These Nike ‘great shoes’ helped me shave over 15 minutes off my marathon time

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Last month I ran my 11th marathon at the Houston Marathon in 3 hours, 30 minutes and 14 seconds. My time was not only a personal best of over 15 minutes, it earned me the Boston Marathon qualifying time I had been chasing for over a decade.

While my end result was undoubtedly the result of years of experience and a season of quality training, I had one more advantage on race day: my carbon-plated “super shoe”, which ie the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Flyknit Women’s Road Running Shoes

nike

nike.com

$275.00


While almost every major running shoe brand has its own carbon-plated running shoe at this point, Nike has been ahead of the game from the start, ever since it introduced the Vaporfly 4% in 2017 during the Project Nike’s Breaking2, in which three elite runners attempted to breach the two-hour marathon barrier. I wore this shoe in my last marathon, which was in 2019 in Houston. This race was the first time I had run a negative split in a marathon, running the second half of the marathon almost three minutes faster than the first and finishing in a personal best time of 3:45:41, while feeling like I had more left in the tank by the time I was done. Over the next year, I tried the next version, Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, which gave me a personal best half marathon of 1:39:54.

The next three years between marathons led to an injury that led to me skipping the 2020 Houston Marathon, and then a wave of race cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For me, it has also brought many professional opportunities to work with new clients, both in brands and publications. These relationships allowed me to test new carbon plated shoes from various other running shoe brands, such as HOKA, Skechers, and Brooks Running. I also occasionally bought others with my own money, from brands like Saucony and ASICS. Although all of these shoes turned out to be quality shoes, I found that none of them felt as fast and springy as the Nikes, probably due to Nike’s ultra-responsive foam insole . All other shoes were as stiff as a regular trainer, even though they were priced significantly higher. My opinion and experience is not unusual – recent research has shown that the AlphaFly contributes the most to improved running economy (3.03%) compared to competitors, with the Next% showing a comparable rate by 2.72%.

Once I started thinking the races would happen again, I knew it was time to invest in a new pair of Nikes. Although most people in my running circles seemed to lean more towards the Next%, I wanted to try the new AlphaFly mainly because I have wider feet and the 4% and Next% had been very narrow, causing me to lose a fingernail or two after each run (don’t worry, it’s not as painful as it sounds). I had heard that the AlphaFly was a little wider, and that turned out to be true for me. Not only that, but while I will never be near its caliber, the fact that marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge ran there when he finally broke the 2-hour marathon barrier in 2019 has no didn’t hurt either.

I ran my 11th marathon at the Houston Marathon in 3 hours, 30 minutes and 14 seconds wearing the Nike <a class=Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Women’s Running Shoes.”/>

I ran my 11th marathon at the Houston Marathon in 3 hours, 30 minutes and 14 seconds wearing the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Women’s Running Shoes.

Omar Vazquez/David Raines

The AlphaFly certainly isn’t cheap either, selling for $275 a pop. A lot of people, including other runners, are reluctant to shell out that much money on a pair of shoes, especially since you’ll only get about 100 quality miles out of carbon plated shoes (especially Nikes , According to my experience). Most everyday running shoes can last between 250 and 500 miles. This is why many runners are still debating whether to splurge on these shoes because although they are extremely efficient running shoes, you are spending over $100 more than you would with a normal trainer to much less use.


For me, this investment is worth it for various reasons. For one thing, they’re not meant to be a regular trainer. With every new pair of Vaporflys and now the AlphaFly, I test them for a workout or two to break them in and make sure they fit well before storing them until an upcoming goal run. Most of us will only do a handful of goal runs a year, which means a pair of running shoes like this should last just as long.

Most people end up needing to go at least half a size up in carbon plated shoes, which turned out to be the case for me in almost every brand. With the Nikes, I had to go up a size, wearing a 10.5 instead of my usual 9.5.

Once I bought my shoes and took them out for a first try, I saw that they felt as fast as I expected. One thing that sets the AlphaFly apart from the Next% are the air cushions in the front, which are meant to help the shoe provide more energy return than its predecessor. These made a pretty loud rattling noise that was very noticeable during this quiet, solo run. I was worried it would annoy me and others on race day, but I found in both the marathon and half marathon I ran a month earlier that the sounds of other runners around me, coupled with cheering spectators on the sidelines, easily drowned him out. .

Second, every time I’ve run in a new pair of these shoes in a goal run, I’ve achieved the personal best that I’ve been chasing, like that half marathon in under 1:40 and the Boston qualifying last month. Finally, this shoe ultimately proved to be a worthwhile investment as it was a game changer in running strategy execution. I used to have tired feet and fizz at the end of long distance runs and the great shoes from Nike helped me feel fresh and springy until the end, picking up the pace considerably at during the last kilometres. At this year’s marathon, I was able to execute a similar strategy to my 2019 race, finishing the second half exactly two minutes faster than the first. Again, it has to be that foam that’s the game-changer.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music (White) GPS Running Watch Power Bundle

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music (White) GPS Running Watch Power Bundle

Play better

amazon.com

$359.99


I know they say running is supposed to be the cheapest sport because all you need is a pair of shoes, but I’m sure there are areas worth doing splurges when it comes to reaping significant gains. For me, that turned out to be my Garmin GPS watch, my running trainer, and those “great shoes” on race day.

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