Perhaps best known for his first-place finish in the 2018 RunIT 5K, Ted Westbrook is one of the accomplished competitive high-mileage distance runnermen in the world. While training, he goes through countless running shoes. Brains Report was lucky enough to get him to review a few of his favorites. Below is Ted’s review of the Nike Legend React Running Shoe after 25 miles of running in them.
Unlike its more expensive brother, the Epic React, the stripped-down Legend React was released with little to no fanfare in July of 2018. Some huge Nike shoe retailers, like Running Warehouse, didn’t even stock it. Despite that, it featured both the new React foam that debuted in the Epic React and larger patches of hard rubber outsole—covering the entirety of the high-wear areas of the shoe—than its upmarket sibling. But is the shoe any good? Having picked up a pair of Epic React and enjoyed the feel of the new foam, I wanted to find out.
My First Experiences with the Nike Legend React
The $100 price tag of the Nike Legend React is not much for a training shoe in 2018. The Epic React costs $50 more than that. Even Nike’s venerable Pegasus, long a standard for high-mileage runners, retails for $120 in its 35th iteration. I managed to snag a pair of Legend React in the Blue Void/Black colorway for $80.
The Legend React is one of only a few shoes to feature Nike’s new React midsole foam, which is supposed to improve on the weight, energy return, and durability characteristics of its prior EVA (i.e., non-Pebax) foams like Lunarlon and Cushlon. For that reason, and because the shoes are both supposed to be suitable for “neutral-gait” runners, comparisons between the Legend React and the first React shoe, the Epic React, are inevitable.
How the Legend React Compares to the Epic React
Out of the box, the differences between the Legend and the Epic are immediately noticeable. Where the Epic features a sock-like Flyknit upper, the Legend has a more traditional multi-piece engineered mesh construction. There is no tongue on the Epic; there is a neoprene tongue on the Legend. The Legend has a padded, rigid heel collar that feels more traditional and less prone to rubbing than the Epic’s heel cup and stretch Flyknit collar. And the Legend has a hard rubber outsole covering all the high-wear areas of the bottom of the shoe.
It is easy to see that the Legend is not the more premium shoe. The wide, unmarked, seam-covered tongue dominates the top view of the shoe and is comparatively ugly. It looks like a little excess glue was used to affix the swoosh logos in front of the first lace loops. Up close, the look does say “budget,” although from normal viewing distance they look fine. There is also a weight penalty for the Legend: a more pedestrian 9.0 oz versus the feathery-for-a-trainer 7.8 oz of the Epic.
The fit of the Legend React was good. Unlike with the Epic React, I could step down into the shoe without pulling the heel loop because of the more rigid heel construction. I did, however, have to hold the neoprene tongue up out of the way, because it is tallish and sewn down to the inside of the shoe. That tongue is comfortable on the foot. It’s smooth and lightly padded. It doesn’t move. The React foam felt the same as it did in the Epic React: soft and bouncy.
The First Runs in the Legend React
My first runs in the Legend React have been short because of a marathon taper and time off after my race. My easy 5- and 6-milers in the shoes have been slow, and my evaluation is ongoing. But after 25 miles, the shoes feel like a great value. The React midsole, which is similar in size and shape to that of the Epic React, feels great underfoot. It gives and bounces, transitions well from heel to toe, and feels very stable. There is no lumpiness underfoot.
The upper, while mesh and not the stretchy Flyknit, is comfortable and never gets in the way. The Epic React may be a little more flexible on toe-off because of its more flexible upper and smaller patch of hard rubber under the toe, but the Legend React still has a good feel, and I expect that hard rubber to wear a lot better than the exposed foam of the Epic React. I’ve never had any of the heel-rubbing issues with the Legend React that I had with the Epic React.
Should You Choose the Legend React over the Epic React?
Here are my thoughts on the use-cases for this shoe versus the Epic React. They are both training shoes. I expect both to last for hundreds of road miles. Neither is going to be suitable for deep snow because neither has deep tread patterns.
I think the Legend React will be a better winter performer for two reasons: (1) what tread it does have is hard rubber that will handle light snow on the road better and for longer than the soft, faster-wearing React outsole of the Epic React; and (2) the broad, neoprene tongue of the Legend React will block both wind and moisture from getting to your socks and feet, while the Flyknit of the Epic React will put up only the barest resistance to the elements.
This second point also brings up a disadvantage of the Legend React: that broad, neoprene tongue is also going to hamper the shoe’s breathability in warm conditions. They could well become portable saunas for your feet. Another disadvantage: with its comparatively porky weight, the Legend React just is not going to feel as fast as the Epic React for interval sessions or tempos.
I wouldn’t race in the Epic React, but some people might. Racing in the Legend React? Nope. That said, getting a good deal on a couple pairs of Legend React should enable a competitive runner to invest in a pair of lightweight racing flats, too.
I’m going to keep running on these Legend Reacts to see how well they hold up. I may update this review in 100-mile increments until they’re ready for the trash heap. Nike says React foam is more durable than Lunarlon (this isn’t saying that much) and Cushlon, which is fairly durable. If so, at $80, I expect these shoes to roll well past 320 miles and easily meet my tough price-to-durability goal of 25 cents or less per mile. They may not be as sexy as the Epic React, but they seem like they’ll be a solid, reliable, and very durable training partner for a long time yet.