Nike Flyknit Lunar2 review: light, cushioned and bright!

I was recently sent a pair of Nike’s latest Flyknit creation for runners – the Nike Flyknit Lunar2. This is the first Nike shoe that I have had the chance to try out for quite a while and I was excited to see if this would be the Nike shoe for me.

Me and Nike

The thing is, I like many things about Nike. I like the company’s philosophy. I like the history of the brand. The athletes that they support are usually heroes of mine (well the runners at least – the cheating cyclist and philandering golfer not so much). And I like the design of so much of the Nike gear.

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But since my first ever pair of running shoes – a pair of Nike Pegasus that I had to take back after they started squeaking as I ran (annoying in the extreme!) – I have not found a pair that I really liked running in. The Nike Frees have all been a bit too unstructured. The Marathoners were almost a bit too hard. The Flyknit Racer was almost too light and the midsole felt a bit too narrow for my trotters.

But what about the Flyknit Lunar2? How would they work out?

The Nike Flyknit Lunar2 review

Well straight out of the box and on to my feet, they felt great. If you haven’t experienced the Flyknit upper, you should. It simply confirms to every contour of your feet, fitting like a glove (I know that is an overused analogy, but in this case it is actually true!) and not leaving any voids that can crease and rub.

The Lunarlon midsole is now nothing new – it has been in Nike shoes for a while – but it still feels remarkable when one hasn’t run in Nike shoes for a while… which I hadn’t. It is a beguiling mixture of cushioned plushness and firm lightness, especially in this shoe. And for a runner like me, that has developed a mid-foot landing, it provides just the right amount of cushioning to deal with concrete pavements on longer runs. Which brings me on to the real review…

Erm, the Real Review

After wearing the Flyknit Lunar2s for a few steady pre-breakfast runs, all around an hour or so, I decided that I would see how the shoes felt on a proper run. I had 2 hours with the last 30 minutes at marathon pace in my training plan. That would end up being a touch over 20 miles and I wore the Lunar2s to see what they would be like in a simulated race situation.

The short version of the review – which is all I’m going to give bother you with – is that they were great. One slight criticism is that I did get a little bit of rubbing on my achilles tendon from the shoe’s collar. But if I am trying to hold on to 6 min/mile pace for half an hour after 90 minutes steady running, the odd rub is to be expected.

photo 2The shoes felt light, cushioned and stable and I would say that they would probably make a rather decent marathon shoe if you are looking for something that will give your feet a good amount of protection from the constant pounding and don’t weigh too much. Having completely woven uppers also means that no matter how far you run and no matter what the temperatures, my feet have not overheated in these shoes.

So there you go – the Nike Flyknit Lunar2. I reckon this is a rather good shoe from Nike. It is still not the racing shoe that I am looking for, to wear in half-marathons and marathons. But for me, this is a great choice for many of my runs from an easy 45 minute recovery run to a proper marathon preparation long run.

Guest review of the Nike Flyknit Racer

Words by Mr. Terry Stephens.

My friend and training partner, Terry Stephens, kindly offered to give me his thoughts on the new Nike Flyknit Racer recently. A sub-3 hour marathon runner, Terry trains and races hard, so he is the perfect man to put the fastest Flyknits through their paces. Over to you, Terry…

Flyknit is Nike’s current flagship innovation, and the technology that is starting to be rolled out across other models within their vast range. It’s fair to say that I was more than a little skeptical that this new technology was very much more a fashion statement rather than a breakthrough in sports apparel, so I was extremely keen to give these a try.

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 19.29.45The sales pitch highlights weight reduction and increased breathability – two things which are pretty obvious when you take these things out of the box. The construction of the upper clearly offers the improved breathability but more impressive is how super light they are. At 160grams it’s definitely the lightest show I’ve ever run in, it also has the largest heel drop (approx 10mm) – thought that isn’t something that I found particularly noticeable when using them.

