In 2017, Nike unveiled Nike React Technology, its latest foray into the world of foam-based cushioning technology. After debuting in the summer of 2017 with the Hyperdunk 2017 and the Super. Fly 2017 basketball shoes, the technology started to attract mainstream attention a year later with the release of the Epic React running shoe and the React Element 87 lifestyle shoe. Since then, it's appeared on a score of models, including the Jordan Delta and Converse G4. If you've ever wondered what makes your favorite pair of Nike kicks quite so comfortable, find out now as we uncover everything there is to know about Nike React technology.
The History Of Foam Technology
According to Grailed, the earliest foam technology can be traced back to 1929 when two chemists, E. A. Murphy and Eric Owen, used whipped latex to create the first rubber foam for Dunlop Rubber. However, it would take until 1974 until foam began to be utilized in sneakers. It was first seen when Bill Bowerman added a closed-cell foam called EVA (a less breathable but sturdier alternative to open-cell foam) to the midsole of the Nike Waffle Racer. Soon after, Nike began incorporating EVA into the core of its full range of running soles. It wasn't necessarily a complete hit, with many runners complaining about lack of support and comprised movement. But this was the 1970s, and with a dearth of alternatives to draw on, it was still the best in class.
The Lunarlon Years
In the early 2000s, Nike began experimenting with a new type of performance-enhancing foam called Lunarlon. Lunarlon, which combined EVA foam with an elastic rubber called NBR (Nitrile Rubber), was soft, bouncy, and addressed many of the deficits of EVA. In the summer of 2008, Nike debuted its new technology with the release of two new shoes, the Nike Lunaracer for the marathon and the Nike Hyperdunk for basketball. It was an instant hit. Unlike EVA, Lunarlon was capable of softening impact while also delivering a bouncy, supportive fit. But despite its merits, Lunarlon wasn't without its flaws. While Lunarlon offered a softer, more responsive foam than EVA, it wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own. To support the foam, Nike had to utilize a firmer, protective carrier that stayed in contact with the ground.
“That didn’t allow us to maximize the soft, lightweight responsive foam,” Brett Holts, vice president of running footwear at Nike, explains to Forbes. “We had to glue those two pieces together. Adding two densities of foam, adding a layer of glue, and locking that innovation up was by no means an ideal scenario.” The addition of the glue added a substantial amount of weight, as well as taking away from the seamlessness of the sneaker. There was obviously a problem, a problem that was exacerbated when rival Adidas started to drive the pace with the release of ever more fashion-forward, accessible, and hyped collections. When Nike lost Kanye West to Adidas, Nike knew it was in trouble. When Adidas started enjoying success with its Yeezy line and its Ultra Boost sneakers, it knew it needed to act sooner rather than later. So that's exactly what it did.
The Unveiling of Nike React
Adidas' Ultra Boost sneakers were a game-changer. While EVA resulted in an energy loss of 40 to 60 percent, Adidas' Boost technology resulted in a loss of just 30%. Combined with the fashion-forward nature of the collection's designs, the Ultra Boost range of sneakers resulted in a double-digit growth in revenue. After several years in the wilderness, Adidas was back with a bang.... leaving Nike shaking in its old, outdated boots. But not for long.
In 2017, Nike unveiled the Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 and Jordan Super. Fly 2017, followed swiftly by the Nike Epic React. The sneakers were the first to utilize React foam, a lightweight technology with unsurpassed energy retention that made it perfect for athletes. Reach foam completely eliminated EVA, replacing it with a thermoplastic elastomers base that offered both improved cushioning and energy return. Not only did Nike React sneakers benefit for a 13% greater energy return than those that utilized Lunarlon, but they offered a far softer experience. As an added advantage, the React foam allowed the sneakers to spring immediately back into their original shape after experiencing any kind of pressure. Crucially, they were also 30% lighter than Adidas' Boost sneakers, given Nike the edge it so desperately needed.
The Multiple Benefits of Nike React Technology
Since 2017, Nike has utilized React technology in an increasing number of sneakers. Considering its perks, it's hardly surprising. As per the Nike website Nike React foam offers a myriad of benefits, including:
It's Superbly Versatile
When Nike debuted Nike React foam in 2017, it knew it was onto a good thing. Just how good has taken us all a little by surprise, not least Nike. So committed has the brand become to Nike React foam, it's utilized the technology across a huge selection of its shoes. You can now find it in everything from basketball high tops to runners and golf shoes.
It's Nike's Most Complete Foam Ever
Nike describes Nike React as its 'most complete foam.' And without a doubt, it is. Unlike other foams that may improve certain aspects of performance while ignoring others, Nike React offers the complete package. It's lightweight, durable, and capable of softening impact while improving energy retention. It's rare for a foam to be both soft and durable, but Nike React technology manages to combine the two diametrically opposed properties flawlessly.
It Reduces Running Related Injuries
Thanks to the soft, responsive nature of Nike React, Nike has managed to utilize the form to reduce running relating injuries. Its latest sneaker, the Nike React Infinity Run, uses 24% more React foam than its predecessors. In tests, it's shown a 52 percent lower injury rate compared to the Nike Structure 22. In a statement, Nike commented "The Nike React Infinity Run reduced running injuries by 52% compared to the Nike Air Zoom Structure 22 in a study of 226 men and women during a 12-week run training program (injury = missing 3 or more consecutive runs due to running related pain). Our study found that 30.3% of Nike Air Zoom Structure 22 runners experienced an injury but only 14.5% of Nike React Infinity Run runners experienced an injury."
Written by Garrett Parker
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