Note: I discovered this unpublished draft review which was written back in August 2019 (gulp!). I’ve since retired the Zoom Fly 3. The role of the daily trainer now rests with the React Infinity Run Flyknit [review]. Due to the MCO lockdown to arrest the scourge of COVID-19, there’s been no running since early March. With that, let’s get on with the review.
Midway through a recent 19K, it dawned upon me how my opinion has shifted ever so slightly on the shoes I had on. The Nike Zoom Fly 3 (ZF3) is my 4th in the Zoom Fly series, having experienced the OG and Zoom Fly Flyknit (ZFFK), with a new pair of Zoom Fly SP Fast still in storage. I’ve always had a mixed relationship with the series. I’m not a fan of their weight (they’ve always been heavy) and clunkiness, which is incongruous with Nike’s “fast” sales pitch. Nike has such depth in their range, the Epic React, Rival Fly, and Turbo being just 3 of them, which can easily handle the fast days. Yet the ZF3 are still Nike’s only carbon-plated shoes other than the 4/Next% and as of this post, the only one accorded the VaporWeave upper treatment. If you’re a shoe geek like me, the ZF is the closest you’ll get to the feel of the premier Percents. Which explains why even with their weighty misgivings, the lure was just too strong for me.
Aesthetics-wise, ZF3 takes it up a notch from the ZFFK. As expected of Nike, the shoes are just beautiful – a huge swoosh garnishing the translucent upper, a highly sculpted midsole that tapers to the rear, white colorway accentuating minimalism – their silhouette leaning to that of the Vaporfly Elite, Next % and Vapor Street. Those expecting a lighter ZFFK would be disappointed though, as my pair of US10 still weighs in at 9.8oz for the left and 10.05oz for the right. Tiny manufacturing variances do naturally occur, so I’m not sure if a 0.25oz difference is considered a huge one. The shoes feel hefty to hold compared to Nike’s other models such as the Rival Fly, Epic React 2, Odyssey React 2 or even the Pegasus 36.
At over 10oz for my US10, these are in my opinion, not conducive in tackling speed work. To each his/her own, I know, but there are certainly better options out there for your tempos and intervals. As mentioned earlier, Nike’s own Turbo and Streak or even the Epic React for example are more suited for the fast days. NB’s fantastic FuelCell Rebel being the other option. You can see how disappointed I was with this weighty issue – while regular workhorses like the Pegasus 36 and featherweight Next% have both shed weight, the ZF3 gained!
Similar to the direction taken by the Next %, the knitted upper has been replaced with Vaporweave, a TPU and TPE mix, chosen to improve breathability and reduce water retention. While the hype is going to be on Vaporweave, the upper is actually a combination of several elements and layers which include a highly perforated mesh just under the outermost weave, and an internal perforated arch band which secures the midfoot and arch which attaches to a neoprene-like integrated tongue and collar. The reinforcements around the toebox and heel cup are sufficient. A V-shaped lace loop strip adds some structure. The neoprene-like tongue is lightly padded, no undue pressure felt on the top of the feet. even when cinched up tight.
Where the ZF3’s upper falters would be the fit around the ankle. Visually, there are plenty of space and gaps around the collar when you put on the shoes, creating the impression of poor fit and lockdown. Trust me when I tell you that it’s impossible to lace up without closing off the space – I’ve tried. The best you can do is to secure a tight fit and pray the internal suede padding on each side of the ankle adequately hold down the foot. It’s a little disconcerting at first and I was quite concerned about pebbles and small stones finding their way into the shoes during my first few runs.
The ZF3 sees an increase in the midsole stack height, which probably explains their weight gain. Runningwarehouse puts the midsole at 36mm/28mm for an 8mm offset. The ZF3 retains a full-length React foam midsole with an embedded carbon fiber plate.
The outsole has been beefed up considerably as well. The forefoot sports a thicker rubber with deeper grooves. The good? The blown rubber offers excellent bite and traction, even around corners. The bad? Added weight, of course. Rear rubber coverage is limited to the high wear lateral and medial sides.
My first run in the ZF3 was a short 6K. I felt the imbalanced weight distribution of the shoes almost immediately. The front is perceptibly heavier than the rear – possibly due to the much greater rubber coverage in the forefoot. That said, the ride is very very smooth, the smoothest of all ZFs. Almost Pegasus smooth with very little trace of the stiff, rolling rocker transition. Could Nike have re-positioned the carbon plate? There were some talks of that, which would explain the tamped down rocker-feel.
After logging over 160km in the shoes, I’m please to report that the durability is top-notch. Wear and tear is excellent and the only giveaway that they aren’t new shoes is the slight yellowing of the Vaporweave material. I’ve also yet to encounter wayward pebbles entering the shoes. Another plus for me is the roomier forefoot and cushioned ride. I do wish the ZFs to be lighter although I doubt they’ll ever be in the mid 8oz region. It’s for this reason that this pair of ZF3s will probably be my final dalliance with the series. I’ve grown to enjoy the Turbo which I’ve found to be versatile and there always the New Balance Propel for a lighter training option.
If you’ve not experienced the Zoom Fly series and are curious about it, version 3 may be of interest to you.