To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
Back in the late '80s, Nike made sneaker history when they launched the Air Max, the first shoe to ever incorporate "visible" air technology. Since then, they've used this air innovation in other running and basketball shoes, like most recently the Nike VaporMax FlyKnit. But now, Nike's sights are set on a different material that they claim is just as revolutionary as air: foam.
Okay, using foam in shoes isn't exactly groundbreaking, but the Nike Epic React Flyknit is made with a brand new proprietary foam, called Nike React, which they spent years developing, a Nike rep tells Refinery29. So, whether you're a hardcore runner who has very specific requirements (you know you prefer shoes that are lightweight and supportive, for example), or a newbie who just wants your body to feel good during a run, the Nike Epic React Flyknit will probably meet your needs.
I wore the Nike Epic React on a few 5K treadmill runs, and was immediately impressed by how springy or "responsive" the soles are. With each step, you can tell that the shoe is propelling you forward, but they're much softer than other highly-responsive shoes I've tried, like the Brooks Levitate. And compared to the Adidas UltraBOOST, which is another "energy foam" shoe, the Nike Epic React is much firmer, so my muscles didn't feel as fatigued as usual by the end of my runs.
Rebecca Adams, wellness director at Refinery29, says the Nike Epic React felt great when she ran outside on pavement. "Running is always a challenge for me because of knee pain, but the cushion on these was really helpful," she tells me. "I was also pleasantly surprised with how stable they were."
So, what makes these shoes so magically comfy and supportive? The sole is made of one solid piece of foam that, according to Nike, supports the parts of your foot that tend to receive the bulk of your impact when running. Plus, the sole extends wider than the upper (the part that covers your foot), which is supposed to provide extra stability and firmness, according to Nike. Even though they're firm and stable, the Nike Epic React are 5% lighter than their LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2. I would say these are about the same weight as the Brooks Glycerin 15, but they look much sleeker.
The Nike Epic React's upper is made from a stiffer version of their classic FlyKnit fabric, but it's still very comfortable. The heel is also more rigid and less sock-like than other FlyKnit (or Adidas PrimeKnit) shoes, which was a little uncomfortable for my feet, because I like to wear thick socks while running. Rebecca says she usually doesn't like woven fabric for lifting weights because her feet tend to shift around, but found the Nike Epic React sturdy and comfortable. She also said she got lots of compliments on the shoes, and dug the color scheme. "But since mine are white, I've already gotten them dirty and need to figure out the best way to clean them," she says.
These shoes cost $150, which is about average for a running shoe. In fact, according to Nike, the Nike Epic React is designed to last longer than its predecessor, Lunarlon, which are $140. Considering how solid these are for running, strength training, and just walking around outside, you can get a lot out of them even if you're not a hardcore runner.
So, would we recommend buying these?
If you want to take up running, or just need a reliable running shoe in your repertoire, get the Nike Epic React. In short, they just feel really comfortable, which is all you really need from a running shoe.
*Nike provided Refinery29 with the product for testing purposes.