Nike Alphafly 3 Review: Back To Its Best?

With the Gara Carbon, Diadora might have created one of the year's best racing shoes on the first try. Is it worth the money?

Nike Alphafly 3: Marathon Monster

With the Alphafly, Nike created a shoe which showed the world that the impossible wasn’t. Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to complete 42.2km in under two hours. Whilst not a ratified world record, it remains an unrivalled achievement. However, the Alphafly is the current, and former world’s fastest marathon shoe. On the feet of Kipchoge and Kiptum, it lit the streets of Berlin and Chicago on fire bringing the world record tantalisingly close to that miracle 2 hour mark. The first iteration of the Alphafly caused controversy and discussion. Unfortunately, the second fell rather flat with the public after losing some of its magic. Since then, the Alphafly 3 has won the London marathon on the feet of Sifan Hassan and set the world record on Kiptum’s feet. Is it back to its best?

Alphafly 3 Wall
Alphafly 3 3

Specs: 

Product Details from Nike US / our info

Weight: 218g (Men’s size 10)

Stack: 40 mm

Heel-to-toe drop: 8 mm

Price: €285 | $310 | £285

ALphafly 3 Pods
Alphafly 3 Wall 2 - raceday tier list

Nike Alphafly 3 Upper: Lightweight but a little abrasive

Tim: Flyknit heel cup. Nothing less, nothing more. It was already on the Alphafly Next% 2, and personally it’s not my favourite upper as I found it a bit abrasive. However, and for now, I haven’t experienced any blisters. Furthermore, I have to admit that Flyknit also has some advantages. First the weight. Especially if you compare it with its quite massive shape. Second, the breathability. No risk that your feet will overheat during a marathon with this upper. 

 

A lot of other things haven’t really changed on the upper from the previous version. You still have this strip at the bottom of the shoe to help you put them on. Laces are the same and if the lace system has changed a bit, honestly I don’t really feel the difference. The fit, meanwhile, is completely different and way better. Where the v2 was narrow in the midfoot, and may have led to some blisters, the v3 is wider and therefore much more comfortable. Other good points already there in the v2 are still here.Therefore good points are still there and drawback has been resolved. It’s a thumb up for the upper.

Unparalleled Lockdown

Josh: For me, the fit of Nike’s super shoes have never been anything but perfect. Much like Andy, Nike’s always seem to fit my feet and I have never had any issues. I do relate to the people who had problems with excessive agitation on the arch in previous versions. That said,  I am pleased to be able to say that the awkward sharp edge is now gone. This may be due to the wider foam in the midfoot.

 

The upper of the Alphafly 3 is made up of an incredibly light-weight, see-through mesh which spreads the entire toe box and extends along the sides of the shoe. However, fear not because this thin knitted mesh performs extremely well under tension, meaning it isn’t excessively stretchy. This goes hand-in-hand with the reinforcement around the toe-box which extends round to the heel of the shoe. The fully integrated tongue is fairly elastic and helps create that “sock-like” feel of the shoe. One thing I noticed was that the Atomknit itself felt much softer in this version than previously, which was something I noticed felt quite rough on the original version.

 

Having run a lot in the original Alphafly, I found the newer version to have a much more secure heel lockdown whilst getting rid of a lot of padding in the area. While I wouldn’t recommend this, they do almost feel as if you can run in them without lacing them up and not have to worry about your heel slipping out of them because of their secure fit.

Wider and More Comfortable

Andy: Unlike other people who have used the Alphafly over the years, I have had no issue with the arch fit of the shoe. As I have said before, fortunately, Nike seem to have modelled their last on my feet. That being said, this version of the Alphafly is definitely wider in the forefoot. This has not made it too wide for me in my usual size but it will probably be a benefit to those runners who have felt them rather snug in the past.

 

With the sock like construction of the upper, I have had no issue in achieving lockdown. The laces remain notched and hold fast through all conditions. Whilst very minimal, the padding in the tongue is enough to avoid any pressure on the top of the foot when pulling things tighter. The rear of the upper remains largely similar to the v2. Here, the heel cup is fairly stout and holds things firm. As Tim has said, the upper is very breathable and does exactly what you need from a race upper.

