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Introduction

The Nike Rival Fly 3 debuted in 2021 during the Tokyo Olympics period, catching on with the colourway for the event. The Rival Fly 3 is positioned, alongside the Pegasus and Winflo series, as an entry into Nike’s Air Zoom unit running shoes. Rival Fly 3 also comes in at the more affordable price tag of S$139.00 retail.

Figure 1: Pegasus 38, Winflo 8, Rival Fly 3 (Image Source: Nike)

The Rival Fly 3 has a relative lower stack height and a 10 mm drop (heel to toe). The picture might seem like the Rival Fly 3 has thick midsole, but it is not the case, explanation to follow on later. Measuring the Nike Rival Fly 3 outsole, it is widest at the forefoot area at 11cm and narrowest nearer to the heel at 6cm. The Rival Fly 3 runs at 34cm in length while the pink outsole section takes up about 19cm. Having ran in the Rival Fly 2, I am curious to find what has changed in the version 3, for the better or for the worst. In total, I have run 71.2 km in the Rival Fly 3 for different work and different paces before writing this review.

Figure 2: Older – Rival Fly 2

Runner’s Profile

Prior to the review, it is important to establish my runner profile to provide you with a better gauge and my opinions on the shoes. For example, a lighter runner will experience differently the effects of midsole compared to a heavier runner.

I am on the heavy side for a runner (75kg – 80kg) range and stands at 1.75m tall. My average weekly mileage ranges from 25km to 35km. I am a mid-foot/fore-foot strike with a neutral foot. I am normally a US size 11 and a 11.5cm at the widest point-to-point of my foot. I do consider myself as wide foot. Now that my profile is up, lets get into the review.

UPPER

Let us start off with positive for the upper of the Rival Fly 3. The choice of material and comfort level has significantly improved compared to the previous iteration. The upper appears to be a dual layer mesh upper with the different density. In addition, it is a gusseted tongue which helps with the lockdown and prevent the tongue from sliding around during the run. The soft inner lining runs all the way along the shoes allowing me to even wear it sockless for a run. However, it adds another layer on the upper which reduces its breathability. The tongue is lightly padded at the top where the knot for your shoes will be. To help with comfort, the tongue has been shaped with a cut out and sits nicely with my leg. It looks really like the design of the Pegasus 36, not 100% same but similar certainly.

Figure 3: Gusseted Tongue

Now the downside for the upper comes from the laces and overall lockdown. While the laces felt comfortable to touch and looks durable, it performs badly in lock down. During my runs, the laces tend to loosen up requiring me to stop and re-tighten it. In addition, the laces also do come undone by itself unless a double knot and/or runner’s knot are used. The runner’s knot and double knot helps to resolve this issue.

MIDSOLE

The midsole of the Nike Rival Fly 3 uses Nike’s Cushlon foam featured in other running shoes such as Pegasus 36 and earlier. The Cushlon provides sufficient cushioning and support for short runs of up to 12 to 15km. Personally, I will not take it for further than that for its cushioning starts to feel flat by the distance. What can be felt after reaching that distance is the small air zoom unit doing it utmost to provide cushioning. As I am a heavier runner, the maximum compression of the midsole could have been reached much earlier compared to someone who is lighter.

Figure 4: Lateral Profile of Rival Fly 3

Other than longer runs, I have tested the Rival Fly 3 for 200m, 400m, and 800m intervals. During the 200m and 400m intervals, I found myself wanting something snappier as compared to the Rival Fly 3. In the 800m intervals, the Rival Fly 3 was in a better position, the cushion was enough for the distance while supporting my run at the pace. In addition, the Air Zoom Unit was able to complement the Cushlon and enhance the overall experience for 800m interval.

Aside from my running experience, I got to point out a few features Nike has incorporated in their midsole. Nike has extended the midsole to flare outwards at the lower portion. I believe this increases the stability and control of the running shoes compared to one without. Another such feature is the sidewalls where your foot will sit in within the midsole, and it supports you from the sides. If you can see spot the lines in Figure 4, extrapolate it and that is how thick the midsole really is.

Figure 5: Heel area of Rival Fly 3

Overall, for the midsole of Rival Fly 3, it provided sufficient cushion for runs below half-marathon distance. The cushion felt good with the Air Zoom unit during the 800m intervals, however I would still prefer something else which is snappier for my intervals (e.g., SL20 ver 1 or Gel-DS Trainer).

OUTSOLE

The outsole of the Rival Fly 3 has deep lugs in both the midfoot as well as the heel areas. During the dry weather, the outsole performed well enough for traction over various surfaces. I have also tested the shoes out in light and heavy rain which wasn’t the strength of the shoes. During the wet or rainy weather, traction was average on most surface but below average over metallic surfaces, asphalt road, and on some pavement.

Figure 6: Outsole of Rival Fly 3

At the initial inspection of the outsole, the length of the outsole puzzles me. The pink section appears to be elongated compare other running shoes in the market. In addition, the lugs vary in the depth as shown in the picture. My guess for the rationale of the design stems from providing some stability along the medial. The lugs while initially can be felt during runs, it slowly break-in and conform to my running style. Finally, I must also note that the Rival Fly 3 is loud and noisy during runs. It sounded like so someone stomping away although it is less so during interval and faster pace runs.

Figure 7: Outsole lugs of Rival Fly 3

OTHER FEATURES

Air Zoom Unit

The Zoom Air Unit at the forefoot could be felt during my runs, although it seems to be small. I do not run in Nike shoes much so I do not know how Zoom Air Unit would perform in comparison to Pegasus series or others. However, I did try the Rival Fly 2 and it felt bumpy and out of place during my runs. I would continue running in it.

Insole

One key component in any running shoes is its insole. In the Rival Fly 3, the insole is measures 5mm (w/ the textile lining) increasing the overall stack height for the shoes. This insole is able to provide additional cushion and step-in comfort for the running shoes. However, during my runs in the rain, the insole became the problem. The insole soaked up a lot of water making the shoes feeling very heavy. As such, I would avoid taking this pair out on rainy day due to the insole and the outsole.

Figure 8: Insole Thickness

CONCLUSION

The Rival Fly 3 is a beautiful pair of running shoes which comes in at a more affordable price tag. The Rival Fly 3 is for those looking for running shoes with Nike’s Air Zoom Unit and keeping it wallet friendly. In addition, the Rival Fly 3 has improved the overall comfort of the running shoes compared to previous iterations.

For runners looking for a do it all running shoes, I would not recommend this pair due to the lacking cushion for long run and traction. There are other pairs which I prefer, such as the Adidas SL20 v1 and New Balance Tempo. However, both pairs are more expensive than the Rival Fly 3 at retail pair.

This pair of shoes would be good for runners with a budget to adhere with, prefers having direct ground contact, and the sufficient level of cushioning for your shorter runs. The Rival Fly 3 would be a good option for distance below the half marathon and the magic of the midsole starts around the 10KM mark for me. However, as I stated earlier, for runner who are lighter might be able to bring it further. The Rival Fly 3 is a good option for runners with a budget while still getting a performance pair of shoes. Given its price point, the Rival Fly 3 is an affordable and well-built running shoes. In addition, new colourways have arrived on Nike’s page, and they look awesome.

Figure 9: Barely Volt/Photon Dust/Hyper Orange/Black Rival Fly 3 (Source: Nike)

That’s it for the review of Nike Rival Fly 3, I hope you find it useful and help you make a informed decision for your next purchase.

Till then, just keep running!

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