Other premium neutral cushioning shoes
|Brand||Model name||Cushioning||Reviewed||Buy (US)|
|adidas||Energy Boost 3||Very soft||No||Amazon|
|Asics||Gel Nimbus 18||Soft||Yes||Amazon|
|Hoka||Bondi 4||Very soft||Yes||Amazon|
|New Balance||Fresh Foam 1080 V6||Firm-soft||No||Amazon|
|Saucony||Triumph ISO 2||Firm-soft||Yes||Amazon|
Color: Blue Lagoon/Brigade Blue/Volt/Reflective silver
Nike's marketing pitch: Pushing cushioning faster, the feeling feet dream about.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 22° C/71° F
Upper: Soft engineered mesh, laminated eyestay and logo, Flywire cord based lacing. Full internal sleeve.
Midsole: Dual density foam - EVA under heel and midfoot, with Lunarlon upper layer. Front and rear Zoom Air bag inserts. Est. 12 mm drop.
Outsole: Softer blown rubber in forefoot, harder carbon rubber under heel and midfoot.
Weight: 318 gms/ 11.2 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: Regular (reviewed), and Extra Wide.
Without exception, every brand or a shoe series has that product (or an event) which helped it achieve escape velocity; the massive push which speeds up the journey from esoteric adoption to mainstream acceptance.
For Skechers, it would be Meb’s endorsement and the improved GoRun’s. For Hoka, the Clifton seems like the suitable catalyst. And while everything seems to make sense in hindsight, we think the Speedform Gemini to be a pivotal product in the evolution of UnderArmour’s running division. And in recent times, the Energy Boost did a great deal to lift adidas’s fortunes.
When you look past at all the Nike Vomeros from version 1 to 9, it is easy to spot the tipping point. Some might disagree, but we strongly believe that this particular shoe series peaked with the 2008 Vomero 3. It was sinfully luxurious; it was obvious that Nike designers/product managers/developers had a carte blanche on this model from the powers that be. They chose nothing but the best materials and technologies (at the time) to go with this shoe.
Solereview was just starting out back then, and we wrote the Vomero 3 review in our third month of existence. We were amazed that a shoe could be so comfortable and feel efficient at the same time, and our resulting review sounded extremely fanboy-ish – because that’s exactly what we were of the Vomero.
Apart from the Vomero, the Nike Skylon was one of our other favorite shoes at the time. Scratch that – in those days, there was unapologetic, wide eyed gushing in each and every one of our reviews. Ah, how times have changed.
The Vomero 4 and 5 were also meaningful updates, but from version 6, things really started going downhill. The 7, 8, and 9 were half-hearted attempts as far as design updates were concerned.
None of these shoes were particularly bad, and would have worked for many seeking a cushioned shoe to run in – at a basic, functional level, there was nothing wrong with them. But these models lacked a clear point of view which separates an average shoe from a great one. The once stellar Vomero lay dormant in a hibernation of mediocrity.
Finally, the dark clouds have parted and the sun shines once again . If the Vomero 3 was the tipping point for the well known franchise, the new Vomero 10 is its spiritual equivalent in 2015. The V10 discards the attitudinal apathy of the past few years, and is clearly a result of a product creation process in which every detail has been clearly thought out. This is a much polished product with few rough edges to speak of, and like the 3rd edition, melds the best of what’s currently available in Nike’s arsenal.
We also have to keep in mind that the Vomero 10 exists in a different time and place than 2008, and hence caters to a changed consumer mindset. For example, it does not have the plushy softness of the V3, nor does it use a soft cocoon of thick spacer mesh to wrap your foot. And few talked about forefoot striking compatibility in 2008, but in 2015 that is commonplace discussion, and hence becomes a performance expectation. Also, today a firm ride is as desirable a design trait as midsole softness is. And excess shoe weight is now a cardinal sin.
The Vomero 10 is a product born out of this contemporary context, and successfully achieves a great balance of attributes. Cushioning without the sink? Check. Lightweight? Check, lesser bulk than the Vomero 9. Spacious upper fit with no quirky spots? Check. Competitive pricing? Check, undercuts other brands by around a tenner, though the 2015 price is $10 above the Vomero 9.
