Nike Alphafly 3: New Marathon Racing Shoes

Last updated on February 16th, 2024

Nike Alphafly 3PriceReleaseStyleRetailer
- White/Phantom/Total Orange/Black
- two forefoot Air Zoom units combine with ZoomX foam
- a full-length carbon fiber plate
- fully connected ZoomX foam
- the lightest Alphafly ever
- Marathon Racing
$2852024 Jan 4thFD8356-100Nike

If you're perusing this text, it's conceivable that these words serve as your initial encounter with the Nike Alphafly 3. It's also highly likely that you became aware of this footwear sensation after witnessing Kelvin Kiptum's remarkable feat of breaking the world record at the Chicago Marathon in October. Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that the development of this shoe began long before you stumbled upon this article.

While it may sound exaggerated, the Alphafly 3 predates Nike's existence. Bill Bowerman, the renowned track coach and co-founder of Blue Ribbon Sports (which later became Nike), famously stated that a shoe must possess three qualities: lightness, comfort, and endurance. Although Bowerman uttered these words long before the Nike Alphafly was even conceived, they perfectly encapsulate the essence of the brand's newest marathon racing shoe. In fact, these words are inscribed on the shoebox of the Alphafly 3's "Prototype" design.

Nike Alphafly 3 on feet

On January 4th, 2024, Nike will release its latest groundbreaking shoe, the Alphafly 3, through various channels including nike.com, the Nike app, and specific running specialty stores. With a price tag of $285 USD (or $275 in other locations), this highly anticipated "super shoe" is set to make waves in the world of running.

If you want to see more Nike products about Alphafly, you can read our former Alphafly next 2 review. It does well in short distance and high speed running according to the testers.

Steve Prefontaine - Nike

Nike, fundamentally, is a company focused on running. Before 1972, the brand functioned solely as a distributor of running shoes from Japan. However, as the 1970s progressed, Blue Ribbon Sports started manufacturing their own shoes to meet the needs of the American market. They even supplied Steve Prefontaine, a prominent American middle-distance runner at the time, with track spikes adorned with the iconic swoosh logo.

In November 2016, Nike embarked on an ambitious venture alongside Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge. Their audacious goal? To shatter the 2-hour marathon barrier.

Eliud Kipchoge broke marathon 2-hour record

In pursuit of this lofty ambition, the Oregon-based company set out to create specialized footwear that adhered to Bowerman's three principles: lightness, comfort, and durability. Thus, the 4% series was born from Nike's initial "crazy idea", which later evolved into the NEXT% line.

After meticulous planning and execution, Kipchoge achieved the previously elusive feat on October 12th, 2019, in Vienna. He completed the 26.2-mile (42.1-kilometer) race in a remarkable time of 1:59:40.

The adorned long-distance runner donned a pre-production model of the Nike Alphafly NEXT%, a revolutionary shoe that would forever transform the world of running.

Following Eliud Kipchoge's remarkable achievement, a debate emerged regarding the shoe he wore. People began to question the impact of technology on athletes' performances due to its unique design, elevated stack height, visible Zoom Air units, and carbon fiber plate.

In response to the sub 2-hour marathon, World Athletics established new regulations that set forth guidelines for the "super shoes" category, which was pioneered by Nike's Alphafly and Vaporfly NEXT%. These rules would also apply to future competitors in this evolving footwear category.

According to a rule set by World Athletics, racing shoe manufacturers are required to make their products available for retail purchase at least a month before any competition, unless the shoe is still in the development phase. This particular guideline has given regular runners the opportunity to experience the extraordinary innovation of Nike Running's highest-quality footwear.

In the quest to enhance what is already considered the pinnacle of excellence, Nike faced the daunting task of surpassing the Alphafly's exceptional qualities. With a team comprising designers, researchers, and runners, the Swoosh accepted the challenge head-on. Methodically examining every aspect of the initial two versions, they gleaned priceless wisdom from their most crucial demographic: athletes.

