Beyond the Nike Vaporfly 4%

With advancements in technology and innovation at an all-time high, it's an exciting time to be a runner. One of the hottest topics in the running world these days is Nike's coveted racing shoe, the Vaporfly 4% (4%). Two years ago, Eliud Kipchoge came within seconds of breaking 2 hours in a controlled marathon environment wearing a pair of Vaporfly 4%’s, causing a (well-deserved!) uproar about the technological breakthroughs found in these shoes. While the shoe that Kipchoge wore was designed for elites, it is now available for the everyday runner. Nike has also taken elements of the 4% technology and infused them into some of their other shoe models, creating an interesting spread of shoes that can help every runner get a little bit faster. See - we told you that it's an exciting time to be a runner!

Much of Nike’s current product line has been designed to help you maximize the benefits of the technology in the Vaporfly 4%, without breaking the bank or needing to run a controlled environment marathon like Kipchoge. The 4% is a high priced/low mileage shoe. Although it can result in real performance improvements on race day, it's not ideal as your everyday trainer. That's why the combination of shoes highlighted in this post will enable you to utilize good shoe management principles in your training, which is something that we educate runners about here at BlackToe Running (such as alternating a speed and distance shoe within your training week). This will help you maximize your shoes and your performance!

Now let’s get into the key concepts and tech that every runner should know when looking at the Nike 4% line-up. The top three shoes within the Nike family that we believe offer the best combination of performance and value are the Vaporfly 4%, the Pegasus Turbo, and the Zoom Fly Flyknit. These shoes offer the best combination of value and performance benefits of the 4% innovations. Let's look at each shoe more in depth.

The Nike Vaporfly 4%

The Nike Vaporfly has been dubbed the "4%" for good reason! After rigorous testing, it has been proven to improve the running economy of the average runner by 4 percent. For a 3:30 marathoner, that equates to just over 8 minutes on a marathon.That's a big deal! The numbers get smaller for faster runners, but the ratio stays the same. The shoe itself has many unique features, but the true stars of this shoe are the Carbon Fiber Plate in the mid-sole, and the ZoomX foam in the sole.These are the main components that distinguish the Nike line from its competitors. Note that other brands we carry have continued to innovate in their own unique ways, but we will discuss those in separate articles.

The Carbon Fiber Plate  in the sole of the 4% both stores and returns energy in a major way. A very Canadian example of this technology is the Carbon Fiber hockey stick. You can increase velocity from a shot with a carbon fiber stick because you bend the stick and then the carbon fiber material snaps it straight, transferring extra energy to the puck. The same principle applies with your body weight bending the plate in the 4%.The plate bends under your foot as you apply pressure, and it snaps back when you propel yourself forward, giving you a little extra "lift."

The sole contains ZoomX  Foam, which is very light and responsive. It absorbs impact and returns energy efficiently, without adding weight to the shoe. You can really feel these benefits as soon as you start running in a pair!

The Nike Vaporfly 4% has many other terrific features, but the combination of the Carbon Fiber Plate and the ZoomX Foam is what really gives this shoe it's kick! 

Suggested use: This shoe has a limited lifespan of 250-300km, and it's not highly recommended to do all of your training in a speed shoe. We recommend reserving this shoe for key race-pace simulation workouts, and - of course - to crush your race day goals! 

The Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo

After the release of the 4%, many elites noted that they didn't want to log all of their miles on a Carbon Fiber plate, as it proved to be quite hard on their legs after logging a lot of mileage. Nike responded with the release of the Pegasus Turbo. This shoe includes the performance of the ZoomX Foam, but without the plate - so runners can save their legs on longer runs. Now, the astute reader is surely asking about durability, since we have already established that this is an issue with the 4%, which features the same ZoomX Foam. Nike solved the durability issue by adding a layer of React Foam, which is a high cushion, high mileage foam. This means the Turbo can last for anywhere from 500-750km, depending on the user. The result is that you get the responsiveness of the ZoomX Foam in a high mileage shoe, while the wear and tear on your body is significantly reduced from what you would experience if you trained solely in a Vaporfly 4%. 

Suggested use: The Pegasus Turbo is ideal for all of your long and easy runs. You can use it for speed work and racing if you like, but bear in mind that the Vaporfly 4% is still considered a much a faster shoe.

The Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit

So if the Pegasus Turbo is for long runs and the Vaporfly 4% is for race day, what do you use for speed work? The answer is the Zoom Fly! This shoe has the same Carbon Fiber plate as the 4%, but Nike has replaced the high performance ZoomX Foam with React Foam for increased durability. And the price point is a much more accessible $215. This means that you are getting most of the performance benefits of the 4% (but not all!) in a more affordable and durable shoe, while also maintaining the feel of the shoe that you will use on race day.

Suggested use: The Zoom Fly is your speed shoe! Use it for interval training and tempo runs. You can also sprinkle in a few long runs that have race pace segments to get used the the Carbon Fiber plate over longer distances.


Voila - a smartly designed shoe trifecta! In the end, all of these shoes can be used for almost any run, but we believe that using them as intended will greatly improve your training and racing experience. It is important to alternate shoes during the week regardless of your brand preference or experience level - but that is a blog for another day!

If you have any questions about any of these shoes, please don't hesitate to contact us with your questions at 416-792-RACE (7223).