There are a raft of updates on the new model, and given their magnitude, the wise thing to do here would be to first deconstruct the upper and midsole/outsole changes, and then follow it up with a summary on the quality of upper fit and ride behavior.
A cursory glance at the new upper, and it is clear that Nike has completely discarded the older Vomero template. Instead, it is redesigned from scratch as was the Pegasus 31 and Structure 18, and aligns with the new, holistic design theme. Which is basically a shift to the use of a single piece upper made by combining engineered mesh and internal sleeving, with Flywire cords snaking up the sides.
The Vomero 10 might look identical in most part to the Structure 18, but there are significant differences. First of all, while both models use a fabric composite which Nike calls the Flymesh, the execution differs across. At a fundamental level, both the shoes have two mesh layers. On top is the 2-in-1 Flymesh which combines two meshes together; they are separate mesh layers in some areas while bonded together in most places.
In the forefoot, the Vomero 10’s Flymesh splits itself into two distinct layers, as opposed to the Structure 18’s unified construction.
Try separating the forefoot mesh with your finger tips, and you will be able to feel three layers – two of the Flymesh, and one which forms the internal sleeving.
In many of their recent models, Nike uses an invisible toe stiffener underneath a bumper, a component which creates space around the tip. The Pegasus 31 also used this, but the toe bumper was rather shallow, pressing down on the big toe.
The Structure 18 and Vomero 10 also has this, but this is where the Vomero 10 sets itself apart. If you were to gently fold the Flymesh over the toe-puff below, you can see a faint outline of what’s underneath.
Do the same thing with the Structure 18 and Pegasus 31, and you are sure to notice that the Vomero 10 uses a higher toe-stiffener which not only is larger, but comes with a more assertive molding line around the tip. This creates a higher canopy of sorts around the toes, as you in see the picture above.
The cord based Flywire lacing is standard fitment on most current generation Nike models, and the Vomero also gets its fair share. Four columns on either side to be exact, with the last two eyelets near the heel kept free.
In the interest of weight saving and conformity to the minimal design overtone, the eyelet holes are punched straight into the Flymesh upper, and backed up inside with a reinforcing eye stay panel so that you don’t tear the upper over time. There is also a laminated film on top to prevent the mesh from fraying.
When compared to the Vomero 9, the Flywire lacing design and placement comes significantly modified.
The Vomero 10’s Flywire now comes with double looping – two cords of Flywire forming a loop – instead of single cord design of the V-9. This update makes a fit difference, and we’ll delve into the details of that shortly.
Internal sleeving has been infused into many recent Nike shoes, and is always a welcome addition which improves the general quality of fit. The Vomero 10 goes from a non-sleeved upper (Vomero 9) to a full bootie construction for this year.
The inner sleeving forms the second (or third, if it’s the forefoot) layer of mesh, and is sandwiched with some foam padding. The sleeve is flat locked stitched to the tongue and heel lining, so no irritating seams to worry about.
Tongue design is minimal, and uses the Flymesh on top (the bonded version, not dual layered) and another fabric as its lining – similar to what’s on the collar, but not the same – the one used on the collar is softer.
Coming to think of it, the tongue is identical to what the Structure 18 employs on its upper.
One of the things we remember from the Vomero 3 was how plush its mesh package felt, of which the collar lining was a part. Nike has wisely chosen to keep using the same mesh over all these years, with many of their more expensive models featuring it.
The Nike Flyknit Lunar 3 had it, and so does the 2015 Vomero 10. That soft touch mesh is backed inside with a reasonable level of foam volume.
We’ve placed the Vomero 9 and 10 side by side from a heel vantage point, and visually the Vomero 9 appears to have a shorter heel back height. You’d be partially right in thinking so, because externally, the upper height is lower than the Vomero 10 by around 4 mm – an effect of raised midsole cupping. But that does not count; what actually does is the actual back height when measured from inside the shoe.
