Now, I don’t want to appear negative, but the sensible answer to this question should probably have been ‘no’. See what you think: “Hi Andrew, would you like to do the RAK Half Marathon with about four weeks training?” – 'No'. See, simple.
So, you can only imagine my surprise when my answer in real-time was actually 'yes'.
You can probably boil that answer down into two main theories. Firstly, the paradox that has made me a reasonably lazy man that equally struggles to turn down a challenge. Secondly, the half marathon invitation in question came with a caveat to road-test Nike’s latest running shoe, the React Infinity Run. This is a shoe that had scored pre-drop results of a 52 percent less injury rate for runners, and naturally came with a host of game-changing claims.
Trying the Nike React Infinity Run
This shoe, or at least the idea of this shoe, could have been made just for me. Injury has blighted my fitness for more than a decade. The tweaked muscles, the dislocated joints, the wear and tear from bone grinding on bone and the lopsided movements you subconsciously develop to deal with it all. Injury has become less an acquaintance and more an unwanted lodger, eating my food, wearing my pyjamas and looking like it may never leave. So, yeah, you could say that I was up for trying an injury prevention running shoe.
How do they work?
Over the course of the past decade, the team from Nike’s Innovation Kitchen has aggressively changed the game when it comes to wearing the right running shoe for the right distance. The React Infinity Run borrows largely from two 2017 models. The biomechanical efficiency of the Zoom Vaporfly 4% (yep, the one they tried to ban) and the cushioning and energy return of the React shoe.
You’ll notice the widened midsole, plenty of foam underfoot and a rocker-like curved sole that makes for a smoother transition from foot strike to toe-off. What you get is a stability and fluidity of running style that, it’s hoped, will keep you clear of the treatment table.
Before these shoes hit the streets, a study in collaboration with the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation, saw 226 runners given 12 weeks of training that would lead up to a half marathon. Some of the participants were in Nike React Infinity Run, the others in a Nike Zoom structure. When it came to race time, 30.8 percent of those in the Zoom reported injuries, while just 14.5 percent in the React did the same.
How do they feel?
When it comes to fitting, there’s something you should know. If you’re wearing the right size they can, at least initially, feel a little too big. Not in the heel, not in the midsole, you’re rock-solid there. It’s around the forefoot that you’ll likely find some space. This is intentional. Unfortunately, I only discovered that after running a half marathon in my pair. The worst part? Thinking them too big, I had actually sent my original shoes back for a new pair that were a half-size smaller. Epic fail.
While that space might not work for everybody, the idea behind it is about weight distribution and the stability to prevent injury. The shoes are compact where you need them to be and should just require a little getting used to. You’ll also notice the outward slope that offers you a greater side-to-side stability as well.
Will they stop me getting injured?
In reality, your injury rate depends on way more than just the shoes you wear. Nike knows this. It depends on age, genetics and how well you’ve looked after yourself for however long you’ve been going. But your equipment can certainly be a factor, too.
The React Infinity Run offers you a solid base from which to run for longer. With stability comes a confidence to move a little more naturally, while the rocker sole will make your transitioning steps way more fluid.
For me, well, I made it. I missed a week or so of training due to injury, naturally – although it should be mentioned that this was prior to wearing the React Infinity Run shoe (honest). After that, I managed to string about three weeks together and run a half marathon. Not as quickly as I wanted, but that simmering fury, my friends, is set aside for another article.
For now, I’m still running, I’m still moving. And for somebody like me, with a ridiculous list of injuries behind them, well that has to count as a big step in the right direction.