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Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Running Shoe Review For the Average Runner

Nov 15, 2017 | Kit, Running | 6 comments

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner

Aka the most expensive trainers I’ve ever bought. I justified it as a wedding present to myself…plus I could use my 10% student discount on the Nike website which softened the blow a little.

I bought these shoes because I was intrigued, in the past I haven’t loved Nike shoes for running, although I do own a number of casual pairs and gym trainers. But there was so much hype around them, and runners that I followed on social media seemed to really like them…

So I placed the order and anxiously waited for my parcel to arrive..

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% look a lot like the traditional Nike Zoom Fly but with a platform that wouldn’t look out of place in the 90’s (Baby Spice, eat your heart out). So, they look a little funky, however they are so instantly recognisable, especially in the baby blue and red colour way, that I received knowing looks from runners around the world.

Plus they are certainly the lightest trainers I’ve ever bought/worn – perfect for travelling – although I was so worried about them getting lost that I carried them in my hand luggage around California and Hawaii!

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner

So, what about the functionality of the shoe?

They were created around the Nike Breaking2 project and designed to be the lightest shoe possible, providing maximum cushioning with forward dynamic propulsion. For those that have been put off by large heels (like the Hoka One One shoes), this one is a bit of a monster with 31mm of sole and an 11mm drop from heel to toe. This supposedly reduces impact on the achilles and forces you to run forward, it took a little getting used to but it definitely helps when you’re a heel striker to force you more onto a mid/forefoot strike.

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner

What makes it special, aside from the height of the sole, is what the sole is made of. Using a lightweight foam called ZoomX, the shoe is designed to give up to 85% energy return (the Runner’s World tested it and found an 80% return, the highest ever recorded in their lab!). There’s a carbon plate embedded in the midsole, this is designed to create a smooth ride and to restrict how much the toes can bend in push off – a common cause in energy loss.


The 4% relates to the claim that they aim to improve running economy by 4%… and it seemed to do just that in the Runner’s World tests, with their athlete experiencing ‘4 percent less muscle activity in the quadriceps, gastrocnemius (calf), and tibialis anterior (shin) muscles’, (obvs I don’t have that sort of data, however I did feel like I was very light on my feet during my honeymoon runs/race).

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner

Interestingly, they’re a unisex shoe – which I’m not at all adverse too, but I did find I had a lot of room in the toebox area, probably to accommodate for wider mens feet. As someone who often gets blisters on my toes, I actually really appreciated the extra space and have run a couple of half marathons in them with zero blister issues.

I wanted to hate these shoes, partly because I though that at £200 they were overpriced and all part of the Nike hype. But I didn’t…

Far from it.

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner

I loved the shoes on the roads, they really do provide a lovely bounce, helped improve my form, and made me feel badass (which in my book, goes a long way to making me run better lol).

However, these are not great on any kind of uneven trail, I found that there wasn’t much stability in the shoe when the ground beneath was not flat road.

Furthermore, although I haven’t worn mine enough for this to start happening, the main feedback I’ve seen is that the sole is just not designed to last – certainly not the 300-500 miles that a traditional running shoe does. Nike get around this by saying it’s a racing shoe, and encouraging you to buy a pair of the Nike Zoom Fly to train in…just another £130 then.

The verdict? If you’re trying to get faster at all costs and have money to spend, then these are the shoes for you. I think they could make a great marathon shoe, I mean, if they’re good enough for Shalane… However, if you can only afford one pair of running shoes at a time, these are unlikely to give you value for money.

Nike Zoom Fly 4% shoe review for the average runner




Ultimately, these have become a favourite pair of racing shoes, and I’ll probably wear them for at least one of my spring marathons, and certainly road halfs – however, I certainly won’t be bringing them out much during the winter months. There’s far too much mud and debris around and I don’t want to ruin these beauties…


  1. Angela

    Love your honest reviews Charlie 🙂

    • charlotte

      Thanks Angela!

  2. Thomas Allred

    I have 3 pair of the vapor fly’s. A good shoe, but don’t crank down on the laces as you will blister even if the shoe is perfect size wise. The 4%’s are as good of a shoe as I’ve worn. I think they will come out with a refined version of them soon. Mine have been worn 5 Miles on the treadmill, a 10 mile race pr, and a half PR. Under 30 Miles on them and I don’t dare wear them again before Boston, as the right rear heel is showing signs of degrading. Unleash they start selling them again. Yes, even at the price point and limited longevity…they are that good.

  3. Jennifer

    Great review! I am in love with my 4% too – but definitely agree that they will getting no where near a trail!

  4. Joseph

    Love this review. I’m a 25-30 miles a week runner and when I do any races, its usually a 10K. I love running outside while I listen to AC/DC and only AC/DC. I run for fun and to keep in shape. At 37, running has put me in the best shape of my life. Now – I buy one pair of shoes every 6-8 months and it’s been 8 months since I bought the Hoka One One Bondi 5’s. I love the Bondi 5’s because they are a “maximalist” even more so than the Brooks Glycerin. They actually blow the Glycerin’s away, IMO. In the last couple of weeks, I have reviewed so many shoes, including these. I’m torn because I love Hoka BUT the Bondi 6 is going to be delayed until the end of 2018 (they usually come out every January), I’m hearing good things about the Glycerin 15’s (I last owned the 14’s) and I keep looking up these 4%’rs. So my question, since I prefer a maximalist shoe, would these 4%’rs provide me with plenty of cushion to train/compete in? I’m a fun colors kinda guy and I feel like I could look great in these as I blow past the other runners I usually run past in town. I hope you get this and respond. Thank you

    • Thomas Allred

      4% = competition shoe only, unless you’ve hit the lottery. The other thing about 4%, they are not forgiving. If your form is dialed in…..all good.


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