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Nike

LUNAREPIC FLYKNIT

$235

Just when you thought that run­ning shoes all look a cer­tain way, Nike goes and ex­plodes that idea. The Nike LunarEpic Flyknit had the Ore­gon-based com­pany’s design team take a long look at what a run­ning shoe is, and then found them­selves won­der­ing, well, why does it look and func­tion that way, and what could make it bet­ter?

Af­ter an 18-month design phase, the LunarEpic is sure to get run­ners talk­ing. It’s eas­ily the most in­ter­est­ing look­ing design we’ve seen in quite a while from a run­ning shoe brand. But is it all style, or is there sub­stance to this crazy look­ing run­ning high top?

The an­kle col­lar is the ob­vi­ous stand­out design el­e­ment. But there are many other new-and-im­proved as­pects of this shoe, which fits nicely into their “Lu­nar” line of soft, re­spon­sive train­ers. Nike used heat in­stead of glue to fuse two foams to­gether. Then, they laser-cut sec­tions out of the mid­sole to make it feel more light, flex­i­ble and with an “ac­cor­dion-like” re­spon­sive­ness af­ter touch­down on the road. Af­ter our ini­tial tests, the LunarEpic cer­tainly did feel marsh­mal­lowy, yet did have a nice re­turn upon toe-off.

We’re pretty cer­tain this shoe is go­ing to cre­ate a lot of buzz this spring when you start see­ing run­ners out in what will look like a pair of high tops.

The North Face

UL­TRA LITE WP JACKET

$180

At first, this wa­ter­proof jacket looks like it’s miss­ing some­thing – ac­tu­ally two things. But its sleeve­less design is just so crazy that it might work. It was ac­tu­ally cre­ated by one of The North Face’s pro ath­letes, ultrarunner Mike Foote, who got tired of feel­ing like he was run­ning in a garbage bag when it started to rain dur­ing a 100-miler. So, like all great in­ven­tors, he de­cided to “mod­ify” one of his al­ready su­per light tech­ni­cal jack­ets by snip­ping off the sleeves. The re­sult is a jacket that works re­ally well when you’re un­der sus­tained rain for a long pe­riod.

The Ul­tra Lite WP packs into a pocket the size of a deck of cards and weighs just 139 g, about that of two en­ergy bars. Another key to the design is that its got a hood, which is some­thing that most run­ning vests lack. There are two hand pock­ets and a chest pocket for a phone or gels. The en­tire shell is dusted in a shim­mer­ing re­flec­tive coat­ing, just in case you get stuck in the rain for longer than you’d an­tic­i­pated.– MD

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