The Nike Epic React running shoe was first released 2 years ago, at the beginning of 2018. Nike was on a mission to find the perfect balance between soft cushioning and responsive energy return without the shoe being too heavy.
According to Nike, their in-house chemists and mechanical engineers put Nike React technology through more than 2,000 hours of testing on the feet of basketball players to find this perfect combination. They understood that something soft usually absorbs energy, whereas a runner wants something responsive that will spring back.
Since introducing their React technology, Nike have tweaked and improved it and have since released newer versions of the Nike Epic React Flyknit running shoe. I tested out the second version – the Nike Epic React Flyknit 2 – in the hopes it could become my new everyday running shoe for those easy bread-and-butter training days.
Note, these shoes were not gifted and this review is not affiliated with Nike.
First, the upper. Thanks to their Flyknit technology, Nike have earned an impressive reputation for the comfort of their running shoes. The one-piece Flyknit upper moulds to your foot and expands and contracts as needed, meaning there's plenty of space for your toes and no rubbing, chafing, or blisters. It's supportive, flexible and breathable which is perfect for longer runs.
I was already a fan of Flyknit technology before I bought these shoes as I have had success with it in the past. I have found that with other brands, the upper of the shoe can rub blisters and also crush my toes due to a narrow toe box, however the Nike Epic React shoes have a noticeably roomy toe box and as soon as I put the shoes on, my feet felt comfortable and my toes were able to spread naturally and comfortably.
Onto the outsole, and the much talked about React foam is indeed soft and cushioned and I was seriously impressed at the comfort of these running shoes. Even when just walking or standing, I found these shoes very comfortable and I would certainly use them for casual wear as well as run training. If you're someone who does a lot of walking or you're on your feet a lot for work, these shoes could certainly be a good option.
My first impression when I put the Nike Epic React running shoes on was how roomy they felt – in the best possible way. I have tried out far too many running shoes in the past from various brands that are so small and squashed, even in larger sizes. It was such a breath of fresh air to be able to put on these shoes and for my toes not to feel squashed or cramped and to be able to enjoy natural toe spread.
I find that Nike is one of the only running shoe brands where I don't need to size up from my regular shoe size. This is a big bonus because it means no unnecessary extra weight and not feeling or looking like I'm running in clown shoes. With Asics, I have to size up more than one size and I also have to buy the men's version of the shoes because the women's are so narrow and tight. Hoka.... I bought one pair and I couldn't even wear them because they were so small and tight.
Nike seem to really understand that the last thing a runner wants is squashed, numb toes and to be worrying about finding a compromise between sizing up too many times and ending up with huge, clunky shoes. Go for your normal shoe size and you'll be comfortable.
This is, of course, the important part. As explained above, Nike have spent a lot of time developing their React technology and a lot of thought went into making the performance of these shoes as good as possible.
My first impression was that these shoes are certainly very lightweight, which was one of the missions Nike set out to achieve. No runner wants heavy, clunky shoes and we need shoes that can be versatile: yes we need cushioning and protection, but we also want to be able to push the pace when needed and not to be held back by heavy shoes when trying to do this.
The Nike Epic React Flyknit 2 running shoes are marketed as a 'neutral' shoe and I'd certainly say this is accurate. I usually need stability shoes as I suffer from over-pronation, despite working on my running form a lot. I know that a lot of other runners also over-pronate so stability shoes are becoming a lot more popular, common, and demanded. On my first few runs in these shoes, I thought they were okay support-wise, however I will say that for heavier runners or runners who have not worked on their form that much, these shoes will not be suitable and will not give you enough support.
I found that when I got tired and my form started to slip, I started to get a few niggles and pains, ones that I know are caused by my feet not being properly supported. That said, these shoes do allow you to guide your own foot strike which is better than some shoes I've found which force your feet to roll inwards or actively encourage bad form. If you can be sure you'll maintain good running form, these shoes will be fine.
However, onto that React technology which Nike put so much time into perfecting. As explained above, the goal was for these shoes to be soft and lightweight but also responsive. I have to say, I did not find these shoe responsive enough at all. I felt like they were really absorbing all of my energy and my gait was a lot flatter and heavier than it is when I wear other running shoes. Even my relatively heavy Asics stability shoes give better energy return than the Nike Epic React Flyknit 2 shoes, I'm afraid to say.
Ultimately, I found that these running shoes were not responsive enough and there was not enough energy return and I ended up returning the shoes because it bothered me that much.
I had really high hopes for these running shoes. I bought them because I was in need of a pair of everyday running shoes for my easy runs which would be lightweight yet supportive and allow me to breeze along mile after mile without thinking about my shoes or my feet. I wanted a pair more lightweight than my Asics stability shoes which I wear for my 'long runs' (18+ miles) and that were more comfortable and easy-going than my 'racing' shoes which help me push the pace during tempo, interval, and threshold runs.
Unfortunately, despite these shoes being super comfortable and attractive, they just didn't give enough energy return and were not responsive enough for me. They made me run very 'flat' and I found it really quite hard to pick my feet up, even more so than when I wear my heavier, chunkier Asics stability shoes. I was really disappointed as they look fantastic and they do feel great when just standing or walking.
Reluctantly, I returned these shoes because I could feel myself getting small, niggly injuries due to them not being supportive enough and I found that running became harder rather than easier when wearing these shoes. It's a real shame because I think they've got great potential, and perhaps for an advanced runner they'd be okay, but for the everyday amateur (and I'm no beginner, running 50+ miles per week) I don't think they're quite there.