Vapor X Review & Playtest Notes
To help gauge the performance of the Vapor X, I put the shoe through the paces, which I broke into three separate parts.
First, I started with a two-mile run to help gauge comfort and get a feel for the shoe’s weight. Second, I ran through a variety of footwork drills and agility training to flesh out stability and traction. Finally, I spent plenty of time hitting on the court to gauge overall performance.
Based on my experience across these three areas, I take notes and rank the performance to come up with an overall rating for the shoe.
Overall, I think the Air Zoom Vapor X is one of the better-looking shoes available to tennis players.
Nike further satisfies on the style front by offering one of the most extensive and appealing colorway selections to suit virtually any player’s taste.
Although I enjoy the Dynamic Fit lacing system, which allows you to achieve the optimal form-fitting comfort, I did find pulling the laces tight to be a little annoying at times.
The Vapor X doesn’t make use of traditional eyelets for lacing, and the edges of the material you pull the laces through aren’t rounded or smooth, so they’d stick a bit when pulling them through.
Beyond that, I did find that the tongue of the shoe would bunch up a bit when I first put the shoes on before lacing. With that in mind, I’d take extra care to make sure I pulled it flat from both sides before lacing the shoe tight to avoid any awkward pressure points.
Once the shoe is on, the lacing system is one of my favorites, and I’ve never experienced any issues.
To gauge the comfort of the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X, I kept a few different areas of evaluation in mind.
- Shock absorption
- Pressure points
My two-mile run with the Vapor X was insightful. To be clear, I’m not evaluating it as or comparing it to a running shoe. Instead, a two-mile jog helps me gauge the shoe’s comfort, especially when it comes to shock. With that said, I definitely don’t recommend tennis shoes for long-distance runs.
Overall, the shoe performed well, and it excels on heel strikes with the Zoom Air unit absorbing the majority of the impact. However, it’s far from plush and gives you a very responsive and connected feel, especially under the ball of your foot, where the midsole is thinner.
That feeling translated to the court, which helped give me a bit of extra confidence in my movement. With that said, if comfort is a top priority for you, then you’ll likely be disappointed by these shoes.
The Vapor X’s Dynamic Fit lacing system is one of my favorite parts about the shoe because it allows me to achieve the ideal fit so that it hugs my foot and keeps it securely in place.
No issues here – it’s excellent, and I never experienced any problems with my foot slipping forward or jamming of my toes when stopping abruptly.
Early in the playtest, I felt light pressure at the outside edge toward the back of my feet right below the swoosh. However, the feeling was short-lived as the shoe continued to break in.
It never presented any significant issues like a blister, so I feel confident in saying there is no major break-in required but felt it was worth noting.
Although the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X is one of the lighter weight high-performance tennis shoes out there, it doesn’t disappoint in the stability department in large part due to the lacing system and foot frame.
As I was moving through footwork drills on the ladder, the shoes held up well and offered terrific support for confident and precise movement. The same was true as I moved from side to side hitting groundstrokes, transitioning forward to the net, or backpedaling to track down a lob.
Upfront under the ball of your foot, the Vapor X offers plenty of width for a stable platform and excellent balance.
For maximum stability, I do recommend using the top eyelet, which will allow the laces to hug your ankle for a snug and supportive fit.
The traction offered by Nike’s extra-durable rubber (XDR) outsoles is excellent. The shoes are super grippy for confident movement around the court, and I didn’t have any issues with quick starts or controlled stops.
Although the outsole provides excellent traction, its durability isn’t a strength, and as most who have used prior generations can attest to, never has been when it comes to the Air Zoom Vapor line.
To be fair, I do believe Nike has made some improvements compared to the Vapor 9.5 with more intelligent placement of thicker tread in areas of high wear. However, despite those changes, the outsole is still relatively thin, so the lifespan of the shoes tends to be shorter than others.
Another common area of wear for players tends to be the toe of a shoe. Unfortunately, the Air Zoom Vapor X leaves plenty to be desired without any significant protection higher up at the front of the shoe except for a thing toe cap to cover the more delicate mesh in that area.
Last but not least, the front section of the shoe’s upper, including the vamp, doesn’t offer much protection from abrasion.
If you spring for the Vapor X, don’t expect long-lasting durability.
Although there are lighter-weight tennis shoes on the market, the Vapor X strikes an ideal balance between the weight and other essential features such as stability and comfort.
As I put some work in on the ladder moving through footwork drills, they felt fast, which, combined with their low profile design, is ideal for rapid and more technical movements.
However, part of how the Vapor X achieves its lower weight is by shedding protective material that other shoes on the market offer. The result is a tradeoff between weight and durability that’s important to recognize before buying them.
The Nike Air Zoom Vapor X offers best in class ventilation with wide-open mesh and little protective material on top to prevent heat from escaping.
On a windy day, you can easily feel the breeze enter the shoe, which helps keep your feet dry and comfortable.
However, it’s yet again another tradeoff you’ll make in that you’re not going to get significant durability in the shoe’s upper.