Project: Run Fearless
At Nike, we have always believed that humans have the potential to achieve anything. But each year, too many runners are sidelined by injury, preventing them from reaching their goals. So, we started to ask some questions: What if every day off was a decision? What if our sports MVPs were never MIA? What records could we break if we had record numbers chasing them? What if everyone who started running never had to stop?
Welcome to Project: Run Fearless. Our ongoing mission is to keep runners running by providing them the tools to stay healthy.
The Nike Sports Research Lab team embarked on a plan to see if we could design a running shoe that actually helped reduce injury. For years, the industry hypothesized that motion control shoes—ones that corrected pronation, the natural motion of the foot inward during a footstrike—did just that. But in fact, motion control didn’t move the needle in terms of injury and the percentage of runners experiencing injury has remained static for decades. To imagine a future where no runner would suffer a running-related injury, we needed to think differently.
“Our North Star is to continue to move the needle in terms of how we reduce the risk of injury.”
—Matt Nurse, VP, Nike Sports Research Lab
The Nike Run Fearless System
It took the scientists at NSRL several years to discover the unlock. And instead of it being one thing, it’s several. Working off insights from real runners who said that comfort is key, the NSRL team decided to put cushioning front and center, hypothesizing that more cushion could help reduce injury. However, additional foam can make for a clunkier shoe, so NSRL countered this by developing a unique rocker shape for a smooth heel-to-toe transition. Lastly, the team added a wide base at the toe and the heel to allow for more stability. But a shoe alone can’t keep you healthy—the NSRL team found that diversifying your running routine is also essential in helping stay injury-free.
Validated by Science, Approved by Runners
It’s one thing to test the shoe in a lab on runners, it’s another to put it through its paces with hundreds of them in a controlled scientific study. Each time we release a new Project: Run Fearless shoe, we commission an independent study to see if it actually helps reduce running-related injuries. The results of our most recent study indicate that we’re on the right track: Testing shows* that the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run and Nike React Infinity Run 2 reduce injuries at a similar rate as the Nike React Infinity Run, which, in a separate study, was shown to reduce injuries by 52% compared to the Nike Air Zoom Structure 22, our traditional motion control shoe.
*In an external study of 226 men and women during a 12-week variable training program conducted in 2019, the Nike React Infinity Run reduced running injuries by 52% compared to the Nike Air Zoom Structure 22 (injury = missing 3 or more consecutive runs due to running related pain). Participants reported on progress and injuries via online questionnaires. Our study found that 30.3% of Nike Air Zoom Structure 22 runners experienced an injury but only 14.5% of Nike React Infinity Run runners experienced an injury. In a second study conducted in 2020 using the same protocol, Nike ZoomX Invincible Run and Nike React Infinity Run 2 showed no statistically significant difference in the incidence of injuries over the previous year’s Nike React Infinity Run model.
Of course, an important factor in staying healthy is running smart. Our studies involve hundreds of runners who follow a variable training program, which is all about mixing up your routine with speed and track workouts; intervals; long, slow distance runs, and recovery runs. Use our Nike Run Club app for Guided Runs that deliver the motivation and inspiration you need to mix it up.