I recently test-drove Nike‘s newest running shoes, the Epic React Flyknit, at the gym.
I must say that the lightweight sneakers, at first glance, are gorgeous. They feature a soft Flyknit upper, a yellow pull-tab on the back, a sleek hot-pink heel clip, and cobalt-blue upper around the heel. The laces are flat, rather than round, reducing the likelihood of loosening while in use (a personal favorite touch of mine).
In my experience, I’ve had a hard time finding running sneakers that blend both style and function. Usually, it’s either one or the other: practical and ugly, or stylish and impractical. But to my surprise, Nike has achieved both with the new Flyknit.
At its base is a new proprietary foam, called Nike React, created as a group effort among innovators, chemists, engineers, and designers at the brand. The idea behind the foam is fourfold: to offer more cushion from impact; to provide energy, even late in a run; to feel light underfoot; and to withstand wear and tear.
Before trying the shoes at the gym, I got to give them a test run at a Nike press event where the sneakers were unveiled. There, attendees got to feel the shoes’ many features as they were led through a series of exercises: jumping in and out of a cube foam pit, weaving around stacks of tires, grabbing flying feathers inside an air vacuum box booth (similar to a Cash Cube), and finally, bouncing on a trampoline. While the workout was fun, I knew that in order to see how the sneakers might truly fit into my everyday life, I had to test them during my regular gym routine.
So, shortly after the press event, I headed to Blink, my local gym in Brooklyn, to begin my workout routine: a little weightlifting, crunches, and sit-ups, 20 minutes on the elliptical, and a 30-minute session on the treadmill.
It wasn’t until I moved onto the treadmill that I most noticed the sneakers (they are running shoes, after all). Throughout the session, while I ran at varying speeds, the shoes continued to show support and a high level of shock absorption at every step. I never once felt the jolt I have felt in the past with less sophisticated sneakers. These continued to feel comfortable and lightweight throughout the whole session.
As Ernest Kim, Nike Running’s director of advanced footwear, explained in a press release: “Think about your pillow: When you’re laying your head down to go to sleep, you don’t want it to bounce back up after it hits the pillow. Instead, you want that pillow to absorb all of the force of you laying your head down, so that you can get a good night’s sleep. That’s what we mean when we talk about great cushioning.”
As for the four goals of the Nike React foam, these shoes easily achieved the first three. Only time will tell how the shoes will hold up from wear and tear.
At this point, I can highly recommend the new Nike React Flyknits to anyone who is looking for a new pair of running shoes that achieve style, form, function, and comfort, all in one. I’d also agree that they are truly epic.
Shop the Nike Epic React Flyknits ($150) starting Feb. 22 on nike.com and select retailers.
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