Running Tips

I Ran My Fastest 5K *Ever* in Nike’s Newest Sneaker

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Photo: Getty Images/2CeWF4
This summer I took on a challenge—more specifically, a Nike challenge. The goal? To run your fastest 5K in a speedy new sneaker, the latest version to come from the brand's Next% family. When the brand's invitation e-mail popped up in my inbox, I was immediately transported back to my high school days when I was a star lacrosse player. I was fast, but was also riddled with anxiety, so the timed miles and 5K runs would cripple me because I could barely handle the pressure. So 16 years later when Nike asked me to participate in their run challenge, I had pause, but was also excited at the prospect of breaking my own record. Thoughts started flying through my mind. Could I do it? Could I run my fastest 5K? With the help of Nike running coach Jes Woods and my new Nike Air Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2 Sneakers ($250), the challenge was on.

The difference between running in my high school athlete days versus now is twofold. As a teen, I didn’t have the maturity and focus I do now, which I needed to really commit to training properly for this 5K run. Additionally, the technology and knowledge that goes into making running shoes has evolved since the early 2000s—The Vaporfly Next% series certainly didn’t exist then! With the tools all in my toolbox, so to speak, I had a month to prepare both physically and mentally. With a curated training plan in place, my new shoes, and a positive attitude it was off to the races (pun intended).

The Shoe

You know that expression “the wheels have come off the bus”? Well, that is exactly what happens when you’re running in the wrong shoe—the run falls apart. Luckily, I had the right shoe. This Vaporfly Next% 2 was born out of Nike's "Breaking2" attempt, in which runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier in a prototype of the Next%. The sneaker’s success kick-started the Nike Next% design project, which has spun off several iterations of the original shoe. The updated Next% 2 features a softer and more breathable design than the original version. Pockets and padding on the tongue have been added for a more comfortable fit, and forefoot reinforcement was added to help in high-wear striking areas. With all-around incredible improvements, this iteration of the sneaker is ideal for short and long road running distances.

Training in the Shoe

Training in the Next% 2 was a dream. There was no break-in period needed at all. I simply slipped into the shoe, laced up, and headed out for a run. My immediate impression was that they were comfortable, light, and very bouncy. I had extra spring in my step and my stride. The feature I liked most off the bat was the shoe's breathability: I was training in high heat, and the Next% allowed my foot to breathe with ease. Plus, its lightness allowed me to move swiftly through my timed miles.

Following a month of training—including tempo runs, speed training, and longer 6-to-10 mile runs—it was time to run the fast 5K. My first attempt was a bust, as my running app tracked all of .01 of distance. So, I reset and gave it a go a few days later. Strong, relaxed, and confident, I took off. My first mile was solid, but the next two proved to be even more so. At a sub-8-minute pace, I cruised into 3.1 miles with a smile on my face. The best part? My feet were perfectly supported. Was it my fastest 5K since high school? Sure was. For anyone looking to test a new sneaker for both short and long distances, this is one to try. Your fastest pace ever awaits.

Going on a run? Be sure to follow along with this stretch series after you've logged your miles.

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