Nike first announced React cushioning before the 2017 NBA Finals, debuting the new tech on the feet of Draymond Green. The latest shoe to feature the new foam, the Nike Epic React Flyknit, released this week, and we got an in hand look at a pair.

The latest addition to Nike’s arsenal of midsole cushioning technologies has finally arrived. Titled React, the soft new foam has been years in the making, with many trials and tests to ensure the formula was perfect. The new technology is only now making the transition to running shoes because previously it was contained by a rubber casing on the basketball models that launched React. Nike had to make sure that the soft new midsoles would be able to withstand miles and miles of wear on stiff concrete, and took the time to make sure their product was truly ready for release. We here at JustFreshKicks got our hands on Nike’s newest running silhouette to learn for ourselves how React feels on-foot.

The Nike Epic React Flyknit looks excellent in-hand. The shape of the upper borrows from the Flyknit Racer and Mariah Racer, and is constructed entirely from Primkenit to keep the shoe light and flexible. Many sneaker heads took issue without the extraneous bit of the heel that extends outward from the back of the shoe. In person, this bump is more gentle and curved than the photos originally revealed, not to mention that it is extremely important for keeping the sole’s shape over time. On-foot, the Nike Epic React Flyknit is dutifully slimming. The single layer Flyknit upper is only thickened in the heel for extra support, meaning the rest of the shoe conforms uniformly across the foot. The knit upper is slightly tighter than usual, which provides a super snug fit for true-to-size pairs. If you are not 100% sure about your true size, or think the Epic React is a little small, size up 0.5 for a good fit. The sole is a new look for the React technology, as it was previously encased in rubber to protect it from wearing down. For the new model, Nike had to play with the formula once again to ensure that the soft foam would be incredibly durable when running on hard concrete. To help combat wear in important areas, small sections of rubber cover the heel and toe of the outsole.

Make no mistake: Nike’s React cushioning stands in a category on it’s own, much like other industry-leading competitors. Nike spent years balancing the chemical mixture used to create the new foam. Their careful and lengthy tinkering has paid off enormously, as React provides an unprecedented new feel underfoot. React is extremely forgiving, as the rebound of the sole can be felt in every step. However, different from other famous cushioning technologies, React feels ridiculously springy. The foam expands and contracts effortlessly, almost adding force as you go. This means that during a run, it may feel as if the shoe is pushing back on the wearer’s foot, propelling them forward. React also holds up very well on the casual/lifestyle front, retaining it’s rigid, yet squishy feel over hours and hours. Overall, wearing the Epic React is like walking on a memory foam mattress with a series of springs inside. With every step, you can feel the marshmallow-like comfort of the super-soft foam, and at the same time it feels as if the shoe is pushing you to move. Lacing up this pair, I felt as though I needed to run faster and faster, for as long as I could, just to test the limit so of the midsole.

Overall, the Nike Epic React Flyknit is a home run for the Swoosh. The latest addition to their foam cushioning lineup has created a league of it’s own, due to the strange hybrid of comfort, support, and rigidity. There is no easy way to compare this new technology to that of another brand, as each is designed differently with a different purpose in mind. React is a whole new look and feel for Nike, it will be very interesting to see how they utilize it from here.

The Nike Epic React launched exclusively on the Nike App on February 6th. The shoes will receive a global release later in February, for a price of $150. Check out the in-hand photos below for a better look, and stay tuned to JustFreshKicks for more reviews on new sneaker technology.

Words and images by Ben Serleth
Shoes provided by Premium Sneakers Berkeley

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