Place a ruler upright inside the heel, and the finding is the opposite of what you might expect. The Vomero 9 has a deeper heel area than the V-10, its collar edges rising around 3 mm higher than the 2015 Vomero.
Not only that, there are a couple of additional design differences. First, the upper heel portion of the Vomero 10 is much softer than the 9, and two, the V-10 counter molding has a wider splay/width than the 9.
The reason behind this is a higher internal heel stiffener of the Vomero 9, combined with the use of firmer upper materials.
The Vomero 10 has a slightly lower heel counter inside, and the mesh around the Achilles is much softer, making the entire area more malleable.
This also means that the reflective inserts on back heel have been displaced, appearing instead on the side Swooshes. Both the lateral and medial logos are reflective, in line with Nike is doing with most of their shoes.
We’re reviewing the Blue Lagoon Vomero color, and this edition comes with a few aesthetic differences.
This appears to be a special ‘Track and field/Competitor’ color combination, and it comes with flat multi colored laces instead of round ones; the tongue label says ’T&F’ and the lace aglets scream ‘competitor’. The reflective swooshes here don’t have a border, and is one solid graphic. And we actually prefer flat laces over round ones, it just makes the shoe look a tad more sophisticated.
Go down to the midsole and outsole, and the updates are huge. The Vomero 10 drops the long continuing tradition of marrying Cushlon EVA and Zoom Air bags; it instead opts for a mix of Lunarlon foam, EVA and Zoom Air. So this marks two important events of design change.
One, that dual density makes a comeback on the Vomero after four long years, and two, according to Nike, this is the first instance of Lunarlon and Zoom Air pairing up.
This signals the end of Lunarlon’s otherwise solo act, and as the Vomero 10 attests, it turned out to be a good thing. In a way, this is a validation of sorts, and perhaps the future shape of things to come?
The new midsole is topped off with a molded insole, which arrives with similar aesthetics, yet with three areas of change. The zoomed up picture above shows the cross section of the Vomero 10 sockliner.
If you don’t think something’s amiss, then you need to compare it with the Vomero 9 insole. This year, the insole is single density Ortholite, whereas the previous version was made of two-density foam.
The Vomero 10 insole uses a more resilient foam, in comparison to the sandwich like structure of ‘soft on top, firm below’ design of the Vomero 9 component. It is fitting that Nike chose to redo the text call-outs on the insole top. While the earlier footbed said ‘Fitsole 3’ sub-titled with ‘fit+cushioning+support’, the Vomero 10 just says ‘Running’ with a description of ‘Neutral Ride/Responsive’.
Third in the list of insole changes is the revised under-arch flare. The older insole had a much more prominent flare all around the heel and midfoot, including the arch area. On the Vomero 10, the edges don’t rise up as much and is relatively tapered off.
Zoom air bags are popped in the rear and front, as the case always been. There’s also a now familiar cellulose board over the heel Zoom (a trend started from V-7), while the forefoot Zoom lies directly under the foam lasting.
Zoom air, if you’re new to Nike, is a slim, air filled Urethane chamber with a drop stitch design. Numerous fibre strands connect the top and bottom urethane sheet, helping the structure retain its shape.
We’ve dissected the Zoom Air bags and board lasting in our other reviews, and here’s a picture. The Vomero 10 uses similar Air bags and placement.
The pièce de résistance of the Vomero 10 is the Lunarlon foam-bed, and in this case a full heel-to-toe length piece interlocked with a EVA wedge.
The white EVA provides the base under the heel and midfoot, and is firmer than the Lunarlon assembly atop it.
While the heel and midfoot midsole cushioning is delivered by the combination of Lunarlon, EVA, and Zoom, forefoot has only the Zoom and softer Lunarlon as midsole material.
We must underscore that the area over the Zoom Air bag has only the thin lasting and not the midsole foam. Here’s (image above) taking a quick look at the exploded view of components – this is from Nike’s website, and shows how the components stack up. The Air bags are popped in their cavities above the midsole.
The Vomero 10 refreshes its outsole design from an articulated one to something more cohesive. Until this point, the Vomero outsole featured a combination of softer blown rubber (Nike Duralon) under the forefoot and harder carbon rubber in the heel, with scores of small waffle lugs in the front with split rubber pieces in the rear.