The sock-like fit is something that has been well documented in the shoes official PR (even offering a steam fitting service them in a few of their flagship stores), but what isn’t clear is whether designed to be worn sock-less – something of a personal preference I guess, but not something I’ve tried to date. After a bit of digging about online, I understand that they are designed to naturally mould to your foot after a period of use – the steam-fitting process Nike offer is an instant way of achieving this custom-fit straight out of the box.

Weight aside, the next thing that hit me was how narrow and seemingly firm they are.

For these reasons I’d presumed that they’d be a predominantly track-based shoe for me with the possibility of a few 5k races thrown in. I wanted to test them out over a number of different sessions to give a rounded review of their performance so I trained in them for a few weeks across a variety of distances and surfaces.

As suspected they felt perfect for track. Great grip (even in the icy/snowy conditions we’ve had recently) and the firm ride felt fine on the track surface. The biggest surprise came on a longer run after having worn them a few times, an 8-mile tempo run on the road. After the first 20mins the shoes started to feel really responsive, helping to give me an extra spring in my stride along the embankment. Not sure if this was a sign of them beginning to mould to my feet, but I began to understand some of the comments that have been made about it feeling like you’re not wearing any shoes. The single piece upper offered enough support for me and certainly didn’t make me feel vulnerable to excessive pronation.

It was this last  tempo session which left me thinking about the idea use and distance for these shoes. I know plenty of people that have, and still are, running full marathons in them, but for me the half marathon feels like the optimum distance. As beautifully light as they are I need a little more stability when my form begins to dip a little in the final third of the 26.2 miles.

I’m a big fan of the LunarSpider LT – they’ve been my footwear choice for all races under the marathon distance for the best part of 2 years. I see the Flyknit Racer as a rival for that mantle, although they’re obviously a lot lighter (-40grams), they share a similar level of heel drop (+2mm) and the fit is fairly comparable too. Ironically (given the super lightweight nature of the upper) I’d expect the Flyknits to be a little more resistant to wear, which hopefully will start to counteract the large price deficit between the two shoes.

In summary, for me the Flyknit Racer is a great (if not expensive) option for races up to the 13mile mark. The price will no doubt play a big factor in how successful they are, but I’d also like to think as the technology continues to grow the £150 price tag will start to creep down (they’ve already dropped to £130 since I began testing this pair).

My review of the Nike Flyknit Racer and Lunar1+

Since the invention of the ‘waffle’ shoe by Bill Bowerman, which was one of the things that catapulted Nike into becoming the behemoth that it is, I don’t know of many game-changing innovations in running shoe technology. Nike Air revolutionised running and other sports shoes. The development of super-strong lightweight fabrics changed the uppers of performance shoes for the better. But beyond that, there has been little more in the way of truly epoch defining developments.

So I am usually a bit skeptical when a brand tells me that they have invented the next game-changing development and one of the most recent is Nike’s Flyknit technology, where the upper of the shoe is woven as one piece, rather than made by sewing together panels of material (or overlays as they are known). I was interested, but would it be really revolutionary?

Well, I have to say that I think it is a great technology – for two reasons.

Sustainabilty

Nike has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to sustainability and environmental issues. For some reason the Swoosh has become associated, for many people, with sweatshops and dodgy practices. I am not sure why Nike has been so firmly labeled with this bad press, whilst other brands in the sector have dodged the bullet – it is probably down to the enormous reach that the brand has and it’s market-leader status in many areas. But it is definitely my experience that if you mention Nike to someone there is a good chance they will make some non-specific comment about sweatshops and child labour.

But with the Flyknit, if everything they tell me is true, they have found a way to produce a shoe that eliminates almost all of the waste that usually happens when you cut shapes out of pieces of fabric to sew into a shoe and throw the cut-off material away. The story that Nike tells is that at the end of the manufacturing process, they have woven an upper from a couple of spools of yarn and simply snip off the excess at the end.

Not only that, but on my recent trip to NikeTown London to have a closer look at the Flyknit Lunar1+, my guide there told me that in total the shoe contains 82% post-consumer recycled material.

So we have a shoe that creates a fraction of the waste of a normal shoe and the material used is, as far as possible, made from discarded plastic drinks bottles and recycled rubber.

