Nike Air Zoom Vapor X
In-depth Review & Playtest
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For years, the Nike Air Zoom Vapor line of tennis shoes has been one of the most popular for both men and women.
Nike’s latest iteration of the shoe, the Air Zoom Vapor X, carries the lineage forward, replacing the 9.5 Tour.
Overall, it remains one of the best shoes on the market, but it’s not for everyone. In this guide, we dive deep and put the shoe to the test to help you determine whether you’d like to give it a try.
The Nike Air Zoom Vapor X is no longer available. However, you can check out its successor, the Nike Air Zoom Vapor Pro below.
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Video Review & Playtest
We put the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X through its paces and share our thoughts with a full-length review and playtest.
For quick reference, here are timestamps for the different sections:
0:14 – Feature Start
0:29 – Weight & Fit
0:47 – Outsole
1:16 – Midsole
1:53 – Upper
Playtest & Review
2:22 – Playtest Start
2:44 – Style
2:56 – Lacing
3:09 – Comfort
3:41 – Stability
4:04 – Traction
4:15 – Durability
4:35 – Weight
4:53 – Ventilation
5:02 – Summary
You can find more detailed notes from my review and playtest in the sections of this guide that follow.
Photos of the Vapor X
About the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X
It’s no doubt, Roger Federer and some of the game’s top professionals have helped drive the popularity of the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X.
However, endorsements aside, the Vapor X is a high-performance tennis shoe, which remains one of our favorites.
The outsole is a tennis shoe’s bottom-most layer of the sole that comes in direct contact with the court. As such, the material’s composition and tread pattern both play critical roles in traction and durability.
For the Vapor X, you’ll find Nike putting their extra-durable rubber (XDR) to use as the outsole, which is common in many of their shoes that need to withstand the abrasion of surfaces similar to hard courts.
In areas of high-wear, the sole’s thickness increases, while low wear areas shed rubber to help keep the weight of the shoe lower.
The tread of the hard court (HC) version, which we playtested, features a pattern that’s ideal for hard court traction but will work well on a variety of court surfaces.
You’ll also find the tread wrap the edge of the sole to help provide that extra bit of grip during abrupt changes in direction.
For the midsole, you’ll find Nike’s Air Zoom technology combined with its unique Phylon EVA foam for responsive comfort.
At the shoe’s heel, you’ll find the Air Zoom unit, which is a thin, lightweight device that provides low-profile comfort and gives the Vapor X a familiar low to the ground feel similar to the shoe’s predecessors.
The remainder of the midsole uses Phylon, which is lightweight and responsive for added comfort throughout the length of the shoe. In the image above, it’s the white part of sole with Nike Zoom printed on it.
Last but not least, at the shoe’s midfoot, you’ll find a rigid shank for added support and stability, especially with lateral, i.e., side-to-side movements.
Directly above the midsole, the Nike Air Zoom Vapor’s upper starts with a durable and rigid counter on both the outside (lateral) and inside (medial) edges to provide lightweight stability.
The majority of the shoe’s upper features lightweight mesh for breathable comfort. The shoe offers extra protection and stability at the toe as well as the medial or inside edge.
The Dynamic Fit system offers players up to six points of enhanced control when lacing their shoes to achieve the perfect that prevents your foot from slipping.
At the heel of the shoe, you’ll find a moderately padded collar for plenty of comfort around your ankle while helping keep your foot secure.
The Nike Air Zoom Vapor X comes with a no-frills removable insole for a bit of added comfort between your foot and the midsole, which you can easily replace if you’re looking for a bit of extra cushion.
Variations of the Vapor X
There are a few different variations of the Air Zoom Vapor X available.
For this review, we’re evaluating the most popular hardcourt edition, which Nike abbreviates as HC on the shoebox as do many websites.
The shoe also comes in a clay version, which is the same model shoe that makes use of a modified outsole and herringbone tread, ideal for the surface, and you’ll find on the majority of clay court tennis shoes.
Next up, the Vapor X is available in a wide version, which gives players that need the room a bit of extra width for matching comfort with the size of their foot. It’s the same great shoe – just slightly wider.
Last but not least, Nike released the Vapor X Knit, which is very similar to the original Vapor X but has a few distinct differences.
- Circular-kit upper for breathable support instead of mesh
- A simplified dynamic-fit lacing system
- Upgraded toe protection with triangular-shaped protective material
- Internal semi-bootie sleeve for secure comfort
Fit and Players Using
Vapor X Specs
|Men’s Weight||13.8 ounces @ size 10.5|
|Women’s Weight||10.6 ounces @ size 7.5|
Top Players Using the Vapor X
|Roger Federer||Simona Halep|
|Daniil Medvedev||Madison Keys|
|Grigor Dimitrov||Venus Williams|
|Nick Kyrgios||Belinda Bencic|
|Felix Auger-Alissime||Petra Kvitova|
|Taylor Fritz||Maria Sharapova|
|Kei Nishikori||Eugenie Bouchard|
|Jack Sock||Barbora Strycova|
|Feliciano Lopez||Daria Kasatkina|
|Hyeon Chun||Marketa Vondrousova|
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.
Players looking for a high-performance tennis shoe that offers responsive comfort in a lightweight package will enjoy the Nike Air Zoom Vapor X.
However, if comfort and durability are a top priority or a point of frustration with a previous shoe you’ve owned, then the Vapor X will likely leave you wanting, and you’ll be better suited looking elsewhere.
- Great traction
Lacing up the shoes can be a minor annoyance because they don’t always pull through smoothly without the standard eyelets. Also, the tongue frequently requires adjustment to lay flat before lacing.
Hopefully, you enjoyed the review and playtest. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below.
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