The Nike Epic React is everything it's cracked up to be
The question has been looming since Nike introduced the world to its latest running shoe, the Epic React: Can this finally dethrone the Adidas UltraBoost?
The comparisons were never made outright, but the similarities were always very clear: Like the UltraBoost, the Nike Epic React was touted as a running sneaker that would maximize energy return and cushioning using a proprietary foam technology called React, to match Adidas’ Boost.
Like the UltraBoost, the Epic React boasts a precision-engineered knit upper—Flyknit, of course, to match Adidas’ Primeknit. And like the UltraBoost, the Epic React looks absolutely great on foot. From the very beginning, the Epic React was the worthiest competitor yet to the singular sneaker that has bolstered Adidas for the past three years. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
I’ll stop right here and be forthright about it: I can’t say for sure and am really not the best person to ask. I’ve worn and briefly walked in Boost sneakers before, but I don’t actually own a pair, so my points of comparison are quite tenuous. Also, as the folks over at the Nike Run Club in Bonifacio Global City will attest, I am not a runner inasmuch as I am a heavy panter, a side stitch holder, and a sweat faucet. The battle between Boost and React deserves the discernment of a true athlete, and if I may be so arrogant as to contradict Nike’s inclusive brand statement that “If you have a body, you are an athlete,” I am NOT an athlete.
But I do love sneakers, and I did get to wear a pair of the Epic React for a whole week. I ran in them, I wore them to the office, I wore them to run errands, I climbed several flights of stairs in them, I drove in them, I obnoxiously showed them off to my friends—I did everything that a regular person would do in them within the span of a regular week. And because I expect that a lot of regular, non-running ersatz athletes like me will end up buying these shoes for their damn good looks, I figure my opinion must still count for something.
The first and most pronounced feature of the Epic React that I picked up on is its bounciness. Nike isn’t kidding around about energy return—there’s a very real, very palpable, cushiony rebound in every step. They feel a little like what you imagined Vince Carter’s Nike Shox would feel like when you were a kid, believing you could jump higher and leap further because of the literal springs in your step. And while the Epic React isn’t a basketball shoe, it feels about as lively as a good one should be, especially when you’re bounding across the pedestrian lane to avoid oncoming traffic or brisk-walking through the office to shorten your frequent water breaks.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly to all the self-proclaimed sneakerheads, the Epic React looks even better than you’d expect on foot. I wore the ‘Wolf Grey’ colorway, which is arguably the most underrated of its first batch of colorways, and it looked great with black jeans—vaguely comparable to the ‘Turtledove’ colorway of the Yeezy Boost 350. The shoe also has the distinct curviness of a Nike running shoe—one that even Adidas’ curvier models can’t beat. Then of course there’s that protruded shelf at the heel, which you will come to appreciate as a distinct feature. It’s a handsome shoe—better-looking than its predecessor, the Nike Lunar Epic, by a long shot. Purists will still swear by the UltraBoost for style, but give the Epic React the right colorway and the tides will turn eventually.
The UltraBoost was originally billed as the “Greatest Running Shoe Ever” when it first launched in 2015. The Epic React is now being called “The Running Shoe That Can Do It All,” because it’s meant to be well-rounded and perfectly balanced. And while the comparison between the two flagship runners can be argued to no end, what we can say for sure is that between those claims, Nike’s is more on the money.