Can a shoe help runners avoid injuries?
Anyone who regularly pounds the pavement will tell you there are many challenges to the habit—lack of motivation, bad weather—but those problems can be overcome with careful planning and healthy habits. The one insurmountable concern, however, is the specter that hangs over every runner: injury.
But that’s exactly what Nike set out to prevent when designing its newest running shoe, the Nike React Infinity Run.
Available on Jan. 3 for Nike members and on Jan. 16 to the general public, the Infinity Run was designed from the ground up to prevent common injuries. Nike claims that wearing the running shoe lowers injury rates by 52 percent compared to its own motion control footwear.
Nike has touted the Vaporfly 4% as the king of marathon footwear, ever since its unveiling in 2017. To reach a mainstream audience more concerned about the ability to run pain-free than at record-breaking speeds, it combined the best features of the Vaporfly and its Nike React foam.
“The Nike React Infinity Run encompasses the best qualities of those two technologies—a fine-tuned blend of biomechanical efficiency and cushioning—for a breakthrough shoe that offers a more democratic solution to stability, and an advance from traditional motion-control designs,” Nike said in a statement.
“The Infinity Run provides a soft, responsive platform and delivers it with a widened midsole,” Nike added. “Similar to the geometry of the 4%, the Infinity has a rocker-like bottom that yields a more fluid transition from foot strike to toe off.”
The rocker-like bottom has the effect of making the runner feel both stable and energetic, encouraging a posture that leans forward, moving the foot strike from the heel—an unnatural gait that some say leads to injury—to the midfoot or forefoot where it would be if not for the assistance of modern footwear.
Combined with a wider platform, Nike said, the supportive React foam reduces “side-to-side wobbling” and other erratic movements that can eventually lead to overuse injuries.
The Infinity Run is still best used for middle-mileage runs, those that make up the bulk of a runner’s efforts but aren’t as intense as interval training or long-distance running. To reach this conclusion, Nike tested the shoe’s viability in concert with the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation and 226 runners.
The results showed that not only did runners get injured at more than half the rate of Nike’s own Nike Structure 22, which is designed to limit motion and injury, but also that the runners also said they felt less pain in their knees and feet.
“Seasoned runners know that for optimum performance and injury prevention, it is crucial to vary the types of runs you do,” Nike concluded. “The same goes for the shoes you wear. Nike’s suite of running shoes caters to the variety of workouts that help deliver peak results, and with the Infinity, that suite now has a key new staple.”