Nike React Vapor NXT
In-depth Review & Playtest + Video
New for 2021, the React Vapor NXT is an entirely new offering from Nike that uses their high-performance React cushioning along with data-informed design for an intriguing release I’ve been eager to test.
Of course, despite what Nike claims, you can’t always believe the hype, so I’m doing a deep dive into the shoe’s fit, construction, and technologies in this guide so you know what to expect.
Having tested the Nike React Vapor NXT thoroughly, I’ll also share my thoughts and experience on the shoe’s performance to help you make a call on whether they’re worth considering.
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Video Review & Playtest
Unboxing & Initial Impressions
About the React Vapor NXT
Fit, Sizing, & Colorways
Review & Playtest
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Nike React Vapor NXT Video Review & Playtest
To help you get the most out of this review, I’ve also recorded an entire video for a more visual walkthrough. In it, you’ll get an up-close look at the shoe’s design and have the opportunity to see the shoe in action.
If you only have a few minutes, you can use the timestamps below to jump to a specific section of the video.
- 0:24 – Intro
- 0:37 – Weight, Sizing, & Fit
- 1:28 – Outsole
- 2:06 – Midsole
- 2:32 – Upper
- 3:09 – Playtest
- 3:45 – Style
- 4:29 – Lacing
- 5:03 – Comfort
- 5:46 – Stability
- 6:16 – Traction
- 6:32 – Durability
- 7:02 – Weight
- 7:34 – Ventilation
- 7:52 – Summary
- 8:18 – Wrapping Up
I created this article in conjunction with the video, so it pairs nicely and dives a bit deeper into some of the Nike React Vapor NXT’s nuances. Keep reading to learn more about what the shoe has to offer.
Nike React Vapor NXT Unboxing & Initial Impressions
For this review and playtest, I purchased the Nike React Vapor NXT in White, Hyper Crimson (orange), Volt (green), Black.
For your reference, I’m a US men’s size 10.5, and after trying on a few different pairs, I decided to stick with that size. Nike translates that size into the following:
- UK: 9.5
- BR: 42.5
- CM: 28.5
- EUR: 44.5
The shoes come in Nike’s standard bright orange or shoebox. On one side, you’ll find the sizing details, and then on the lid’s edge, Nike tags the box with their swoosh. You’ll also find the swoosh on the top of the box.
Immediately after opening the box, a few things stood out to me.
First, I like the colorway selection, and the shoe’s hyper crimson or bright orange panels pop as they do in the photos online. However, that rubber pannel is a bit chunkier than I would have expected. Although it’s excellent for protection, it adds quite a bit of weight.
Beyond that, I’m a fan of the Vapor NXT logo on the Flyweave upper. Nike uses the same treatment for the swoosh and “Engineered to the exact specifications of championship tennis players” statement, which you’ll find toward the back of the shoe on the inside edge toward the heel.
The Flyweave material is clean, and it’s a flexible material with some rigidity, but I thought it might pose some challenges with stability. As a result, I kept that point in mind throughout my testing.
Lastly, the shoes seem to make a point to emphasize the thick midsole that integrates React foam for cushioning along with the clear foot frame that wraps it for a somewhat aggressive style.
Overall, the shoes have a high-tech performance look, which seems fitting considering the shoe’s design considerations.
About the Nike React Vapor NXT
These days you’ll find technology weaving its way into the fabric of virtually every industry, including footwear.
Major tennis shoe brands like Nike are helping lead the charge, and the React Vapor NXT is an excellent example of how companies are using tech to optimize their products for optimal performance.
The Nike React Vapor NXT has a thick and durable rubber outsole at the bottom, which makes use of a non-traditional herringbone tread pattern that takes advantage of data-influenced generative design for optimal performance and traction.
The outsole wraps up the front providing a reasonably protective toe guard, and continues toward the medial or inside edge for additional protection. At the heel, the outsole offers soft or gradual edges for a natural heel-to-toe transition.
Finally, there’s a rigid midfoot shank to help reduce twisting and aid stability, especially during aggressive side-to-side movement.
At the midsole, you’ll find a generous mix of Nike’s React foam for responsive comfort, placed toward the arch of your foot, combined with a firmer foam toward the lateral or outside edge for stability and a more connected feel with the court.
You’ll also find a rigid semi-transparent plastic foot frame from the heel to the outside edge, along with some small fins upfront for added support and stability.
For the upper, you’ll find a thin and surprisingly stretchy bootie construction to provide a snug fit.
Nike constructs the outer layer with their Flyweave technology, which offers flexible support and ventilation.
A final thick plastic panel with the same pattern as the outsole wraps the front inside edge up through the toe for generous durability and abrasion resistance and a plush foam ankle collar toward the back helps keep your heel locked in place.
