The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 2 Review

Better suited to fashion statements, but they can facilitate running.
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Price:  $190 List
Pros:  Unique appearance, super light, good breathability
Cons:  Awkward and uncomfortable landing, uncomfortable and stiff upper, lower durability
Manufacturer:   Nike
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2018
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#21 of 22
  • Responsiveness - 25% 5
  • Landing comfort - 25% 4
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 5
  • Upper comfort - 10% 6
  • Breathability - 10% 7

The Skinny

The Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s certainly use one of the more unique designs we've seen. They're really light and super breathable. Their midsole consists of large airpods affixed to a hard plastic board meant to provide stability and cushion. The design is interesting, but it ends up feeling a bit uncomfortable unless you mostly run on your forefoot. These are really well suited to runners looking to make a statement, but less so for those looking to pound out the miles. Some of the color schemes evoke more of a comically unattractive knit sweater, while some of them are actually pretty cool, like the one with a bright yellow upper and translucent pods.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

We took the Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s out for both short and long runs, spent hours researching them, and compiled our notes and results here for you across 6 measures. We assigned them weighted scores for each of those measures and included a few sections of advice and compared them to other top shoes on the market. Take a deeper look to see if these kicks are what you're after.

Performance Comparison



Responsiveness


Nike really went outside of the box on this design and that's commendable. The idea is interesting, perhaps parallel to the Editor's Choice On Cloud X, which uses large open pods for its midsole. The Max Air cushioning replaces the traditional midsole with hollow pods made of firm rubber that kick back a lot of energy. Those pods are affixed to the bottom of the upper with a rigid plastic board that splits in the middle, allowing the foot to flex in half at the midfoot, but in the process, it saps a lot of the energy put into the stride. It's much more pronounced for gaits that hit the mid and hindfoot.

The Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s had surprising responsiveness with their Max Air cushion design  but the disjointed sole and pod design sapped a lot out of the stride.
The Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s had surprising responsiveness with their Max Air cushion design, but the disjointed sole and pod design sapped a lot out of the stride.

More responsive models tended to also win our top awards. The Under Armour Charged Bandit 3 picked up the Best Bang for the Buck Award and landed near the top of this measure. As previously mentioned, the On Cloud X also had great energy return and flow, bringing it up near the top. The most responsive model in the group also won the Top Pick for Stability HOKA ONE ONE Elevon topped out this category with its super thick, stable midsole.

Landing Comfort


Unfortunately, these were not the strongest landers out there. Their Air Max pods ringed the outer edge of the foot in a way that hyper-focused pressure on just those areas of the foot and destabilized the gate while injecting just a bit of discomfort. Future iterations might take a page from On's Cloud series to get the right mix of strip-down and weight distribution to keep the landing both comfortable and stable.

The interesting design of the Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s end up making them one of the least comfortable landers out there.
The interesting design of the Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s end up making them one of the least comfortable landers out there.

Most of the other shoes in our lineup did better in this measure, so we'll just point out the best options for landing comfort from comparable styles. Nike got it right with their Pegasus 35 model, with a plush Zoom Air midsole that perfectly cushions and protects every stride so it feels almost like running barefoot on a well-manicured football or soccer field. The Pegasus 35s actually got a top score in this measure, alongside the Editor's Choice On Cloud X and plush Brooks PureFlow 7, which picked up the Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat.

The outsole is an odd mix of flex and rigidity  making one of the least stable  least comfortable shoes out there.
The outsole is an odd mix of flex and rigidity, making one of the least stable, least comfortable shoes out there.

Weight


They're not the lightest shoes out there, but at 20.5 ounces in men's 11, they're not too bad. Much of the advantage there can be attributed to the thin knit fabric covering most of the upper and the unique Max Air midsole design that leaves open a good deal of the sole and uses air-filled pods for the cushioning.

These unique kicks come in at 20.5 ounces in men's 11.
These unique kicks come in at 20.5 ounces in men's 11.

Should you decide you want something lighter, there are lots of other choices out there. From our list, we suggest looking at the 20.1 ounce PureFlow 7 for a faster shoe or the 17.8 ounce On Cloud X for a much lighter and faster shoe.