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Alphafly 3 Heel

Midsole: Bringing Back the Magic

Tim: If the shape of the Nike Alphafly 3 has changed quite a lot compared to Alphafly Next% 2, don’t be afraid. It’s still an Alphafly. This very specific sensation of cushion and return of energy is here. Even the specific “Alphafly noise” is still here. At lower pace it’s comfy, and while you increase the pace you will see that it’s bouncy and returns a lot of energy thanks to Air Zoom units.

 

The Alphafly 3 is the kind of shoe you can enjoy at lower paces and that gives you the feeling that hard sessions are easier to carry out. As a heel striker I may not have the perfect gait cycle to benefit completely from the shoe, and especially the air pods, but it works well. The roll of my foot is smooth and the ride is really comfortable. Honestly, and I weigh my words, this shoe is magical.

More Focussed 

Josh: In previous versions, I thought the Alphafly was comfortable at all paces. Consequently,  I used my original version for anything from a long, easy run to a longer tempo session. I think the third iteration has become much more concentrated on certain paces, which is a good thing! 

 

Intended as a race-day shoe, most people will buy the Alphafly 3 for one reason, and that is to get them through races at their marathon pace. Whether that be a low 2-hour marathon up to a mid 3-hour marathon attempt, this is a great shoe. Having used them on multiple long interval sessions at what would be my marathon pace along with running in them while pacing a friend to a Half Marathon PB I can really feel that pop from the Zoom Air pods and the shoes geometry working seamlessly with my midfoot, long stride running style.

 

I believe these shoes are tailored more for midfoot and forefoot runners than previous versions. This is due to the large cut-out at the heel of the shoe.  I imagine this may have been done to get rid of unnecessary weight. I think heel-strikers will find the shoe has an almost braking effect in comparison to some of Nike’s other shoes. This is due to the somewhat flat midsection of the shoe, interrupting the transition between the heel, midfoot, and forefoot.

 

However, for midfoot and forefoot runners, this adds to the experience! The rather abrupt and steep rocker around the ball of the foot means it feels like the shoe is really pushing you forward. Additionally, since the Zoom Air pods have been moved back slightly compared to previous versions, I have found that I am getting a much more explosive, propulsive feel from the shoe.Due to this,  I think they become a much more usable shoe to many more people.

Pods of Power

Andy: The midsole is obviously the biggest change in the Alphafly 3. As Tim pointed out, it looks wildly different from previous iterations. Gone is the disconnect between forefoot and the rear of the shoes. Here we find a continuous midsole, more conventional (if you ignore the gigantic air bags!) The Alphafly has always been my favourite shoe as the Air Zoom pods are my strike zone and the bounce I receive from them is unreal. Thankfully, this change to the midsole has not robbed me of that feeling.

 

Between the combination of pop and plate all shrouded in ZoomX foam the Alphafly 3 does feel back to the magical best of v1. Gone is the plodding, rather dead feeling of the v2 which really disappointed me. Here returns the otherworldly feeling of propulsion and energy return. It is a joy to run in again! As I am nowhere near marathon shape at the moment, I haven’t run marathon sessions in them. That being said, I have used them on both track and road for everything from 200m blasts to longer 2 – 3k reps. Each session has been a joy and they have helped me out on evenings when I have had no right to be running the paces I found myself achieving. 

 

On another positive note, I am far less worried about the Air Zoom pods being punctured by rogue road debris. Previous versions had very exposed sidewalls very close to the road and any pointy things thereon. Now they are covered in foam, I suffer less heart palpitations if I notice rogue rocks or other point protrusions ahead.

Alphafly 3 Twin
Alphafly 3 Heels

Nike Alphafly 3 Outsole: Wafflely Goodness

Tim: With only 3 runs and a bit more than 30km in them, I can’t see any specific issues. But I’ve experienced too much of the Nike Next% franchise to know that things can start turning bad very fast. My Nike Vaporfly Next% died after only 80km when my midsole began to split in two). Therefore I will reserve my judgement for later. Same for the grip, nothing specific to say about. At least I didn’t experience any issue from this part of the shoe. 