Performance

Whilst it is fantastic that Nike have produced environmentally friendly product, they also need one that performs, because without that they won’t sell many shoes.

With the Flyknit I think Nike have developed something that really does aid performance, because I think weaving the upper is not just an alternative to the traditional way of making a running shoe, it is an improvement on it.

The Flyknit Racer

The first shoe that I had the opportunity to try out was the Nike Flyknit Racer. I really like Nike’s biggest rival’s racing flat – the Adidas Adios AdiZero and ever since my last pair of Nike Marathoners went to trainer heaven, I have not found a Nike racing shoe that I felt comfortable in.

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However the the Nike Flyknit Racer is a really good shoe for me. It is super-lightweight, thanks partly to the woven upper that simply contains far less material than a normal shoe.

The mid-sole is low to the ground in the front whilst also providing a good amount of cushioning, especially in the heel.

And the upper is amazingly comfortable. Pull the laces tight through the eyelets in the upper and the flywire loops that sit along the sides of the shoe and the feeling of security as the fabric wraps itself around your foot is second to none.

But could the feel be even better?

The Flyknit Lunar1+ and the steam machine

The second shoe in the Flyknit range that I have tried is the Nike Flyknit Lunar1+ and this time I was treated to the full fitting process by the Nike team.

I was invited to NikeTown London where a pair of this latest shoe was waiting for me. As I slipped them on, there was a similar feel to the Flyknit Racer. The Lunar1+ is definitely a more significant shoe and the sole is more cushioned, but the upper had the same feeling of flexibility and form-hugging as the Racer.

Kerry, the EKIN – a Nike expert who was there to tell me about the shoe – invited me to run on a treadmill  set up in the lobby of NikeTown to see how the shoe felt: the upper felt nicely fitted around the midfoot – thanks to the Flywires – and roomy in the toe-box. I thought it would make for a really well fitting shoe for high-mileage running.

Then I was invited to take the shoes off and they were put into a sci-fi looking box that injected stream onto the shoes. After 30 seconds in this shoe-sauna, they were given back to me, warm and damp, and I put them back on. You can see the steaming box here…

Suddenly the upper was not just conforming to my foot – it was embracing every bump and contour and all the differences between my two feet were starkly obvious. More impressively, once the shoe had cooled (about two to three minutes) there is only one way to describe the feeling – completely sock-like.

On the Road (not like Karouak)

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After the fitting at NikeTown, I took my new Flyknit Lunar1+ out for a run – a 60 minute tempo run. The shoes was as good on the road as it felt on the treadmill. The sole is certainly soft, but for high mileage I think that will suit many runners. It is not very bulky, so proprioception is not really compromised. But the main thing is the Flyknit upper – it really feels as though the shoe is bonded to your foot. There is no claustrophobia of the feet and heat is not a problem: it just feels as though the lightweight upper is holding the shoe gently but firmly in place. Just as it should be.

Some notes

In conclusion, there are a few things that I really like about the Nike Flyknit range:

  • the manufacturing process is sustainable
  • the materials used are environmentally friendly
  • the fit – steamed or not – is superb, especially once the steaming has been done
  • the shoes can be steamed time and time and time again without compromising the upper
  • the Racer has a very fast-feeling sole while the Lunar1+ has enough cushioning for long runs and tired legs, without making you feel completely divorced from the surface you’re running on

But don’t take my word for it, check out the guest review by Terry Stephens that you can find here…

Update (17 Feb. 2013)

A quick update – today I took my Flyknit Lunar1+ for a 19.7 mile outing. Averaging 7 min/mile with my training partner, I was really impressed with how good the shoe felt all the way through to the end.

The cushioning in the fore-foot was pretty much perfect for me, especially for the sections where we ran in tarmac or concrete (we try to run as much of my long slow runs on grass as possible) and the upper was super-comfortable: my feet were never too hot and the steamed upper fitted like a glove. The Lunar1+ is a light shoe and I really enjoyed that, especially when my training partner and I pushed the pace below 7 min/mile for the last 6 miles or so. All in all, the shoe performed wonderfully. Just a shame that such a nice looking shoe has got quite muddy – I may well wash ’em and go and get them re-steamed!

