The Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% (we'll just call them Tempos) have record-breaking DNA.
Eliud Kipchoge ran his legendary sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna last fall wearing an early version of Nike's Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, a shoe with perhaps the most efficient execution of running's trendiest innovation — a carbon fiber plate built into the midsole — which aims to propel runners forward at unprecedented speeds.
Nike designed the Tempos to sprinkle a bit of the Alphafly's race-day prowess amongst hordes of runners who aren't trying to lay down the best race in history. They're still springy, but they offer more support and durability, so a $200 pair of sneakers isn't gassed after a few runs.
Ultimately the pitch is rather simple: Nike's fastest-ever running shoe, street-legalized for everyday use. Here's how they played out.
What We Like
There's a lot of tech in this shoe, but the headlining carbon composite plate — a less aggro version of the full carbon-fiber plate the Alphafly employs — does what it's meant to do. The shoes have bounce for days. They performed best for me in fast, medium-length runs, thanks in large part to the springy yet flexible plate.
The shoe's rather steep drop from forefoot to ground pushes you off your heels and into a quicker pace, too, which is helpful because, despite more support on the heel (versus the Alphafly) the Tempo is not the shoe for more leisurely jogs.
There are two versions of the Tempo, traditional lacing and FlyEase, Nike's accessibility-oriented innovation that enables getting in and out of the shoe with one hand. The existence of the latter left me thinking the former (the one I tested) would be a challenge to get and keep on my foot. I couldn't have been more wrong. I had zero issues slipping into it, lacing up and feeling comfortable and secure. (In retrospect, I believe the FlyEase is simply even more user-friendly.)
Watch Out For
Because of the way the steep forefoot drop, springboard of a midsole plate and welterweight heel cushioning play off each other, you're urged into faster runs. This is fine when you're up for it, but it proved a challenge for more meandering or long distance efforts. At or below my regular pace on runs longer than seven miles or so, I felt leg fatigue more acutely than in my normal running shoes (NB 1080v10s). This could be attributed to my legs adjusting to a slightly different gait, but after 70 or so miles I wouldn't expect it.
Lateral movement is not supported well at all. For me, this wasn't an issue — I'm typically jogging Charleston's very straight Ravenel Bridge — but was noticeable when coming back down into the city and heading to my apartment. The minimal support meant I eased up significantly on turns.
Price-based grievances feel cheap, but $180 for daily running shoes feels fairly rich for my blood, despite the Nike-only tech and pedigree.
There's a host of other plate-propelled shoes out there now, but runners looking for a fast pair of daily trainers around the same price can look to Hoka One One's Carbon X ($180), which offers a bit more support than the Tempos, and New Balance's FuelCell TC ($200), which sports a more durable build than its race-focused peers.
If you need a shoe to support consistent, fast-paced runs, I doubt there are options that perform to the standards set by Nike's Air Zoom Fly Tempo NEXT% shoe. If you catch yourself running on a slight decline you'll feel like you're wearing springboards on your feet. That said, if you're a less-than-elite runner pounding out 8-plus miles regularly or simply prefer a calmer pace, I'd look elsewhere. The shoe wants to go fast to the degree that it undercuts the middle bell curve of runs.