By Drew Hammell
On a raw and rainy January morning last month, New York City running enthusiasts gathered inside a massive, yet unassuming building along the West Side Highway in SoHo for the debut of Nike’s latest sneaker innovation. No one was quite sure what to expect – there was only a mysterious email invitation for all those fortunate enough to be considered for the high honor:
“We invite you to experience the latest Nike footwear innovation on January 23rd. Be amongst the first to trial the footwear while joining NRC coaches, product specialists and other special guests for an epic team competition.”
This should be interesting.
Upon entering the venue, there were marketing reps from Nike waiting to greet each person who walked in. There was a check-in station, along with organic fruits, juices, bottles of fancy water, and hipster protein bars. Along the wall were massive images of a blue foot mold perched on top of a white foam square, on top of a yellow foam square, on top of blue egg crate foam, on top of a pillow, on top of three springs. What was Nike pushing here? Shox on steroids? A Tempur-Pedic bed for the foot? Both?
After about forty sneaker writers, bloggers, and influencers filed in through the doors and mingled for a few minutes, everyone was escorted into a sneaker showroom. On the wall was what everyone was waiting to see – the latest invention from Nike: the Epic React. There were forty pairs of white and navy shoes on the wall, with our individual names written underneath each pair. We were invited to sit and learn about all the technological advancements the Epic React featured. We learned that React is the successor to the Lunarlon line. It featured Nike’s patented Flyknit upper, which meant feather-like breathability. The React cushioning is more durable, but still lightweight and cushiony. The foam is 11 percent softer, and 13 percent bouncier than Lunarlon, in fact. And we couldn’t forget the primary colors: Racer Blue and Pink Blast.
Following the demonstration, we were invited to grab our pair of Epic Reacts and proceed to a fitting room area with personal lockers for each of us. Every locker contained a full Nike outfit. Dri-FIT tights, tops, hoodies and socks for the girls. Dri-FIT shorts, tees, hoodies and socks for the guys. We were about to test out this revolutionary new shoe, but we weren’t exactly sure how. All we knew was that it would be epic.
After everyone was changed and ready to roll, we entered a much bigger and brighter room full of happy, cheering Nike reps along with pink, yellow, blue and white obstacle stations. With a DJ blasting high-energy tunes, we surveyed the space. Somewhat embarrassed, but also intrigued, we high-fived our way into the room and got ourselves hyped.
Adding to the hype were a few famous athletes who were introduced to us one by one. Sprinter and four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross ran in. Then gymnast and two-time Olympic medalist Lauri Hernandez. Then hurdling gold medalists Aries Merritt and Dalilah Muhammad. And finally two-time WNBA All-Star Stafanie Dolson. We were surrounded by greatness.
After the introductions, we were divided into teams, with one of these elite athletes leading the way as our captains. There were four stations, complete with trampolines, foam pits, racetracks, and life-size containers full of feathers. We then proceeded to bounce, jump, sprint, and catch feathers until we were sweating and laughing and having a blast. Each teams received points for completing tasks at each station, and the points were tallied on a big digital board. Nike made the point pretty clear – the Epic React was the lightest, bounciest, softest, fastest running shoe ever created.
After we were finished playing and had a chance to compete with the best of the best, we wrapped things up, congratulated the winning team, took some pictures, and said our goodbyes. The whole event was meant to show off the unique character of the Epic React – a shoe designed for serious runners, but also versatile enough to wear to the gym or on the street. A sneaker that is fun to wear, but also means business. Nike is well known for AIR technology, but they’ve been making breakthroughs with lighter and more durable foam cushioning for years as well. The Epic React is the newest and best advancement in the ongoing sneaker design race, and it is definitely worth taking out for a test drive.