Nike Continues Alphafly Next Racing Shoe Line With ‘Nature’ Version
Ever since Nike runner Eliud Kipchoge wore a prototype of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% racing shoe to break the two-hour marathon barrier in October 2019, Nike has gone all-in on the shoe's technology for elite runners.
With the first retail launch in 2020 and a number of models in the line, the latest version of the silhouette debuts as the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature, a style using the same technology seen throughout the evolution of the running sneaker but with a focus on removing waste from the Nike production process.
Elliott Heath, product manager for Nike Running, calls this iteration a "sustainable version of our pinnacle racing shoe."
The Nature version of the Alphafly still features the ZoomX midsole cushioning, Air Zoom pods, a carbon fiber plate and a lightweight upper, but does so with a heightened focus on recycled product and reducing waste. "We know if we can do it with our most pinnacle performance product so much is validated to bring that technology into the rest of the line," Heath says. "A huge component of sustainability is scale."
The first entry into the new way of marathon racing thinking started in January 2016 when Nike introduced the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% ahead of the trials for that year's Summer Olympics. The Zoom Vaporfly Elite came out as a concept in 2017 and then the Zoom Vaporfly 4% debuted in April 2017 at the Boston Marathon, offering the first commercial release in June of the same year.
Kipchoge then debuted the Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint at the London Marathon in April 2018 with the 3D upper. One year later, the ZoomX Vaporfly Next% offered an update before Kipchoge wore the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% in October 2019. The shoe launched to the public in 2020 and in 2021 the Vaporfly Next% 2 released.
Now comes the Nike Zoom Alphafly Next Nature. In the Nature, the ZoomX foam gets crafted by taking leftover pieces from other shoes and brining all the components together to achieve over 70% of the foam—measured by weight—crafted from recycled materials. The Zoom Air pods include recycled TPU, improving the efficiency for Nike production.
"It is waste that has so much potential function, so why not use it to actually make product," Heath says. "We are getting all those benefits while using product that was set to go to a landfill."
The carbon fiber Flyplate pieces for each shoe get cut from large sheets of carbon fiber. Those patterns create waste, so to improve production efficiency, Heath says they were able to "find a way to use leftover waste cutouts" to build additional plates with the same performance benefits.
The Alphafly Next Nature upper uses a 3D-printed Flyprint textile made with at least 20% recycled TPU and Nike Flyknit, made with at least 45% recycled polyester through a process that reduces waste compared to traditional upper fabrications. The sockliner is 100% recycled PEBA.
There's a slight addition of recycled material in the outsole as Nike Grind recycled rubber makes an appearance for about 10% of the outsole.
A focus on reuse and efficiency allowed Nike to make a new play on aesthetics too, embracing the raw materials in the look of the finished product. The woven labels and laces are fully recycled polyester and a no-sew film uses recycled TPU.
Rachel Bull, senior product designer, says the brand wanted to improve the use of recycled and waste product without losing the high level of performance the shoe is known for. In all, at least 50% of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature, by weight, is recycled content.