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Elites and fast amateurs are well served by the running shoes in Nike’s line-up, which contains the Zoom Vaporfly 4% and NEXT%, the shoes worn by the likes of Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah in their pursuit of race wins and records.
The newest release from Nike, however, will better serve runners at the other end of the spectrum. The Joyride Run Flyknit is designed to absorb the impact of running and make short runs more comfortable and enjoyable. While fast runners might use the Joyride for recovery runs, a key part of any good training schedule, beginners working through something like a couch-to-5K programme might find that the cushioned shoe helps them work through all their running more comfortably.
When you first step into it, the Joyride feels unlike any other shoe. The thousands of TPE foam beads in its midsole are contained in four pods which noticeably press up into your foot. Over time, however, the beads adapt to the shape of your foot, which means that you stop noticing them and the shoe becomes, in theory, more comfortable than a shoe with a standard midsole.
I’ve done two recovery runs in the Joyride and it certainly is comfortable, with the soft feeling underfoot matched by a padded sock-liner which gently hugs the foot to hold it in place, and an upper made from neoprene around the midfoot and Flyknit in the front.
I quickly forgot about the beads after a few steps forced them to shift into position around my foot, and the Joyride does deliver on its promise of a soft and bouncy ride. It’s a great shoe to wear for some easy miles.
However, while the beads do have plenty of bounce in them, the Joyride is a bit cumbersome when you try to ramp up the pace. At the launch of the shoe Nike suggested that it’s not really built for long runs but for short, easy recovery runs if you’re a regular runner, or short runs that you want to feel a little easier if you’re a beginner.
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While someone who isn’t looking past their couch-to-5K programme might be happy to spend £159.95 on a comfy shoe they can use for all the runs in that plan, asking someone to pay that amount for a shoe for recovery runs seems a little much. I’m all for having a couple of running shoes, but generally the extra pair are speedsters for races, rather than a plush option purely for short, easy days.
There are also some exceptionally comfortable shoes out there that are more versatile than the Joyride. The Saucony Triumph ISO 5 and Brooks Glycerin 17 come to mind. Both are great for beginners and can handle long runs as well as short recovery runs.
The Joyride might appeal to more people than those shoes on the basis of its looks, but in terms of running it’s a shoe pitched at a small niche. While runners might fork out for that when the niche is fast racing shoes that help them set PBs, like the Vaporfly, I’m not sure they’ll do the same for shoes that make easy days feel even easier.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.