 

Josh: I have found the grip of the Alphafly 3 to be nothing but amazing. Having run a Half Marathon in them without any signs of slipping on roads which had large puddles and covered in water I think I’ve tested them through most peoples worst-case race conditions. One surprise which I found when first looking at the shoes was the lug-like design on the forefoot. I have put roughly 60 km into my pair now and the lugs are showing some wear. However, I’m sure the outsole has at least another few hundred kilometres in them before it becomes a worry. 

 

My only hesitation with the outsole of the Alphafly 3 is the lack of protection of the ZoomX in the midfoot of the shoe. This leaves the mid-section of the shoe at risk of getting torn apart by loose rocks or harsh road along with getting worn down by use. I have found that that midsection is already beginning to flake slightly.

 

Andy: Similarly to Tim, I haven’t put a huge amount of distance into the Alphafly 3 yet. Having paid for it with my own money, I don’t want to run through its prime before testing it out in a race I have prepared for. However, I am closer to the 50km mark and have used it in a range of conditions. My Proto colourway is a rather delightful shade of mud spattered grey. On the bright side, that has meant that I have put it through mud, on wet pavements and through some slippery leaves. So far, I have had no issue with slippage or wear. 

 

The waffle lugs have held firm and given me no undue cause for concern. Furthermore, the largest change for the outsole of v3 has been the addition of the two giant orange circles to mark the base of the Air Zoom pods. Helpfully, these also mark where my foot strikes the ground and is always the highest wear point in all of my shoes. So far, the orange rubber remains unsullied. Hopefully, the durability here will match that of the v1 which have had hundreds of kilometres through them and remain grippy.

Alphafly 3 Square 1
Alphafly 3 Square 2

Nike Alphafly 3 Conclusion: A Real Return to Form

Tim: Do I like the shoe? Yes! Will I use it for racing? Yes! For which distance? Maybe not 5km but for everything above, it will be in my top 3 choices for sure and even the first one for marathon…at least for now!

 

Josh: The Alphafly 3 takes is the best version yet. It carries momentum at race pace extremely well and the aggressiveness of the rocker makes the transition feel extremely natural and pushes you forward. For me, they almost feel like a hybrid between the Alphafly 1 and the Vaporfly. Perhaps this is due to the unified midsole unit.

 

While I wouldn’t use these for a 5k race, I would consider them for a 10k. However, I believe they are most suited to be used for half marathons and marathon paced efforts.  While they don’t feel heavy, I have found them to require more effort to get up to speed than other shorter distance race-day shoes. However, once up to speed, they carry momentum, making it easier to maintain a consistent pace.

 

I would recommend the Alphafly 3 to anyone looking for a race day shoe for the half marathon and marathon distances. I think that they are definitely up there with some of my all-time favourite super shoes. However, I would suggest that heel strikers may try to look at previous versions of the shoe or look at other shoes which have a more continuous rocker throughout. Although they have a premium price, this is similar to other shoes of such a high quality and technological innovation. Consequently,  I believe that the high price is justified.

 

Andy: Is the Alphafly back to its best? Perhaps. I will look forward to many miles in it and, currently, it is my choice of shoe for my next marathon target time. Whether it will overtake the original version as my favourite race shoe of all time remains to be seen. What is certain is that it has erased the disappointment of the v2 from my mind. Had it not been for Diadora releasing the Gara Carbon, I would most likely have this as my favourite for every distance I run. However, the glorious Gara has put some doubt in my mind over the shorter distances at least.

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Tim

Tim

30 years old

169cm (5’5″) – 57kg (125lbs)

Heel/Midfoot striker – Cadence runner

Moderate pronator

@timtim_ab

Josh corporate picture

Josh

20 years old

178cm (5′ 10″) – 65kg (143lbs)

Mid/Forefoot striker – Stride runner

@joshua_buton

Andy

Andy

45 years old

173cm (5’8″) – 66kg (145lbs)

Forefoot striker – (Very) high cadence runner

@discobob

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