Nike Air Zoom Ultrafly Men's Shoe Review

Nike Air Zoom Ultrafly Wimbledon Wh/Bk Men's Shoe
Price: $119.95 MSRP: $220.00

Upsides

  • Nice cosmetics

Downsides

  • Uncomfortable
  • Toe jamming
  • Poor ventilation
  • Slippery outsoles
  • Laces too long
Video Review

Summary

When we saw the flashy look of the Air Zoom Ultrafly shoes, we couldn't wait to get them on our feet to playtest them. We were also excited to see how the addition of Nike's signature Flyknit technology to a tennis shoe would perform on court. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment. Right out of the box the shoes fit very narrow and were extremely stiff, making it difficult to take them right down to the court. After a break-in period the shoes did soften up, but every playtester had some sort of issue with the fit or comfort of the shoes. Furthermore, durability was lacking, and the shoes wore out quicker than most other shoes we've tested. Ultimately, the Ultrafly felt short of our expectations in almost every category.

Nike Air Zoom Ultrafly Men's Shoe Scores

Overall Comfort 1.6
Ventilation 3.2
Arch Support 3.1
Foot Support/Stability 3.2
Overall Sole Durability 3.2
Toe Durability 3.2
Traction 2.3
Weight 3.3
Overall 2.0

Overall Comfort - Score: 1.6

Each playtester had an issue with the comfort or fit of the Air Zoom Ultrafly shoes. The narrow fit should have been a good match for Chris' feet, but he didn't find them very comfortable. He critiqued, "I struggled with the comfort of the Ultrafly shoes from the first wear to the last. The toe tip area of the shoes was very hard, and I had some major toe jamming whenever I needed to come to a quick stop. I liked the narrow fit of the shoes, although I did go up a half-size because they fit a tad short on me. The cushioning provided a nice blend of a comfortable ride and court feel. With the exception of the toe jamming, the uppers felt comfortable and supportive. My arches felt well protected, and I liked the fit and feel of the shoes through that area. I found the shoes lacking in ventilation and my feet ran hot in them. I didn't have to worry about my feet staying hot in the shoes after play, though, since they were so uncomfortable I was quick to take them off."

Troy was put off by the Air Zoom Ultraflys' stiff feel and had some issues with the fit of the Flyknit ankle cuff. He shared, "The first time I tried these shoes on I noticed a firm and rigid feel. They also felt snug in the toe box, so I decided to try going up a half-size. After walking around in them they did open up a bit, but I made a final decision to stay with my usual size. Throughout this playtest I had issues with the comfort of these shoes. During the first week or so I thought the toe box felt stiff, and I was jamming my toes when coming to a quick stop. Another issue I had in the beginning of this playtest was the ankle collar digging into the Achilles region of my ankle. Toward the end of the playtest the forefoot didn't have enough cushioning and I felt like the balls of my feet were slapping on the court surface as I sprinted around the court. I found the arch support to be slightly higher than average, and they provided decent support for my feet."

"The comfort of these shoes was pretty unimpressive," Andy remarked. "Right out of the box these shoes were extremely stiff. The first time I wore them out on court they were very rigid and didn't move all that naturally with my feet. In addition, the fit was very narrow, and they rubbed different spots on feet throughout the test. Furthermore, the arch support was very high, which took time to get used to, and the Flyknit ankle cuff was more of an annoyance than it was comfortable or supportive. Lastly, I could feel the thin laces cutting into the tops of my feet during play. One saving grace was that the Ultraflys did soften up a bit as the test wore on. Unfortunately, I never could look forward to slipping these on my feet because of the rigidity of the chassis and the hot spots on my feet."

The narrow fit was not a good match for Jason's wide feet. He said, "These shoes weren't built for wide-footed players. I immediately noticed how narrow they fit me. There was soreness on both the medial and lateral sides of my arches. As the playtest went on they did feel better, but they weren't the most comfortable shoes to wear for my foot type. The cushioning was just OK, as they are supposed to be a lightweight, speed-oriented shoes."

Foot Support/Stability - Score: 3.2

The stiff feel of the Air Zoom Ultraflys did give them good stability during play, but we found our feet sliding around a bit inside the shoes even with their narrow fit. Even our wide-footed playtester, Jason, didn't feel completely locked-in. He explained, "The stability of these shoes was much better than the support. With the help of the Flyknit ankle cuff and the stiff upper I was able to cut, change directions and stop with confidence. But, when it came to locking my feet in place it was a different story, especially when I was moving forward and trying to stop. My feet would slide into the hard toe caps, resulting in painful toe jamming."

