Review of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2: first worldwide test

Even in the highly stacked, high-tech world of carbon running shoes, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 stands out. It’s bigger and bolder than the rest, and stands out as the current pinnacle of technical innovation in running shoes, taking the bouncy foam plus carbon plate formula to the extreme.

For some, the Alphafly NEXT% goes too far and shows why authorities need to crack down on shoes that provide too much assistance to runners. For others, it’s just too much of a shoe to even consider running, even compared to the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2, which isn’t a stripped-down running platform itself.

Taken purely on its merits, however, there’s no denying that the Alphafly NEXT% 2 is an incredible running shoe, one of the best carbon plate running shoes, and on the right course, it’s the best running shoe. of marathon running.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 review: price and availability

The Alphafy NEXT%2 will be available in limited quantities starting June 15 in a “proto” white colorway, similar to the launch editions of the Nike ZoomX Streakfly and Vaporfly NEXT%2. United States (opens in a new tab) Where United Kingdom (opens in a new tab) websites to see if sizes are available.

Although I got the shoes, I was not told the price. This article will be updated as soon as possible after publication.

Update: The UK price is £274.95 and is available for buy on Nike France (opens in a new tab) now.

Design and fit

The Alphafly NEXT% 2 stays true to the design choices of the original, but brings in a series of refinements.

Perhaps the most striking update is to the shoe’s midsole. This one still features a lot of Nike’s bouncy PEBA-based ZoomX foam, two forefoot Zoom Air pods, and a full-length carbon plate. However, on the Alphafly 2, Nike added ZoomX foam under the Air Zoom pods. The intent of this change is to provide even more energy return and comfort under the forefoot, and to ease the transition from heel to toe.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 Air Zoom Modules Detail

Air Zoom pods under the forefoot (Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

The shoe is also slightly wider in the heel which improves its stability a bit, although of course stability is never going to be an asset for a high stack shoe with such soft foam in the midsole.

Nike also tweaked the shoe’s outsole, changing the pattern on the rubber and using a thinner material that reduces weight and creates space to house the extra foam under the Air Zoom pods. There is also a larger midsole cutout that shows more of the carbon plate.

Detail of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 outsole

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 sole (Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

All of these updates made the Alphafly 2 heavier than the original. My UK size 9 shoes actually had different weights – 8.6oz (244g) and 8.9oz (251g) – while Nike lists a US 10/UK 9 as weighing 8.8oz (249g). In comparison, my UK Size 9 Alphafly NEXT% weighs 8.2oz (232g) and my Vaporfly NEXT%2 weighs 7.3oz (207g).

Nike doesn’t list an official stack height for the Alphafly NEXT% 2, but it certainly comes up against the 40mm limit set by World Athletics. Nike told me that the Alphafly NEXT% 2 drop is 8mm, which is double the original’s 4mm, although the original gives me the impression of having more than a 4mm drop when I use it.

The Atomknit 2.0 upper has more structure and support around the heel, and loses the overlay on the toes to make it less restrictive in the forefoot. The Alphafly is not an easy shoe to get on – I needed to use the tabs on the tongue and collar to get even my narrow foot in. Once on, however, the fit is secure and comfortable in my normal size, and I had no slippage around the redesigned heel.

How I tested this shoe

I ran 82 km in the Nike Alphafly NEXT% 2 before its launch, including a regular 20 mile (32 km) run, parkrun, hard training and another long run with a long section at marathon pace. I also used the original Nike Alphafly NEXT% extensively, running a 2:29 and 2:33 marathon in it in 2021, and logged many runs in the Vaporfly NEXT% 2 as well.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, left;  and Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2, right

The original Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, left; and the new Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2, right (Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

The running performance

Like the original Alphafly, the 2 feels like a different shoe when you run fast in it. When jogging slowly it feels big and bulky, but once you roll the shoe comes to life and the ride becomes remarkably smooth. Running at a fast pace feels almost effortless.

My first run in the shoe was a tough workout where I ran 5km at 3min 30s/km, followed by eight reps uphill, then 3km at 3min 20s/km. I do variations on this workout pretty regularly and have done it in all kinds of running shoes. It’s the one you’d think would be best to try in a lighter, more nimble shoe, but I felt better in that second 3k in the Alphafly 2 than in any other shoe. Once you get into the rhythm, it just helps you stay there, and the heel-to-toe transition is smoother and faster than on the original Alphafly.

I enjoyed it even more on my second run, a 90 minute run on Sunday where I planned to shift gears and run at a steady pace judged by feel and heart rate when I hit a long straight section of smooth roads. The Alphafly 2 purrs positively in these conditions, and the odd look at my pace stats during this section showed that I was running much faster than expected given my perceived level of exertion.

The only fly in the ointment during all of this was a U-turn on slightly slippery asphalt, where I felt I had to be very careful in the Alphafly to avoid slipping. It’s never going to be a nimble shoe, but the weight and size that disappears when riding on straight roads reappears when you turn around a tight bend.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

While Nike considers the Alphafly 2 to be a long-distance running shoe, I found it performed well over shorter distances as well – provided you have the right conditions of good roads and few corners. I ran the Fleetwood Promenade parkrun in the shoe, which is an out and back course on concrete, and while a brutal headwind in the first half of the course, followed by a strong tailwind in the second, somewhat muddled my racing plans, the Alphafly felt as fast as any other carbon shoe.

My last run in the Alphafly 2 before launch was a 32km run over hilly roads, running to feel rather than aiming for a set pace. Once again I found my pace to be faster than expected for my perceived effort throughout. The shoe also protected my legs well, which was especially noticeable the next day when I woke up without any muscle pain.

Is the Nike Alphafly NEXT% 2 worth it?

The Alphafly NEXT% 2 takes key aspects of the Alphafly and refines them to make the shoe even better, despite the weight gain involved. Under the right conditions, it’s an absolute pleasure to run, and while its benefits are maximized on longer events like the marathon, it’s also a great option for short races.

However, you need the right conditions for it to really shine. On courses with a lot of turns or rough roads, the size of the shoe is a disadvantage compared to more agile and lighter shoes like the Vaporfly, the Asics Metaspeed Sky+ or the Adidas Takumi Sen 8.

The Alphafly 2 is also much more expensive than other carbon shoes, and the performance advantage you get only really comes into play on big road marathons, so many runners who don’t target a big marathon every year will find better value in a more versatile and less expensive carbon shoe.

If you’re someone who plans your running schedule around one or two target marathons each year, I’d say this stands out as the top choice. This is the shoe I currently plan to use for my main goal this year, the Berlin Marathon.

The only other caveat is that while I think the Alphafly 2 is an improvement over the original, it’s not such a big leap in performance that I would skip the first Alphafly if it were available for much less. I would expect to see the original shoe on sale for $100/£100 less than the NEXT%2 for some time after launch, and with that kind of savings that would probably be what I would spend on my money.

Darryl A. Chapin