Shoe Comparison Test: Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly 3

It’s time for the big showdown. How does the incumbent stack up against its would-be heir? I’ve taken these two pairs of shoes to the track for an informal head to head comparison. In this article, I pitch my current favourite race day shoe against its successor. It’s Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 vs Nike Vaporfly 3.

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In my previous shoe test, I pitched the Next% 2 up against the Asics Metaspeed Sky+. The former came away with a clear win. Although, I will say I’ve grown to like the Metaspeed Sky+ more since then. Not to the extent that I would consider them a race day option ahead of the Next% 2, however.

Having gotten my hands on the Vaporfly 3 on launch day, I was eager to test them out. Would they replace the Next% 2 as my go-to on race day? The fact that Nike finally ditched the “Next%” from the branding alone is enough to make me root for the Vaporfly 3 here. But we’ll let the numbers, and my experience in the shoes, be the decider.

Vaporfly Next% 2 vs Vaporfly 3
In the left corner we have the reigning champion the Vaporfly Next% 2, while in the right the challenger Vaporfly 3

Test Procedure

As with my previous shoe comparisons, it is necessary to point out that these tests are not intended to be scientific experiments. And the approach is simple: I do a session consisting of longer threshold repetitions. I alternate between the two shoes I’ve pitted up against each other for each rep.

Back home, I compare the data captured for each rep. I look for meaningful differences that indicate some measure of differentiation between the shoes. And then I add my comments to the observed data, and I base these comments on my subjective experience. Lastly, I attempt to use the data and my experience to wrap it all up and make a conclusion.

Workout Structure

For this comparison, I went with a classic four times 2000 metres session on the track. I aim to hit threshold effort, and on this day I wanted to keep the pace even for all four repetitions in the name of capturing comparable data.

The reasoning behind picking this particular session is related to the length of the repetitions. Firstly, it allows the heart rate to stabilise. What’s more, any temporary noises in the captured data should be averaged out when you’re running for more than seven minutes. Twice, in each pair of shoes, that is.

Lastly, the longer reps means that I have time to change shoes without stressing too much about the length of the recovery intervals. Those ended up being just over two minutes, which is just fine for this kind of session.

I did come away with one important piece of learning from this test execution, however. And that’s the fact that I should always allow for one repetition before I start capturing data for comparison. As long as I keep the effort steady, my heart rate will not increase much from the second rep with longer repetitions like these.

But here, the heart rate data from the first rep is essentially useless, because I needed that first rep to get work it up to normal levels. I will definitely amend this in my approach to future shoe comparisons.

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Shoe Specifications

DetailNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
Weight196 gr.185 gr.
Hell-to-toe drop8 mm.8 mm.
Forefoot stack height31 mm.32 mm.
Heel stack height39 mm.40 mm.
PlateCarbon fibreCarbon fibre
The Vaporfly 3 is even lighter than the Next% 2. It weighs in at just 185 grams for a US size 9.


As mentioned, we’ll begin with looking at the data. Did the captured numbers reveal any significant differences between the Vaporfly Next% 2 and its successor? All data referenced here was captured by a Stryd footpod, except for heart rate numbers. These come from my Garmin HRM Pro chest strap. (Currently on sale from Amazon: Get it for $94.50 instead of the regular $129.99!)


RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
13:42/km – 5:57/mile3:41/km – 5:55/mile
23:42/km – 5:57/mile3:41/km – 5:55/mile
Average3:42/km – 5:57 mile3:41/km – 5:55/mile

What’s interesting about this one, is that I covered the same distance (5 laps around the track) in more or less the same amount of time (7:30, 7:30, 7:30 and 7:29) for all four reps. But the Stryd’s distance estimates are slightly different for the two pairs of shoes. For the Next% 2 it estimated both reps to be 2030 metres, as opposed to 2040 metres for the Vaporfly 3.

That amounts to a slight difference in estimated pace. This is one of my caveats with Stryd, that it requires different calibration factors for different shoes. But in this context, it is revealing. Because it tells us that there is, indeed, some difference between these shoes, which is reflected in the different measurements.


RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
1281 W283 W
2281 W283 W
Average281 W283 W

We observe slightly higher power estimates for the Vaporfly 3. The difference is marginal, but repeated. What these numbers tell us, is that the footpod estimates that I’m generating slightly more power in the Vaporfly 3. As such, it believes I have run slightly faster, and, by extension further compared to the equal time reps in the Next% 2.

