Can the MD-X knock Nike's Dragonfly off the throne?
Dragonfly vs MD-X – Is the Nike still the king of spikes?
Dragonfly vs MD-X, with my first true track season coming up I have been trying to decide which spikes to take with me to competitions. Since the release of Nike’s flagship middle-long distance track spike – Nike Dragonfly – in 2021 they seemed to dominate the track scenes, taking the spotlight from other great spike contenders released that same year – one of them being the New Balance Fuel Cell MD-X.
Both spikes target runners from the 800m to the 5000m, with the Dragonflys still making abundant appearances in 10,000m track events. Both shoe designs fuse together their brands leading foam technology and a full-length plate, giving them both a responsive yet forgiving feel underfoot.
Dragonfly vs MD-X, which one is best for you? Let’s start by looking closer at the upper units of both shoes.
Uppers: Which holds your foot fastest?
When putting the MD-Xs on for the first time I found them much harder to put on than the
Dragonflys. This may be in part due to the much more rigid structure found on the New Balances. Incorporating a lightweight, synthetic knit upper, with a sock-like construction, partnered with a rigid lacing cage to distribute pressure around the foot rather than creating lacing pressure points. These spikes offer excellent lockdown along with a tight fit, giving you the feeling that all the power is going directly from your legs to the track.
Nike has gone for a much more minimalist upper with the Dragonflys, prioritising great breathability and a very comfortable fit. A detail which I have come to appreciate with these shoes are the laces. These spikes come with notched laces, making them feel extra secure, giving me a sense of relief that they’re not going to come flying off during my final push in an 800m race. One less thing to worry about on race day! These laces are also just the right length to allow a runner’s knot, not that this should be needed since Nike has incorporated a hole in the heel of the shoe. This improves heel lockdown, meaning the spike feels securely fixed at the back of your foot. Many of the people I run with enjoy running in them sockless because of the soft, flexible flyknit upper. Have I tested this?
Nope. Will I be testing this? As much as I like to try new things, I prefer to keep my shoes smelling fresh and new for as long as possible, so that’s a hard no from me, for now.
Whilst both these spikes offer a very similar flyknit upper, this is really where the similarities end. The MD-Xs rely on a lacing cage to offer great lockdown, giving the feeling that the spike is an extension of the foot. The Dragonflys rely on a simple lacing system with no supporting structure, occasionally producing uncomfortable pressure points on the top of my foot.
Midsoles: Which one brings the magic?
The base of these spikes is where we start to see the greatest difference between the Dragonflys and the MD-X. As seen on the MD-Xs, the full-length exposed carbon sole with the titanium, fixed spikes really adds to the wow factor. The Dragonflys have a ribbed spike plate, offering great traction on the track whilst providing lasting durability. Alongside the ability to remove the spikes on the Dragonflys, the two spikes couldn’t be any more different.
Both of these spikes use the leading foams of their respective brand. Nike use their tested and very successful Zoom X foam along with a thin layer of more durable CMP foam in the heel. New Balance use their super soft and light FuelCell foam, giving the spikes just the right balance of snappiness and comfort when paired with the carbon fibre plate underfoot. New Balance has made a trade-off when designing this shoe. Instead of going with the traditional replaceable spikes, they have integrated the titanium spikes into the carbon fibre soles of the shoes. This means that the shoes can be made lighter, the connection between the spikes and the carbon fibre outsole stiffer, and the spikes can be made thinner.
Despite the Dragonflys having everything I look for in a spike, personally, I really like the way the MD-Xs feel underfoot, offering great responsiveness and propulsion, returning as much of my energy as possible to each of my strides.
Ride and Feel
Being spikes, both these shoes are extremely lightweight and snappy. With the Dragonflys coming in at 125g and the MD-Xs just under this with 124g, making neither of these spikes especially light compared to competitors but neither should be considered heavy either.
Being a 5-10k runner myself and just starting to come down to the 800m this year, I have come to appreciate the added cushioning and road-shoe-like feel of the Dragonflys. The extra support and forgiveness that they offer towards the end of longer events mean that my knees aren’t suffering as much when I might start heel striking or my form starts to break down due to fatigue. Because of this, Nikes Dragonflys would be my spike of choice for races ranging from the 1500m to the 10,000m.
New Balances MD-Xs offer far superior traction and a much more responsive feel. Being a very aggressive shoe, I would personally choose them for an 800m race. I have yet to do a 400m race, but I can imagine that these would also perform well because of that extra rigidity, pushing you to have a fast turnover.
When putting both these spikes through their paces in my past few sessions I’ve come to appreciate the Dragonflys more relaxed, cushioned ride in comparison to the MD-Xs rigid, much more aggressive stance, forcing you to be up on your toes to really feel the benefits of the MD-Xs. The days after having done a session in the Dragonflys my legs come out feeling much more ready to hit the next session hard than when I have worn the MD-Xs. I prefer to wear the Dragonflys for K reps where the pace isn’t as aggressive and the recoveries are longer, keeping my efforts much more consistent. However, for much faster 800-1500m race pace sessions where I might be doing 400/500m reps, going with the much more unforgiving MD-Xs pushes me to run these faster paces with an added focus on my form, something I have been trying to work on recently.
In the end it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a pair of spikes. The Dragonflys offer comfort and you will still find they are giving you that extra boost at slower paces. However, when doing top-end speed work I have found them to begin to feel just a bit too forgiving and sock-like. The MDXs on the other hand really need you to be going at race pace for them to feel comfortable.
Walking in them and jogging at a slow pace between intervals feels wrong, keeping you on your toes, working your calves when you really want to be resting them.
With the Dragonflys retailing at €174.99 and the MD-Xs at €220, there is a big price difference between both spikes. However, having been available now for a few years it is possible to find good deals on them now. I can easily find a pair of Dragonflys for €130, sometimes they can even drop as low as under €100 if you can find the right size. The MD-Xs are a little harder to find because they just aren’t as popular and mass market as the Dragonflys, however I can still find pairs discounted to €130-160 fairly easily, however the availability just isn’t the same as the Dragonflys. While the MD-Xs price is considerably higher than the Dragonflys I feel this is warranted because of the more exotic materials that they use.
Which is the best choice for blazing fast times?
So what are the best spikes for you? If you’re looking for a great, reliable pair of spikes which you can batter through those gruelling sessions throughout the summer months, with lactic burning through your legs – then the Dragonflys are for you. The MD-Xs are just too special to be used for everyday sessions, solely because you can’t change out the spikes once they have been worn down. For this reason, along with the snappiness underfoot and that excellent lockdown – if you’re looking for a pair of spikes exclusively for racing then I’d say the MD-Xs are the better option for you. It all comes down to what you prioritise, durability or uncompromised performance.
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