Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m a novice runner, because I’m not. (I’ve got 10 marathons under my belt.) However, I am coming off of a much-needed hiatus from running. While my body feels well-rested, my running skills leave much to be desired. In other words, my mileage is super low. I can barely make it through a run without stopping. Even worse, I feel like my feet are really taking a pounding every time I lace up—to the point that I seriously dread it.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner, at one point or another you’ve most likely dreaded jogging on the treadmill or race training after work, because it feels too damn hard or uncomfortable. Luckily, Nike is making it the company’s goal to help runners find the “joy” in the sport (not to mention, make running way easier) with the release of the Nike Joyride Flyknit Run ($180; nike.com), a brand new silhouette that hits stores today.
“The Nike research sports teams and design teams set about trying to find a solution that would speed up the recovery of elite athletes, allowing them to feel fresh and run again in that next hard session by giving their legs the day off, but also creating an easier experience for all runners, particularly those that don’t consider themselves to be runners,” Rachel Bull, Nike’s Senior Product Line Manager for Joyride, explains. She also highlights that this running sneaker is not just for athletes, but it’s instead aimed at the masses in an effort to get more people active and moving.
Considering running hadn’t been sparking much joy for me lately (and my dusty sneakers were a clear indication), an invite from Nike to test the new Joyride Flyknit Run over a two-day period in LA, alongside other editors, seemed like a godsend.
From the treadmill to the Santa Monica streets to the beach, we put plenty of miles on the Joyride. Plus, I took the shoe for a couple of spins on my own around Manhattan, and at altitude during the Denver-based Eating Well and Health Fit Foodie Festival 5K. So basically, I’ve been running in these babies for nearly a month. Here’s what you need to know before whipping out your credit card.
When I first slipped the Joyride on, it felt really weird. Unlike traditional runners, there is no sockliner—my foot sat directly on top of the new midsole technology. But after a couple of steps, my foot sank into place, similar to sinking into a beanbag chair or stepping onto sand. It felt pretty good!
According to Bull, I have Nike’s new underfoot platform, which is made up of thousands of tiny TPE beads—like Dippin’ Dots or Nerds candy, remember those?—encased in four pods, to thank for that. (You can even see the beads from a window on the side of the shoe.) “This is where the magic is, because the beads move to your exact individual and district foot strike and shape,” Bull says, noting her team explored more than 150 bead types.
Why beads, you ask? They offer a personalized underfoot sensation and experience while addressing every point of a runner’s foot strike, from heel to toe-off. There are about 50% more beads in the heel pods for greater impact and absorption, while the front pods have just 5% of these beads, which give a more responsive, springier feel. “Unlike a normal slab of foam which doesn’t move, beads can move and disperse a lot more to offer greater impact, dispersion, and cushioning,” Bull explains.
On my first run, which were intervals on the treadmill, I felt all the feels. When my foot, which felt secure in the knit upper, touched down, it was perfectly cushioned. Dare I say, the ride felt downright plush. (For context, the Joyride sits in between Nike Air and React, in terms of specific cushioning technologies.) There was also a noticeable bounce in my step—it was as if the sneakers were feeding my legs a dose of energy. When our treadmill trial ended, I’ll admit that I was a little sad. Although I’m not a treadmill lover, this was literally the best run I had had in forever and I didn’t want it to end. I felt like I could keep running for at least another mile or two. If only every run felt that good!
My experience on the road was a different story. The sneakers just didn’t have the same pop I felt on the treadmill. Were they still comfy? Yes. Did I still enjoy running in them? Absolutely. But if I’m being honest, during the 5K I ran in Denver, I felt like my calves were working overtime. They were even a little fatigued post-run. If you’re wondering if you can go long in these, you totally can. The shoe was rigorously tested like Nike’s other workhorse models—the Pegasus and the Epic React—so it can endure the pounding without breaking down, Bull says.
The final verdict? I’m not against running in these outdoors, but will definitely keep the mileage under a 5K. I think easy, breezy efforts are best when donning the Joyride. Personally, I’m most likely to wear the Nike Joyride Flyknit Run on the treadmill, because that is where I experienced the most joy and where I felt the shoe made running easier. That’s saying a lot, because I would never willingly choose the DREADmill—err, treadmill—over running on the road. The Joyride made me feel that a treadmill run could be more than an occasional occurrence reserved for super cold or rainy weather.
Now, do you need to invest almost $200 as a newbie runner, though? That’s between you and your wallet. However, I do encourage you to go into an actual store to try them on and jog around a bit—that’s the only way to truly know if they’ll spark joy for you too.
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