According to Nike, 81% of their current Nikecourt tennis roster wear the Vapor franchise. And since 2004 more than 10 million pairs have hit the courts around the world. So, when a new, lighter model with a larger, more aggressive foot frame is introduced, there’s going to be interest.
Of all the updates to the Vapor X, my instant favorite was the revamped Dynamic Fit. The lacing system did a seamless job of cinching the shoe tight around the midfoot, while still allowing some room for the forefoot to spread on contact. So many other models fall short in this regard, requiring skin-splitting pulls on the laces to find a locked-in fit, often resulting in a part of the foot getting overly squeezed. Not so here. You probably wouldn’t want to hang out in them after the match, but the Vapor X lived up to the billing of a glove-like fit.
The shoes also continue the line’s mission of being lightweight. My size 11.5s checked in at just 14.5 oz., and coupled with the snug fit resulted in fast-feeling, responsive movement. I felt like I had a good first step and could use sharp cuts to change directions easily and effectively. The TPU midfoot shank, which resembles a claw coming out of the outsole, did a nice job of providing stability and support. Zoom Air cushioning in the heel kept the profile low, which added to the quickness. However, the padding it and the Pylon midsole provided was moderate at best. While it could feel plusher, that’s the tradeoff for the impressive court connection.
To that end, it took a couple of sessions for my feet to feel at home in the Vapor X. The upper offered nice pliability, and the padded collar was comfortable around the ankle, but it felt rather firm underfoot to start. Given the weight, it’s probably a benefit not to be too cushy out of the box, as it wouldn’t be sturdy enough for aggressive play. And once the shoe molded to my foot after a short break-in, it was comfortable enough.
The generative design of the outsole strikes an interesting look. The zig-zag tread combined with nubs more in-line with turf shoes resulted in pretty dependable footing on both clay and hard courts. The perimeter of the outsole has added traction which proved helpful when sliding on the dirt. The 7.5mm wear shelf has thicker tread in higher wear areas for better durability, with rubber removed in low-wear areas to keep the weight off, while encouraging an even distribution of outsole deterioration.
Overall, the Air Zoom Vapor X proved to be a worthy option in the lightweight, high-performance category. It offers a snug, streamlined fit with minimal cushioning, that provides a somewhat hard ride to start, and not something you’ll reach for off the court. But if you put a premium on shoes that are super quick and responsive while still being highly supportive, the Vapor X has the goods.