It’s not every day (or year) that nike launch a new technology, especially one so important. Their Epic React shoe has just been launched using the new technology, the React energy return foam.
This is big news. When you think about it, new midsole technology from one of the ‘big boys’ is a rare thing. The world of Energy Return has been around for a while now and this is Nike’s big assault on this market putting itself up again some of the major running brands and in particular, Adidas’s Boost technology.
You can imagine the thought processes, the lab tests, the design time, the marketing time etc., that has gone in to launching this new technology. It’s huge and nike will have a lot riding on making the React foam a big success. Having worked with them, we know the head honchos pretty well and they’ll be confident but secretly hopeful that runners will love them - they’re good running guys and it’ll be super important to them.
The Epic React is the first running shoe using the new technology. A shoe with a remit of delivering great energy return but it must also have a softer pillowy feel, something that the other energy return shoes from competitors do not really have.
So, let’s deal with the nike facts before getting to the review.
- They’ve put more miles in to this shoe in pre-production than any other shoe in their history – over 17,000mile have been run by elite athletes. Those insights gained have helped provide soft, springy and long-lasting performance
- Nike React cushioning foam is lighter, more durable and that returns more energy than its predecessors. It is softer and offers more energy return than the Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2 and is 11% softer. It also achieves figures of being 13% bouncier than the Lunarlon foam
- The Epic React is 5% lighter than the LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2—making it one of the lightest incredibly-cushioned shoes you can buy.
- Nike chemists spent three years testing new materials and design methods. After 400 combinations, they finally landed on Nike React.
That’s the techy sales pitch over with, you want to know how they run like.
The Nike Epic React is neutral road running shoe. Obviously, we were excited to get a pair and even more excited to run in them but first impressions were really good. They look a bit different thanks to that midsole; one big block of React foam.
The upper is a nike flyknit weave. It looks good but it is minimal. There are no bells and whistles. It’s a one piece weave that fits like a sock. The weave is quite a tight knit one for strength with a more open weave design down the top of the shoe which offers a more breathable section.
There is a welded TPU section to reinforce the lace area and no tongue – one piece shoe. The plastic heel counter is fairly soft and there is no additional padding around the heel collar.
First things first, the shoes are snug. I have a fairly high arch so had to squeeze in to these. Once on though, they were very comfortable. If you have very wide feet, you might need to taking sizing in to consideration as I think they might be too snug but you could go up half a size?
The ride height is fairly high at 28mm to 18mm so a 10mm heel to forefoot drop meaning one thing – mass market appeal - they'll appeal to everyone other than those minimal or zero drop guys.
They are fairly soft, but not overly so, and very well cushioned but not in a wallowy unstable way. Start your run and by the end, you know that nike have nailed their brief. Big, soft yet responsive ride offering that pillowy feel and just super comfortable.
We’re loving running in these. The midsole just nails the brief and packed full of lab-laden tech; the design being not for show but to aid the React material (see midsole details) and the minimalistic outsole is all about ensuring it rides smoothly.
If the elements of this shoe were human, the midsole would be screaming, “it’s all about me, me, me”. We all know a few celebrities like that, but in reality, it’s the truth.
So the ride is on the softer side and gives you that big pillowy feel nike were after but it’s also really responsive and the energy return propulsive.
The midsole pattern has been created to add to the flexibility and compression properties of this shoe. Nike state that, ‘Using computational design — mathematical formulas to create a fluid geometry — designers shaped the sole, matching athlete data to amplify performance'. We won’t argue with a scientist, but we know that the overall feeling is great.
The ride almost sits in contrast to the weight of the shoe. 'What the hell does that mean', I hear you cry! Well, you might be lulled into the impression that they would be a long-distance cruiser - they ride fairly high, 10mm heel to toe drop, big block of cushioning etc. - but the weight skews that thinking a little. They are much lighter than many energy return shoes on the market and they react happily to picking the pace up. Part of the design element of this shoe is being able to run faster and be able to change direction quickly in them, so picking the pace up in them is a rewarding experience. You not only get that propulsion but all that cushioning you sometimes lack in faster shoes.
This makes the shoe super versatile for most of us. You’ll love running long in these shoes but they would be great for a tempo run and longer distance races. And, for a not too outrageous price, I almost want to say that makes them good value for money.
The upper is stretchy enough without being super 3D stretchy as with a lot of other models on the market. I’m fine with that, they were well ventilated and I like that snug on-foot feel.
Grab hold of the heel and tongue tab to slide your foot in to sock-like bootie. The upper is seamless and the only additions to it are the TPU eyestays (attractive and work fine) and also the heel counter which is soft. I like a firm heel counter personally but remember, the React is all about lightweight super-cushioning so some elements have got to give.
There isn’t one! It’s a block of the React foam remember, an outsole would add weight. But there is the addition of some translucent rubber placed at the heel and forefoot areas. This is obviously there to add to the durability in these higher wear areas.
Nike state that the React foam is a very durable one but after a week’s wear, we can’t really be sure one way or the other.
What a great addition to the nike line and to the running shoe market. They’re well cushioned without being overly soft, you do get a big pillowy feel that nike were after but they’re also very responsive and give you that bounce you need from an energy return shoe.
They’re ‘big’ enough to make you feel looked after on a long run, they react well to pace and felt great on-foot due to the fit and weight.
Nike claim that there will be no durability issues and that they’ll be good for in excess of 500 miles.
I suspect the sales of the Epic React will be huge. Knowing nike, they will always have one eye on the mass jogging market and I think those, ‘once around the park’ warriors will love ‘em. For those running longer, you’ll also love them at whatever pace.
It’s a neutral only shoe (can’t wait for the stability version!) and the upper could be a tad snug for the wider foot. There are no ‘extras’ on the shoe, no midfoot supporting wrap, no comfy heel collar padding, no outsole (!), but that wasn’t the brief. Design a lightweight, super-cushioned foam with superb energy return properties to run virtually any distance in – job done, nike.
Flyknit upper - Provides ventilated, stretchy and supportive comfort.
Bootie construction - Removes the need for a tongue to create a seamless, sock-like fit and easy entry.
No-sew overlays on the eyestays - Enhance durability and promote midfoot lockdown.
TPU heel clip - Secures the rearfoot to reduce in-shoe slippage.
Reflective strip - Increases visibility in low-light conditions.
Heel loop - For easy on-and-off.
React midsole - Delivers lightweight, durable and responsive cushioning.
Midsole 'ledge' - Strengthens rearfoot stability.
Deep grooves in traction pattern - Encourage natural foot flexion.
Translucent rubber toe and heel - Increase durability in these high-wear areas.