Nike, especially of late, has been all about speed—but its latest running release, the , is in a different lane.
The activewear giant made waves with its too-fast-to-be-true running shoes, the ZoomX Vaporfly 4% and Next%, which use special foam and a carbon plate, were part of a sub-2 hour marathon (along with elite runner Eliud Kipchoge), a slew of major marathon wins by pros, and countless PR runs from amateur competitors. Independent studies even showed that the shoes could actually help to improve race finish times.
But runners can only operate at top speed for so long. Pushing the pace on every session is the road to overtraining and, even worse, overuse injuries. Ideally, athletes will mix some mid-level and even laid-back recovery jaunts in their training splits to stay fresh. Now, Nike is flipping the script and releasing a shoe specifically for those types of runs, too.
Counter to most performance athletic gear, the new React Infinity Run is designed for more “moderate” runs, not killer speed. The overall goal is to reduce injury—and Nike claims to have an impressive amount of data backing up the new kicks, calling it one of its “most tested running shoes” in the company’s history.
After a 12-week external study of 226 runners conducted by the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation (BCSMRF), the subjects that wore the new shoes had a 52 percent lower injury rate than the control shoe, the Nike Structure 22. Injuries in this case mean that participants missed three or more consecutive runs due to running-related pain, which is an important distinction for people who log a ton of miles and fear missing training time on the road.
All that said, the data comes from Nike—unlike some of the studies testing the Vaporfly shoes—so the results should be taken with at least a grain of salt. To really gauge the React Infinity Run’s performance, I put it to the test myself, using it for recovery runs over the past three months.
Taking Nike’s React Infinity Run on the Road
Right off the mark, the shoe is sexy—and that’s not just a reference to its slick design, with an extra-chunky sole made of Nike’s React foam and a deceptively supportive triple-layered knit upper.
If you’re a runner, you understand what we’re saying when we refer to ‘sexy pace’. If not, sexy pace is a slow, controlled tempo used for recovery runs when your goal is to get out on the road and move only as quickly as you feel comfortable. The React Infinity Run is especially suited to the long, loping strides of a relaxed sexy pace thanks to a few key design factors.
Unlike other running shoes—and even other models in the React family—the Infinity React Run has a wide toe-box, giving you room to splay out your toes and disperse the energy of your strides away from just the balls of your feet. Meanwhile, the rocker-shaped bottom, which is similar to the shape of the super-fast Vaporfly shoes, helps you to roll through strides fluidly. I’m not usually a fan of the React foam—it often feels too soft for my liking—but the extra cushioning comes in clutch here, muting the impact of the road and, with help from the rocker shape, briskly transferring energy into the next stride.
Once I really get into my stride wearing the shoes on a straightaway, the run feels less effort-intensive than normal. I feel myself running through my heels more than I might typically, since I usually run on my toes, like I was trained to as a sprinter in college. That sensation likely comes from the extended rear of the rocker shape, which is meant to emphasize the three phases of the stride and keep you running on a straight line.
While the bottom of the Infinity React Run helps the stride, the upper keeps the foot in place without totally locking it down. Unlike some other knit uppers, which feel like glorified socks, the triple-layered FlyKnit feels sturdy without being stiff. The one-piece construction means the shoe doesn’t have a tongue, and there are only four eyelets per side, so you won’t be able to tie the laces too tightly—but the knit material hugs the foot well, so that wasn’t a problem for me.
Nike’s React Infinity Run Shoes Are Great for Recovery
The first few times I wore the React Infinity Run, I didn’t quite get the appeal. I was coming off a marathon and 10k training cycle, and I was still working to push the pace in my workouts. I wasn’t approaching the sessions at recovery pace, or even the base run level—I was looking to sprint instead of staying sexy. Once I chilled out and took a run at the more relaxed pace, the performance features all clicked into place. I felt like I moved better than if I had been putting more effort into the work. Several runs later, the shoes are staying solid, and look to be durable enough rack up miles.
All that said, the features that make the React Infinity Run a great recovery and base-level training shoe might mean that it’s not the best choice for every type of runner in every situation. If you’re looking for an all-around pair of runners for training, racing, and everything in between, you’d be better served with a more neutral shoe, like the or the , which work well at most any pace and distance.
Likewise, if you’re looking for your go-to race shoe to push your tempo, you’d be better off with a carbon plate shoe like the (if you really mean business), the , or . And if you don’t have a huge budget for all these kicks, the React Infinity Run’s $160 price tag might also be a deterrent.
But if you’re really serious about training, the Nike React Infinity Run are worth it to help you make the most of those base-level sessions. I can’t speak to the injury prevention outside of Nike’s own numbers (and how fresh my legs feel after finishing up a training session wearing them), but I can say that these shoes run sexy.
Brett Williams, an associate fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running.