Chris liked the level of support and stability these shoes offered, but he also struggled with his feet sliding forward inside the shoes during quick stops. He said, "The most impressive part of this playtest for me was the support and stability of the Air Zoom Ultraflys. I liked the way the chassis resisted twisting and offered excellent protection for my arches. I also felt very locked in when moving and stopping laterally. However, when coming to a quick forward stop I couldn't get the lace system tight enough to prevent my feet from sliding forward into the ends of the shoes."

"The stability of the Ultraflys was average for the weight class that they fall into," Troy remarked. "I found that the design of these shoes provided a platform-like feel in the forefoot. Whenever I was on the balls of my feet I found a good base in the forefoot, which helped me make lateral changes of direction with ease. The rigid feel of these shoes provided good support, and kept my feet from moving around inside them. The midfoot shank provided a rigid feel to the arch region of these shoes. This created a feeling of separation between forefoot and heel and helped to keep my arches from flexing during sprints. Although these shoes had decent support and stability, they weren't quite up to par with the Asics Gel Solution Speed 3 shoes that I prefer."

Andy had issues with how high the shoes rode off the ground. He critiqued, "The stiffer construction of these shoes did a nice job protecting my feet during aggressive cuts on court, but there were other design elements that negatively affected the support and stability. First, and maybe most importantly, the shoes rode very high off the court, which did not instill a sense of confidence or security. I always felt like I was in danger of toppling off the base of the shoes on an aggressive lateral cut or slide. Secondly, the shoes didn't flex well with my feet, so even though they offered some protection I never thought they locked my feet in very well. Even with their narrow fit I still (strangely enough) found my feet sliding around inside the shoes."

Overall Sole Durability - Score: 3.2

We found the durability of the Air Zoom Ultraflys to be pretty disappointing. "I found the outsole durability to be below average compared to other shoes in the same weight class," Troy remarked. "The toe area of the outsoles wore down faster than I would have liked. The tread in that area went bald in about two weeks. I also found the material that covered my toes on the upper wore down quickly from my toe dragging. Considering the $220 price tag and no six-month durability guarantee, I was disappointed in the overall durability."

Chris was also able to do quite a bit of damage to the outsoles during the playtest. He critiqued, "The Ultrafly shoes lasted about as expected. I found them slightly more durable than the Vapor 9.5 Tours, but still down on durability compared to the adidas adizero Ubersonics and the Asics Gel Solution Speed 3s. I started to see plenty of wear under the big toe of my right foot. I was also surprised at how quickly the toe caps got scuffed up. Considering all of the durability material layered on at the toes, I thought the shoes would resist abrasion much better."

Andy's pair held up fine, but he had trouble really putting the durability to the test because of the comfort issues he was having. He explained, "My pair held up well for as much as I tested them, but I can't say that I put enough hours on them to really put them to the test. The shoes aggravated my feet so much I had to limit my time in them."

Jason had a similar experience, saying, "I thought the outsole material held up reasonably well. However, I didn't feel like I moved with 100 percent effort because of the toe jam issue and the overall uncomfortable fit. There was plenty of tread left after about 15 hours of court time."

Traction - Score: 2.3

Traction proved to be another problem area for our playtesters. Andy explained, "This was another area where I was having issues. The outsoles were really slippery, and I 'spun my wheels' quite a few times when trying to accelerate quickly to a ball. Another interesting thing that kept happening when I was going for aggressive hard court slides was that the midfoot shank kept coming into contact with the court. This plastic piece was extremely slippery and would make the shoes completely slide out from under me when this happened. Ultimately, I never felt comfortable moving at top speeds in these shoes, and the traction was a big reason why."

Troy had similar problems, and he felt that the traction got worse as the test went on. He critiqued, "The rubber compound on the outsoles was firm and created a slippery feel out on the court. When I was trying to make quick changes of direction, there were times when I lost my footing due to the rubber not gripping the court surface. The traction got gradually worse as the tread pattern wore down and became bald. Overall, I would have liked a bit more of a 'gummy-feel' to help grip the court and help with my movement on hard courts."

Jason also found the outsole to be a bit too slippery for his liking. He shared, "Whatever Nike did to make the outsoles durable also made the outsole slick. There were numerous occasions when I was hitting a running forehand, tried to stop or change directions, and my shoes slid out from under me. On a more positive note, at least the shoes provided grip when I was making that first step toward a shot."

Sharing a similar opinion was Chris, who said, "I found more slippage from the outsoles of these shoes than I've experienced with most Nike shoes. However, I was still moving well in them and it didn't take me long to adjust to the extra slide I was finding on quick stops. I found enough traction to take a quick first step, and the only times I struggled to get going was when I was pulled wide onto the dustier part of the court."