Heart Rate

RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
1164 (173 max)168 (174 max)
2169 (175 max)169 (173 max)

Like I mentioned in workout structure, the test protocol isn’t ideal when it comes to the heart rate data. I need a full rep to get my heart rate stabilised. And the numbers clearly indicate this as well. From the second rep, my heart rate stabilises and remains at the same level. But the numbers from the first rep is artificially low, and doesn’t tell us anything about the shoe.

What is worth observing, however, is that the max heart rate is higher in the third rep — which was in the Next% 2 — compared to reps two and four in the Vaporfly 3. I’ll get back to this when discussing my subjective perception. But, for those who don’t mind spoilers, I can confirm right here that I felt like I was working harder in the Next% 2. Something that these numbers sort of hint at.

Nike Vaporfly Next% 2
The Vaporfly Next% 2 is more aggressive, and feels faster than its successor.


RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly Next% 2
1193 spm192 spm
2193 spm193 spm
Average193 spm193 spm

Pace is a function of two components: How many steps you’re taking, and how far you’re travelling per step. From the cadence data, we can immediately infer that my stride rate is consistent between the shoes. I’ve also cross checked these numbers against the cadence numbers estimated by my HRM Pro chest strap. And, while those are a couple of steps per minute higher, they are also consistent across all four reps.

Stride Length

RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
11.39 m1.40 m
21.38 m1.40 m
Average1.39 m1.40 m

Continuing the reasoning from above, it’s not surprising we observe slightly higher estimated stride length when running in the Vaporfly 3, as opposed to the reps in the Next% 2. This is the explanation for why the Stryd pod believes I’m running faster and longer in the reps where I’m wearing the Vaporfly 3.

Vertical Oscillation

RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
16.38 cm6.52 cm
26.35 cm6.41 cm
Average6.37 cm6.47 cm

Interestingly, the data seems to indicate that I’m travelling further with each step in the Vaporfly 3 in the vertical plane as well. That is, I’m not only “jumping” longer each time I toe off, I’m also jumping ever so slightly higher. But in both pairs, we observe that I’m becoming more grounded, so to speak, with each rep.

Ground Contact Time

RepetitionNike Vaporfly Next% 2Nike Vaporfly 3
1195 ms198 ms
2200 ms198 ms
Average198 ms198 ms

Some interesting differences to note when it comes to ground contact time. Although they do average out across all four reps. These numbers indicate that as I’m tiring, I’m losing a bit of “pop” from my step in the Next% 2. Whereas that does not happen in the Vaporfly 3.

In some ways, this lines up with my subjective experiences between the shoes. Because the Next% 2 certainly feels like the snappier shoe. But, at the same time, it feels like less effort to maintain the given pace in the Vaporfly 3.

Subjective Perception

I’ve already given away my main takeaways, but let me be unequivocal here. In my opinion, the Vaporfly 3 is far superior to its predecessor in every way that matters. That said, there are a few ifs and buts to note.

For one, the Next% 2 has a much more aggressive fit than its successor. Slipping into it, you feel like you’ve donned a pair of fast racers. It hugs your foot tightly, The Vaporfly 3, by comparison, is made on a roomier last, and I had to work with it a while to secure a proper lock in.

More than that, the Next% 2 also feels faster when you’re running. As I started my first rep in the Vaporfly 3, I thought that this is nothing to write home about. But only until I looked down at my watch at the 200 metre mark and saw that I passed it two seconds too fast. And that’s the Vaporfly 3 in a nutshell.

Flashy colourway aside, the Vaporfly 3 underpromises and overdelivers.

It doesn’t flatter to deceive. Yes, the more padded out midsole in the mid- and forefoot makes it more comfortable — and softer, and more resembling the Vaporfly of old. And, true, the upper is airier and has far better ventilation than the Next% 2. On first impression, however, these upgrades feel more like trading in the speed and response of a true sports car for the comfort of a big, luxurious cruiser. Something only your dad would claim is superior to that speedster of your preference.

But as soon as you start looking at the numbers, it turns out that the cruiser is not just more comfortable; it’s more efficient at faster paces, too. And that’s why the Next% 2 has now been dethroned as my go-to race day shoe. I’ve only got eyes for those pink and orange cruisers now.

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September 1, 2023


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