Can this shoe help eliminate common running injuries?
Injuries suck. There’s no sugar coating it, no silver lining, they straight up are not a good time. You train hard, get injured, and then watch not just your physical fitness disappear but it can even affect your overall happiness. You see your buddies less because you’re not running, and when you’re unfit, not running, and not socialising, things can seem pretty bleak.
The more experienced we get and the more miles we log, the closer attention we tend to pay to our bodies, and therefore we can minimise some of the risk factors that lead to injuries. But for newer runners or people stepping up in distances or events for the first time, injuries can be devastating. You know the story - your friend or colleague takes up running and loves it - until they pick up a knee injury, see a physiotherapist a couple of times, and then give up running.
Nike believe they’ve designed a shoe that can reduce injuries with their latest innovation, the React Infinity Run. To test the new shoe, they put it head to head with the Nike Structure 22 over a 12 week half marathon training program for 226 runners. They had the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation conduct the study, which found that those wearing the Infinity Run were 52% less likely to get injured (defining injury as missing 3 consecutive workouts with running related soreness).
This all sounds great, but how do you design a shoe that minimises injuries?
The React Infinity Run sits on a React midsole and at first glance probably looks a lot like the Epic React 2 we saw earlier in 2019. But take a closer look and you’ll notice it’s a lot more shoe and packs some key design differences.
This is the same React foam that we’ve seen in the market since early 2018 - it’s a great foam and one that is equally at home for a 5km run as it is a 90 minute run. The big change from any other React shoe you’ve seen is the width of the midsole. The platform is a lot wider through the midfoot especially, giving you a much bigger and more cushioned landing area. The wider platform also gives you more stability and less likelihood of your ankle or foot rocking too far sideways as you impact the ground.
THE HEEL COUNTER
This is the most pronounced heel counter we’ve seen on a Nike silhouette in my memory - it extends all the way to the midfoot, probably due to that wider base and a desire to add a guardrail type structure to it. The shoe is a lot less structured than most shoes, so some type of guardrail seems necessary.
The rocker-like design isn’t something that’s very noticeable to the eye, but on-foot the design serves to almost tip you forward onto your toes - this is very much the same vibe you get when you put on something like the Varpofly Next% or the 4%. While it takes some getting used to if you’re walking in the shoes for the first time, the effect when you’re running is that you’re getting more/easier propulsion as you transfer from landing to toe-off. Pretty neat-o.
OK so we know already that React foam is built for longer life - various sources at Nike tell us that testing shows people are able to get 500+ miles from a pair of React, but they've gone a step further here. The outsole has an additional thin layer of traction that will not only prolong the life of the shoe but also add comfort.
THE WRAP UP
So basically what we’ve got here is a different approach to injury minimisation than we’ve seen in the past. Shoes like the Nike Structure, and most ‘stability’ shoes over the last fifteen years, are pretty rigid and designed to keep your foot locked in when you land (whether you pronate, supinate, etc). The approach of the Infinity Run is less about providing structure and more about giving you a safe, wide base to land on, promoting more natural movement.
The Nike React Infinity Run will be available in January 2020.