Nike Air Jordan 11 Backpack 631693-100 | Can the Nike AlphaFly 3 Help You Run a New PR (Without Even Trying)?

Nike’s latest super running sneaker has already helped break world records, but we tested it to see how fast it can really help a regular guy beat a personal one.

“Any chance I could convince you to take a little trip this weekend?” My friend Joe Holder texted me a few days after Thanksgiving. 

“Depends on where, but I’m open to it,” I replied coyly. 

The location: Grand Cayman. 

The reason: to fill a spot on a relay team running the Cayman Islands Marathon.

On one hand, a weekend away from the cold of New York was appealing.

On the other hand, it’s right in the thick of the holiday season while I was still digesting pumpkin pie. 

While I consider myself a fairly active person, I was not truly prepared to run a 10K leg in a 26.2 mile relay race at my personal best. I also knew that whatever team Joe was putting together was not going to be a bunch of slouches. 

In addition to being a Expert Trainer for the Nike Well Collective, Joe rolls with (and helps build) some of the healthiest humans on the planet. Oh, and the man also raced a horse recently, just to see if he could beat it.

Needless to say I was a little insecure about potentially letting the relay team down with my slow and sexy pace.

If I was going to keep up, I needed all the help I could get from friends at Nike, which came in the form of the AlphaFly 3. A prototype of the running sneaker helped pro runner Kevin Kiptum to break a men’s world-record at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, but could the final retail version help me hit a new PR in the 10K with very little training and preparation? 

Trialing them at the Cayman Islands Marathon Team Relay seemed like the perfect place to find out.

Nike Air Jordan 11 Backpack 631693-100 | The Sneaker

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The moment the shoes arrived, the first thing I noticed was how light the box was. It almost felt like it had been delivered with the actual sneakers missing. 

It got even more surprising when I took the shoes out of the packaging. The AlphaFly 3 is the lightest in the series and it felt feathery in a size 9.   

We’ll get into tech aspects later, but let’s talk aesthetics. 

If you’re into sneakers, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of turning someone’s head with your shoes. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do this at least a handful of times, but this is the first time that it happened with a pair of modern-day performance running shoes.

It actually happened a couple of times over the weekend. The first was the day before the race where I first broke out the shoes to go on a shakeout run with my new teammates. To my surprise, the sneakers became an instant icebreaker for conversation.

The next was at the race itself while I was waiting for the relay baton to be passed to me. Another runner in the corral hit me with a “How’d you get those?” and several other questions that caused me to almost miss the handoff from my teammate.

The Running

The pre-race shakeout run was on an abandoned golf course, so the terrain was mostly on beaten paths of grass and some gravel. 

The high-packed Zoom X foam makes the sneaker feel springy, but also kind of like you’re standing on platforms. And the tradeoff for having a super lightweight sneaker is a skinny knit upper that doesn’t offer a lot in terms of stability.

Both of these factors make using the shoe a little precarious on a non-paved or un-smooth surface, but manageable as long as you’re more using them on a rocky trail run.

It’s unusual for me to run a race in a pair of shoes that I haven’t tried a few times beforehand, but I felt pretty confident in the AlphaFly 3 after just a couple miles off road. I also had no choice because it was the only pair of running sneakers I packed.

When it came to race day and I got the baton passed to me, it was finally time to test the AlphaFly 3 on the terrain it was intended for.

The first couple miles in the sneaker felt like driving a Ferrari on an open road. The AlphaFly 3 almost seduces you to open up and push the limits of your personal speed. 

Under the hood lies a Nike Air Zoom unit, carbon fiber Flyplate, and a continuous bottom, which is an update from the previous model.

Like a high-performance sports car, the beauty of the shoe can also be dangerous, especially to an untrained driver.

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At this particular moment, I’m that untrained driver running this race with no real preparation for a PR or mapped out strategy for how to pace the course. I’m full-on improvising in a brand-new pair of sneakers, just running off of vibes.

Nike dunk high 1985 orange acid wash cream orange blue. 

In this one, there was the heat. I had only been running on treadmills and fall-like weather for the past few weeks prior, and the summer-y Cayman climate was starting to elevate my heart rate higher than usual.

Another factor was my socks. I prefer to run in basketball socks, which are usually a bit thicker than normal running ones. The combo of thick socks, my flat foot, and this shoe scrunched together caused a blister about halfway through my 10K portion of the relay race.

I don’t think this is an issue with the shoe itself, but more my personal ergonomics and socks I chose. Either way my left foot started bleeding through the white knit upper of the AlphaFly3. 

Despite the slight discomfort, I didn’t want to stop and readjust my socks in fear of messing up my time because I could feel a new personal record within reach.

The Verdict

Missed a PR by a matter of 15 seconds. 

It was disappointing because hitting a new PR would’ve made a better story, but to even have a second-fastest personal 10K time under the conditions is quite a feat.

Was it because of the Nike AlphaFly 3? I do think the shoes made up for some of the deficiencies in my preparation, but not entirely. 

There is also something to holding a loose grip on the outcome of a race and just being open enough to see what happens. You run faster when you’re relaxed. 

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on achieving a particular goal, when we should pay just as much attention to the process of trying to reach that goal. If we only consider a race succesful if we hit a new PR, we miss things that are part of running like catching up with friends, making new ones, or simply enjoying the run itself.

Nike Air Jordan 11 Backpack 631693-100.

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