Weight - Score: 3.3

Even though the Air Zoom Ultraflys come in at a relatively light weight, our testers thought they felt bulkier than that weight would suggest. "I found these shoes to play heavier than their 13.4 oz weight would indicate," Troy commented. "The stiff feel of these shoes created a clunky feel. I didn't find a smooth heel-to-toe transition as I sprinted around the court, either. I found a lighter and faster feel when playing in the Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour, even though they are actually the heavier of the two shoes. I thought the Ultraflys started to soften up a bit toward the end of the playtest, but they still didn't feel as light and fast as the Asics Gel Solution Speed 3 shoes."

Chris thought the Ultraflys felt much heavier than another Nike model we recently tested. He compared, "The Ultrafly shoes felt much heavier and more substantial when compared to the similar looking Nike Flares we recently tested. I found the two shoes to be similar in styling only. There's a ton more to the guts of these shoes, and they offer a much, much stiffer ride. While the Flares were all about minimalistic speed, these shoes seemed to be designed to offer a much stiffer and more torsionally solid feel."

Andy thought the platform of the Ultraflys also played a role in making them feel heftier than expected. He explained, "These shoes weigh in at an impressively low weight, but I thought the design made them feel a lot heavier than they actually are. They ride high off the court and are very stiff, so they don't offer good court feel. They constantly reminded me that I had some bulk on my feet. I never felt well connected to the court and was pretty aware of the shoes on my feet throughout the entire test."

Jason also thought the Ultraflys played heavier than comparable shoes from Nike's competitors. He said, "These shoes certainly are on the lighter end of the tennis shoe weight spectrum, but I was expecting them to feel lighter than the weight would suggest. They don't feel clunky or cumbersome, but they also don't feel as light as the adidas adizero Ubersonics or the Asics Gel Solution Speed 3s."

Overall - Score: 2.0

Likes

Chris - "I really liked the looks of the Air Zoom Ultraflys. The level of arch support was also solid."

Jason - "They look cool and techy."

Andy - "Unfortunately, not much. I do think they look pretty sweet, though!"

Troy - "I found decent support and stability. The narrow fit also helped to keep my foot locked in place."

Dislikes

Chris - "The toe jamming made them unbearably uncomfortable to wear, and they ran hot. The laces were also ridiculously long. I had to triple knot the laces to keep from tripping over them."

Jason - "Too narrow. Soreness on my arches. Toe jamming issues. Slippage issues. Laces are too long."

Andy - "I didn't find the shoes to be very comfortable. They ride too high off the ground. Traction was poor, and the stiff upper rubbed different areas on my feet constantly. The thin laces dug into the top of my feet and the Flyknit ankle cuff was more of an annoyance than anything else."

Troy - "Uncomfortable. They felt heavier and stiffer than most of the shoes I've tested of similar weight."

Comparing the shoe to others they've tried, our testers said:

Chris - "The feel through the arch and the lateral stability of the Air Zoom Ultraflys reminded me of the Lotto Raptor series of shoes. Both offer a lot of stiffness in the chassis, which results in a very solid feel. Like the Lottos, these were also very narrow fitting. The toe jam issue reminded me the adidas Barricade 8+ shoes. Like these, the Barricade 8+ shoes were also great looking shoes that I struggled to wear due to the amount of pain they caused my toes."

Jason - "Not sure they compare directly to any shoes I've worn. The fit and arch pain were similar to the Nike Air Court Ballistic 3.3, but in a lighter-weight package."

Andy - "Sadly, it's hard for me to think of other high end performance tennis shoes that perform the way these do. I was really not a fan and, especially given their price point, I would have a hard time recommending them to anyone."

Troy - "The narrow fit and stiff feel of the Air Zoom Ultraflys reminded me of the adidas Barricade 6.0 shoes, even though the Barricades weighed in about 3 oz heavier than the Ultraflys. Some of the original models of the adidas ClimaCool Feather shoes had a similar fit, but the comfort was much better in the Feathers."

Scores

(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)

Chris' Scores
Overall Comfort1Overall Sole Durability3
Ventilation2Toe Durability3.5
Arch Support4.5Traction3
Foot support/Stability4Weight3
Overall2
Jason's Scores
Overall Comfort1.5Overall Sole Durability4
Ventilation4Toe Durability
Arch Support1Traction2.5
Foot support/Stability2.5Weight4
Overall1.5
Andy's Scores
Overall Comfort2Overall Sole Durability3.5
Ventilation3.3Toe Durability4
Arch Support4Traction1.5
Foot support/Stability3Weight3
Overall2
Troy's Scores
Overall Comfort2Overall Sole Durability2.2
Ventilation3.5Toe Durability2
Arch Support3Traction2.2
Foot support/Stability3.1Weight3
Overall2.6

Playtester Foot Types

Chris - Narrow width / Medium arch

Jason - Wide width / Low arch

Andy - Medium width / Medium arch

Troy - Narrow width / Medium arch