Just in time for spring, Nike has dropped the second Vapor of the year.
Keen eyed observers will have noticed pros on both the WTA and ATP tours wearing these court shoes for months, but now it’s your turn to step out onto the court in the new NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor Pro! The Vapor Pro is the direct successor to the outgoing Nike Air Zoom Vapor X.
Two big things have changed with this NikeCourt Shoe
First, the NikeCourt Vapor Pro marks a clear separation from the Roger Federer influence over the Vapor line. This is the first time since the release of the Air Zoom Vapor 9 in 2012 (a collaboration between two G.O.A.T.s of their respective fields—Roger Federer and Tinker Hatfield), that we see a Vapor designed without the Federer influence. Federer, now sporting a bespoke pair of ON tennis shoes due to his investment in the company, will no doubt have a large influence over the future of their foray into the tennis performance footwear market. Consequently, his separation with Nike has me excited with the new direction the Vapor line will take, as Nike looks to adapt to the needs of new generation of players.
Second, Nike’s new tour level shoe has seen a substantial price DECREASE! Now bearing a retail price of $159.98 compared to the outgoing Vapor X price of $194.98, I’m glad to see Nike actually drop the price point of this shoe while still offering great quality. Nike decided to reuse the midsole tooling and outsole from the Vapor X. These two parts of the shoe are actually the most expensive components to manufacture. That is why you’ll often see brands carry over these two components across different versions while tweaking the upper.
Fit: The NikeCourt Vapor Runs True to Size
In terms of length, I would say the Vapor Pro runs true to size. While fitting a hair longer than the outgoing Vapor X, I wouldn’t say the difference in the length is enough to warrant going down a half size.
Width wise, the Vapor Pro does not feel radically different to the Vapor X. It did however feel slightly narrower and less forgiving on first try-on. The reinforced toe and medial side guard as well as the exaggerated lateral wings (borrowed from the NikeCourt Vapor Cage 4 and React Vapor NXT) have a lot to do with this. These are two parts of the shoe that did require a break in period to mold to my foot shape. After several hits, I found the shape of the forefoot to have molded but it is definitely still stiffer than the Vapor X.
As with any type of footwear, fit is the single most important aspect affecting both comfort and performance. Getting the right fit is critical, and as always we at Rackets & Runners are always here to help.
Vapor Pro’s Upper Construction has Changed
Nike has not changed the last (the foot mold around which a shoe is shaped) of the Vapor Pro compared to the Vapor X. However, changes to the upper construction and materials have resulted in an overall change in the shape of the shoe. This is where the shift away from the “Federercentric” design is most notable.
This court shoe is all about increasing lockdown and responsiveness, while simultaneously shedding weight. The Vapor Pro is lighter than the Vapor X and much of that weight seems to have been taken from the upper. The upper now features a very thin and airy two-layer construction. The layer that sits directly on top of your foot is a neoprene bootie replacing the traditional padded tongue. This construction has been previously used on several other recent Nike models like the React Vapor NXT, Vapor X Knit, Vapor Cage 4, and Zoom Zero. While the bootie construction does a create job in creating a seamless transition from upper to foot, I do prefer a more traditional padded tongue to protect the top of my foot from lace bite when cinching down on the laces.
On top of that sits a thin yet durable looking mesh. This layer is kept fairly open for breathability, while being reinforced in key areas with a thin layer of silicone for added structure. Gone is the dynamic fit lacing system introduced in the Air Zoom Vapor Tour 9. It is replaced by a semi asymmetric lacing system designed to increase lockdown for lateral cuts, as well as providing more protection for the aggressive hardcourt sliders.
Low to the Ground Court Feel with the Midsole of the Vapor Pro
Much of the midsole tooling is carried over from the Vapor X. You get the same low to the ground court feel and same responsive cushioning from the Zoom Air bag in the heel. The change to the midsole comes in the form of the plastic lateral wings that work their way onto the upper of the shoe. This resulted in more stability and prevented any roll over when moving aggressively laterally. I was a big fan of the performance aspect of this design. I liked it on the Vapor Cage 4 and the Vapor NXT, and I like it on this shoe. However, one thing I will say is that this feature does sacrifice some comfort in order to gain the more responsive fit and feel.
Outsole Of the Vapor Pro Remains Unchanged
The outsole on the Vapor Pro is completely unchanged from the previous Vapor X model. It features a modified herringbone pattern designed to give you multidirectional grip. This outsole is not the most durable, but no one should be getting the Vapor if durability is the most important factor. For aggressive movers, you will begin to notice wear after about 6 hours of court time. The same plastic midfoot shank is still present. It is there for added torsional stability. I experienced the same issue as I did with the Vapor X when sliding and catching the shank and slipping a bit. If this was not an issue for you on previous vapors or you don’t slide, then this is not something you will need to worry about.
My Verdict on the New Vapor Pro Court Shoe
Long time Vapor fans will finally feel like they have an update to step into after the introduction of the very different React Vapor NXT. While I would argue previous Vapors were more comfortable, from a pure performance point of view, the new Vapor Pro is a more responsive and faster feeling shoe on court and easily makes it way into my rotation.
Ultimately, players seeking a minimal, responsive, low to the ground shoe will have a tough time finding a better option on the market.