Steam Machine – the Nike Flyknit Lunar1+

I have a playlist on my iPod that I reserve for when I need a real audio boost – EPO for the ears! On that playlist, which is made up of banging dance tunes, there is a live version of Daft Punk’s track Steam Machine. I really get a jolt when this track comes on and I love the whispered words

Steam machine… steam machine…

Earlier this week I received an email from the good people at Nike about the release of the Nike Flyknit Lunar1+ and an invitation to have a pair custom fitted to my feet. Now I am already a big fan of the Flyknit Racer and I will be posting my review of this shoe in a few weeks – at the moment I am wearing them for tempo runs, threshold runs and track sessions so that I can give as good a review as I can. But what has this got to do with Daft Punk’s Steam Machine?

Introducing the Flyknit Lunar1+... steamed for your pleasure!

The Steam Machine

Well the way that Nike tell me they are going to fit the Flyknit Lunar1+ to my feet is by steaming them… so they must have a steam machine, right? I can’t imagine they will be holding them over a boiling kettle in the way I used to mould my gumshields when I was a nipper playing rugby at school.

Why I like Nike’s Flyknit technology

The reasons I am a big fan of the whole Flyknit technology include:

  • the way that producing the upper from a single strand of material is so much better from an environmental and sustainability point of view, than the traditional method of cutting-out and over-laying pieces of material, with all the waste that comes from that
  • the way that the Flyknit upper is tough and yet so light – the Flyknit Racers that I am currently wearing are increadibly light! The toughness is still being tested, but so far, so good
  • the possibility that the technology behind the Flyknit might mean that completely customised shoes, knitted (or dare I say it printed) for the exact footshape of the athlete, is becoming a reality

So I imagine that the steaming process is a step along the road in that direction.

To give you a flavour, this is what the Nike peeps have to say about the Flyknit Lunar1+

This is the first shoe to bring together revolutionary Nike FlyKnit technology – engineered from a single yarn for a featherweight, formfitting and virtually seamless upper – with the responsive cushioning of Lunarlon. The Nike Flyknit Lunar1+ provides precision fit, support, flexibility and breathability with a more cushioned mid sole, making it perfect for everyday runners. Strategically-placed durable rubber inserts in the bottomless carrier deliver maximum impact protection in key areas on the heel and forefoot. The shoe incorporates dynamic Nike Flywire; adaptive support that tightens and relaxes to accommodate the natural motion of the foot. Five bright new colourways ensure that runners look as great as they feel on the road.

I will report back tomorrow once I have had my feet in their steam machine. I must admit that I’m rather looking forward to it and to going for my first run in the Flyknit Lunar1+, especially when that track comes on! Steam… machine… steam… machine…

Nike: Back to the Future?

In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to meet a few of the Nike contingency in London, who seem to be here to coincide with the Olympics. Understandable given the number of Nike sponsored athletes competing in the Games.

But Nike are also here to showcase some new products and this morning, at a breakfast hosted by Martin Lotti, Nike Olympic Design Director, I was able to get up-close to three new products and learn about one aspect of Nike’s business that I think many people do not know about and which I think is worth shouting about.

Skin in the game

The first new developement that was showcased by Martin Lotti and his colleague, Scott Williams, Creative Director Olympics and Innovation at Nike, was the new Nike Pro TurboSpeed suits which sprinters such as Alyson Felix will be wearing in London.

Cathy Freeman, Sydney 2000

Scott started off by explaining that the suit’s technology has been in the process of development since Cathy Freeman wore her amazing outfit in Sydney in 2000.

The idea behind the suits is that, compared to skin, the suits surface is ‘faster’ because it reduces drag and improves efficiency. There is clearly masses of technology that has gone into the suit (and if you want to learn more and satisfy your inner-geek, you can read more about the suit here) but as with Formula1 cars, the real interest for the majority of us, is finding out what all this technology will mean for us. After all, I can’t see too many people turning up to the local ParkRun in a suit that is designed to improve speed over 100m by 0.023 seconds and really leaves nothing to the imagination!