Nike Alphafly Marathon Shoes

Nike's philosophy, often referred to as Bowermanism, asserts that anyone with a body is an athlete. This belief is reflected in the development of their performance products, which are created in close collaboration with athletes at all levels.

When it came to designing the Alphafly 3, Nike went above and beyond by involving over 300 elite and everyday runners from various countries in the process. These runners hailed from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Western Europe, Japan, and the US. Their valuable input, testing, and feedback helped shape the development of this race shoe.

In fact, the shoe was put through its paces, covering a remarkable distance of over 20,000 miles (or more than 32,000 kilometers). This extensive testing took place both in the Nike Sport Research Lab (NSRL) and on the actual roads.

The Alphafly 3's journey to fruition was highly intentional, with Nike aiming to create a shoe that could meet the needs of runners at different starting lines throughout its lifespan.

The Nike Alphafly 3 owes a great debt to female athletes, whose input has proven invaluable in its development. Unlike their male counterparts, women runners have been exceptionally outspoken about their experiences and suggestions. This invaluable feedback has led to significant improvements in the next marathon shoe from Nike Running. Thanks to their input, the Atomknit 3.0 upper now features softer yarns, enhanced arch support, and superior toe protection. Ultimately, the insights provided by women will benefit all athletes, regardless of gender.

The shoe's internal structure upholds Nike's "system of speed," although adjustments have been made to enhance both performance and comfort.

  • The ZoomX midsole remains at its original height but has been transformed into a seamless, uninterrupted foundation that connects the heel and forefoot. This modification was inspired by valuable input from athletes who expressed a desire for a more seamless transition from heel-to-toe. Additionally, the foam has been expertly sculpted, resulting in a reduction in weight and an enhanced ability to guide the foot strike.
  • The revamped midsole design allows runners to focus the weight on the forefoot Zoom Air bubbles. Additionally, the enhanced protection of the visible Air technology surpasses that of the initial two Alphaflys.
  • The revolutionary Flyplate, crafted from carbon fiber, returns in its complete form, offering the enduring sensation of stability and propulsion that forever transformed the realm of running. In the Alphafly 3, the plate has undergone an enhancement, wherein the width has been expanded specifically on the medial midfoot, ensuring improved stability for the wearer.

Additional alterations made to the Alphafly 3 encompass:

  • The introduction of the Fast Shot outsole guarantees both lightweight design and dependable traction and grip.
  • The Flyknit upper incorporates eye stays to revolutionize the lacing system, ensuring a more comfortable and snug fit for the top of the foot.
  • Improved comfort and support are achieved through the utilization of a fresh molded sockliner, last, and lofted Flyknit heel pods. These enhancements minimize friction and provide a more accommodating fit for the foot.
  • Atomknit 3.0 uppers provide a lightweight solution that combines breathability and containment into one.

I was truly astounded when I finally had the chance to hold a pair of Nike Alphafly 3s in my hands and compare them to the Alphafly NEXT% 2. These new shoes are the lightest Alphafly model that Nike has ever released.

The weight of a Men’s 10 shoe is 220 grams (7.7 ounces), while the Alphafly 3 in a Women’s 8 size weighs 176g (6.2oz). This is truly remarkable for a shoe designed to break marathon records.

The stack height in a size 10 for men measures slightly less than 40 millimeters, as mandated by World Athletics. (Nike has not revealed any additional stack height details.) The shoe boasts an 8mm drop from the heel to the forefoot.

The Alphafly 3 ("Dev 163") was worn by top marathoners like Conner Mantz, Suguru Osaka, and Nell Rojas during its year-long World Athletics development period from December 2022 to December 2023.

Nike's Alphafly shoes achieved their first victory in a World Marathon Major (of which there are six) when Sifan Hassan, a Dutch runner born in Ethiopia, emerged as the top female finisher at the London Marathon.

