With a dense midsole lacking in bounce, the heavy Zoom Fly 4 falls well short of the standard of current carbon racing shoes, and there are many better fast training options available as well.
- Carbon plate for added propulsion
- More durable than a racing shoe
- Heavy when racing or doing speedwork
- Awkward, firm ride
When the Nike Zoom Fly first launched, it was a very exciting shoe. It was billed as the Vaporfly for the masses at a time when the Vaporfly was all but impossible to get hold of, and that meant many runners picked up the Zoom Fly as a top-quality fast training and racing option. However, this one-time innovative option has failed to keep pace with developments in this space and the Zoom Fly 4 now feels outdated.
The Zoom Fly 4 retains the same midsole set-up as the Zoom Fly 3, with a hefty stack of React foam and a carbon plate. This type of foam is durable and reasonably bouncy, and it works well in shoes designed for easy training like the Pegasus 38 and Infinity Run.
However, when paired with a carbon plate as in the Zoom Fly 4, the ride becomes a little firmer, and the foam is not as dynamic as many others, like Nike’s own soft and springy ZoomX, New Balance’s bouncy FuelCell or the PWRRUN PB foam Saucony uses in the Endorphin Speed and Pro shoes.
React foam is also fairly heavy. The Zoom Fly 4 weighs in at 289g in my UK 9 and while some shoes that weigh that much can feel a lot lighter when running, that’s not the case here. It does feel heavy on faster runs and the slightly dull ride of the midsole doesn’t help. It all adds up to a shoe that I didn’t really enjoy using for speed sessions, even though it’s billed as a fast training or even a racing shoe.
It didn’t shine on easy runs either, being a little firm. There’s also no real need to spend big money on a plated shoe for easy runs in my opinion, unless it’s a truly versatile option that is great for speedwork.
The only time I really enjoyed running in the Zoom Fly 4 was on long runs, when I wasn’t pushing the pace or completely easing off it either. Only then did I finally manage to get in sync with the shoe and felt I was getting some benefit from the plate, in that it helped me to tick over at a good pace without it feeling like much effort. There is perhaps a case for saying it would work in longer races, particularly a marathon, but there are a lot of shoes I’d rather be in – for any event.
Several brands offer fast training shoes with a plate in the midsole (Nike also has the Tempo NEXT% in its range) and the Zoom Fly 4 really struggles to keep up.
Of these alternative options, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is the stand-out. It offers a faster, more efficient ride than the Zoom Fly 4 and is more enjoyable to use for easy runs. The New Balance FuelCell TC is softer and bouncier than the Zoom Fly, and faster too. I also found the Puma Deviate Nitro more enjoyable for speedwork, though that shoe does have a problem with its heel design: like many runners, I found it rubbed the skin raw on longer runs.
For its part, Nike’s Tempo NEXT% is a more exciting, speedy shoe than the Zoom Fly 4, even if its high stack and mix of foams in the midsole does make for a slightly odd feeling while running. The Tempo NEXT% uses Nike’s ZoomX foam alongside React in its midsole, and combining the foams on the next Zoom Fly would be one thing Nike could do to potentially improve the shoe.
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On a more positive note, I did like the new upper on the Zoom Fly 4. There’s a lot going on here with a mesh outer upper over a bootie inner that fits the foot like a sock, but the result is a very comfortable and secure fit.
Despite that excellent upper design, the Zoom Fly 4 is not a shoe I’d recommend, unless you really liked the Zoom Fly 3, in which case this is more of the same with a better upper. If you’re looking for a fast training and racing shoe then any of the options mentioned above outclass the Zoom Fly 4, and it doesn’t have the versatility to work well as an all-rounder.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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