Alyson Felix, London 2012

The drip-down from the TurboSpeed suit, is more of a concept than a particular piece of technology: it is the idea of simplicity and ‘zero distraction’. One of the things that is very noticeable about the skin suit is that there is nothing fiddly to annoy the wearer. Indeed there aren’t any zips throughout the whole range of items. The sleeves are finished in a way that leaves a seamless end. The are no tags or buckles or clips.

And this is what every-day runners can expect from the range that is available to mere mortals in the future – fewer seams (and where there are, they will be flat-locked), neater finishing, less bells-and-whistles.

Super-fly

The next product we were told about was the FlyKnit shoe.

This is a product that I am really interested in trying (big hint there, Nike!) and so I hope that I will be able to post a review of the shoe from the point of view of having worn it soon. But in the mean time, having had a chance to talk to Martin Lotti about the shoe one-on-one and having seen a presentation of the shoe from Ben Shaffer, studio director for Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, I thought I’d let you have a look and describe why I’m excited about it.

Following the simplicity theme, the idea behind the Fly Knit is so simple that I can’t believe that it wasn’t thought up before – but then isn’t that true for all the greatest inventions in the world?

Put simply, the upper of the Fly Knit is knitted from fairly thick course yarn in one piece, which incorporates the super-strong, flexible Fly Wire strands that give the upper the strength it needs. That’s it! No waste, one piece construction and an upper that wraps the foot completely.

We were shown a few of the prototypes of the shoe, which I took some snaps of, and it seems like such an obvious development, especially when you see it in this context.

Fly Knit prototype one

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Knit prototype two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the meeting this morning the question of whether the shoe can be work without socks and i must say that the answer from the Nike team was a little less than convincing, but without trying the shoe, I can’t comment. But I will definitely be trying a barefoot run because this shoe literally is seamless!

You can’t improve what you can’t measure

Having looked at some of the simplest bits of kit I have seen for a while, we then moved on to Nike’s fascination with gamifying activity and measuring every aspect of sport.

From what I can see Nike is building a spider’s web of technology.

There is the Nike+ tab for their shoes where data can be uploaded to an iPod or iPhone and on the Nike+ website.

The Nike SportBand and SportWatch GPS track runs.

The FuelBand tracks everyday activity.

And now the Nike+ Training range of shoes, with sensors built into the sole, track “every rep, step and drill”

I don’t necessarily feel a great affinity for all this technology yet – I think that the Nike+ interface is not quite right and the data available is not what I want for my training. But Nike are innovating fast and I think that what we are seeing in the market now is just the start as far as what Nike+ will be able to tell athletes of all levels in the future.

The big story

So there are the three developments that Nike showed me this morning. All good stuff. But the overarching message that was delivered this morning was not what I was really expecting and certainly something I am excited about – sustainability.

The arsenal of Pro TurboSpeed items that are available to elite athletes at the 2012 Games are all made from recycled plastic drinks bottles, with 82% recycled polyester fabric.

The Fly Knit – aside from the benefits that Nike suggests comes from a knitted upper – produces no waste. Unlike a traditional shoe where the panels are cut from a piece of material where all the excess is thrown away, the Fly Knit is knitted into a single ‘butterfly shape’ and glued onto the sole. No waste. And talking about glue…

Nike told me today that they are so committed to the environment that when they designed the Fly Knit, they wanted a glue that didn’t contain the toxins that are usually present in shoe glue. So they developed a non-toxic glue and then offered the secret recipe to all their competitors.

Of course, Martin was a pains to point out that Nike are a performance-first company, but it seems that they really are finding ways to produce products that will help runners – from the most elite individuals on the planet (most of whom are in east London right now) to the slowest jogger out there – whilst also trying to reduce their impact on the planet. If they can do that, then I really think they’ll deserve a gold medal!