quite clean; the upper is made from a single-piece engineered mesh (aka the Flymesh) with Flywire assisted lacing.

Some structure will come in the type of the inner heel counter (albeit small) and a pliable stiffener giving condition to the toe-box. Unlike the Vaporfly 4% that includes a deconstructed, raw-edge heel, the Zoom Fly packs a good amount of foam padding – which is somewhat similar to the way the Pegasus 34’s heel was created.

The mesh is lightweight and breathes well, but has more thickness compared to the Vaporfly. The VaporFly 4% runs on the mesh which feels like the Streak 6; very thin and a lot of pores for ventilation.

Also, on both Vaporfly and the Streak, the lacing will not use Flywire and instead passes through the loops (formed by the upper turning inwards) linked to an interior band. The Zoom Fly lacks this strap, and all eyelets are punched in to the fabric panel reinforced with a transparent laminate. Flywire cords go through all of the lacing rows aside from the last heel-lock eyelet.

The tongue does not have any padding at all. The majority of it is manufactured from composite mesh, and the flap has fused synthetic for strength. The flap edges that can come in touch with the foot are lined with soft artificial suede – that is something we’ve seen on past Streak models.

Interesting, the Zoom Fly’s tongue comes with an asymmetrical flap design with a notch on the inner edge. We’re wondering where we’d seen that before – oh right, the Hoka Clifton had an identical notch, except that it wasn’t asymmetrical. It appears that the maximal midsole template wasn’t the one thing inspired by Hoka One One.

And what does this notch do anyway? It locks down on the foot instep better, hence minimizing tongue slide if not eliminating it. There’s no sleeve inside Zoom Fly, which means this is a good feature.

The laces are nice. They’re the flat kind which are quick to cinch. However, as a result of the minimal tongue and the Flywire, the lacing pressure is felt through the thinness of the material.

There isn’t much detailing over the upper – just the large Swoosh logo with ‘speed streaks,’ and the reflective strip over the heel. The strip is an innovative way of showing reflectivity; when lit up, the left shoe displays the ‘Racing’ text and the Swoosh logo. The proper shoe displays digits in a racing timer format – pretty cool.

Not counting the hard internal plate, the Nike Zoom Fly includes a dual-density midsole with a 10 mm (33 R, 23 F) heel-to-toe gradient. Everything you see externally may be the EVA foam casing; inside, there’s another (and softer) Lunarlon core with the stiff Nylon plate below it.

It really is worth noting that the outer midsole includes a paint scheme which can be an approximate representation of the construction inside. You can observe this black paint line which commences in the center of the forefoot stack and flares upwards towards the heel.

One might feel that the plate is merely under your heel, nonetheless it isn’t. Rather, it’s located practically halfway through the heel stack – to be precise, splitting the midsole height in a 60:40 ratio. And therefore 60% of the foam stack is below the hard plate, with the others (and softer part) above it. Because the Nylon plate is securely anchored in leading, the tail-end includes a relative freedom of movement.

The Lunarlon core can be full length, with the forefoot section being considerably thicker compared to the rearfoot. This aligns with the look of the Nylon plate which is thicker and stiffer in leading and tapers thin beneath the rearfoot.

There’s another reason the Nylon plate is indeed stiff beneath the forefoot. Sure, the plate is thicker, nonetheless it can be corrugated. Ridges are molded lengthwise (not sideways such as a flex groove), which means this leaves little margin for the plate to bend.

This isn’t Nike’s first foray in to the full-length plate business. Shoes in other categories like football/soccer experienced carbon fiber plates, except that these were uniform in thickness. Lately, Nike running shoes seem to be to be taking greater than a leaf out of football’s playbook. The Lunarepic Hi was inspired by a Nike football shoe, and today this.

If you look at night paint job, the external midsole doesn’t have any detailing. The sidewalls are flat on either side, and the bottom goes from wide near to the outsole to slimmer near to the top.