All that is left behind, as the Vomero 10 uses larger slabs of blown rubber upfront, and a twin set of parallel rubber strips running under the midfoot and heel.
This means that the segmented crash pad of years past has disappeared, replaced by this unbroken rubber underside which Nike calls the ‘crash rail’. If you read our Pegasus 31 review, you’d know that this design element debuted on the refreshed Pegasus last year.
Nike maintains the transition groove from the Vomero, the area right under the heel center. Only this time, it is a little deeper, and the blue color you see is the Lunarlon interlocking with the EVA base. Also have to add that the medial side plastic shank from the Vomero 9 is also history, and now the outsole goes truly full contact, filling out the undersides of the midfoot.
If you are a solereview regular, you know that we call out a shoe’s shoddy fit and finish if that happens to be the case. Even in our Vomero 9 review, we pointed out the excess glue stains between the upper and the midsole. We’ve always maintained that this can be controlled, provided people work hard supervising factory lines.
And why are we bringing this up? Because our pair of Vomero 10 validates what we’ve always been saying. That a shoe can have a superior quality of fit and finish with that extra push, and a commercial product from a major brand should not only feel and fit great, but also put together in the same spirit.
The finishing on the new Vomero 10 is superb and a thing of joy for a shoe reviewer. The joint lines between the midsole and outsole are flawless in execution; even with a difficult upper (to clean up glue stains), there is no visible residue between the Lunarlon edge and the fabric.
Even the symmetry of assembly across the right and left pair – the standard which dictates that corresponding upper components on both shoes should match up perfectly – is also an area where the Vomero 10 scores a, well, perfect 10.
If the adidas Tempo 7 Boost represented the lowest end of the assembly quality spectrum, the Vomero is the one you find when you move the slider all the way to high. We have to give credit where it is due, and the Vomero 10 is truly deserving of this rare compliment.
So in essence, that was the long and short of the Vomero 10’s new design. What about the fit and ride?
Historically, Nike fit quality has always been a bit quirky. We mean, sometimes too loose or tight in one place, or loose overall. Few of the pre-2015 shoes have managed to stay in the goldilocks zone of upper fit, a utopian world where interior space and level of snugness are happy roommates. Even the much liked Pegasus 31 had a shallow toe bumper.
Nike is genuinely attempting to get rid of their fit idiosyncrasy, as evident in the recent slew of releases. We wouldn’t have said that if our impression was based on just one shoe. The fit updates on the 2015 Flyknit Lunar, Free 5.0, both the 3.0 and 4.0 Flyknits hint that a concerted effort is being made to bring about upper fit transformation.
And of course, that transformational mindset has obviously been applied on the Vomero 10 too. The upper fit feels much better than the Vomero 9, in more ways than one. For starters, the forefoot fits so much better.
The raised profile of the internal bumper and the absence of synthetic overlay produces a higher toe box, with ample space around the big and small toes. The forefoot sides fit smoother, and gets rid of the slight Vomero 9 pressure point over the small toe. That is also attributed to the lack of synthetic overlays, a factor which helps create splay room for the foot.
We’re not saying the forefoot is loose. Rather, it is a good balance, where comfortable snugness comes from the inner sleeve, and relative freedom of movement comes from the material properties of the Flymesh upper. The lacing has also inched forward by around 5 mm compared to the Vomero 9, which has the mesh sitting flush over the foot. Good thing, that.
Many would have noticed that Nike has started offering widths in standard colors of the Vomero 10 and Pegasus 32. If you remember, a wide fit was previously limited to special Nike ID make-ups which came at an upcharge, and that too was available only if you lived in the continental United States or UK. Hence the move towards offering the option of widths is definitely an improvement, and by the looks of it, other Nike models will soon (hopefully) jump on this train.
Fit in the midfoot is excellent. Mainly because of A) there is an inner sleeve, and B) because the Flywire is now double looped. The inner sleeve instantly brings about a consistency of fit hitherto missing in Vomero versions 7~9. The interiors are smooth too, as any joints are merely flat-lock seamed and devoid of any materials which might feel invasive.