Nike Alphafly in Marathon Racing

Eliud Kipchoge, who is widely recognized as the face of "super shoes," did not participate in Dev 163 until the Berlin Marathon in September. Demonstrating his exceptional abilities, the Kenyan runner emerged victorious, achieving yet another remarkable feat among the Top 10 Fastest Marathon Performances.

On October 8th, 2023, the Alphafly 3 made its mark in Chicago, etching its name in history. Kelvin Kiptum, a 23 years old and a novice in the marathon world, shattered the previous world record set by Kipchoge with an astonishing time of 2:00:35. While Kiptum had previously raced in the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, he found himself captivated by the Alphafly 3 upon trying it on for the first time, declaring it to be the ultimate choice. Such high praise from the reigning marathon world record holder speaks volumes.

Nike Alphafly 3 side view

I may not be an exceptional runner, but I still engage in running.

In the year 2020, I have covered a total distance of 1,035 miles (equivalent to 1665.7 kilometers) by utilizing the Nike Run Club app. This has been made possible through 376 individual runs, with an average pace of 10 minutes and 36 seconds. The cumulative time I have spent engaging in these activities amounts to 183 hours, 1 minute, and 7 seconds.

As for this year, running has remained a significant part of my life, with a recorded distance of 569.6 miles (equivalent to 916.7 kilometers) since the conclusion of January. Additionally, I had the opportunity to participate in various races, among which the Mexico City Marathon holds great importance to me, and I am eagerly anticipating the chance to relive it while wearing the Alphafly 3 shoes.

As a 29-year-old male runner, I fall somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of ability. So, when I was given the opportunity to test out Nike's latest Alphafly shoe, I couldn't help but feel a mix of anticipation and doubt. Would this high-performance race shoe really make a difference for someone like me? Plus, let's not forget about the flashy design. How can I focus on rebuilding my foundation if this shoe is meant for speed?

During my Zoom conversation with Bret, he confidently stated that the Alphafly 3 would offer significant advantages, possibly even more so, to individuals like myself. Following two runs in the chilly weather of New York City, covering a total distance of 9.4 miles (15.1 kilometers), I can confidently say that Bret's assertion was accurate.

Nike Alphafly 3 air tab

The Alphafly 3 is incredibly lightweight, both when held in the hand and when worn. While I don't have extensive experience with marathon running shoes, this pair certainly stands out. The knit upper is exceptionally airy and provides a high level of comfort.

While the design of the eyestay layout along the tongue is visually unappealing to me, it does evenly distribute weight at the top of my feet. Even during my longest run in the Alphafly 3 (6.27 miles), I didn't feel any pressure in that area, which is a notable achievement. This has made me excited to see how the shoes will feel over longer distances.

My feet are of regular width, and I found that the shoes fit comfortably in my usual Nike size. The addition of padding at the heel was a pleasant surprise, as many shoes nowadays prioritize thin heels for weight reduction. The pull tab at the back of the shoe made it easy to put on without any difficulties, which is a significant improvement compared to previous models.

Having previously worn the Vaporfly NEXT% 2, Vaporfly 3, and Invincible 3, I was familiar with the ZoomX cushioning system. Therefore, when I tried on the Alphafly 3, it didn't feel as groundbreaking as my initial experience with the VF2 in 2021. However, what caught my attention this time was the presence of dual Zoom Air units at the front of the shoe. Curious, I took a strong step while standing in front of my brother Aldair's mirror. Although I didn't literally bounce off the ground, I could definitely feel a significant amount of springiness beneath my feet.

Nike Alphafly 3 sole units

My initial trial run began with ease. Uncertain of how far I wanted to push myself in the near-freezing temperatures, my main goal was to gauge the Alphafly 3's performance under fatigue and at faster speeds. After approximately 20 minutes, I decided to venture into my current 170+ Heart Rate pace, hoping to capture some of the exhilaration that athletes like Sifan Hassan, Eliud Kipchoge, and Kelvin Kiptum had showcased throughout the year. The captivating sensation I had experienced beneath my feet earlier at home now transformed into pure delight. Although I couldn't capture footage of my foot strike in the AF3, I could sense the Airbags compressing upon impact, infusing an extra burst of energy into each stride.