The heel bevel (angle) comes with an unusual location. Rather than being biased towards the outer side – because that’s where most rearfoot strikers would land – it really is angled right up the guts.

The front includes a high toe-spring, which works great in combo with an inflexible forefoot. We’ve experienced this tried-and-tested combo on shoes including the Mizuno Prophecy and the Hoka Clifton, both which had a stiff forefoot with a higher toe-spring. Combine the toe and heel spring, and you have a rocker shaped midsole that was made mainstream by brands like Hoka and Skechers.

Flip the shoe over, and you’ll discover that the almost all of the outsole coverage is targeted under the forefoot. There are always a couple of known reasons for this. One is that adding plenty of rubber adds rigidity, which helps quicker roll-offs. The forefoot outsole isn’t rock solid either; the rubber used is a soft kind, similar to what’s applied to the Vomero 12.

The other reason is that Nike is hoping that the almost all of the Zoom Fly users will be forefoot strikers, thus the necessity to increase traction and toughness in that area.

In the trunk, outsole rubber is employed sparingly. Separate pieces are arranged in a horse-shoe shaped fashion around the heel periphery, and the midfoot is all foam. There’s a shallow cavity beneath the heel for cushioning.

The outsole design language is consistent. The outsole lugs are pentagonal-shaped, vaguely similar to Nike Free outsoles, but without the deep grooving separating the lugs.

The midsole is topped with a removable, faux-Ortholite insole. It really is manufactured from a soft, blown-foam compound with a comfortable fabric at the top. A foam strobel/lasting separates the insole from the midsole.

DURABILITY ASSESSMENT

Assessing the Zoom Fly’s toughness is tricky just because a lot will rely upon your footstrike pattern. Forefoot strikers must have less to worry about, as the generous coverage of rubber in leading does an excellent job of managing deterioration.

Rearfoot strikers could have mixed feelings about durability. The exposed areas surrounding the rubber pods will dsicover faster wear compared to the remaining outsole, and the centered angle beneath the heel doesn’t help.

Unlike most jogging shoes, the Zoom Fly’s heel is tapered upwards right in the guts rather than being biased outwards, so expect that to aggravate the deterioration situation if you’re landing on the trailing edge.

Then there’s the Lunarlon core to worry about. As everybody knows, Lunarlon doesn’t have an extended lifespan, so expect a gradual lack of cushioning after a few hundred miles. All of those other shoe could possibly be ok, however the Lunarlon will degrade.

There are a handful of other minor niggles. The screen printing on the insole will peel from the lime within the first month, but this isn’t a Nike specific issue – all shoes with a screen printed insole will face the inevitable.

You’ll also visit a large amount of wrinkles formed on the midsole wall. Here’s our theory on why this happens. The midsole sidewall are smooth , nor have compression groove, therefore the foam material must crease somewhere.

We also need to consider the midsole’s inner construction. Every time you load weight on the Zoom Fly, you do etc the Lunarlon core and the plate below it. Because the hard plate has some selection of movement, it will pull on the outer midsole casing and plays a part in the creases on the sidewall.

If you’re running in areas with ambient dust, the creases have a tendency to soil easily as the dirt gets trapped in its folds.

UPPER FIT AND FEEL

Due to the fact the Zoom Fly is an easy running footwear, the upper fit is relatively generous with interior space. The toe-box is wide and isn’t pointy like how traditional Nike racers are.

The toe-box is shallow, however the mesh above drapes over gently and will not box the foot in. Even though the Zoom Fly isn’t as breezy as the Vaporfly 4% or the Streak 6, the inside feels adequately ventilated.

The forefoot is snug on the sides, which is common to many Nike shoes which feature Flywire. The first row of the cords applies pressure on either side of the foot. This sensation is in no way uncomfortable, but we called it out because you have to know the key reason why the forefoot fits just how it can.

