There's a reason why so many of us love max-cushioned shoes: You slip them on your tootsies, and (almost) all those little aches and pains in your feet seem to melt away. As podiatrist Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, has told Well+Good that super-cushioned shoes can be a major help for people with painful foot issues like plantar fasciitis, neuromas, metatarsalgia, or bunions, as well as for people who stand on their feet all day or run lots of miles. I'd add one more group to that list: Those of us who want our runs of any distance to be as comfy as possible.
But all that cushion usually comes with a lot of clunky-looking foam underneath your feet. Sure, that might be a style choice you're into. But if you're craving something sleeker, I'd suggest you check out Nike's new InfinityRN 4, featuring the company's brand-new ReactX foam. After taking them for a few different kinds of runs, I can tell you that these kicks are downright cozy.
Colors: 8, plus a design-your-own option for $190
Heel-to-toe drop: 9mm
Weight: 9.9 ounces (for a women’s size 8)
- Super comfortable, with plenty of cushioning, flexible upper, and a padded heel and tongue
- Water-resistant liner in the toe
- More environmentally friendly midsole foam than previous versions
- Great traction on different surfaces
- Sleek style
- Runs snug; you’re probably best sizing up a half size (per Nike’s recommendation)
- Thick upper can make the feet hot
- Doesn’t offer much “spring” for faster runs
What's new in the InfinityRN 4
Nike's Infinity Run line has long had a reputation for making great daily trainers. So what's been updated in this latest model?
The biggest difference in the InfinityRN 4 from previous models is the new Nike ReactX foam in the midsole. This is the first shoe from Nike to include this brand-new cushioning, and the brand says the feature provides 13 percent more energy return (read: bounciness) compared to the React foam that was featured in previous versions of this shoe. One thing I love? It's also more environmentally friendly, reducing the carbon footprint of the midsole by 43 percent compared to the React foam.
While the Infinity Run 3 was super-tapered in the middle of the foot, the RN 4 features a wide base throughout the shoe, including a wider toebox. The arch of the previous model was fairly pronounced, but in the RN 4, it lies flatter, with just a slight curve on the inner edge to offer stability. Nike's also nixed the big plastic heel grip around the back of the shoe, keeping your heel in place with plenty of padding instead.
The bottoms of the InfinityRN 4 almost look like a trail shoe, with mini lugs throughout the sole to provide top-notch traction.
What the InfinityRN 4 shoes feel like to run in
To get a feel for how these shoes wear, I tested them on several styles of run: an easy run, a longer run with some half-marathon–paced intervals, and a couple of stroller runs. And while I don't typically compare my footwear to furniture, I couldn't help thinking about how they feel like the lounge chair of running shoes—in a wonderful way.
You can feel the comfort embedded into the design from the moment you slip them on. There's a ton of padding at the heel and around the ankles, and even in the tongue, which locks your foot into the shoe securely and provides a snug (and blister-free, for me!) fit. The upper is made of a heavy but flexible knit fabric, so even if you've got foot issues like bunions or claw toes, you don't have to worry about hot spots.
Despite all the cushioning, the slimming design keeps this shoe from looking clunky. This illusion is partially thanks to the tapered bit of foam off the back of the heel. I initially wondered if that was just for style, but as I started heading up and over a few bridges, I realized this feature was useful for more than my vanity: When you're heel-striking, like most of us especially do on downhills, it creates a super plush landing. This is particularly helpful since going downhill increases the forces placed on our "joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones," as physical therapist Jason Shuster, DPT, once told Well+Good, explaining why declines can connect to knee or low-back pain. Having that extra cushion for those descents helps me know I'm protecting my body.
However, I appreciate that these shoes don't feel like they encourage me to heel strike on flat ground. That's not the case with many max-cushioned shoes that have an exaggerated heel-to-toe drop (the InfinityRN 4s are just slightly below average at 9mm). It's only on the downhills when I feel that extra foam sticking out behind my heel really come into play.
To be sure, the new ReactX foam creates a soft, pillowy cushion more than a bouncy, springy one. Although I love the sensation on my slower, easier miles, when I've tried to pick up the pace, I feel like I'm sinking a little too far into the shoe without the energy return I crave for faster miles.
I've also found that, despite having a fabric upper, my feet heat up in these shoes pretty noticeably and quickly. This might have to do with the water-resistant lining in the toe, or the fact that I got a pair in the black color. Either way, I think they'll work best on cooler days when I'm craving that warmth.
Nike markets these shoes as having high support, but I'd say they're actually surprisingly versatile. I don't typically enjoy running in stability shoes, as I find the extra support is often uncomfortable on my feet. But without an exaggerated arch, these provide stability through a wide base and just slight curvature around the edges, which I find to work surprisingly well for being someone who prefers neutral shoes.
One other thing I love: the traction. Those lugs keep me upright on concrete, asphalt, packed dirt, and even some slippery brick sidewalks.
What kinds of running the InfinityRN 4 shoes are best for
While I won't be whipping out my InfinityRN 4s for speed work or race day, they make an excellent choice for recovery runs. I find that their soft, cozy cushioning actually helps encourage me to run easy. And while we know that taking your recovery runs slowly has major benefits—like building resilience in your tissues and strengthening your cardiovascular system—most runners would agree that it's surprisingly hard to actually slow down as much as you should.
I expect the lounge chair of running shoes to be my new strategy to help me get that slowdown on track correctly. Just like a good La-Z-Boy practically begs you to sink into it and relax, my InfinityRN 4s push me to take it easy. Time to turn on that Netflix (or playlist) and chill.
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