Continuous innovation has always been Nike's M.O.. Whether it's launching the Air Jordan 1 for the greatest basketball player of all time back in 1984 or re-inventing the running game with the release of the Free Run circa 2005, the Swoosh has always set the benchmark every company strives for in athletic footwear.
Now, Nike is gearing up to add another killer silhouette to its expansive performance arsenal—the Epic REACT. Teased for some time now, the new platform will be the brand's first shoe featuring a full-length REACT cushioning system, meaning the Swoosh's next-generation technology is finally hitting its running division.
What is REACT foam?
While Lunar foam has for a long time operated in a similar space, REACT foam is entirely new as of the middle of last year, having first debuted across Nike Basketball's REACT Hyperdunk 2017 Flyknit and Jordan Super.Fly 6 sneakers, both of which launched last August.
Though Lunar foam will still exist in the Nike catalogue, REACT occupies a new space focused on greater energy return, effectively providing bouncy responsiveness that is also lightweight and durable. Designed directly in consultation with athletes, a design fundamental Nike has pioneered over the years, the brand found the same answer coming back every time athletes were asked what they wanted improved in footwear: everything. They wanted long-lasting, softer cushioning with even better energy return, and they needed the shoe to be lightweight.
So, the Nike Sports Research Lab set out to create a cushioning platform that is both soft and springy as well as squishy and stable. Their result is REACT foam.
What technology is integrated into the Epic REACT?
First of all, as previously mentioned, the model will be Nike's first sneaker featuring a full-length REACT cushioning system. Previous Nike Basketball releases only featured a “core” REACT cushioning system, not the full-length platform meaning the Epic REACT is a big step in the brand's overall footwear arsenal.
The silhouette also sports a unique heel design that sticks out past the model’s upper, creating a small ledge that surrounds the Epic REACT’s heel giving it a chunky appearance, with design cues clearly borrowed from Nike's marathon-focused Zoom Fly and elite-level Vaporfly 4%. The heel design is then wrapped together with a reinforced heel counter for premium support.
The upper features a one-piece sock-like Flyknit unit much like the LunarEpic line, but with different levels of knit dependent on where athletes need support most (and least). The arch and heel sections are tightly wrapped to offer maximum stability, while areas like the upper section of the toe box feature a thinner knit with the Swoosh's classic open-air breathability, similar to the Flyknit Racer.
"I'll never forget a conversation I had with our Director of Materials Innovations. We were talking about our objectives with this new foam and I brought up the topic of the trade-offs we might have to make. His immediate response to me was 'I'm not a big fan of "or." So in other words, just like our athletes, he refused to accept that we have to trade-off one benefit for another." - Ernest Kim, Nike Director of Advanced Footwear Innovation.
Who designed the shoe and what was the design process like?
Like anything coming out of Beaverton, it's always common for a big name to have made a significant contribution to any new release. Even more so when it's an entirely new platform. The Epic REACT is no exception, with Nike Director of Advanced Footwear Innovation and sneaker god Ernest Kim (AKA "Professor K") being the brains behind the new model.
At the Epic REACT's launch in Seoul late last week, Kim gave a keynote address on just what went into getting the shoe right for athletes and ready for production. His passion for the design process and the technology behind the shoe is unwavering, as is his uncompromising approach to ensuring the end product is a new level of innovation.
"I'll never forget a conversation I had with our Director of Materials Innovations. We were talking about our objectives with this new foam and I brought up the topic of the trade-offs we might have to make. His immediate response to me was 'I'm not a big fan of "or." In other words, just like our athletes, he refused to accept that we have to trade-off one benefit for another. Cushioning or energy material, lightweight or durability. Instead he believed that runners should be able to have their cake and eat it too," said Kim at the House of Go launch activation in Seoul, noting the team's focus on not compromising one foundation point for another was a cornerstone for the Epic REACT.
From conception all the way to launch, Kim and the team spent 3 years toiling away at the end product we see today. The product testing that went into the model's design process alone included over 27,000km of running, making it one of the most arduous conception processes in Nike's history - "Nike REACT foam is more durable than any other foam we've tested in the history of Nike running. That alone speaks for itself."
When is the Epic REACT available and what can we look forward to launch-wise?
After launching to the media in Seoul late last week at Nike's Willy Wonka-esque House of Go activation, the Epic REACT is set to drop in both colourways—the white "Ultramarine" livery and the navy blue livery—on February 22 for a retail price of $220 AUD. The new model will be available in store and online. For Aussie Swoosh fans wanting to experience a unique sensorial overload and get a feel for the all-new platform, Nike are bringing the House of Go experience to Melbourne over the first weekend of March.
Stay tuned to our site tomorrow for more details on the Seoul activation and what went down, along with details on what to look forward to in Melbourne.
Editor's note: we attended the Epic REACT's launch in Seoul, Korea at the invitation of Nike.