Because of the vertically located Flywire cords, the midfoot fit is quite secure while feeling smooth inside. The foot is held set up both by the slim midsole waist and the network of cords straining over.

Having said that, the tongue lets the lacing pressure filter through as a result of no padding inside. We described the tongue notch earlier in this review; it minimizes the extent of tongue slide.

Out in the trunk, the inner counter reinforced heel grips securely. Unlike the tongue, there are regular trainer degrees of foam padding, therefore the interiors are comfortable.

RIDE QUALITY AND BEHAVIOR

Let’s get the fundamentals taken care of first. As you would expect of a midsole with 33 mm and 23 mm stack heights, the Zoom Fly has deep cushioning, and some.

The softness is targeted in the upper parts of the midsole, with the blown foam insole and the Lunarlon core located above the plate. The Lunarlon core is a lot thicker inside forefoot than it’s the rear.

The forefoot is ultra stiff. The inner corrugation/ridges of the plate ensure unyielding stiffness, making the forefoot inflexible. While that is purposely made to facilitate faster roll-offs, in addition, it really helps to lock the Nylon plate set up.

With the thinner and more flexible end of the plate ‘hanging’ or suspended beneath the heel, applying bodyweight over it creates it become a springboard. Thus giving the rearfoot an extremely responsive feel, one which helps progress the foot to the forefoot quickly.

If you’re a rearfoot striker, the springboard effect could be more pronounced. Alternatively, forefoot strikers will see that transitioning to the heel feels very efficient, as the hard plate prevents the foot from sinking in an excessive amount of – hence delivering an excellent gait economy.

The rearfoot is a wonderful mixture of cushioning and responsiveness, without the hint of marshmallowy-ness you might expect of a 33 mm foam stack. If you’re mentally trying to compare the ride of the Hoka Clifton or the Bondi, then why don’t we make your task easier.

The Zoom Fly is firmer than both Clifton and the Bondi. That is due to the blend of several factors. The inner plate provides stiffness, and the compression molded outer midsole is firmer than what’s on these Hoka shoes.

Forefoot transitions are mighty quick. Not merely is that area stiff, but is complemented by an extremely high toe spring. The end of the shoe is raised higher than most shoes, and both of these (the stiffness and the spring) partner perfectly to make sure seamless toe-offs.

The Zoom Fly’s forefoot transitions remind us of the 2012 Mizuno Prophecy, another shoe with an exceptionally high toe-spring and a stiff frontend. On the Prophecy, you felt that the foot was automatically being propelled forward, and the Zoom Fly’s behavior resembles that.

But there’s a catch. The Zoom Fly isn’t for everybody, and you need to understand this before spending $150 on a shoe which can not be fitted to your preferences. Take all reviews (including that one) with a sizable grain of salt, because at best reviews only help runners make the best choice and nothing more.

Should you be running any slower when compared to a 3-hour marathon or a 20 minute 5K, you might like to reconsider your purchase choice. The Zoom Fly penalizes paces slower than 4.20 min/km or 6:50 min/mile. Here’s why this happens:

When you’re running fast, the foot rolls over the stiff forefoot without the problem. However when you’re running slow, the foot will attempt to bend the plate-embedded forefoot through the gait cycle.

This creates a whole lot of additional work for the foot, and there may be potential side-effects. Just like the foot going numb or having a burning sensation – all linked to the fatigue which includes trying to bend an inflexible midsole.

But one might argue: why did a similar thing not happen with the Mizuno Wave Prophecy which had an identical stiff forefoot and a higher toe-spring?

That’s for the reason that Zoom Fly and the Mizuno are separated by a simple design difference – the Prophecy had a forefoot that was stiff throughout. Mizuno’s Ap+ foam was hard as wood, therefore was the Infinity Wave plate below. The foot had a tendency to roll naturally, whatever the speed.

Also, the quick snap-back response from the trunk end of the Nylon plate will be diluted if you’re going slow.