This model may still be available on clearance. But we've reviewed a newer version since we published this.
One of Nikes main men didnt want us to see the R4. Theyll only criticise it because its different, he told his colleagues. Fortunately a number of our testers have run in them, and we can prove him wrong. In any case, were not here to tell you whether or not you should like a shoes looks what you want to know is how it works as a running shoe.
Shox is Nikes first main alternative to Air since it appeared in 1979, and it uses four elastomer pillars to absorb rearfoot impact. Its the same material thats used in car engine supports, and its extreme durability makes it a great option for runners who land heavily on their heels.
The surprise is that, unlike other good shoes for heel-strikers, the R4 also rides softly and smoothly for lighter runners and its a world apart from Nikes recent Tuned Air, which was over-firm. In addition to its smooth cushioning, the R4s rearfoot is stable thanks to the medial arrangement of the pillars; and the forefoot is well cushioned too, using a conventional combination of Phylon (EVA) and a Max Air cushioning unit. (You cant see the forefoot midsole because the upper wraps down over it.)
Who liked the R4 and who didnt? Heel-strikers and normal-gaited runners and mild to moderate overpronators did. Broad-footed runners didnt. And midfoot- and forefoot-strikers didnt: because they didnt compress the pillars in the rearfoot they felt as though they were running in high heels.
Rearfoot durability is the key to Shox shoes but unlike many other shoes with long-lasting cushioning its far from being a rigid ride. Sure, the shoe isnt especially light, and its life will end when the outsole (or forefoot or upper) wears out, but the rearfoot cushioning should stay as good as new indefinitely.
Try it on if you liked
Nike Air Exeter (£80); Nike Air Max (£110); New Balance 1220 (£100)