The Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite radically redefines speed on the road — ultra-lightweight and ultra-responsive. Its radical look is also the latest example of Nike’s long-term mission to transform the athletic landscape.
Conventional wisdom dictates that distance racing shoes be lightweight and low to the ground. However, this wisdom also concedes some compromise. For example, with limited cushion how can a shoe maximize energy return?
The answers to these questions are critical to the success of Breaking2, Nike’s innovation moonshot to break the two-hour marathon barrier. As Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese push to get the most out of every stride they will do so wearing the Nike Zoom Vapor Elite with Nike ZoomX midsole.
The concept shoe, individually-tuned for each athlete, highlights the product portion of a rigorously researched path to realizing Breaking2’s bold vision and a paradigm shift suggesting that while a “less is more” system has served the past, a “more is more” approach might define the future.
“Form must follow function. We leveraged aerodynamic insights to deliver a radical and iconic aesthetic that screams speed,” says Stefan Guest, Sr. Footwear Design Director, Innovation.
The disruptive design follows on the composite function of its components. Rather than totally reinvent the wheel, the shoe completely reimagines materials employed in racing footwear for decades but uses each more intelligently, and more purposefully than ever before.
While traditional racing shoes (flats) keep a low profile, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite’s progressive Nike ZoomX midsole cushioning — remarkably lighter, softer and more responsive than traditional foams — is reflected in a distinctive 21mm forefoot stack height. Designed to give runners more energy return while simultaneously providing cushioning from the road, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite combines athlete insight with biomechanics analysis and cutting-edge engineering.
This results in a brand-new tooling system comprised of the ultra-light, ultra-resilient Nike ZoomX midsole and a unidirectional carbon fiber plate, with an athlete-optimized stiffness profile. Finally, the flow of the heel, modeled for ultimate aerodynamics, adds an iconic flare that screams speed, and an athlete-tuned, 1:1 fit Flyknit upper contains the foot.
“Nike ZoomX truly enables the innovation of the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite,” says Tony Bignell, VP of Footwear Innovation for Nike, Inc. “The groundbreaking new Nike ZoomX midsole and curved carbon fiber plate work together to provide responsive cushioning and minimized energy loss at toe off.”
In addition to the 21mm forefoot stack height, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite has a 9mm offset, designed to minimize Achilles strain. This is also reflected in the unique “scooped-shaped” geometry of the carbon fiber plate — visible in the iconic sweep of the midsole coloring. In addition to providing a feeling of forward motion, the carbon fiber plate critically serves to add bending stiffness, tuned to improve stride-by-stride efficiency for the three athletes and minimize energy loss over the course of the race.
“We know stiffer shoes have a big benefit on running economy,” notes Bret Schoolmeester, Senior Director of Global Running Footwear, Fast. “However, too much stiffness can shift the workload from the foot up into the calf, which causes fatigue over distance. For the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite, we developed a very specific geometry to reduce that problem.”
Dr. Geng Luo, Nike Sport Research Lab Senior Researcher, Biomechanics, explains, “The goal of having a plate is to reduce how much energy loss happens when the runner bends at the toe. This curved plate is stiff enough to achieve that and because it has this geometry, it does so without increasing demand on the calf.”
The Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite featuring Nike ZoomX Midsole anchors a system of performance fashioned to help Kipchoge, Desisa and Tadese challenge the 2-hour marathon barrier later this year in Monza.
The runner’s Breaking2 apparel completely rethinks the comfort, fit and weight of traditional marathon kit. It begins with the singlet, made with a Seamless Transfer Knit, allowing for enhanced ventilation where it is most needed. The approach also allows for a completely tailored fit — each athlete’s body scan data and personal preference accounted for. Similarly, the Short Tight — which deviates from the standard short — delivers individualized length and compression level. Additionally, the Short Tight leverages Nike Aeroblade texture to help reduce drag. Arm Sleeves help athletes combat cooler temperatures, while Nike Aeroblade tape helps reduce drag where most critical — the lower legs. Finally, the sock has been engineered to work with footwear to deliver more ventilation where needed and provide a higher level of arch support.
Beyond, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite’s unique construction and game-changing midsole inform the future of Nike Zoom Running — a duo of racing shoes (the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% and Nike Zoom Fly) and the all-new Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34.