Nike Zoom Fly 3 Review

As sportswear specialists go, Nike are just about as expert as you can get, and they strive to make trainers that are at the very forefront of running technology. The Nike Zoom Fly 3 is a trainer that harnesses many of the innovative design features so admired in Nike’s premium designs, but at a more affordable price.

Reviewers have termed this shoe the Vaporfly Next% Lite, due to the fact that it mimics many of the qualities of the high-end Vaporfly but has greater accessibility and a wider appeal. Read on as we take a closer look at this 3rd generation Zoom Fly trainer and see if Nike have achieved all they set out to with its state-of-the-art design.

Who is the Nike Zoom Fly 3 suitable for?

The Nike Zoom Fly 3 is a lean road racing shoe, great for training runs and race days alike. Over long distances the shoe lets you gain speed and is particularly good for mid tempo running and distance tempo running. If you are planning a very long run then the Zoom Fly 3 will allow you to hit passages at pace to pick up your overall time. 

This shoe is particularly great if you are not ready to commit to one of Nike’s premium racing models like the rather expensive Vaporfly 4% or Next%. The Zoom Fly 3 improves on the Zoom Fly Flyknit and keeps its price point accessible.

Who is the Nike Zoom Fly 3 less suitable for?

Runners looking to take things slow and steady over great distances will find that this trainer does not provide the right cushioning and support. Feet, ankles and knees will suffer and muscles will tire due to the lack of impact absorption. At the other end of the spectrum, The Zoom Fly 3 is also not great for short training runs and fast sprints due to the slippage caused by the inner bootie and the instability caused by the stack height.

Carbon Fibre Plate 

The first thing to note about the Nike Zoom Fly 3 is the innovative carbon fibre plate in the midsole. The original Zoom Fly model had a plastic plate, however the carbon fibre plate in the Zoom Fly 3 is far more responsive and is what is used in Nike’s high-end models to achieve optimum performance results. 

Another thing to note is that the carbon fibre plate does give the Zoom Fly 3 a rather rigid feel, particularly when you hold it in your hands. Don’t be put off however, because the shoe gives more than you might expect under foot whilst also keeping its shape and providing you with a snappy toe-off.

React Foam Midsole

The plate sits in a bed of React foam that has plenty of bounce and spring, which is slightly softer than the React foam used in the Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 and other such models.

The softness of the React foam does not turn mushy and sap speed from your stride however, but provides a level of cushioning that is impressive for such a lean shoe. The amount of React foam has been slightly increased from that used in the Zoom Fly Flyknit, and as a result the stack of this shoe is higher than that of its predecessor. 

Decreased Drop

The drop from the heel to toe has been lowered however, from 10mm on the Flyknit to just 8mm on the Zoom Fly 3. This is a low drop for a Nike design, yet the full length carbon fibre plate keeps the midsole reactive and this shoe has lots of lovely forward drive as a result.

The decreased drop helps you achieve a lovely balanced stride, and works well for runners with a traditional heel-toe foot strike. It also relieves pressure on the front of the foot, shin and knees, promoting a healthy running technique.

Outsole

The outsole on the Nike Zoom Fly 3 has a similar design to that seen on the Vaporfly Next%, in that it has a groove running laterally from the center of the foot to the heel. This groove is designed to increase lateral flexibility, however its effectiveness has been questioned by some critics. Overall, the Zoom Fly 3 has a rigid rather than flexible outsole, which is good for building pace.

The outsole has three distinct areas of built up rubber on the forefront of the foot and the very back of the heel. These areas of thicker rubber are designed to improve traction, especially on wet surfaces, which is something that previous models have failed to deliver.

A further benefit of the rubber sections is that they increase the shoe’s durability. The Zoom Fly 3 has got plenty of miles in it due to the expert placement of these thick rubber plates and as a result you will get far more wear out of these trainers than many of the high-end alternatives. Sure, the thickness adds weight to the shoe, but it is worth it for the longevity provided.

VaporWeave Upper

The greatest improvement that Nike have made from the Zoom Fly Flyknit with the Zoom Fly 3 is the incredible (and rather futuristic looking) VaporWeave upper unit. The VaporWeave is a new material made from plastics, namely TPE and TPU.

For anyone unfamiliar with these materials, TPE is the plastic that most sportswear brands use in the foam midsoles of their trainers, whereas TPU is the plastic used in the making of yoga mats! It may seem crazy, but the innovative use of this supremely supportive yet flexible fabric is revelatory and is what really sets the Zoom Fly 3 apart.

Nike have used VaporWeave in their Vaporfly Next% model too, so you will really feel like you are wearing a high-end fabric even though you paid a far less intimidating price for it. 

On the Zoom Fly 3, the VaporWeave is woven loosely enough to be incredibly breathable, which means you won’t be left feeling clammy under foot or between your toes even if you are running in some pretty warm weather conditions.

Better still, the VaporWeave does not absorb sweat or water, unlike the Flyknit material. This means you have water resistance in wet weather conditions, and your trainers won’t start to smell dreadful from absorbing your sweat. The material is incredibly lightweight and it looks pretty awesome too!

Fit

The Zoom Fly 3 is a fairly long and narrow shaped trainer, and some runners have even recommended choosing a size up from your normal shoe size in order to achieve a comfortable fit. However, there is a surprising amount of room in the toe box compared to most of Nike’s offerings, and unless you suffer from bunions or know that you have wide feet you should be able to have a healthy toe splay inside the Zoom Fly 3. 

The VaporWeave moulds beautifully to the foot and doesn’t have too much elasticity as to be unstable, however there is a certain amount of slippage inside the shoe due to the wide ankle opening and also due to the inner bootie.

This inner bootie has a breathable mesh front section and a thicker nylon midsole and it can therefore cause the midfoot to become a little clammy. Indeed, many critics have noted that this inner bootie seems like a somewhat unnecessary addition to what is otherwise a sophisticated design. The benefits it affords are additional comfort and support where the bootie hugs the foot very snuggly, but the shoe does not really need it. 

To help achieve a really good fit and minimize slippage, the Zoom Fly 3 has additional eyelets at the very neck of the shoe. The flat, nylon laces really benefit from the use of these extra anchors and you will feel very secure if you opt to lace these trainers to the very top.

Weight

Although marketed as a supremely lightweight running shoe, the Nike Zoom Fly 3 is actually comparatively heavy when you look at rival road running options. A men’s US size 9 weighs in at 8.8oz, which is on the heavier side for a Nike trainer, although Nike generally creates very light shoes.

The added weight in the Zoom Fly 3 is due to its increased stack height and the carbon fibre plate embedded in the midsole. Of course, these features are balanced out by the thin, airy VaporWeave upper unit which feels almost weightless on the top of your foot when worn. As a result, the Nike Zoom Fly 3 feels like it is lighter than it actually is, whilst still providing lots of firmness and stability underfoot.

Summary

The Nike Zoom Fly 3 is a perfect road running shoe for those who take their exercise seriously but don’t necessarily have the means to invest in the high-ticket equipment.

These fantastic trainers utilize state-of-the-art fabrics and design innovations to create a smooth riding, snappy shoe that will assist your pace and keep you safe and comfortable over long distances. The Zoom Fly 3 is durable and reliable and is an excellent choice for any road running enthusiast.

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