Toward the end of January, Nike announced its newest foam, which the brand claims is the lightest, most responsive and durable on the market. The foam debuted on a new running shoe called the Epic React, and according to Nike, it should work for both long distance runs and more uptempo work. The Epic React is finally available to consumers (they launched on February 22), but are they worth the hype?
The Good: As a fan of Nike’s LunarEpic Low Flyknits, I was excited to test Nike’s next generation of foam and innovation. Nike’s previous version of high-end foam, called Lunarlon, was a mix of both soft and firm foams to keep your landing soft, but still provide ample energy return for your next stride. The foam in the Epic React builds on that construction, coming in 11% softer than the Lunarlon and offering 13% better energy return. By hitting those numbers, Nike created a shoe that’s lightweight and responsive but still feels plush.
The Nike team had elite runners (like Galen Rup, Mo Farah and the entire NYC-Running Crew Black Roses) test 400 different iterations of the shoe over 17,000 miles to make sure the composition of the foam was just right — and ensure that it works with all different shapes of feet.
I’ve been running in the Epic React for about a month now, and regardless of the conditions, they simply perform. Like with Nike’s other high-end running shoes, there was no break-in process. Right out of the box, there were no blisters, hot spots or weird foot pains, which I’ve often experienced in testing other running shoes. The upper is the same FlyKnit fabric Nike has perfected — meaning it breathes well, conforms to your foot, stretches where you need it and still provides support in crucial areas. The outsole worked just as well in puddles and across NYC’s notoriously slick bridges as it did on dry pavement, making the shoes perfect for a run commute.
Who They’re For: Both distance-runners and more spirited short-distance runners. While they’re not a race day shoe for sprinters, they’ll be more than capable of handling whatever paces most of us will be able to put them through. They run fairly true to size, but I recommend trying them on first before purchasing; everyone’s foot is different. Nike has a 30-day free return policy, so you can buy and then test, or head to your local running specialty store, throw a pair of these on and hop on the treadmill to get a feel.
Watch Out For: The question on everyone’s mind with the Epic React, and specifically with the new foam, is how well it will hold up. All EVA foam breaks down and compacts over time (affecting its energy return, responsiveness and cushion), but according to Nike, when they gave testers shoes that already had 500 miles on them and asked how many miles testers thought the shoes had on them, the average answer was 15.
Alternatives: It’s hard not to make the comparison to Adidas’s Ultraboost line. The Nike Lunarepic Low Flyknit 2 is essentially the previous generation of the Epic React, but it’s being phased out, so get it while you can. Another favorite (with less advanced foam tech) is New Balance’s Fresh Foam Zante.
What Others Are Saying:
• “The Flyknits are incredibly light and terrifically breathable, so you don them and hop on a treadmill or hit the pavement and you feel liberated, as if wearing nothing. Despite that, unlike most minimalist running shoes, the Flyknits offer tremendous stability and security; your foot feels balanced and safe in them, allowing you to attack curves and alter your stride with ease.” — Ebenezer Samuel, Men’s Health
• “For reference, articles editor Jeff Dengate’s slowest run was a five-miler at a 7-minute pace—the morning after far too many margaritas. Best of all, his effort didn’t feel any faster than an 8-minute mile.” — Jeff Dengate, Men’s Journal
Weight: 8.43 ounces