Nike’s latest cushioning technology, Nike React, is finally here, and with it comes the first foam cushioning of its kind to be implemented in a running shoe.
Designed to soften the impact of each stride, the newly unveiled Nike Epic React Flyknit sneaker was constructed with flexibility and breathability in mind. With a newly extended midsole beyond the upper that sits directly atop the foam, runners can now expect more cushioning and more traction when active.
“The overall theme of this is what we've heard from runners,” React sole designer Brett Schoolmeester tells us. “They want everything. They don't want to sacrifice anything. Lunar was incredibly lightweight, and it was very soft. So we really needed to maintain those, but how do we add energy return into it?”
The React sole maintains the lightweight appeal of Nike's Lunarlon technology, with added responsiveness and cushioning for more bounce. That makes it more than a formidable opponent for its biggest competition: adidas Boost.
“We're about 30% lighter than Boost,” says Schoolmeester. “The great thing about lightweight is it never goes out of fashion. That is something that athletes always want.”
To get a better understanding of an athletes perspective on Nike's new innovation, we spoke with four-time gold medalist and eight-time world champion Michael Johnson, who is widely celebrated as one of history's finest sprinters of all time. Johnson also consulted on the design of the shoes.
“I need comfort so that I can actually go the distance, and React does that,” Johnson claims. “It's fantastic in terms of the level of comfort and support. At my age as well, and getting older, I need support so that I can minimize the risk of injury. Those two things are crucial for me.”
Johnson famously helped design a pair of gold spikes that he wore during the 1996 Olympics, a suggestion he made to then-designer Tobie Hatfield. He ended up winning the matching medal, too. But beyond top-of-the-line athletes who demand pure performance, he sees a benefit for the more casual runner.
"Most runners aren't elite. In terms of the technology that you can put into products, a lot of the times it's for the elite and it starts there,” adds Johnson. “I think that everybody will benefit from this. Your average person just going out for a run—being more comfortable, minimizing the risk of injury with more support and more cushion. For me, that's key, because most of the time I'm running on concrete.”
We tested out the Nike Epic React at events in London and New York. From a younger perspective, the comfortability of the shoe is on par with Boost—maybe even better, but more importantly it still keeps that lightweight Nike feel thanks to the Flyknit upper. The shoe really is best of both worlds. There's no need to choose between comfort versus a lighter build runner anymore. It's important to note that the technology is not strictly a running story, and React also featured in the Nike React Hyperdunk 2017, as worn by the NBA's Draymond Green.
Meanwhile, Highsnobiety's London-based fashion director Atip Wananaruks brought a more experienced point of view to our wear test, noting that the shoe is great as a go-to sneaker—especially as comfort, reliability, and arc support become a more important part of your sneaker game once you enter your 30s and 40s.
“Nike hasn’t disappointed on the comfort levels of this new sole unit. You thought ‘Boost’ was good—React will change that up,” he says. Though as our resident fashion expert, he does wish there were more sleek colors in the initial drop. “I’m more intrigued to see the triple black and triple white iterations that will be releasing later this year.”
On the lifestyle side, the Epic React transitions well on-and-off the track. From its sleek design, Nike's popular Flyknit upper, to the durable sole. It's the perfect everyday shoe.
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