Nike Alphafly 3 Review | Running Shoes Guru

Nike Alphafly 3 Introduction

The Alphafly Next% 2 was the most disappointing shoe of 2022 in my opinion. Nearly every runner I know of who ran in the shoe (me included) developed arch blisters due to how narrow the midfoot was and how aggressively it tapered inward, just in front of the arch section.

This was excruciatingly bad for runners with flat arches and for most runners who had this arch issue, it was unusable for races or any important speed workouts.

When a brand develops a new shoe, they are supposed to do thousands of hours of testing with hundreds of runners who have different running styles and foot shapes. This was clearly not done when the Alphafly 2 was developed (or it was done but Nike chose not to listen to the feedback). The worst thing was that this was a $275 premium super shoe, the most expensive in the range.

When the original Alphafly launched in 2020, it was the only premium super shoe, priced at $275, $25 higher than the rest. Now, almost every brand has their own premium shoe, which demands an astronomical amount. The Adidas Prime X Strung comes in at even more than the Alphafly, at $300. This year’s Alphafly 3 (just like last year’s Vaporfly 3) has gone up by $10.

In the Nike racing range, the Vaporfly is far more popular than the Alphafly. The Vaporfly is cheaper, lighter, more comfortable and has a smoother ride.

Most runners (including elites) prefer to race in the simpler design of the Vaporfly however, last year, the 2 fastest marathon runners ever (Kipchoge and Kiptum) both chose to wear the Alphafly 3 to race in, both of them getting gold in those races.

When the Alphafly 3 was launched on 4 Jan 2024, it was sold out in seconds here on the Nike Malaysia official app. I managed to buy a pair a couple weeks later in Singapore at the new Nike flagship store grand opening. The global release of the next colourway is 4 April.

There wasn’t an Alphafly update in 2023, but this year we get a brand new, reworked Alphafly 3. It no longer has the decoupled forefoot but it still has the signature air pods. It weighs less at 218 g (7.7 oz) for a men’s US 9, compared to the previous version which was 9 g (0.3 oz) heavier. The “Next%” has also been dropped from the name which sounds cleaner and simpler.

Nike Alphafly 3 First Impressions

I was disappointed with the finishing of the Alphafly 3 when I took it out of the box. The swoosh in the front was not painted properly because of the foam creases and there were gaps between the upper and midsole which had no paint on it so it looked like it was separating. It didn’t look very premium.

I decided to purchase it a half size up from my regular size because the Alphafly 2 was a little bit too snug, especially when I wore thick socks to protect my arches from blisters.

My first run was 25 kilometres, consisting of a 5 kilometre warm up, 10 kilometres steady and 10 kilometres tempo. The sizing was perfect and it fit me like a glove.

I could tell immediately that the poking arch sensation had been toned down and for the first 20 kilometres, I didn’t feel anything at all. In the last 5, I could feel the narrow midfoot against my arches, but it wasn’t painful or uncomfortable.

The cushioning felt a lot firmer than the SuperComp Elite v4 which I just tested but it definitely felt more aggressive and I found it easier to pick up the pace in the Alphafly 3.

I enjoyed the smoother transitions most of all. It felt a lot more natural than previous Alphaflys and it was easier to get into a rhythm.

The loud foot strikes were still there and I didn’t have to ask anyone in front of me to move over to the side- they could hear me coming. There were also squeaks that came from both shoes every time my feet struck the ground.

Nike Alphafly 3 Upper

The new Atomknit 3.0 upper is a vast improvement over the previous version with the heel lockdown issue being addressed. The padding on the inside of the heel counter is plumper, and foot lockdown is now superb for me, even though it’s a bootie construction which has no way of performing a runner’s knot.

When it comes to sizing, I ordered a half size up from my regular size and I’m glad I did because the fit is perfect with medium or thick socks. Runners who did not enjoy the tight fit of version 2 in their true size should buy a half size up in v3. It has a snug, racing fit which is narrow and not for wide feet.

Breathability is fantastic, even when I wear thick socks. Unfortunately, there are no reflectors since it’s a race day shoe. The excellent, notched laces which never come undone are still included.

Nike Alphafly 3 Sole Unit

The Alphafly 3 doesn’t feel spectacularly special in any one department: it doesn’t feel wildly bouncy, it doesn’t have an extreme rocker, nor does it have a featherweight build. What it does well is it provides a deeply cushioned, stable ride, which is smooth and punchy. It’s a great all rounder; in other words, the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts.

