Since the debut of the Zoom Vaporfly 4% back in 2017, the big story with Nike running has been all about speed—or more specifically, the company’s quest to develop a running shoe that can propel an athlete through a marathon in less than two hours. While Eliud Kipchoge (sort of) notched that vaunted achievement last year, Nike’s also been working to tackle another barrier in running: injuries. Its latest running shoe, the React Infinity Run, is the product of that effort, and it’s proven to significantly reduce running-related pain and injuries. It’s now on sale for Nike members, and will be available to the general running public on Jan. 16. Here’s everything you need to know about the shoe.
First, Why Injury Prevention?
Injuries are practically inevitable for runners of every level. It’s intimidating for newcomers trying to get to the start line and can thwart professionals at the Olympic level. Thing is, we don’t really understand the mechanism of injuries, says Brett Holts, VP of Nike Running Footwear. The industry largely looks to motion control. Foot strike and pronation have always been deemed the culprit of pain and injury: Heel striking and overpronating (foot rolling inward) was deemed unfavorable, but we don’t know for certain if there’s a causal relationship between these movement patterns and injury.
While metrics are important, sometimes it’s qualitative data that pays dividends for runners. Nike turned to athletes and asked what feels good—what kind of shoe keeps their feet happy. The overwhelming majority said cushioning, so that’s where they pivoted.
React Infinity Run: The Specs
Starting from the bottom, the Infinity Run has a rocker sole—a feature runners loved from the Vaporfly. That sloped design rolls you onto your forefoot for a smooth stride, slowing the rate of impact. The shoe’s 9mm heel-toe drop helps keep you on your toes more, too. Underfoot, you have a wide midsole that creates a more stable platform for your feet.
The midsole is made from a fine-tuned version of React foam, the same stuff used in the Zoom Fly 3 and the plush Air Zoom Vomero (though different from the ultralight, ultra-bouncy ZoomX foam used in the Next%). React delivers a good balance between shock absorption and energy return (it’s Nike’s most complete foam, Holt says), so the shoe cushions impact forces but also feels firm and springy underfoot.
Fluid geometry, informed through algorithms from athlete data, is incorporated to mitigate pressure points. You’ll see and feel it in various ways: Deeper cuts and grooves in the heel absorb the landing forces so they don’t ricochet up your legs, while tighter, shallower patterns toward the toe aid responsiveness to get you through the toe-off transition.
A TPU clip aligns the shoe to sit directly on the foam, so you get a more locked-in feel where your foot is cradled in the foam system. Together, these elements create a shoe that feels stable and comfortable without being clunky—a good pick for moderate distances and paces. In addition, a revised Flyknit upper promises better durability, and the rubber outsole should hold up through 500-600 miles before mechanical compression starts to degrade the shoe (other iterations were about 300 miles). But how does it hold up in real life?
Approximately 16,000 miles were logged in the prototype to find out, making this Nike’s most tested running shoe to date.
Where Research Comes Into Play
Nike turned to the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation (BCSMRF) to conduct an independent study. Researchers compared the Infinity Run with Nike’s Structure 22 on 226 runners. Half the athletes completed a 12-week training program with either shoe, logging a total of 60,000 miles. Researchers had athletes log injuries (defined as missing three consecutive workouts due to pain). The results showed that the Infinity Run reduced injures (knee, foot, shin, and calf) by 52 percent compared to the Structure 22.
That’s especially notable because the Infinity Run wasn’t up against a lean, light speed shoe—it was compared to a traditional “motion control” stability shoe. These kinds of shoes, which often feature a layer of firm foam in the midsole to counter overpronation, are marketed as a way to improve your running form and reduce injury. Some shoe companies are beginning to move away from this kind of support feature, and the Infinity Run is a good example of the alternative thinking: It doesn’t interfere with your stride by pushing firm foam into your feet. Instead, it provides a confident platform and promotes your natural gait.
The BCSMRF study indicates that pared-down stability and comfort might be all you really need to reduce injuries—though it never hurts to have the shoe look this good.
[Available now for Nike members, and on Jan. 16 for the general public, $160; nike.com]Get it
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