The React Vapor NXT comes with a no-frills insole. It’s on the thinner side and does provide a bit of extra cushion and moisture management, but players may want to consider swapping it for something more robust.
Variations of the Nike React Vapor NXT
At the time of writing this guide, the shoe has only been on the market for a few months, so there haven’t been any significant updates.
However, it is worth noting that the Nike React Vapor NXT is available for men and women, and a clay court model did release in Europe. As a result, there’s a decent chance a clay model will make its way to the US eventually, but it could be a while before that happens.
For now, players can enjoy the new colorways that Nike has released periodically over the last few months.
Fit, Sizing, & Colorways
The Nike React Vapor NXTs I purchased for my playtest weigh in at 16.2 ounces or 459 grams in a men’s size 10.5, which is on the heavier end of the spectrum for tennis shoes.
For context, here’s a table comparing the weight of some popular tennis shoes and how they compare.
The shoe runs true to size from a fit standpoint, and it has a medium width, which hugs your foot snugly while the arch is somewhat low, providing less than average support.
As far as break-in goes, I did find these shoes to be a bit stiff in their first few uses, so expect to give yourself a few hours on the court with them before taking them out for a heavy practice or match play.
Here’s a table outlining the fit and sizing for the React Vapor NXTs.
Top Players Endorsing
The Nike React Vapor NXT is a relatively new shoe, so it’s not surprising there aren’t many players endorsing the shoe yet.
However, with that said, Nike does have one strong sponsorship in the WTA with Aryna Sabalenka. From Belarus, Aryna is currently ranked #3 in singles and #4 in doubles when writing this guide.
Nike React Vapor NXT Review & Playtest Notes
To gain a comprehensive understanding of a shoe’s performance, I’ll test them in various situations to flesh out my thoughts and opinions.
For this playtest, I took the Nike React Vapor NXTs on a two-mile offroad run to gain a sense of comfort and the weight of the shoes. I also spent plenty of time running various agility and footwork drills to flesh out traction and stability.
Finally, I put in 8-10 hours hitting on the court over two weeks to gain a feel for their overall performance. All combined, I used my experience through these different scenarios as the basis for this review.
Below you’ll find my ratings for the Nike React Vapor NXTs across a standardized set of criteria that I use for all of my shoe reviews, as well as notes providing context for each.
When it comes to style, the React Vapor NXT is a bit of a mixed bag.
I like the portions of the Flyweave upper that give the shoe a clean performance-oriented look, but I struggle with the brightly colored, thick rubber protective material that wraps the inside up through the toe.
It’s not because of the color, but I feel Nike didn’t need to wrap so high up the forefoot, adding unnecessary weight and find it gives the shoe a slightly awkward, visually unbalanced look.
With that said, I’m not put off by the style and happily wear them without much thought, but I did feel the visual design was a bit of a miss. It’s worth noting they do offer an all-white and mostly black pair that reduces that contrast between panels for a more balanced look.
As far as lacing goes, it’s relatively smooth and easy.
The shoe offers a bootie construction, so I didn’t experience an awkward bunching under the laces, and I felt I could achieve a locked-in fit with the non-traditional lacing loops that run along the upper’s inside.
One thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that the material below the laces is relatively thin, so if you lace too tight, you’re going to feel it.
I didn’t find this a problem because even without laces, the shoes are relatively secure with the bootie construction, so a moderately snug lacing does the trick.
In terms of comfort, I was pleasantly surprised.
I was expecting a bit of a firmer ride, but the thick midsole and react foam do an excellent job absorbing shock at the heel, while the thinner sole at the forefoot keeps your foot closer to the ground for a responsive feel.
Regarding fit, the shoes were spot on and feel great. However, if you do have wider feet, then I’d expect that to present an issue.
It’s worth noting that early on, I did find the thick orange rubber proactive material on the inside or medial portion of the shoe to put a bit of pressure at the top of my foot as the shoe collapsed.
As they’ve broken in, it’s become less of an issue, but it’s good to be aware that may present slight discomfort early on in the first 10-20 hours of play, which is why I suggest giving them a break-in period.
As far as stability goes, the Nike React Vapor NXTs have room for improvement – primarily at the top of the foot around the ankle.
Generally, I found they offered slightly too much give for sharp lateral or side-to-side movements. They’re by no means poor, and outside of that, they were perfectly sufficient, but even when laced tighter, I found the upper’s flex to be somewhat problematic.
If stability is a high priority, then I’d encourage you to look elsewhere. Otherwise, it’s just good to be aware.