Secondly, the double loop design of the Flywire helps spread pressure over a broader area, relative to the straining sensation from the single cord Flywire design (Vomero 9). So finally, the cord based Flywire lacing system is growing on us, as it eliminates most of its sore points. This is new on the Vomero 10; even its closest design relative, the Structure 18, had only single threads of Flywire.
If anything, the tongue could do with a wee bit more foam padding. Not that we want the tongue to be super plush; that would look and feel out of place on the upper design. Right now, the need of the hour is increased insulation from top down pressure, particularly when used with round laces.
On the plus side, the longer tongue allows the last row of lacing to be placed atop with plenty of margin to spare. Chances are, you will heel lock the Vomero with the last row of eyelets, because the Vomero has an Achilles heel, and quite literally so.
The collar area feels very plush around the foot, roger that. But with a shallower back height and wider splaying, the heel grip around the foot isn’t as confidence inspiring. In fact, coming from the aggressive heel vice of the Vomero 9, the Vomero 10 is a sensory letdown. However, we did not experience actual slippage, only the illusion of heel looseness.
Design features of a shoe can have a sensory or functional outcome, and in some cases both. Like how certain people look for higher under-arch support, though speaking of functional benefits it might not amount to much. Same goes for elements like harder medial posts or plastic midfoot shanks, both of which might or might not be of any use.
The fact is, in running shoes placebo effects seem to matter as much as unseen functional ones, and in this aspect the Vomero 10’s collar could be seen in a negative light. Not actual slippage, but it feels loose. Of course, a quick medicine for this is to use the last eyelet row with heel lock lacing, but we were talking like-to-like with the Vomero 9.
On the other hand, one could argue the other side of the situation. That the Vomero 10 has a much softer Achilles dip and is much more easygoing, so how does that become a negative? One person’s meat is another’s poison, and this is why running shoes rarely get an unanimous perspective, if ever at all.
The heel discussion aside, the Vomero 10 upper is a tremendous improvement overall. The Flymesh has noticeable squish, the insides are roomy and yet manages a superlative level of forefoot and midfoot grip in its standard D width. This minimal approach to upper design has yielded fruit with regards to weight savings; the Vomero 10 weights 312 gms /11.2 Oz, which is 19 gms/0.7 oz lighter than the 2014 vedition. The Vomero 10 upper is also such which can be worn fresh out of the box, zero break-in period required.
As far as the midsole ride is concerned, we’ll be quick in pointing out two key differences between the Vomero 9 and 10. Even if you don’t care about the Vomero 9’s ride, this will help set the context for how the Vomero 10 feels during motion.
Firstly, the Vomero 10 feels softer on the upper part of the midsole and firmer below. This is the reverse of how the V-9 felt, with a firmer top and a softer base. Secondly, the Vomero 10 forefoot cushioning is softer than the heel. This is a rare, rare trait.
Because just by virtue of tapering stack height – the heel being thicker than forefoot in most shoes – the front should logically be firmer than the back. But there’s a good reason why this happens on the Vomero 10, an area which we will be very happy to explain.
Fundamentally, four things work together to influence running shoe cushioning. The insole or the footbed quality is one. The midsole or outsole material density is another. The presence or lack of an embedded cushioning (and its size) is the third factor.
The last, and the often overlooked, is the outsole design. A outsole layout split into smaller pieces tend to deliver greater softness than an outsole with larger pieces.
There is no better way than to compare Vomero 10’s forefoot and heel outsole design to illustrate how these factors combine forces. The Vomero 10 heel uses a firmer board over the Zoom bag, has a firmer EVA layer beneath the Lunarlon, and the heel outsole is neither soft like the forefoot Duralon nor is it split up into larger pieces.
So when you combine the softness of the all-Lunarlon midsole with articulated blown rubber, and the unfettered Zoom Air bag topped with a thick insole, you end up with a forefoot which is softer and more responsive than the heel.
