Nike Alphafly 3 Delivers a Deeply Cushioned and Stable Ride

Nike Alphafly 3 on feet

The Nike Alphafly 3 stands out as a top-tier racing shoe, representing the pinnacle of the Alphafly series. However, its massive hype and hefty $285 price tag may not entirely align with its performance. While it may lack that elusive "magical" sensation, it still offers essential qualities such as lightness, firmness, stability, and efficiency, providing considerable speed assistance to runners.

Compared to its predecessor, version 3 boasts improvements like a continuous bottom for smoother transitions, a stiffer midsole, and a wider midfoot that reduces arch irritation.

Do you deserve Nike Alphafly 3?

For those with sturdy arches who appreciate a more rigid feel in their super shoes, the Alphafly 3 presents a commendable option. Similarly, if you perceive the Vaporfly 3 as excessively cushioned or lacking in responsiveness, the Alphafly 3 serves as a suitable alternative. Moreover, if you're seeking a lightweight racer that feels virtually weightless during your runs, the Alphafly 3 is the ideal choice.

If your preference leans towards a plush racing shoe with a cushioned ride, the Alphafly 3 might not meet your expectations. Similarly, if you seek a super shoe featuring a pronounced rocker that propels you forward aggressively, the Alphafly 3 may not align with your needs.

Nike Alphafly 3 Brief Introduction

Nike Alphafly 3 toebox

In my view, the Alphafly Next% 2 was the most disappointing shoe of 2022. Almost every runner I'm aware of, myself included, experienced arch blisters caused by the narrow midfoot and aggressive inward tapering, particularly in front of the arch section.

Related: How Do Shoes Affect Your Running Performance?

For runners with flat feet, this issue was particularly troublesome, rendering the shoe unusable for races or any crucial speed workouts.

When a brand creates a new shoe, extensive testing with a diverse range of runners is essential, including various running styles and foot shapes. Unfortunately, it seems that this rigorous testing process was either overlooked or disregarded during the development of the Alphafly 2. This issue was particularly concerning given the shoe's premium price tag of $275, making it the most expensive in its range.

When the original Alphafly debuted in 2020, it stood as the sole premium super shoe on the market, priced at $275, $25 more than its counterparts. However, the landscape has since evolved, with nearly every brand offering its own premium shoe at exorbitant prices. For instance, the Adidas Prime X Strung surpasses even the Alphafly's cost, retailing at $300. With the release of this year's Alphafly 3, similar to last year's Vaporfly 3, the price has increased by $10.

Within Nike's racing lineup, the Vaporfly enjoys far greater popularity compared to the Alphafly. Not only is the Vaporfly more affordable, but it also boasts a lighter build, enhanced comfort, and a smoother ride.

While many runners typically favor the Vaporfly's simpler design for racing (including elites), it's worth noting that last year, the two fastest marathon runners ever, Kipchoge and Kiptum, opted for the Alphafly 3 during their races, each securing gold in their respective events.

Related: Guidance for a Half Marathon Taper

Upon its launch on January 4, 2024, the Alphafly 3 sold out within seconds on the Nike Malaysia official app. Despite this, I was able to secure a pair a few weeks later during the grand opening of the new Nike flagship store in Singapore. The next colorway is set for a global release on April 4.

In 2023, there was no update to the Alphafly, but this year marks the release of the revamped Alphafly 3. While it no longer features the decoupled forefoot, it retains its signature air pods. Weighing in at 218 grams (7.7 oz) for a men’s US 9, it's slightly lighter than its predecessor by 9 grams (0.3 oz). The removal of "Next%" from the name gives it a cleaner and simpler sound.

Nike Alphafly 3 Running Experience

Nike Alphafly 3 midsole

Upon unboxing the Alphafly 3, I found its appearance to be disappointing. The front swoosh wasn't painted properly due to foam creases, and there were noticeable gaps between the upper and midsole with no paint, giving the impression of separation. It lacked a premium look.

