Is the hype real? Can a shoe actually make you 4% faster even if you are an average Joe? The elites run in swarms of bright crimson lighting up the streets and flying past you with unimaginable speeds, but even a few of the same shoes can be seen in the middle of the packers, so who does it actually help?
Early this year I had the opportunity to buy the Nike Vaporfly 4% at a discounted rate and I could not get my wallet out fast enough. The mystery and wonder that surrounds this shoe had me questioning what was possible, but it also mad me wondering would I see a difference in my times. I am pretty much an average Joe when it comes to running. I normally run slightly above the race average, placing in local runs but finishing in the early thousands in bigger races or marathons.
After spending the Boston Marathon watching these amazing creatures fly by I also heard tails of struggle and failure with the 4% shoes. I watched several runners passing the 18-25 mile markers barefoot with Vaporflys around there necks. Now I’ve run for a while and I do not believe that is the way 4% work, I think they actually have to be on your feet. I also personally spoke to a guy who had the Vaporfly on for about half of the race and then had to change out of them and into the Vomeros at mile 16 because his feet were hurting.
This made me nervous. Personally I was hording my Vaporfly to be used strictly for the New Jersey Marathon but hearing how uncomfortable they were I decided I had to test them. Since it was April 17 and the Marathon is on April 28 I did not have time to get in a proper 20 mile long run so I settled on a 12 mile tempo to compare to the first 12 miles of my last 16 mile tempo which I thought went amazing.
Putting on the Vaporfly for the first time they felt very similar to the Zoom Fly only softer, the with, weight and drop is either the same or very similar to each other. But once I got started running the difference was black and white.
The Vaporfly can only be described as a slingshot. When your foot hits the ground the carbon fiber plate plate actually bounces you into your next step. At first it was very unsettling. Without trying I came close to PRing my half mile. I actually had to stop and regroup because I kept telling myself my goal was to stay under a 9 minute mile not 8. As I got started again speed was on my mind.
Above are the miles that I cranked out. As you can see my goal of keeping under a 9 minute mile was easily accomplished. The person who I was running with also told me I looked comfortable at the pace I was running. I felt like I was doing a workout, but I did not push any harder than a typical tempo.
I got two things out of this run.
- UH, YES IM STILL WEARING THESE FOR THE NJ MARATHON. I did have some toe discomfort during my run, but name a long run shoe that feels 100% perfect from start to finish.
- THESE STILL WORK EVEN FOR THE AVERAGE JOE RUNNER! I did the math (which could be wrong I am an English Major) my my times compared to the same run two weeks earlier increased by 10.73%!!
So the question if the Vaporflys can help the Average Joe’s, the answer is yes. But keep in my mind every run is what you put into it. If you don’t do the training don’t expect miracles, but the Vaporfly is pretty close to the perfect shoe for a little boost.