This can also be said of the Vaporfly 3 but the main difference is in the air pods in the forefoot of the Alphafly which make it firmer and more responsive. When you pick up the pace, the air pods activate by adding extra thrust to the ride which isn’t there in the Vaporfly or any other super shoe.

In the 3rd version, the air pods have been integrated into the midsole, instead of sticking out. In all the other versions of the Alphafly, if you were a heel or midfoot striker, it felt like a chore to get over the air pods since the firm forefoot was decoupled from the rest of the midsole but in the Alphafly 3, this isn’t the case and ride transitions feel a lot smoother, more fluid. You can roll right from the heel, all the way to the forefoot with the new full ground contact outsole so transitions feel more natural.

The air pod section has also been improved by having more space around the air pods. If you have a look at online pictures of the construction, you can see a wider space in front of the airpods, so when they are loaded, they can expand and rebound more, allowing for greater energy return. The air pod section has been moved slightly back in the shoe, towards the midfoot. It moves the rocker further back and makes it more suitable for midfoot strikers.

When it comes to cushioning softness, the Alphafly 3 has a firm ride, one of the firmest of this year’s super shoe releases. If you enjoy plush, squishy rides, this is one to avoid. I had initially put “firm ride” as one of the cons of the shoe but I think it’s the firm ride that makes it feel so aggressive and fast.

I really enjoy using it for a variety of runs including long runs, intervals, threshold runs and steady runs. It’s too firm for me for easy and recovery runs but it’s not designed for slow running. During uptempo runs, there’s a high level of speed assistance so it requires less effort to increase the pace.

The narrow midfoot and prominent arch have not given me any problems in version 3. My longest run was 35 kilometres and I didn’t experience any discomfort but I did use a strip of anti-blister tape on each of my arches for extra protection. The arch sensation is still there though and it feels like I’m wearing an old school stability trainer with a firm arch wedge. Flat-footed runners who have sensitive arches might still have issues in the Alphafly 3.

The midsole of the Alphafly 3 is much stiffer than its predecessors. In previous versions, a large portion of the carbon-fibre Flyplate was exposed under the midfoot, just before the air pods, allowing for a certain degree of flexibility. In version 3, the continuous bottom with more foam surrounding the plate results in a more rigid midsole with increased snappiness.

There’s a new Fast Shot rubber outsole which feels softer so landings are more padded and quieter. Outsole durability is an aspect that I’ve been impressed with although the forefoot has much more rubber coverage than the midfoot/rearfoot so forefoot strikers will get the best outsole durability. After 80 kilometres on the dot, I’ve noticed some minor scuffing on the exposed foam and some discoloration of the foam that comes into contact with the ground but neither affect the ride.

The Alphafly 3’s outsole is flatter than predecessors, so wear is distributed much better. The scooped centre of the rearfoot doesn’t scrape the ground so much anymore. I’ve had no issues with traction so far but I haven’t tried it in the rain. I don’t expect it to struggle though because there are nubs which protrude on the forefoot section.

Nike Alphafly 3 Conclusions

The Alphafly 3 is a top-tier racer. It may not have the flare or the fun factor that other top-tier racers have but it’s a firm, lightweight super shoe which delivers a snappy ride. It also has great versatility- it can be used for marathons & half marathons as well as shorter races like 5K’s/10K’s because of its firm ride.

What I like most about it is that it just disappears on my feet. It crushes long-distance runs and it allows me to lock into a pace with ease. It has great cushioning depth and the new upper is extremely comfortable. I’ll be racing a marathon in it this year for sure.

Version 3 is miles better than its predecessor: it’s lighter, smoother, more comfortable and it feels more springy thanks to the new air unit housing design and stiffer midsole. Version 3 is actually my favourite version to date because it has the widest midfoot and suits heel strikers more than the other versions.

It feels more polished than other versions, like a lot of thought and testing went into developing it.

The Alphafly 3’s biggest issue is its narrow midfoot which will still be a problem for some runners with low arches. The fact that I have to wear anti-blister tape whenever I do a long run in it is proof that it’s not perfect. No other super shoe that I’ve tried has this flaw.

It’s also way too expensive. I don’t think it’s worth $285 and all the hype. There isn’t a big difference in performance between the Alphafly 3 and cheaper, $250 top-tier super shoes like the Adios Pro 3 or the Rocket X 2. I definitely wouldn’t call the Alphafly 3 the pinnacle of racing shoes.

When compared to the Vaporfly 3, I prefer the Alphafly 3 because it feels more aggressive due to its firmer ride and more prominent forefoot rocker. It’s slightly better than the Vaporfly 3, but it’s not $25 better.

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