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The Nike Epic React Flyknit Continues Implementation of Investor’s Day Promises but Could Fall Short

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It’s the first running shoe to feature Nike’s latest foam technology that’s designed to cushion the impact of each stride and offer the energy return needed to stay fresh late in a run. It will be available February 22.

Source: Meet the Nike Epic React Flyknit

In October of 2017 Nike laid down a bevy of promises in their Investor’s Day. Over the last few years the brand had taken a backseat to the growth of Under Armour and adidas’ high profiled gains. I explained that this was due to the investment in DTC and establishing the foundation of how the company could take advantage of eCommerce and selling direct. As 2017 came to a close I stated that the other brands had three years of Nike not focusing on marketing and tech to capture market share. When October hit and Mark Parker delivered the introduction to Investor’s Day, as I transcribed the event I knew the outcome would not be a good thing for the other footwear companies. During the speech he delivered a section on Nike Running; my notes are in parenthesis:

Nike’s Portfolio Important Notes:

Running remains a strong focus (as expected Eliud Kipchoge is actually doing a running campaign in China and tweeting about it. – Not a part of the day, but I noticed this earlier today on his Twitter feed.) Running silhouette is fueling lifestyle.

  • 3 platforms within running:

Nike Zoom X – Pure speed and energy return. 85% energy return. Most responsive cushioning system by Nike. Will be featured in Pegasus.

Nike React – Widest range of service to consumers. (I predicted that Nike would move the tech to running and they will launch the Epic React.)

Nike Air – If Air was a standalone brand it would be the 3rd largest in the world. VaporMax will drive expansion and new demand. New platform Air Max 270 is lifestyle specific.

EPIC REACT is going to be huge! 17,000 miles logged with elite and everyday athletes.

Yesterday writers, sneaker sites and analysts all seemed blown away by the design elements of the Nike Epic React. Industry insiders repeated the same tired refrain that running and performance is dead. Sneakerheads said that the shoe looked like a mix of the adidas Futurecraft and BOOST based models. Journalists shared side by side pictures of the UltraBOOST and the Epic React.

I shook my head and realized that if people actually read this site they would be a lot more informed.

I’ve written countless articles on the design elements of shoes over the last year. Those people who are comparing the shoe to BOOST are correct that it holds similarities and this is why:

Looking at the New Balance Fresh Foam Cruz and a Design Element That Makes Simple, Dope

In the above post I discussed how adidas had forced the industry to create more dynamic sidewalls on midsoles. I also took the time to explain that the silhouettes being developed and released are becoming too similar:

I Really Want to Like the adidas Originals Prophere 

Why Could The Nike Epic React Fail?

There are two straightforward reasons: Price and silhouette.

When I initially saw React on the Hyperdunk and on the Jordan basketball shoes I said immediately that the cushioning system was an answer to BOOST. My reason was that Nike has rarely utilized the sidewall for design elements (outside of speckles and colors). The lines on the Hyperdunk seemed similar to the Lunar Epic, but with some tweaking I thought it could really look great on a running shoe. What I was hoping for was a throwback for Nike and the use of Flyleather for the Epic. Flyleather in the forefoot with Battleknit on the toebox and heel counter. The Flyleather would reduce the cost of the shoe and I could see React in a running shoe get introduced at a 110 to 130 price point.

Unfortunately the first full pic of the Epic React features full Flyknit and a sock like fit. As I said in the Prophere article the sock like fit is a bit redundant now. It no longer stands out in a crowded field especially if this shoe is priced to compete with NMD PK and UB from adidas. That would place the price at a premium of 170 to 180.

If the Epic React running shoe is a 170 dollar drop, it will fail. The design of the shoe is nice and it looks unlike anything Nike has done, but it also looks like everything that is releasing right now.

Note: There is a constant refrain from analysts that running shoes/performance is dead. Sales are slowing down in performance. The dialogue is antiquated and caught in a timewarp. The reason performance was so big years ago was because there weren’t any other options. Performance has simply adjusted to the market and is now being used for what it was intended… BUT it is also being worn as lifestyle. When an analyst is looking at performance the question has to be asked is the UltraBOOST, PureBOOST a performance model or casual? Is VaporMax performance or casual? The lines are blurred. The constant repetition of performance is dead is flawed and is not a reason for brands to move from creating the products. All footwear that is being worn as casual has at its core performance. Without performance we really don’t have casual.