Spring is in the air, and for many, thoughts will turn to pounding the pavements in a bid to get fit. Nike is always happy to help wth that, and it today releases quite possibly its techiest, most avant-garde running shoes to date in the form of the premum LunarEpic Flyknit running shoe.
The key features here are that the upper uses the ankle-high shape and Flyknit fabric familiar from Nike's football boots. To put it in non-technical language, it's like wearing a very grippy sock attached to a sole, rather than a traditional trainer. The laces almost disappear into the fabric, and breathability/ventilation is much better than you might expect.
We're fairly used to the Flyknit upper, but the sole is something else. With an appearance almost like one of those Masai Barefoot Trainers, you can tell by looking at it that it's going to be comfortable, and it is remarkably bouncy.
In the midsole, an injected Phylon core foam under your foot is paired with a slightly firmer injected unit sole carrier foam to deliver what Nike calls, "a super plush ride."
The sole is almost like an animal footprint, with molded pods for grip and impact absorbtion. Rubber under the toe should mean it holds out longer as the miles mount up, too.
The shoe's designer, Phil McCartney, describes LunarEpic as nothing less than, "the beginning of a new era in Nike Running," adding, "We are always looking for ways to help runners get more from their runs, through both products and services. This shoe isn’t about one feature; it’s about a collection of runner inspired innovation which work together to create a new running experience and underfoot ride… that optimises force with the use of new capabilities and geometries."
Despite the premium price (£150) and edgy design, McCartney is adamant this is not just for elite runners, but to, "allow runners of all abilities to go longer and build endurance."
Here's our early verdict
We've only had a brief go with the LunarEpics, but ultra-marathon-running manvsmiles.com leg mechanic Kieran Alger has been putting them through their paces for a few months now. Here's what he has to say.
"With the LunarEpic Flyknit, Nike has done something pretty bold. But while the new mid-cut collar and the new soles look pretty cool, the proof with running shoes is always in the first time you put them on and run with them. As with any shoe, there's some things I love, some things I'm not so keen on.
"I always rate running shoes on a few simple things. How they feel when I first put them on. If I can't feel them. That's a great sign. The second is how they feel on my feet when I'm actually moving. Again I'm looking for something that doesn't interfere with my run. I don't want to be aware of my shoes.
"So first up the 'vanishing fit' of the new uppers with their collar design does make these superbly comfortable on the foot. The first time you slip them on, you forget they're there. There's a snug, sock-like feel that, a bit like compression clothing, has that feeling of security and comfort. It manages that without making your feet feel restricted, mainly because the toe box allows plenty of movement.
"On the road or a treadmill, I found there was good support, but they definitely handled less well on the light stoney trails of the Thames Path.
"But then running shoes are a very personal thing. I prefer to run in a more minimal shoe with a lot less cushioning, so I found these to have, if anything, too much cushioning underfoot.
"However, if you like a cushioned shoe, for example the Adidas Boost or the ASICS Metarun, then I can see these will be a very good alternative."
So, the LunarEpic Flyknit is in stores March 4, but it's available online right now. Price, a reasonably premium £150.