Running doesn't require a lot of kit. It doesn't come with the accessories, the gear, and, frankly, the expense of other sports. Providing you have an open road in front of you, you're good to go. Almost. While it doesn't really matter how old or tattered the rest of your attire is, there's one piece of running kit that you can't afford to get wrong. Not if you want to protect your ankles from injury and avoid the perils of runner's knee, anyway. Regardless of whether you're a sprinter or an endurance runner, a decent pair of sneakers is a must. Choosing flashy details over arch support is a one-way ticket to disaster. Fortunately, this is 2021, and these days, you don't have to sacrifice style for function. Neither do you have to put up with technology that hasn't been current since the turn of the last century. Today, increasing numbers of footwear providers are wising up to the need for cutting-edge sneakers that support the foot, protect the ankle, and give runners everything they need to get off on the right foot. Case in point, the Nike Odyssey React, a streamlined, sleek running shoe that's been specifically created to improve running efficiency and tackle injury prevention. If you've ever wondered what differentiates the Nike Odyssey React from other sneakers, stay tuned to find out.
The Nike Odyssey React
As Keller-sports.com writes, the name Nike Odyssey has a familiar ring to it. Why? Because the Nike Air Zoom Odyssey shoe has been around for a long time now, and for good reason. Featuring Flymesh and Flywire uppers for unmatched comfort, a roomy toe box, and a flexible fit, it's been a popular choice with runners for years. But a few years ago, Nike decided the Odyssey was capable of even more. So what did it do? Take away the Air Zoom elements of the sneaker and replace them with a React midsole, a revolutionary new technology that was designed with the express purpose of cutting running injuries and bringing a whole new world of comfort to runners.
The History of Nike React Technology
Nike React technology is what sets the Nike Odyssey React apart from other sneakers. But what exactly is it? What it is, in essence, is an answer - an answer to a question Nike asked runners about what they valued most in a running shoe. Regardless of their level, all runners came back with the same response. They wanted a sneaker that was light, soft, responsive, and durable. It was a reasonable request, but not without its challenges.
Until the early 2000s, Nike had relied on EVA, a closed-cell foam that was introduced to the midsole of sneakers to improve comfort and cushioning. At the time of its discovery in the 1970s, EVA was revolutionary. But 30 years later, the cracks were starting to show. After listening to runners' complaints, Nike set out to create something with greater support and enhanced flexibility. The result was Lunarlon, a new type of performance-enhancing foam that combined EVA with Nitrile Rubber to produce something altogether bouncier, softer, and more responsive. It cushioned impact while still delivering support. But it had a problem. It lacked the strength to stand alone. Nike was therefore forced to surround it with a firmer carrier that negated some of the foam's best qualities.
There was clearly room for improvement - something that was more than evident from the request for a sneaker that was light and soft, responsive and durable. The problem was, combining all of those properties into a single shoe was almost impossible. Soft materials absorb more energy than they return. Hard materials offer great energy return but lack cushioning. Sneakers could be soft and cushioned, or they could be hard and responsive. But to be soft and responsive at the same time? Impossible. Or so we thought. But then Nike came along with Nike React technology and turned the world on its head.
The Revolution Starts
In 2017, Nike unleashed the first of its sneakers to feature Nike React technology. The technology was originally intended to improve the balance, responsiveness, and stability of basketball shoes, but after tests showed it returned 10% more energy than other Nike cushioning materials, it soon started to be rolled out into runners. It wasn't just the responsiveness of the new tech that was impressive. Its durability was unmatched - even after several hundred kilometers, the sole still managed to spring back into its original shape. After years of development, Nike had finally found the answer to runners' prayers. Here was a foam that was scientifically designed to blend durability and energy transfer with comfort and cushioning. Qualities that had previously thought to be diametrically opposed had been bought together for the first time. And the result was epic.
The Nike Odyssey React Debuts
As Running Shoe Guru writes, the Nike Odyssey React was the second running-specific shoe to debut with Nike's new React foam. A lightweight, light stability, all-purpose sneaker, it immediately impressed runners with its superb balance of softness and durability.
The vertical arrangement of the fiber materials in the midsole allowed for excellent shock protection. It offered softness, bounce, and excellent durability. But as The Sole Line notes, there was way more to these runners than just some great foam. Their simple design incorporated all the features needed for a secure, comfortable shoe. The uppers were crafted from a one-piece, neoprene bootie that hugged the foot without feeling restrictive. A slightly looser knit around the front of the foot allowed for excellent breathability. The flat lacing system provided a firm, adjustable fit. They were comfortable, they were versatile, and they were the perfect response to the running community's demand for a soft, responsive shoe.
The Nike Odyssey React Today
The Nike Odyssey React debuted almost three years ago. Today, its technology still feels as cutting edge as ever. Their combination of lightweight upper and cushioned sole delivers the soft, springy ride that runners have been dreaming of for years. While other footwear makers have ventured into new foam territory (see Adidas' Boost range as an example), Nike has arguably done it better than most. The results speak for themselves in the enduring popularity of the Odyssey React and the score of other Nike sneakers to feature React technology.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker