I’d like to submit an argument: the best new Nike sneaker of 2017 is not the Vapormax, it’s the Zoom Fly SP. 

While the Vapormax was the more heralded model, originally launching with a Comme des Garçons collaboration debuted in their CDG Paris SP17 runway show, the Zoom Fly SP was born out of sport - the way things used to be. Athletes had a need specific need, and a company built a product to address the issue. 

The predecessor to the Zoom Fly, by a few short months, was the Zoom Vaporfly 4%. First introduced to the public after it was worn by both the men’s and women’s 2017 Boston Marathon winners, the Vaporfly 4% intro'd the new, chunkier ZoomX midsole built for increased cushioning, along with a carbon plate that runs from heel to toe which intended to lessen the stress put on toes and calves while running. The Zoom Vaporfly Elite, with a more socklike, Flyknit upper and slightly different heel shape, is what Nike’s hand-chosen athletes wore in May of 2017 as they attempted to run a sub two hour marathon in Italy. The “Breaking2” pace runners in the Italy trial wore the Vaporfly 4%.

As in the automotive world, new sneaker technology first gets introduced in the high end models, then makes its way down to lower priced, consumer facing versions as the tech is refined and easier to reproduce. Enter the Zoom Fly SP - the first publicly available Nike silhouette to feature any of the technology used in the Vaporfly Elite, based on a prototype of the footwear eventually worn by the elite Breaking2 runners. The first release came with numerous references to the Breaking2 trial, including original designer sketches on the sock liner and other iconography. Subsequent releases include a Chicago edition released to coincide with the 2017 Chicago Marathon and a leaked but not yet available NYC version.

But beyond the running origins of the model, it’s the combination of other contemporary footwear references that make the Zoom Fly SP the 2017’s best nike model:

  1. The translucent upper on the Zoom Fly SP is not only lightweight and functional, it’s reminiscent of another CDG collab, this time the see-through Dunk Hi released earlier in 2017.
  2. The Zoom Fly SP’s thick, cushioned sole references what Balenciaga, Rick Owens for Adidas, Alexander McQueen, Acne Studios, and Raf Simons have done from a purely aesthetic POV while slimming down the profile to keep the shoes more wearable for an everyman than say, the Gucci Platform Aces.
  3. They’re fucking comfortable. Whether you’re team "athleisure is dead” or team “long live athleisure” part of the reason why shoes like Adidas’ Ultra Boost and NMD lines fly off the shelves is that they are comfortable on the first wear out of the box. Nike’s track record on this has not always been the best - the stiff-as-nails suede backing on the NikeLab Free Superfly Mercurial made this author’s heels bleed after ten minutes of wear - but with the Zoom Fly SP’s sole and incredibly light upper you can just throw them on and go all day.

And finally, if all the above wasn’t enough, he Zoom Fly SP also got the Virgil Abloh co-sign of approval as part of The Ten, a collaborative sneaker project with Nike releasing in fall 2017. For some reason a lot of the press out there refers to Virgil’s model as the Zoom Vaporfly, but Nike’s official press release confirms it’s the Zoom Fly SP, and the only other new models included in the release were the Vapormax and the 2017 React Hyperdunk. 

So, there’s the argument for the Zoom Fly SP as Nike best new shoe of 2017. And while there are still other sneakers using the technology developed for Breaking2 already released or set to release this year, the Zoom Fly SP is the best distillation of advanced technology, trends, hype and performance in Nike’s lineup today.