I opted to buy it half a size larger than my usual size because the Alphafly 2 felt slightly snug, particularly when I wore thick socks to prevent arch blisters.

My initial run spanned 25 kilometers, comprising a 5-kilometer warm-up, 10 kilometers at a steady pace, and another 10 kilometers at tempo. The sizing proved to be perfect, fitting me like a glove.

I noticed right away that the sensation of pressure on my arch had diminished, and for the initial 20 kilometers, I felt no discomfort at all. Towards the end of the run, in the last 5 kilometers, I could sense the snug midfoot around my arches, but it wasn't painful or bothersome.

The cushioning of the Alphafly 3 seemed notably firmer compared to the SuperComp Elite v4 I recently tried, yet it felt more responsive, making it easier for me to increase my pace.

I particularly appreciated the smoother transitions with the Alphafly 3. It felt more fluid and natural compared to previous models, making it easier for me to find and maintain a rhythm.

The Alphafly 3 still produced loud foot strikes, ensuring others could hear me approaching without me having to announce myself. Additionally, both shoes emitted squeaks with every footfall, which was noticeable during the run.

Nike Alphafly 3 Upper/Vamp

Nike Alphafly 3 upper

The updated Atomknit 3.0 upper represents a significant advancement over its predecessor, particularly in addressing the heel lockdown problem. The inner padding of the heel counter has been enhanced, resulting in excellent foot lockdown for me, despite the bootie construction lacking the ability to execute a runner's knot.

Regarding sizing, I opted for a half size larger than my usual size, a decision I'm satisfied with as the fit is ideal, especially when wearing medium or thick socks. For those who found version 2 too snug in their true size, going up half a size in version 3 is recommended. The fit remains snug and tailored for racing, which may not be suitable for wider feet.

Breathability is excellent, even when wearing thick socks. However, there are no reflective elements, given its design as a race-day shoe. Nonetheless, it retains its fantastic notched laces that stay securely tied throughout runs.

Related: How to Lace Your Shoes Correctly?

Nike Alphafly 3 Sole Units

Nike Alphafly 3 outsole

The Alphafly 3 doesn't stand out dramatically in any single aspect: it lacks an exceptionally bouncy feel, an extreme rocker, or an ultralight construction. However, it excels in delivering a deeply cushioned and stable ride that feels smooth and responsive. It's a versatile performer that excels across various aspects, showcasing that its overall performance exceeds the sum of its individual attributes.

The Vaporfly 3 shares this versatility, yet the key distinction lies in the forefoot air pods of the Alphafly, enhancing its firmness and responsiveness. As speed increases, these air pods engage, providing an additional boost to the ride, a feature absent in the Vaporfly and other super shoes.

In the Alphafly 3, the air pods have been seamlessly integrated into the midsole, eliminating their protrusion. Unlike previous versions, where heel or midfoot strikers may have found it challenging to navigate over the air pods due to the decoupled firm forefoot, the Alphafly 3 offers a smoother and more fluid ride transition. With the new full ground contact outsole, you can seamlessly roll from the heel to the forefoot, enhancing the natural feel of transitions.

The air pod section has undergone enhancements, featuring more space around the air pods for improved performance. Online images reveal a wider area in front of the air pods, facilitating greater expansion and rebound when loaded, thus enabling enhanced energy return. Additionally, the air pod section has been slightly repositioned towards the midfoot, shifting the rocker backward and rendering it more conducive for midfoot strikers.

In terms of cushioning softness, the Alphafly 3 offers a firm ride, ranking among the firmest of this year's super shoe releases. If you prefer plush, squishy rides, this may not be the ideal choice for you. Initially, I considered the "firm ride" as a drawback of the shoe, but upon reflection, it's this firmness that contributes to its aggressive and speedy feel.

I find it versatile for different types of runs, such as long runs, intervals, threshold runs, and steady runs. However, I find it too firm for easy and recovery runs, which aligns with its design for faster running. During uptempo runs, it offers significant speed assistance, reducing the effort needed to increase pace.

