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What it’s like to run in the captivating Nike Air VaporMax

Chances are you've never run in a shoe as unique as the Nike Air VaporMax.

Nike VaporMax

It’s the shoe that enables you to run on air.

With the 30th anniversary of the sneakerhead-favourite Nike Air technology, comes arguably one of the most eye-catching and innovative shoes on the market: the Nike Air VaporMax. It’s a shoe that may well entice you to do a double-take upon first look and think, “Is that really a running shoe?” Canadian Running took this new model for a spin and put about 100K (and counting) on the lightweight trainer. (You may not be familiar with the Nike Air line as it’s been less runner-centric in years past.)

RELATED: Melissa Bishop’s take on the VaporMax.

First impressions (click for more)

Nike VaporMax
Photo: Adam Wojtkowiak.

The Nike Air VaporMax is unlike any other running shoe currently on the market. Structurally, there is no foam. None. That’s quite the deviation from what is currently on the market in the running industry. Instead, the midsole is entirely comprised of air pods, with the foot sitting directly on top encapsulated by the Flyknit upper, one of Nike’s signature technologies.

Because of the Air Vapormax’s one-of-a-kind look, there are few options to compare it to. The upper feels like an updated Nike Free, or any Nike shoe with the Flyknit upper, and it fits quite snug to the foot. Note that the Flyknit upper extends around the heel so there is a softer, less structured feel around the back of your foot. The sole, meanwhile, is actually stiffer than one would imagine.

RELATED: More photos and CR‘s additional thoughts on the Air VaporMax.

Right off the bat, it’s apparent that the Air VaporMax has serious grip. Small plastic nubs along the sole provide ideal points of contact along the outer edges of the heel and through the toebox. The small lugs almost feel as though you’re standing on mini stilts. The Air VaporMax feels almost sticky when gripping pavement, though there is understandably less traction on looser surfaces such as gravel.

Technically speaking

Nike VaporMax
Photo: Adam Wojtkowiak.

The Nike VaporMax features many of the sportswear brand’s notable technology including Flyknit, Air cushioning, a secure lacing system and a lightweight feel. The shoe combines the best of the best when it comes to the latest innovation, minus the cushioning system found on the more familiar footwear lines from Nike, like the Pegasus, the Vomero or the Structure.

The cushioning setup works in a way that the air pockets are strategically placed on the sole at pressure points. Gaps between the pockets allow for proper landing and takeoff, and for runners concerned with heel support if they’re heel strikers, the thickest pocket of air is located at the back.

Available: out now (March 26, 2017 release)

Price: $255

Weight: Men’s size 8 weight: 255 g (9 oz.); Women’s size 5.5 weight: 207 g (7.3 oz.)

Offset: 10 mm

With 200,000 test kilometres, the shoe has been refined over and over so you know you’re getting the best possible version of the VaporMax. Canadian Running tested the shoes in conditions around 0 C, pretty typical in late winter and early spring. That said, it’s unknown whether the air pods will retain the same kind of feeling in extreme temperatures that much of Canada experiences in the deepest stages of winter. So far, the air pods have been quite durable, with a bit of wear on the plastic lugs. We’ve noted that the nubs will likely wear before the pockets themselves.

Retailing for $255, the VaporMax is pricier than many other lightweight trainer’s of the industry’s leading brands but it’s also the first of its kind on the market so it comes with a cost.

What we liked and who this shoe works for

Nike VaporMax
Photo: Adam Wojtkowiak.

The Air VaporMax provides a unique feel that a number of the runners on the masthead have never experienced simply because there is no foam mid-sole. The VaporMax is suited for runners who enjoy a stiffer ride and who are willing to get in some kilometres to break it in. Those looking for a stiff, structured heel may be better off in another pair of Nike’s neutral-cushioned footwear, perhaps the Pegasus, as the VaporMax has a stretch material around the heel instead of a plate.

Because there is no pronation control, the VaporMax is tailored to a runner who pronates regularly. (That is, the amount your foot rolls inwards upon impact.)

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, or want a solid all-around shoe for less intensive mileage, the VaporMax may fit well into the shoe closet, even more so if you have a flexible budget. Note that the shoe fits narrow, especially around the toebox, so take that into account if ordering online. Alternatively, visit a local run shop to make sure the shoe fits as advertised.