Nike shoes can be a bit of an adventure. From one model to the next, it can be tricky to know what to expect. Like an all-courter with every shot at his disposal, the shoe giant’s workshop is loaded with various technologies that can influence their products. My last three outings with their shoes all had completely different feels to them: The Vapor X was sleek and responsive; the Vapor Cage 4 was highly supportive and equally voluminous; and the GP Turbo was exceptionally cushioned, snug and no speed merchant.
So I approached my test of the recently released Vapor NXT with zero assumptions. And the shoe managed to surprise me right from the jump. Its signature technology is a Flyweave upper, a staple in the company’s running lines. Designed to stretch and adjust as it supports the foot during movement, the strong, airy material typically keeps the weight down in a shoe. Yet it’s of little help in that department—my size 11.5 checked in at 16.7 ounces. It wasn’t a brick on my foot once in motion, but certainly not a blur off the starting line. The NXT is a Vapor in name only; more sturdy and supportive than it is quick and responsive.
For instance, the upper is also reinforced on the medial side of the shoe through the toe box by a thick rubber guard, which enhances durability and stability and will be a big plus for toe draggers. However, all that material takes time to break it in. I could feel the rubber bending above my toes during my first few hours on court. It took a couple of sessions before it started flexing and conforming more with my foot.
The shoe's bootie construction offers a welcoming hug on the foot. The stretchy, aerated tongue is comfortable, but has limited padding; if you need to cinch up the laces tightly you may feel squeezing on the top of your foot. This is especially true if you have a high arch. And since there’s essentially only five eyelets, and I’ve got a somewhat narrow foot, I did need a tight closure. I typically wear a thick sock which did help minimize some of the pressure. It wasn’t unsteady, but I wouldn’t mind another eyelet to get a better fit. Even with the padded heel collar I wanted a little more security.
In the midsole, softer React Foam is placed around the arch for added cushioning on harsh landings. This is offset by a harder foam on the outside of the shoe for increased stability. The pairing is intended to create better court feel and push off. It didn’t have the lush padding and shock absorption of the GP Turbo, but the upshot was much better court connection. And in terms of taking the bite out of a hard stop, it did the job effectively enough.
The outsole has a unique interlocking, modified herringbone pattern. Nike has tapped into years of data collection to create a design that provides the right levels of grip and give. I’m not much of a slider on hard courts—and this is primarily a hard court shoe—but the shoe held the court well. No slippage, nor sticking. A hard plastic shank running from the heel up the lateral side aided in support and deterred ankle rolls.
Overall, the Vapor NXT should be a pretty dependable option for a strong, powerful mover. The type of player who likes to dictate from the baseline and wants plenty of traction and stability when incorporating lots of side to side movement. However, for quick transitions inside the court, or explosive footwork at net in doubles, it probably wouldn’t be my first choice. The shoe is substantial, but not a total clodhopper, with decent energy return and bounce into each step. Plus, it seems built to take a beating.
If it suits you, be sure to grab several pairs. Knowing Nike, if there’s another NXT, it could be a very different shoe.