In version 3, I haven't encountered any issues with the narrow midfoot and prominent arch. Even during my longest run of 35 kilometers, I didn't experience any discomfort. However, I did apply anti-blister tape on each arch for extra protection. While the arch sensation is still present, it feels akin to wearing an old-school stability trainer with a firm arch wedge. Flat-footed runners with sensitive arches may still encounter issues with the Alphafly 3.

Related: How to Choose Running or Training Shoes for Your Sports?

The midsole of the Alphafly 3 exhibits significantly more stiffness compared to its predecessors. Unlike previous versions where a significant portion of the carbon-fibre Flyplate was exposed under the midfoot, providing some flexibility, version 3 features a continuous bottom with more foam surrounding the plate. This configuration results in a more rigid midsole with enhanced snappiness.

The Alphafly 3 features a new Fast Shot rubber outsole, which offers a softer feel, providing more cushioning upon landings and reducing noise. In terms of durability, I've been quite impressed, although it's worth noting that the forefoot area has more rubber coverage compared to the midfoot and rearfoot sections. Therefore, forefoot strikers are likely to experience better outsole durability. After precisely 80 kilometers, I've observed minor scuffing on the exposed foam and some discoloration of the foam that contacts the ground, but neither of these issues affects the overall ride quality.

The outsole of the Alphafly 3 is flatter compared to previous models, resulting in more even wear distribution. The scooped center of the rearfoot makes less contact with the ground now. So far, I haven't encountered any traction issues, although I haven't tested it in rainy conditions yet. However, I anticipate it will perform well due to the protruding nubs on the forefoot section.

Nike Alphafly 3 Summary

Nike Alphafly 3 heel

The Alphafly 3 stands as a top-tier racer. While it may lack the flamboyance or excitement of some of its counterparts, it offers a firm, lightweight super shoe experience that delivers a responsive ride. Its versatility shines through, suitable for marathons, half marathons, and shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks due to its firm ride.

What I appreciate most is how it seamlessly melds with my feet. It excels in long-distance runs, effortlessly helping me maintain my pace. The cushioning provides excellent depth, and the updated upper offers exceptional comfort. I'm confident it will be my go-to choice for marathon racing this year.

Version 3 surpasses its predecessor by leaps and bounds: it's lighter, smoother, more comfortable, and feels springier thanks to the redesigned air unit housing and stiffer midsole. Personally, Version 3 stands out as my favorite iteration yet, mainly due to its wider midfoot, making it more suitable for heel strikers compared to previous versions.

Version 3 exudes a sense of polish not found in previous iterations, suggesting extensive thought and testing went into its development.

The primary drawback of the Alphafly 3 remains its narrow midfoot, which may still pose a challenge for runners with low arches. The necessity for anti-blister tape during long runs serves as evidence of its imperfection, a flaw not encountered in other super shoes I've tested.

Furthermore, its exorbitant price tag is unjustified. At $285, I question whether it truly offers commensurate value and lives up to the hype. Its performance does not significantly outshine more affordable options like the $250 Adios Pro 3 or the Rocket X 2. Therefore, labeling the Alphafly 3 as the epitome of racing shoes would be a stretch.

Nike Alphafly 3 outsole

In contrast to the Vaporfly 3, my preference leans towards the Alphafly 3 for its heightened aggressiveness, attributed to its firmer ride and pronounced forefoot rocker. While it edges slightly ahead of the Vaporfly 3 in performance, I find it challenging to justify the $25 price difference.

  • Product: Nike Alphafly 3
  • Price: $285
  • Style & Color:
    • FD8311-700: Volt/Dusty Cactus/Total Orange/Concord
  • Usage:
    • Interval training
    • long distance running
    • Marathon / Half marathon
    • Racing
    • Speed training
    • Steady running
    • Uptempo running
  • Other Info:
    • Weight: 218 g (Men's size 10)
    • Heel drop: 8mm
Nike Alphafly 3 heel counter