When it comes to traction, I thought the Nike React Vapor NXTs were excellent, and it seems as though the data-informed design they market for coming up with the outsole is beneficial.
The shoes offer fantastic grip and ensure solid footing for all ranges of movement. At the same time, they offer a slight give when lunging into a shot to prevent your foot from locking up, which is how I prefer my shoes.
It’s always hard to gauge how a refreshed tread design will work out, but I’m a big fan of what Nike has done with this shoe.
From a durability standpoint, the Nike React Vapor NXTs are solid.
The outsole held up well to the pounding of a hard court, but they’re by no means indestructible. I have a tendency to drag my right foot a bit, and I could see some of the tread start to fade at the front after 5-10 hours of play, but for me, that’s par for the course.
I’ve been most impressed by the durable orange rubber, which seems to hold up very well, so if that’s a high wear area for you, then I’d expect them to offer excellent protection.
As we covered earlier, the React Vapor NXTs fall on the heavier end of the weight spectrum, and while noticeable, I didn’t find they hindered my movement or slowed me down.
For the most part, I view the added weight as a tradeoff. Although heavier, you’re getting some extra durability, so the weight might be less of a concern if that’s important. If not, then a lighter shoe to help you feel as agile as possible will likely be a better fit.
I will say for their weight, I wish they offered better stability, which is typical of what you can expect with a heavier shoe, so I view that as a downside that Nike could stand to improve.
When it comes to ventilation, Nike’s React Vapor NXTs perform well.
You’ll get most of the breathability from the mid to front outside edge beneath the Flyweave material and at the tongue where you lace the shoes, which offers plenty of ventilation.
Generally, I found them to keep my feet plenty cool and comfortable.
Overall, I found the Nike React Vapor NXT to be a quality tennis shoe, which delivers solid all-around performance emphasizing comfort and durability.
Of course, like any shoe, they’re not perfect. I found the shoe’s weakest area of performance to be stability, and I think Nike could have traded a small bit of durability for a weight reduction.
However, with that said, I enjoyed my platest with these shoes, and I plan to keep them in my rotation.
If the Nike React Vapor NXTs are intriguing, but you can’t get over some of the downsides, here are a few others you might consider.
Nike Air Zoom Vapor Cage 4
If you’re looking to stay in the Nike family, then the Air Zoom Vapor Cage 4 is another worthy shoe to explore.
At 15.6 ounces for a men’s size 10.5, they’re 0.2 ounces or 6 grams lighter while offering similar performance characteristics.
The Vapor Cage 4 features an Air Zoom unit in the midsole, which I find offers a bit of a firmer ride, and overall, I think they provide better stability, so well worth checking out as an alternative.
Asics Court FF 2
The Asics Court FF 2 remains my top pick for the best tennis shoes in 2021 for their excellent all-around performance.
They’re lighter at only 14.7 ounces in a men’s size 10.5, offer better stability, more robust comfort, and are an excellent alternative. I do prefer the styling of the Nike React Vapor NXTs, but I’m more than willing to sacrifice that for optimal performance.
Asics Gel Resolution 8
The Asics Gel Resolution 8 is incredibly similar to the Court FF2, but there are some differences in their feel and style.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the Nike React Vapor NXTs, but you’re not a fan of the style of the Court FF 2s, or you’d prefer a shoe without a mono sock upper, then the Gel Resolution 8 is worth a look.
It’s an excellent shoe that generally outperforms the Vapor NXT.
adidas SoleCourt Boost
The adidas SoleCourt Boost is another weightier shoe that offers excellent comfort, durability, and stability.
At 15.7 ounces, it’s only 0.1 ounces or 3 grams lighter but delivers excellent all-around performance in a stylish package.
Companies will often back up their tennis shoes with outsole or similar guarantees for a predefined period. Here are a few examples of shoes backed by a 6-month outsole durability guarantee.
- Nike Air Zoom Cage 4
- Asics Gel Resolution 8
- Babolat Propulse Fury
- Fila Axilus 2 Energized
- KSwiss Ultrashot 3
- New Balance Fresh Foam Lav
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Nike does not offer a durability guarantee for the React Vapor NXT. However, the shoes are strong in this department, so I wouldn’t expect it’s a major issue for most players.
The React Vapor NXT is a solid new offering from Nike with a unique design and respectable all-around performance, but they have room for improvement, and I hope they’ll continue to iterate on them.
With that said, I’d encourage players to weigh their downsides rather than outright dismiss them. Every shoe has its weaknesses, and I’m inclined to make it clear what those downsides are. However, I’ve continued to enjoy playing with them and believe they’ll be an excellent fit for many players.
If you have any questions regarding the Nike React Vapor NXTs, please don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to help.
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