Can a shoe actually keep you from getting injured?
It’s a bold claim for any piece of footwear to deliver on, but the running division at Nike is attempting to accomplish anyway—despite the high degree of difficulty. The company is launching a new silo of sneakers centered around preventing and lessening running injuries. At the center of this suite of products is the Nike React Infinity Run, a sneaker that’s derivative of the Epic React, except with more React cushioning and leverages the design cues found in the Vaporfly.
“Injury is something that plagues every runner of every level—even to the point where it prevents people from even joining our sport,” said Brett Holtz, VP of Nike Running Footwear. “So, it just felt like the right next problem to really dig in on.”
Although the brand is holding off on guaranteeing runners using the Infinity React won’t get injured, they are bullish that this sneaker will remove a lot of the fear new runners or backslidden runners have about getting injured or re-injured.
This isn’t just a new gimmick that Nike is using to sell more sneakers either. The brand also has the science and research to back it up, albeit when tested among its own shoes. An external study by the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation (BCSMRF) on 226 runners in the Nike React Infinity Run showed that runners had a 52 percent lower injury rate than Nike’s motion control shoe the Nike Structure 22. The Infinity React is also the most tested Nike shoe in the company’s history.
“I think that's what it's intended to be is as a product, but we're not going to say, ‘Hey, you're not going to get injured if you run in this shoe,’ Holtz said. “There's still all of those things, the training knowledge, that needs to come with the product. But I think it's a great start and we got some really good validation as part of that study.”
The brand acknowledges that a sneaker alone isn’t enough to keep someone from getting hurt while running. As part of the sneaker’s wider release on January 16, Nike will also be launching a coinciding training program through the Nike Running Club app. It’s a first for any product launch.
“Some of the data shows that if you actually go out and do a 5k loop at the same pace at the same time every day, it might contribute to some of these injury rates,” Holtz said of Nike’s research. “Actually changing up your training, changing up the variation, the surfaces, the intensities, and knowing the importance of a rest day contribute, we think, to some of these positive results as much as any product solution that we come with.”
At the end of the day, the Infinity React and Nike’s new silo of products is less about eradicating injuries and more about being an easy access point into running—not just for elite athletes, but at every level.
“We're trying to approach it in a way that really takes away all runners' fear and help motivate somebody who's on the fence to give it a try,” he said. “We want people to be more active. We want more people to enjoy the sport that we're very passionate about.”
Click on the dots below for a full breakdown of the shoe from Holtz.