Durability


We expect this shoe to last a few seasons, but it has structural weaknesses that might limit its longevity if there's enough use and abuse. The knit material is mostly comfortable and attractive, but it can also get caught and tear or fray, especially if there's any degree of off-road training or hiking, which we really do not suggest in these. Their Max Air midsole is also a point of concern. The air units are affixed to a plastic board under the forefoot and another under the hindfoot, leaving a large gap in the center meant to improve flexibility. That inadvertently opens up a weak spot in the sole where seams can split or separate and the where the upper is exposed to punctures from sticks, rocks, and other debris.

Nike's Max Air midsoles are time-tested  but the sole is still has too many weak points and vulnerabilities to earn a top rating for durability.
Nike's Max Air midsoles are time-tested, but the sole is still has too many weak points and vulnerabilities to earn a top rating for durability.

Unsurprisingly, more durable shoes tended to have fewer design innovations, greater uniformity, and more cushioning in the midsole. The Nike Pegasus 35s are an example of that. They don't use any special designs or advanced material, but their simple construction with standard materials puts them above a lot of the bolder designs in our list. The Under Armour Charged Bandit 3s have a similar story. If you're looking for an affordable shoe, check out the UA offering.

Upper Comfort


We had such high hopes for these. They looked really cool and we had faith that Nike would put out more than an interesting design. Unfortunately, we can't offer much in the way of praise for these as running shoes. As we've said elsewhere, they're not bad for walkers looking for style, provided they don't walk too far. Running in them felt like running in reinforced water shoes with wood chips glued to the bottom. That goes for both the physical sensation on the foot and the instability. They are really suited to just road running. We can't suggest even thinking about taking them off road.

The VaporMax Flyknit 2s have nice a knit mesh upper  but it takes a very special foot to get along with the design.
The VaporMax Flyknit 2s have nice a knit mesh upper, but it takes a very special foot to get along with the design.

The knit upper material isn't so bad. It feels pretty nice on the sock and has a good stretchy responsiveness that hugs the foot. The design of the upper is another thing. It has a narrow, constrained feel with internal structures that rub against the lateral and medial areas of the sole behind the toes. This is clearly something that some foot shapes won't notice, but for others, it feels like it cuts off the circulation and constrains the natural gait.

Serious runners will probably want a serious shoe. If you are looking for a comparably stripped down model with good comfort, try the Nike Pegasus 35 or Under Armour Charged Bandit 3. If you're interested in a racing flat with plush cushioning, look at the Brooks PureFlow 7. If you want even more upper cushioning and more structure and support in the upper, check out the Brooks Glycerin 16.

Breathability


This is an area where there aren't very many complaints about the Flyknit 2s. The large gauge knit material allows a good deal of heat and moisture to escape, ensuring there's always a breeze flowing through to keep your feet cool. That's helped along by the virtual absence of padding in the collar and tongue, so there's almost no insulation and very little material to hold in moisture.

The Vapormax Flyknit 2s do a good job of aerating the feet and getting rid of moisture  even for super heavy sweaters.
The Vapormax Flyknit 2s do a good job of aerating the feet and getting rid of moisture, even for super heavy sweaters.

The only limiting factors are really that the knit is a bit thick (which improve fit and upper comfort) and there are internal stability structures like the heel counter that keep moisture in. If you're after something a little cooler, check out the Brooks PureFlow 7. It uses a thinner upper material and tends to aerate a bit better. You might also like the On Cloud X, which also uses a thinner upper, but lacks the padding of the Brooks model, so it doesn't retain much moisture.

Best Applications


Nike branded these as running shoes, so ostensibly, they're meant for running, perhaps even on hard surfaces. The best application we can find is viewing.

Value


$190 is a steep ask for these if they're meant to be running shoes. If you are looking for a unique shoe that will stand out in the crowd and serve a fashionable-oriented purpose, they might be worth two C-notes to you.

Conclusion


In the end, these running shoes are closer to statement shoes. We appreciate that Nike is out there trying all sorts of crazy designs, but these shoes are less for runners and more for guys looking to have unique foot apparel. They weren't especially comfortable, but did better on short runs and when landing at the upper portion of the forefoot because of the stiff board and airpods around the midfoot. These are probably best deployed as showpieces that won't see miles and miles of pacing, or especially heavy trotting.

Unique though they are  the Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s are not the best choices for runs over a few miles.
Unique though they are, the Nike Air Vapormax Flyknit 2s are not the best choices for runs over a few miles.


Ryan Baham