We have liftoff.
The moment all Nike sneakerheads have been waiting for has finally arrived, a true answer to Adidas’ Boost – Nike React.
Honestly, I do like my shoes, but I’m not as big of a sneakerhead as most people would think I am. Technology and performance draw me towards shoes more than collect-ability. When Boost dropped, I never got bit by the bug because it never suited training, it was just another sneaker to me. Eventually I caved and got a pair (a few), but even still I never really ended up wearing them that much because I honestly don’t think they’re that comfortable for extended wear. What good is a shoe you can’t train in, can’t wear for a long time, or can’t really run in? Street cred.
Nike’s approach to the Epic React Flyknit is more my jam – a performance running shoe, that you could wear going out, and can get you some love from the hype beast community. React is the name for Nike’s foam technology, but actually isn’t as new as anyone thinks it is, premiering first in the React Hyperdunk basketball shoe; this is just the first time it’s been on a running shoe. The premise? A comfortable, lightweight, durable running shoe with high energy return.
Build Quality – 6/6
In typical Nike style, both of my Epic React Flyknit’s came to me finished to perfection. As the name would say, the upper material is made of Flyknit that is both one piece and socklike in design. There are a few bits of polyurethane overlays in areas in need structure: the heel counter, lacing holes and swoosh. Unlike many of Nike’s shoes nowadays, there is no Flywire on the ERFK, but it’s not a big deal due to the elasticity of the upper. Overall, while the upper isn’t as plush as the merino wool Primeknit found on Adidas’ Ultraboost, it contains the foot much better; it fits tight, but not too tight.
What you see is what you get here, there is nothing to the React midsole/outsole other than what you see. It’s just a single piece of React foam that just has a thin bit of rubber at the heel and toe for added durability or traction. Questions of long term durability will arise but my more worn pair seems to be holding up just fine other than being dirty. The wavy pattern seen on the sides of the midsole continues on under the shoe to provide traction, which does a great job holding on concrete and even rubber flooring despite the React foam’s naturally smooth texture.
Fit – 6/6
Nike recommends sizing the ERFK a half size up if you’re looking for a looser fit; I’d say only do so if you were NOT planning on running in these. The Flyknit upper is more fitted but I don’t feel like it’s too tight or ever been uncomfortable to wear even for extended periods of time. Sizing to me seems pretty much in line with other Nike shoes, especially the Metcon 4. The size 10 Epic React fits me perfectly, but if you have wider feet, I’d recommend going up a half size because of the more snug upper.
Compared to the Adidas UltraBoost, the ERFK are more narrow, not as long and have a tighter fitting upper.
My sizes for reference:
- Nike Metcon 4 – 10
- Nike Zoom Fly – 10
- Nike Pegasus 34 – 10
- Nike LunarEpic Flyknit – 10.5 (Could probably go with a 10)
- Adidas UltraBoost – 10
- Reebok Harmony Road – 9.5
- Reebok Floatride Run – 9.5
Flexibility/Comfort – 6/6
If your main reason for buying the Epic React’s is comfort, then you should be happy to hear that they’re some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. Everyone’s idea of comfort is going to be different, so let me be clear – React foam is not as soft as Boost on UltraBoost models. Where it destroys Boost is in how quick it is to snap back to shape, or energy return. My feet get tired and achy after walking around for a while in UltraBoosts because they’re just too soft and dull feeling; React makes them feel like walking in quicksand. To be fair, this is only compared to UltraBoost’s – my Yeezy’s, CrazyTrain’s, and NMD’s are a lot more responsive. It makes sense that the Epic React would feel more responsive, because they are actually performance running shoes whereas UB’s are more athleisure shoes.
Flyknit is done to flawlessly in the Epic React’s. While more structured than Primeknit, it’s every bit as flexible, though less soft feeling. Not necessarily a bad thing since the Flyknit upper contains the foot better than Primeknit or even that of Nike’s own LunarEpic Flyknit. It isn’t a bad thing, just a different feeling. I don’t feel like my feet want to bleed out the side of the Epic React like other shoes softer uppers would allow.
Just walking around in the Epic React’s feels pretty similar in cushioning to Nike’s own LunarEpic’s. When it came down to actually putting the Reacts on the pavement, I was surprised to see just how bouncy they were. The harder you push, the more springy they get, it’s really a “fun” feeling to run in the Epic React’s. Compared to Lunarlon they’re supposed to have 13% greater energy return but to me they feel more close to 25%. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind running in my LunarEpic’s either but React is on a whole different level. React is also not quite at the level of Nike’s own ZoomX midsole (my preferred runner), but they’re a little bit easier on the feet while still providing excellent responsiveness.
Stability – 4/6
To my surprise, even with the solely (pun intended) foam midsole, the Epic React’s have pretty damned good stability; not only when it comes to running. I wouldn’t hesitate to use these shoes for workouts that included light weight’s or plyometric movements. My test workout was 3 rounds of 50 wall balls and a 400m run and I was able to keep my reps up like I would be able to in any training shoe and keep a good pace on the run. My time was 12:58. Not that I would recommend it, but I was able to do some fairly heavy clean and jerks (80%/225) in my Epic React’s without too much drama. Don’t expect to replace your Oly shoes for squat days though.
Even though the offset of the Epic React’s is 10mm, they still feel like a fairly neutral running shoe so if you’re a heavy overpronator, I’d say look for something with more stability. There is one “U” shaped piece of TPU that goes around the heel to keep your heel from rocking side to side, but otherwise the structure of the shoe is just foam and Flyknit. Surprisingly, the platform of the shoe is fairly wide, a lot more than the pictures would make them seem, but the React foam pushes out a good amount in the forefoot and heel areas of the shoe. Not that pose running is impossible in the Epic React’s, but it feels like these shoes want you to heel strike. Hopefully Nike comes out with a racing version with a lower drop.
Value – 4/6
While much cheaper than UltraBoost’s, the Epic Reacts are still not a cheap shoe coming in hot at $150. Hypebeasts aren’t even going to bat an eyelash at that price since it’s a premium Nike product, but if you’re looking for a pure running shoe, you could spend far less and still get a great shoe. Would the tech and street cred be there? No, probably not, but people looking for something to just get their runs in with probably won’t care. Despite that, I still think that the Epic React’s are fairly priced for the technology and performance they’re bringing to the table.
Honestly, most people that are buying this should will probably care less about actually running or working out in them, but Nike’s “Boost” is not just hype. They’ve gone and created a technological marvel of a midsole material and I can’t wait to see what they do with it next. It might have sounded like I was hard on Boost in this review, but to be honest, I love it as well! It’s just exciting to see that Nike finally has something to compete with! Sneaker tech is going to get a lot more interesting in the near future.
Total Score: 26/30