Nike Running is changing the game yet again with its latest innovation.
After the success of its Breaking2 release last year, Nike has reestablished its reputation as being the brand that pushes technology the furthest and the fastest – and their latest running shoe is another step towards excellence.
The Nike Epic React Flyknit – which was launched in London last week – is the first running shoe to be built on Nike's new proprietary foam technology which meets the needs of every runner without making any sacrifces. It's a shoe that offers more cushioning with each stride, more energy in each step and an incredibly lightweight silhouette that's remarkably durable.
The React foam has the potential to change the way athletes move in all sports, not just running, which is why boxers, footballers and sprinters all came together to unveil the shoe in London last week.
To get the lowdown on one of the most exciting releases we'll see from Nike this year, we spoke with Bret Schoolmeester, the Swoosh's senior director for global running footwear.
COMPLEX: Can you break down why the React foam is such an exciting innovation?
Bret Schoolmeester: We’re continuing to push into a zone where athletes don’t have to make compromises. This is our best swipe at being able to deliver a shoe that’s very light, very soft, extremely durable and also gives a lot of energy back to our runners with each step. To get all four of those things performing at such a high level on one platform is so exciting.
How long has this foam technology been in the works?
We briefed the project three years ago and we kicked it over to our chemical engineering team and they were so fired up by it. Our big shift here is the foam, most foams on the market are EVA based – some are PU based – but React foam is a synthetic rubber compound. Rubber has a great energy return and it’s so durable, so our challenge was to create a rubber that was also light and soft. This shoe rewrites the book on how we use foams at Nike and the results speak for itself – without sacrificing anything in terms of weight or softness from Lunar, we’ve added 13% better energy return and 20% increased durability.
With the Flyknit upper and pops of colour, this is also a very good looking shoe. What type of balance are you trying to strike between performance and lifestyle in a release like this?
You shouldn’t have to wear an ugly shoe to have it high performing, nor should you have a great looking sneaker that doesn’t work in the way it should. With performance footwear form always follows function so all of the inspiration for this shoe were performance based. We’re confident this is our best performance Flyknit upper to date, we launched it in 2012 and are continuing to improve it – it’s basically a form of 3D printing and with Flyknit, we can respond to what our athletes are saying and literally make improvements pixel by pixel.
The list of athletes who launched this shoe in London came from so many backgrounds – athletics, boxing, Crossfit, football – is this technology a game changer, not just in running, but across the board?
For sure, I think those tenants of being lightweight, responsive and durable are applicable to athletes across the spectrum. We see it already being applied in basketball and running...Nike now has the best foam in the industry so we’re going to see it a lot more.
Running has become such a huge cultural and social movement – especially in London – within the last few years. Has the ‘lifestylisation’ of running affected the way you have to think as a design team?
We definitely encourage it! Nike has been a huge part of that groundswell, working with lots of run clubs and taking feedback from these people to make better shoes. I think it’s amazing for people to find something to do socially that’s also so beneficial for their body.
One of the most interesting things within running shoes is that you can literally measure the impact of your innovations in very concrete ways. Take last year’s Breaking2 as an example, you can pretty much measure the difference your product is making in the new times your athletes are running. That must be an amazing feeling and a huge motivational tool?
Absolutely and that’s been a huge shift for us and raised the bar at Nike Running. We know that we can’t use soft science anymore...we can’t say ‘yeah we think is gonna be great’, we want to be able to say 13% better energy return, 20% more miles, 10% lighter than our competitors...it’s a new standard we’re setting for ourselves and it’s not being matched. It’s very exciting and these real results are inspiring some of the best upcoming projects I’ve ever seen.
The Nike Epic React Flyknit will be available February 22 on nike.com and at select retailers.