Nike has been the dominant force in racing shoes for a number of years, starting with Vaporfly 4% up to NEXT%. Despite the tougher competition lately, Nike is still in the lead thanks to the introduction of the Alphafly.
The company is now striving to bring the magical, fast feeling of these shoes to training runs at the NEXT% pace. Training shoes are different from racing shoes for a reason. A racer that you only pull on special occasions doesn’t have to be durable or have that much grip, provided you drive on roads. It can also be tough on your legs because you’ll be resting in the days after a race anyway.
The Tempo NEXT% is designed to draw a fine line between the two. It̵
It has the same soft and springy ZoomX foam as the Vaporfly and Alphafly shoes, but also a React foam heel area that is more durable than ZoomX. This React foam also offers a more stable landing than the soft ZoomX cushioning.
The plate in the midsole is not only made of carbon like the ones in Vaporfly and Alphafly. Instead, a carbon composite plate is used to achieve a less stiff and more forgiving ride than a carbon plate. This means that you can collect more kilometers with the Tempo NEXT% without it becoming uncomfortable.
As a result, the Tempo NEXT% should be fast, but far more durable than a pure racing shoe, and also be comfortable enough to run a few times a week rather than every few months.
The upper of the shoe is made from Nike Flyknit material, which offers a snug fit with a little sag. The NEXT% pace is normal for me, but it’s pretty tight in the toe box. So, if you have wide feet or often find shoes that are small for you, it may be worth going up a half size.
I have used the Tempo NEXT% for several types of runs over the course of a week of training, including a track session, a tempo run, and a 10 mile run, and I was somewhat surprised by its strengths and weaknesses.
Given the size and relatively heavy weight of the shoe – it’s 277g in my size 9 in the UK – I wasn’t sure how it would perform during the quick-exerting interval sessions on the track, but it blew me away . Every time I increased the pace it seemed to feel better and more responsive, and over the course of a 2km, 400m repetition session, I fell in love with the shoe.
However, when I took it out for the kind of easy runs that make up the bulk of most training plans, it didn’t feel good. The large pile on the shoe felt lumpy and I could hear an old thump on the landing too. I also found that my legs felt tighter than usual after light runs, especially in the hamstrings. There are more convenient options for simple tasks, including the Nike Pegasus 37 or the Pegasus Turbo 2.
For speed and long runs, however, the Tempo NEXT% has redeemed itself. It has the lucky knack of making keeping a steady or fast pace easier, and the more speed you put into it, the more bouncy the shoe will feel.
The Tempo NEXT% is designed as a fast training shoe, so it is not necessarily a problem not to outdo yourself on simple runs. It does, however, limit its market to runners willing to have a three-shoe rotation for running, quick training, and easy running.
You might consider using the Tempo NEXT% for all of your fast-paced workouts and races, but on the latter front, what lacks a lighter all-out racing shoe like the Vaporfly or Alphafly or the Saucony Endorphin Pro or Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 Since the Tempo NEXT% at £ 170 isn’t anyone’s idea of cheap, it’s probably better to pay the extra for a real carbon plate super shoe if you want the best race day performance.
All of this means that the Tempo NEXT% should only be considered for runners using three shoes. There’s no doubt that it’s a better faster training shoe than its Nike counterparts, the Pegasus Turbo and Zoom Fly 3 – but there are great options from other brands in this mount, including the Saucony Endorphin Speed with nylon plate and the Brooks Hyperion Tempo which has no record at all but is very light and fast.
The Hyperion Tempo is also more comfortable on light runs, making it a more versatile choice for most people, and both it and the Endorphin Speed are shoes with a more natural feel. They’re also much quieter – the NEXT% Tempo is loud enough to turn your head while you run.
The New Balance FuelCell TC is another quick workout option. It has a carbon plate and a large stack of soft and springy FuelCell foam that completely avoids a hard ride. The NEXT% pace is a little faster than the TC, but the TC is more comfortable for simple runs.
You may need to take into account that the Tempo NEXT% of the men have a midsole stack that is over the 40mm World Athletics limit for road racing – the height at the heel is 42mm. (The women’s shoe is 40mm, so it should be fine.)
Many amateurs will not worry about these rules as they are designed for the elite and many dedicated runners have a legal race day option like Vaporfly anyway. But I’m sure a lot of people, including myself, would feel weird to spend £ 170 on a shoe that technically shouldn’t be ridden in.
The Tempo NEXT% gives training runs an Alphafly-like feel, although of course it’s not as fast, but it’s faster than its size or weight suggests. Provided, like most training shoes, it can be at least 700-800 km long, it’s a good quick workout option for avid runners, even at its high price. On the flip side, more versatile options like the Brooks Hyperion Tempo and Saucony Endorphin Speed are just the thing for me and, in my opinion, will likely be better suited for more runners – and legal for street racing too.
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