You can’t plan to avoid injuries while running, but Nike has worked on how to reduce them.
Arriving early next year is the React Infinity Run, a spring ’20 performance sneaker designed to help Nike on its next big mission: to reduce injury and keep runners on the road longer and running faster.
Ahead of today’s shoe reveal, VP of Nike Running Footwear Brett Holts told FN that the React Infinity Run is “one of our most tested shoes in running.”
For 12 weeks, the Nike Sport Research Lab tested the shoe in partnership with the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation. According to Nike, the sneaker was tested on 226 runners who ran 60,000 miles in both the React Infinity Run and the brand’s Structure 22 to see if there was a difference in injury rates and pain perception between these two shoes. (A injury was defined as a runner missing three or more consecutive runs due to running-related pain.)
Nike said after 12 weeks of training, the tests showed the Nike React Infinity had a 52% lower injury rate than the other shoe and that the runners felt less pain in their knees and feet.
The main benefits from wearing the React Infinity Run came from its cushioning.
“The mechanisms of injuries aren’t well understood in the scientific literature so when you’re in that kind of situation [you have to say], ‘Where do we start? How do we get this path going?’ For us, that meant listening to the voice of the athlete, trying lots of different prototypes on athletes and seeing what feels good to them, what feels right,” Nike Sport Research Lab footwear research director Jay Worobets told FN yesterday ahead of the shoe reveal. “When we followed that path, it makes a change from prioritizing motion control elements as the primary feature in the midsole to all-out cushioning.”
Worobets said that, “Making the system cushioned, which is soft and responsive — that’s what seems to resonate with the athlete. It feels good. That’s where our insights started. The challenge there is how do you enhance the cushioning and maintain a runnable shoe and system?”
To get the cushioning right, Nike tinkered with its acclaimed “do-it-all” React material, which debuted in 2018, to create a sensation that was soft, stable, responsive and fluid.
“React is one of our most complete foams. It’s incredibly cushioned but at the same time it’s lightweight,” Holts told FN. “It’s also incredibly long-lasting [with a] lot of durability; it doesn’t pack out quite as quick as our other foams or other foams in the industry,”
Holts noted that the React Infinity Run features 24% more foam under the foot compared to the previous Epic Reacts running sneakers that have hit the market.
Aside from React foam, the shoe also features a widened midsole for added stability that serves as a complement to the cushioning and rocker geometry for a more fluid transition from heel to toe, which was inspired by lessons learned from the Vaporfly.
The Nike React Infinity Run will hit stores in January and retail for $160.
Although the advancements accomplished with the Nike React Infinity Run are being touted today as tools to reduce running-related injuries as a whole; Nike hopes to fix specific injuries next.
“To understand running injuries as a whole is a good first step. The ultimate goal for us is to be able to be more prescriptive: If it’s shin splints, then it’s this; if it’s plantar fascia, then it’s this,” Matthew Nurse, VP of the Nike Explore Team Sport Research Lab, told FN. “That’s part of the journey that we’ve been on and will continue to embark on moving forward. That’s the North Star, but today we’re talking about running injuries as a collection.”
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