Nike's most complete cushioning foam ever
Nike today unveiled its latest running innovation, the Nike Epic React running shoe.
React is Nike's most complete cushioning foam ever and comes as a result of 2 years of research and development, and 17,000 miles of athlete testing.
TEMPO travelled to Seoul to get a first look at the new Epic React before it hits shelves, and we've broken down all the important details for you below.
React is a completely new foam developed by Nike’s in-house design team, and claims to be 5% lighter, 11% softer, and offer 10% greater energy return than their popular LunarEpic 2.
Nike produce the midsole as a single piece of foam with no glue or bonding agents, reducing the weight of the shoe even further (when compared to non-React footwear).
Nike have been testing React for over two years with both elite and amateur runners, on the track and on the road, in that time racking up over 17,000 miles of wear.
The big deal about React though is not what it is, but what it offers runners. According to Nike, it’s the first innovation that delivers softness and responsiveness, and is both lightweight and durable.
Delivering a soft feel is important for everyone, from casual runners all the way to elites. No one wants to have sore feet or joints, but previously if you chose cushioning you couldn’t have responsiveness.
The same can be said for lightweight, typically ‘fast’ shoes. These typically have thinner layers of foam, meaning durability (and comfort) become big issues.
However according to Ernest Kim, Director of Innovation for Nike Running, React ticks both the lightweight and durable boxes.
“The mechanical testing showed us that the shoe was off the charts in terms of durability. Typically, we would expect foams to maintain 1G of impact and 1G of energy return after 250-300 miles of wearing. 1G is what our historical testing has shown us a common runner would be able to perceive.
What we’re seeing in React is that even after 500 miles of wear we are seeing less than ½ a G in degradation of impact and energy return, which is just phenomenal”.
Nike have used a one-piece Flyknit upper that they say takes cues from the Flyknit Racer. Flyknit allows Nike to tailor the upper to provide different characteristics where they’re needed, without adding bulk by layering different materials on top of one another. The shoe hugs the foot where needed, and provides flexibility and breathability where the athlete requires it.
The immediately noticeable feeling of the upper is that it’s a much more secure, snug fit than the Flyknit Racer, owing to the bootie type one-piece construction, whereas shoes like the Racer have a different tongue.
The laces definitely add a final layer of security, but the Flyknit bootie is doing the majority of the work. Put simply, you’re not going to find a shoe with a more secure fit than the Epic React.
There’s a large heel clip on the back for extra stability. This is certainly noticeable when you first put the shoe on and it contributes to that snug fit, but I didn’t notice it when I ran (meaning I wasn’t jogging around thinking ‘damn this heel clip is annoying’).
The heel counter might yet become a defining feature of the Epic React, and it exists to add extra cushioning. Interestingly Nike looked at enclosing this so you couldn’t see the shelf at the back, but it would have added a weight penalty with no performance benefit and therefore was left exposed.
This one is pretty simple, but definitely a cool aesthetic and stays true to the lightweight, minimalist feel of the shoe. There’s simply two sections of rubber under the forefoot and heel to help with traction and increased durability. The semitranslucent blue colour is a nice touch.
For a shoe with a pretty minimal design it has some really nice touches, especially that pop of colour on the heel counter and the outsole design as mentioned. In addition, we were able to get some insight from Nike about a few of the choices they made here.
First, the two colours being released initially. Apparently part of the feedback Nike got from runners was that women were requesting the men’s colourways, and vice versa (I’m guilty of this). Therefore, both of these initial colourways are available for men and women, and that’s the plan for the Epic React going forward.
The use of blue and pink as hero colours is a nod to the seemingly opposing characteristics of the shoe: lightweight yet durable, soft yet responsive. Traditionally those features have been opposites, therefore the design team used opposing colours on the shoes and made them work well together. There’s no deeper meaning behind the Ultramarine colourway, no tie in to the re-release of the iconic Air Max 180 this Air Max Day.
I know the heel counter got some attention when the first images of the Epic React dropped, and at a quick glance it is unusual. As mentioned, it provides extra cushioning and Nike left it exposed because to cover it would only add weight. I like the colour pop on an otherwise understated palette.
Computational design allows the design team to create a single piece foam that is a different thickness in different areas, delivering the balance of cushioning and firmness where runners need it.
This level of precision simply isn’t possible with traditional design methods, and in the past Nike would have had to layer foams and use some kind of bonding agent. This is inexact, imperfect, and carries a weight penalty when compared to computational design.
TEMPO spoke to Ernest Kim about the benefits of computational design.
“The power of computational design is in Matt (Pauk, the designer of React) acknowledging that no way could he have come up with this design by hand, it’s just impossible to get the level of detail, especially three dimensionally".
"Access to computational tools is opening up a whole new world for us.
It used to take us months to prototype something and wait for it to get turned around, and now we can do the same thing in one hour”
Who’s it for?
Nike are saying it’s the perfect shoe for your long runs due to the unique combination of features. Beight lightweight and delivering good energy return means you should feel fresher for longer on your run.
I would suggest you could wear it for most of your weekly mileage, including long runs, easy base miles, and even threshold sessions.
This shoe has the potential to replace several pairs of shoes in your rotation.
Word is that guys like Eliud Kipchoge and Galen Rupp will wear (and have been wearing) them for their long runs. The shoe offers a super cushioned ride so it makes sense for elites to wear them when they’re punching out 100 mile weeks, and that cushion will also be appealing for everyday runners.
The Nike Epic React is available from February 22, with an RRP of $220 AUD.
The talk from Nike is that runners in Melbourne will be able to check out a unique React experience on the first weekend in March. Stay tuned as TEMPO will bring you all the news on that front when we have it.
To learn even more about the Epic React and the design process, check out our interview with Ernest Kim.
Disclaimer: TEMPO travelled to the Nike Innovation Summit in Seoul at the invitation of Nike.