Nike’s Comfortable New Shoe Was Made For Medical Workers

The sneakers are durable, supportive, and easy to clean. We’ve tested many of the shoes below, and the others we’re in the process of testing—that means getting feedback from over 300 wear testers as well as analyzing the shoes in our lab. For each shoe, we give you a general overview of what’s new and notable, and we link to full reviews where possible. To choose them, we surveyed what’s new in Nike’s lineup, talked with brand reps, and used our own experience to parse out what kicks are most important to know about. The picks below represent the flagship running shoes from the company (mainly the Zoom series, including the Next% and Zoom Fly 3, which incorporate top-shelf innovations like Zoom Air units and ZoomX foam) and also shoes that suit different types of runners, such as stability and trail shoes. Considering that many of its models are also highly versatile, investing in a pair of Nikes often means getting shoes that can handle nearly any run you decide to take. Find the right pair for you below.

Unlike other brands, Nike does its chemistry in-house, and its foams are the product of years of experimentation. One early success was Lunarlon, a blend of EVA and bouncy nitrile rubber that debuted in the Lunaracer in 2008 and won a following for its springy, responsive feel. More recently, Nike released React foam in the Epic React Flyknit in 2017. Designers honed the formula to maximize cushioning, energy return, and durability while maintaining a low weight. RW lab tests on the Epic React confirm the foam’s impressive balance of softness and bounce, and testers felt a noticeable improvement from Lunarlon-based shoes.

No statistical model is perfect, and it’s possible that runners who choose to wear Vaporfly or Next% shoes are somehow different from runners who do not. Regardless of the decisions that went into this model — even when trying to control for runners’ propensity to wear the shoes in the first place — the outputs were similar. The Moon Shoes—one of 12 pairs made for the 1972 US Olympic Trials by Nike co-founder and Oregon University track coach Bill Bowerman—are an important piece of the athletic brand’s history. No other unworn pairs are known to exist. The record-setting sale topped a pre-sale estimate of just $160,000.

Nike’s latest cushioning system debuted on the Joyride Run in 2019. The shoe uses four pods filled with TPE beads that compress to absorb shocks. The pouches are wrapped in SR02, a super-soft foam (normally too soft to use in shoes) that helps smooth the gaps between the pouches. Although unique, Nike’s not the first to develop a beads-in-pouches system—Puma created a similar platform in 2017—and we found the Joyride delivers unremarkable performance for a steep price. It’s not included here. Now, according to the Times, the high-tech shoes may actually give runners more of an advantage than it was initially thought.

There is no such thing as a large-scale randomized control trial for marathons and shoes, but there is Strava , a fitness app that calls itself the social network for athletes. Nearly each weekend, thousands of runners compete in races, record their performance data on satellite watches or smartphones, and upload their race data to the app. This data includes things like a race name, finish time, per-mile splits and overall elevation profile. And about one in four races includes self-reported information about a runner’s shoes.


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