The shoe truly excelled when tackling uphill terrain. As I landed precisely on the Zoom Air system, even running along Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx felt effortless; I could feel my heart rate increasing, yet it didn't feel burdensome.

Although I could go on about the visible Air feature in the Alphafly 3 for a while, I want to give credit to the ZoomX technology that has powered Nike Running's top products for years. While I don't have a scientific way of comparing the ZoomX foams on different models, I can say that the foam in the third Alphafly feels softer compared to the Vaporfly 3. The underfoot experience remains consistent, but what stood out to me during my two runs was the shape of the foam. With each step, my foot felt secure and guided, especially when my running form was at its best.

Nike Alphafly 3 big swooshes

This aspect proved to be extremely beneficial during the later stages of my runs when self-doubt and fatigue started to set in. If I had been wearing any other shoe, there is a very high chance that I would have cut my runs short because it would have felt like I was exerting more effort than necessary based on my recent training.

The Alphafly midsole's geometry swiftly restored my foot's stability after I encountered three instances where objects disrupted my balance.

At this point, it's difficult for me to assess the effectiveness of the shoe's recently introduced Fast Shot outsole since I haven't had the chance to try it out in wet weather. Nevertheless, after covering nearly 10 miles and encountering various obstacles on the streets of the Bronx, all the rubber parts remain undamaged.

It would be a mistake on my part not to mention the Alphafly 3's "Prototype" colorway. Throughout my previous 2082 words, I have unabashedly expressed my admiration for Nike Running's "Prototype" series.

Personally, I am drawn to predominantly white running shoes, as they create the illusion of increased speed and professionalism for the wearer. The shoe's intricate "handwritten" details, such as the athlete wear-test number 20820-4 and the "V62" figure symbolizing the various upper iterations, along with the vibrant orange Zoom Air unit, only reinforce my viewpoint. However, I do have one small complaint about the "Prototype" aesthetic: the paint on the midsole portion of the swoosh appeared uneven straight out of the box, likely due to the creases in the ZoomX foam. I sincerely hope that future colorways will not encounter this issue.

The Nike Alphafly 3 is an exquisite shoe. I greatly admire its relentless pursuit of improvement and the incredible feats it has enabled elite athletes to achieve. I must confess, however, that I am far from the level of fitness required to break a world marathon record. Nevertheless, I am eager to shave off precious minutes from my half-marathon and marathon times, aiming for under 2 hours and 4 hours and 30 minutes, respectively. For now, I will likely store the "Prototype" pair in its box until my training necessitates long runs at a challenging pace. There is a part of me that desires to keep the shoes in the box indefinitely, preserving a tangible piece of history in which I have played an indirect role.

Nike Alphafly 3 Runner Experience

Purchasing a running shoe for $285 USD is a substantial expense. The team at Nike is aware of this, which is why they have taken great care in creating a durable product that can endure at least 200 miles (321.9 kilometers) of use. It is unlikely that the shoe will be discounted soon after its initial release on January 4th, 2024, so it is wise to view the purchase as a long-term investment. However, it is important to note that simply owning these shoes will not automatically improve your running abilities – effort and dedication are still necessary.

In conclusion, I'd like to express my delight in witnessing the pioneer reclaim their position of prominence. Kiptum has the potential to repeat this achievement in April 2024 during the Rotterdam Marathon. Additionally, a newcomer might also emerge and capture our attention. Regardless of what the future holds in the next year, there is a unique and significant aspect in envisioning numerous non-elite runners accomplishing personal milestones, fostering a sense of community, and rediscovering their love for the sport, both with and without the Alphafly 3.