UPDATE: It turns out Nike used the buzz over the rule change as a springboard to unveil its updated version of the shoe – a prototype of which was worn by Eulid Kipchoge when he broke the two-hour marathon mark in Vienna last year. Enter the Nike Zoom Alphafly Next%. It features even more ZoomX foam in the heel, a new upperknit branded as Atomknit, and Zoom Air Pods on the forefoot for purportedly even more energy return. And yes, the shoes are still competition legal.

Nike has stated that the shoes will be released come Summer 2020, along with a training variant called the TempoNext%. To see how the ZoomX foam and other innovations from Nike helped the 21st century’s greatest long distance runner seal his name in the annals of history, read on below.

Nike Vaporfly
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% – very recently outdated.

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%

Nike’s Vaporfly running shoes were first released in 2016 and quickly proved to be a tour de force in the long distance running world. The shoes have shaved minutes off elite marathoners’ efforts, and helped amateur athletes achieve personal bests. Everyone was wearing them: 31 out of 36 podium finishes in six world marathon majors wore some iteration of Nike Vaporflys last year.

Naturally, this generated some controversy within the running community: was running with the Vaporflys fair? On Jan 31, World Athletics addressed this concern with its ban on running shoes with soles thicker than 40mm and more than one rigid, embedded plate. Exactly the specifications of The ZoomX Vaporfly Next% – for now, it’ll remain the fastest (legal for elite competitions) shoe in the West for a mere S$349.

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The thick ZoomX foam sole of the Vaporfly is extremely light, ultra-responsive and cushioning. It not only provides amazing comfort for runners, but delivers unprecedented energy return – allowing runners to maintain the same pace for less effort.

The curved carbon-fibre plate that runs through the Vaporfly also helps improve running economy by preventing energy loss from toe-bends and gives the racing shoes a springy feel, reducing contact time with the ground.

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These innovations help the Vaporfly to outstrip competitors in energy return by a fair margin: at least 10 per cent, in a test conducted by Runner’s World.

Meanwhile, the Vaporweave outer material is more water resistant, more breathable and more durable than previous incarnations used in Nike Flyknits: according to Nike, Vaporweave absorbs 93 per cent less water. Every gram counts – especially when you’re taking tens of thousands of steps in a long distance race.

(Related: Panerai regional chief Giacomo Cinelli on the joy and merit of running)

The transparent mesh-like material doesn’t just feel good – coming in neon-green or fuchsia, the Vaporflys are sure to stand out in a crowd.

So are wearing Vaporflys cheating? Eliud Kipchoge, the first man in history to break the two-hour marathon mark, doesn’t think so: “It’s the person running, not the shoe,” he said. And that’s good enough for me.

Read more here.