The flexibility of the V-10 is lower than Vomero 9 due to changed forefoot design, and that is something which can be an advantage (we think it is) or a perceived drawback, depending on what you seek.
This has the Vomero 10 catering to the needs of a forefoot striker as much as it panders rearfoot landers, and that is a rare feat to accomplish in cushioning terms. Forefoot Zoom is also more accessible, as nothing except for the insole and foam lasting separates it from the foot. Encapsulated Zoom Air bags used in the Vomero are huge, and hence effective. This is no Asics Gel.
If the upper fit was a pleasing balance of lockdown and comfort, the Vomero 10 ride has the right mix of cushioning softness and responsive behavior. The Vomero 10 is soft, but without the compromise of a sink-in effect which can bog you down. This is a shoe to do long runs minus the cushioning inertia and the threat to cadence. This is no speedster, but far from marshmallow kingdom. Nike marketing graphics show a Vomero bursting through a down pillow, but that’s not an accurate imagery of what the Vomero 10 is. It is rather, the equivalent of a finely tuned spring mattress, if you were to use a bedding metaphor.
An important thing to keep in mind is that the Vomero 10 might not feel as cushioned when just walking around. It is only during runs that the Zoom Air bags get compressed, the under heel groove splay out, and the more resilient insole foam starts working the way it should. You can make far better (initial) sense of the shoe if you get a chance to briefly run on the treadmill in your local sporting goods store.
Ok, for some reason, let’s say you don’t want to buy the Vomero, and want something which rides similar. What would be the closest alternative? The Nimbus 17? No, too soft – now that one is a pillow. The Energy Boost? No, because the heel is very cushioned while the forefoot is not. The adidas Glide Boost? No, similar to the EB-2 in cushioning distribution.
The New Balance 1080 V5? Now we’re getting somewhere. The 1080 is similar to the Vomero 10 in the way that both the heel and forefoot are responsive. But that’s pretty much where the common trait(s) ends.
The heel is more cushioned than the forefoot, and the upper, while it fits very well, does not feel as comfortable as the Vomero 10. The most telling difference is the quality of transition, an area where the 1080 really lags behind the Vomero 10.
If you look at the Vomero 10 outsole, there are quite a few things which benefit transition (to be clear, we’re talking heel to toe). The twin sets of ‘crash rails’ strips create an unbroken base of rubber for a progressive weight transfer, and the beveled heel helps ease heel strikes. The full contact outsole and transition groove does the rest.
What of the Pegasus 31? How does it compare? The heel cushioning is a close match owing to similar construction, except that the Vomero 10 is softer. Forefoot cushioning is firmer on the Peg, and the upper fit shallower.
That was the cushioning comparison with the Pegasus 31, but we haven’t covered the stability part of the story. The Pegasus 31 has a deep side groove on lateral midsole which gives it a bias. The Vomero 10 does not have that design feature, and hence is more supportive/neutral than both the Pegasus and the Vomero 9. The latter also had lateral compression grooves, a la Pegasus 30.
Today’s collective revamp of Nike’s core running models is so much better than the situation of just a few years past. A forgettable era when a disjointed mish-mash of shoe models somehow clumped together as an assortment, where each shoe tried to win as an individual product, and not as cohesive units communicating a uniform aesthetic and performance message.
Nike, it must feel so good to be back in the game. And here’s a tip, for whatever you think it is worth: stop calling the Air Max 2015 as a performance running shoe with ‘plenty of soft, flexible cushioning’; that plug is right up there with adidas claiming its Springblade will ‘propel runners forward with the most efficient energy return system’ or whatever glib phrases their copywriter came up with.
The new Vomero 10 runs rings around the Air Max, and then some.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price.)
Looking to upgrade your older Nike Air Zoom Vomero 9 to the latest version, but not sure how the 2015 model compares? We can help here. The following infographic is a ready-reckoner for what changes you might expect in the new model vs. old. To make this more fun, we’ve put in a system of percentage match, which calculates a weighted average for a set of attributes.
A higher or lower match percentage is neither good or bad. The % number just tells you how similar or distanced the new shoe is from the previous version. Total match % is a result of weighted averages.