Zoom Fly. Ask any passionate runner or athlete and they will tell you how impressive these shoes are. Whether you’re training every day or need shoes for the big race day, Zoom Fly has always had you covered.
Some would describe Nike’s Zoom Fly series as the sports cars of the running shoe world. They are the vaporfly elite. Innovative. Affordable. Every new model in the Zoom Fly series brings a new innovative design with it. With every new design, Nike seems to be running away with the title of best distance road racing shoes.
Enter the new revamp of the Vaporfly, the Zoom Fly 3. This shoe is similar to the earlier Zoom fly versions but with more to offer. It boasts a carbon fiber plate inside the midsole, has a similar high stack height to the earlier racing shoe models, and has a Vaporwave upper. This material is more sturdy and water-resistant than other versions such as the Flyknit that was used in the Zoom Fly Flyknit.
In this review, we are going to look at the Zoom Fly 3 and find out if it lives up to its expectations. If you’re like us, you have high hopes for this racing shoe.
Zoom Fly 3 Main Features
- Vaporweave - Has a light and breathable construction
- Low collar - Conforms well to the shape of your foot
- Arch band - Helps to take pressure off your instep
- Good booties design - Limits the need for a tongue for an easy, sock-like fit
- React midsole - Durable, lightweight, and responsive cushioning
- Carbon fiber plate - Results in a rigid platform for propulsion
- Laces - Securely locks the midfoot down for a comfortable fit
- Heel - Aerodynamic heel that tapers to reduce any drag which helps you run faster
- Rubber forefoot and heel - This increases the traction as well as durability in high-wear parts of the shoe
- Flex grooves - These extend lengthwise and improve traction over different surfaces and in a range of weather conditions
At a glance
When you first pick up the Zoom Fly 3, you may be surprised by how heavy it feels. We certainly were. Compared to Nike’s Vaporfly Next %, these are considerably heavier. When weighed, the Zoom Fly 3 has around half an ounce more weight than the previous model.
When you put on these shoes, they are quite comfortable. However, they do feel a little narrow and long but this is expected for new shoes. Compared to other Nike shoes, there does seem to be more room in the toe box of the Fly 3.
So, first impressions are that the Zoom Fly 3 is a comfortable shoe with a great deal of toe room. Ideal for running.
The sole unit
There have been some small changes in the midsole from the Zoom Fly Flyknit. One difference is that there is more React foam and a higher stack height of the overall shoe. This additional foam and stack height is what causes the added weight in these shoes.
The heel-toe offset has also been lowered from 10mm to 8mm. This helps your heel get lower to the ground which can be a bonus when running longer distances.
The Zoom Fly 3 shoe still features a full-length carbon plate and React foam. This results in a responsive, comfortable, and forward-moving overall feel. The carbon plate results in a firm, rigid sole but the responsiveness of the plate under your feet makes up for this solid sole.
Included in these shoe’s designs is a groove that runs directly down the middle of the foot from the middle to the heel. This increases some lateral flexibility but only slightly.
Running shoes go through the wars. Therefore, you want a pair that can last a long time. Zoom Fly 3 shoes have a sizeable built-up rubber area around the mid and forefoot. This is also evident in two smaller built-up areas of rubber situated at the back of the heel. This extra rubber has increased the durability of these shoes, especially on the outsole. It also improves your traction when running, especially in wet conditions. This is a huge improvement on earlier models.
The upper unit
Maybe the biggest improvement from the Zoom Fly Flyknit series to this Zoom Fly 3 series is the brand new VaporWeave upper. This is an upper material that is made from plastics such as TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) and TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers).
TPU material is generally used in a range of running shoe manufacturers when producing top-quality, premier foams.
You may notice TPE material from yoga mats. While you may think this material wouldn’t be suitable for upper units of shoes, it actually works very well. The material is extremely lightweight and weaved carefully. Due to its breathable process of weaving, the shoes do not absorb any sweat or moisture making running over long distances more comfortable. Another big advantage over previous models.
However, this VaporWeave is included as a layer outside of the internal area. While it is made up of breathable mesh within the forefoot, there is thick nylon in the midfoot region. This nylon is very comfortable but it can feel pretty warm over the top of your foot as you run.
The foam and rubber outsole of the Zoom Fly 3 series is very similar to the VaporFly Next % shoes. A single piece of rubber covers the front half of these shoes for added grip. Combined with lattice-pattern grooves, the outsole of these shoes is designed to allow water to escape from below the shoe as you run.
On either side of the heel, there are rubber strips for further traction while the rest is purely exposed React foam.
While its on-road grip is very good, some have found that the outsole lacks traction on crushed-gravel terrains.
Durability and performance
The Zoom Fly 3 is a much more affordable and long-lasting option than the Next % model. While that was, and remains, an astonishing shoe, it tends to prioritize performance over durability. Therefore, those shoes are best left for the most important race days.
The Zoom Fly 3 provides the flavor of the VaporFly’s performance but is much cheaper and more durable. Just like the Vaporfly, the Zoom Fly 3 has a carbon plate in its midsole which is designed specifically for fast running. However, it costs much less than the VaporFly series and offers just as much.
The Zoom Fly 3’s midsole includes React foam which is far more durable than the ZoomX foam used in the Vaporfly series. If durability is what you’re after, you can’t go far wrong with the Zoom Fly 3 shoe.
The Zoom Fly 3 shoe can be used for a variety of running sessions. These include track and tempo and longer distance runs such as 22km. They help you go at a good rate too.
The more you run in these shoes, the more you will appreciate their qualities. The carbon plate and React foam help you keep a decent pace as you run, especially the bounce from the React foam. It makes you feel like you’re putting in less effort which is always welcoming. Its smooth transition from heel to toe and a large toe box only further this ease of running.
On shorter runs or track intervals, Zoom Fly 3 shoes may not be the best out there. If speed over short distances is what you’re after, the extra weight and size of these shoes may impede any nimble movements. Its additional React foam feels somewhat cumbersome and pretty heavy. Other shoes such as the Hoka Carbon X feel lighter on the foot for short, speedier runs. The Next % shoes also feel lighter and seem to offer more propulsion but even with Zoom Fly’s firm cushioning, it remains more responsive than imagined.
When you first run on the tarmac, you may hear a loud slap. We believe this could be because of the stiff nature of the shoe at first. And that is how it feels at first. Stiff with not enough cushioning to fight against the carbon plate. However, as time goes on, the shoes become more comfortable (as do many).
The React foam begins to live up to its reputation after the first few miles. It feels wonderfully reactive. This simply means that it allows your feet to sink into the shoes as you slow down to a gentle jog but then becomes more firm when you start to run faster.
Because of these shoe’s tall and narrow profile, they are not best suited for off-road running. We found that your feet don’t feel as secure on rough ground and you’re always worried about turning an ankle if you don’t land perfectly every time. Though the Zoom Fly 3 feels supportive, it’s not the most stable. This is despite the upper’s wrap-around and secure fit.
If you have a budget but still want the high-performance of high-quality running shoes, then the Zoom Fly 3 series could be ideal for you. It’s pretty hard to find any faults with these shoes, especially in terms of durability and comfort. As a carbon-plated racing option, the Zoom Fly 3 series is certainly one of the best affordable running shoes on the market.