We had a first run in the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% and this is what we thought
There’s been a huge amount of noise about this shoe, so chances are you’ve already seen it crop up. I got my hands on a pair to review, and wanted to give you our thoughts as soon as I’d had a trot round the block in them.
First off, before I even opened the box, I love the idea of this: just as with the Brooks Hyperion Elite/Tempo pairing, this is the ‘training’ answer to the Alphafly. The idea is that you run your marathon in the Alphafly – potentially nabbing that PB as you do so – but you train for that marathon, and build your strength with the Tempo.
This makes sense to me: partner shoes that have the same fit and feel, the same geometry, but that offer different returns: one is to help you raise your training game and to aid speedy recoveries, and the other is the short-sharp fix to get you over the finish line.
Out of the box
The Tempo is a head-turner, as a lot of Nike’s offerings are these days. The white, the flashes of rainbow colour, that stacked sole: everything looks just so… extra.
The feel, though, the feel… They are incredible once on. There’s no better word for it. I’ve not felt a shoe like it. I love the flyknit upper: you get a sock-fit with an integrated tongue, so that means there’s no rubbing at all, and the fit around the midsole is like a hug for your foot. It’s great. With my high arches, you don’t even really need to do up the laces. It’s like your Cinderella moment, right there.
The fit is spot on, I’d say – I normally go up half a size in running shoes, and this method worked perfectly here.
But the real happiness is underfoot. It feels like you’ve just slipped on two mini trampolines for your feet. The support is fantastic, and the bounce is brilliant. They basically make you want to go for a run.
As you jump up and down in them, you’ll also notice the outsole: this is a much chunkier number than you’ll find on the Alphafly, contributing to the higher weight of the Tempo. But it’s also the thing that is fundamental to the shoe’s durability. The outsole feels reliably sticky, with a tread that felt secure and stable on all road surfaces.
On a run
The Tempo is quick. And not quite what I expected from my jumping about. It felt so cushioned when I was stationary, that I thought it would offer a plush, recovery ride, but that’s not really the case.
What you get underfoot is a combo of those visible pods – you’ll recognise those from all those elite runners bishing out world records in their Alphaflys. Less visible are Nike ZoomX foam in the footbed, which is the stuff that’s designed for your energy return, to propel you forwards, while Nike React tech in the heel has been included to cushion you as you land.
Also stashed in there is a dose of carbon fibre for the propulsion. This plate is more flexible than on racing shoes, such as the Alphafly, so while you get a noticeable push off, it’s not as springy as a full carbon plate would offer.
The sole, also, as you look down at it, splays outwards from the ball of your foot, as well as – now characteristically – from the rear. This adds to a feeling of stability, for those of us with a slightly nervous disposition and wobbly ankles.
In practice, all of this – that brilliant upper, the pods, the foam, the plate – adds up to an exciting shoe to run in. It’s bouncy, it’s energetic, and even on my tired legs after a long weekend run, they felt responsive and totally enjoyable to run in.
That said, as I mentioned earlier, this is a quick shoe. And where it came in to its own was on a mid-run fartlek session between a few lampposts. It was just glorious to take off in. But that meant the happy, ploddy recovery run I was looking for didn’t quite happen. So yes, this is an ideal training partner for the Alphafly, if you’ve already picked up a pair of those, but I would suggest if you’re going as far as to pick up a pair of high-end shoes for racing, and another pair of high-end shoes for your tempo runs, you may well want to consider a third pair of high-end shoes for your plodding round the block in. But perhaps the runners that these shoes are aimed at aren’t your usual plodding around the block types.
There were two small drawbacks, I thought. I didn’t like the fact that the insole was stuck in – I like to run in third-party insoles, and I wasn’t able to with these. That said, I have to admit the shoe felt supportive to run in, and to be honest, I didn’t miss the insoles that much. But it still irks.
Second thing: there are some little visible glue spots on the exterior of the shoe – nothing huge to write home about, and certainly nothing to affect the performance of the shoe, but a bit of a nose-wrinkle thing when you’ve just shelled out £170.
So there you have it. A beautiful, responsive and superfast shoe for your road tempo runs, track sessions, and race distances up to 10K, and a solid entry for the shoe design history books too. Whether you think that’s worth the outlay is your shout, of course, but I would say that now high end shoes tend to sit in the £140ish bracket, the Tempo offers enough excitement and return to be worthy of your consideration. It is gorgeous, after all.