Color: Total Orange/Voltage Green/Ghost Green/Black
Nike's marketing pitch: Stable, soft and fast.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 19° C/66° F
Upper: One piece Flymesh upper, inner sleeve, flat strap based lacing, plastic heel clip.
Midsole: Triple density foam, including a compression molded medial wedge. 12 mm heel-to-toe drop.
Outsole: Carbon rubber under heel, blown rubber under forefoot.
Weight: 327 gms/ 11.5 Oz for a half pair of Men's US11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: Single - regular (reviewed).
Every brand has their top ‘stability’ shoe, albeit in different flavors. You know, the one with the biggest medial post, upper plushness, packed to the gills with marketable tech and a $140+ price – that kind of heady stuff.
Once upon a time, Nike used to have such as a shoe. It was called the Equalon, and it existed for a relatively short lifespan of 4 years. Its upper had strong design cues from the Structure 10/11/12, and the bottom took a lot of inspiration from the Vomero.
Its demise could be linked to the Lunarglide blitzkrieg; after all, the higher priced Lunareclipse was supposed to be the Lunarglide on steroids. It had the same stacked midsole design of the Glide, but came boxed with more bells and whistles.
Except that the Eclipse did not quite catch on, did it? Maybe only for the first couple of years, when it did bask in the halo effect of the Glide. But the Lunarglide was the true hero of Nike’s novel approach to reinterpreting the support shoe category, and the Eclipse fell by the wayside over time.
Nike plans to change that with the Odyssey. And the brand’s given it a name inspired by Greek mythology, a tradition which seems to be Nike’s lucky charm.
Nike, after all is a Greek name, and many past and existing models have had Greek names. Pegasus, Perseus, Icarus, Vomero… the list goes on.
And what is the Zoom Odyssey? The way it fits and feels, the Odyssey is part Structure 19 and part Vomero 10. The Structure 19 part comes from the Odyssey’s in-your-face ‘stability’ shoe positioning.
There is a looong medial post on the arch side of the midsole which spans from heel to toe. That part’s probably bigger than anything else in the market right now. It’s the bright green part of the midsole as seen in the picture above.
Its Vomero genes can be seen in how the midsole is designed. The side profile looks very familiar, and the outsole is a near exact-match in design and material.
There’s softer blown rubber under the forefoot and harder wearing rubber under the heel and midfoot. And much like the Vomero 10, the Odyssey comes equipped with front and rear Zoom Air bags.
‘Pronation control’ shoes with medial posts have been around since the beginning of time, but we’re of the opinion that this category is a relic of the past, a footwear anachronism. This will ruffle a few feathers, but after reviewing well over 100 pairs and answering thousands of reader questions, we’re convinced that medial posts are absolutely useless – as long as any running shoe is innately stable. Of course, this is a theory, as is the entire notion of ‘pronation control’ footwear – so the irony isn’t lost on us.
The origin of firmer medial posts, or the whole pronation control concept can be traced to early biomechanical studies done in the ’70’s and ’80’s. More than a few studies concluded that injuries were caused by the excessive rolling in, or ‘pronation’ of the foot, and a shoe design which prevented this from happening could be beneficial.
In those days, there was true merit in these findings. All of it was linked to primitive running shoe design. You see, running shoes in the late seventies and early eighties did not benefit from the material and construction advancements we have today. All shoes were board lasted in the manner of dress shoes, meaning the upper was first lasted to the board, and then ‘stuck-on’ to the sole unit.
Back then, the sole unit was nothing more a sheet of blown EVA foam pasted to a rubber outsole. A board lasting technique also limited how wide the midsole base could be. This usually meant that the midsoles were of a super narrow profile, sometimes slimmer than the upper above it. The blown EVA foam also had this tendency to compress quickly or go ‘flat’ in a relatively short span of time. Durable materials like Polyurethane and compression/injection molded EVA weren’t used in shoes then.
Now every one’s foot rolls inwards during the gait cycle. It is just that some do it a little more than the others. So imagine what inwards roll of the foot did to an inferior EVA midsole. Over time, the medial side of the midsole flattened out, causing the foot to lean dangerously inwards. Almost as if the foot was sliding off the midsole.
When combined with high mileage and lack of training, we have no doubt that inwards roll, or pronation posed a real threat to the physical well being of runners.
Brands tried to rectify this by adding a ‘stability’ device or ‘post’ between the upper and the midsole. But since blown EVA foam was the real culprit, those medial posts had little effect as far as increasing stability was concerned. The solution was overall stability, and not a medial post per se. The EVA wedge midsole was limited in its means to deliver true stability.
A lot changed between the late eighties and mid nineties, a super-evolutionary period of sorts for running shoes, if you will. By 1995, board lasted EVA foam running shoes had ceased to exist, replaced by a combination of strobel lasting and more durable midsole materials like compression molded EVA and Polyurethane.
This made the shoe far more stable, and stopped the midsole from flattening out on the medial side. But the medial post stay put, like an evolutionary vestige which has outlived its usefulness. The industry continued to advocate the use of ‘pronation control’ shoes, and placebo techniques like ‘gait analysis’ are still widely used to determine which shoe is ‘right’ for you.
Don’t you find it strange, that except for traditional road running shoes, none of the footwear in other sports involving straight line running have medial posts? Football (both versions), baseball, track spikes. What the heck, even racing flats have long been spared of any ‘pronation control’ mechanism. Cricket shoes come with medial posts for no apparent reason, but that’s because Asics (who makes most of those) has copied the Kayano template.
Most modern day, firmer riding neutral shoes are stable enough, and we see no need for an additional medial post. Shoes such as the adidas Glide Boost, Brooks Ghost 8/Glycerin 13, Mizuno Wave Rider, Nike Zoom Elite or Saucony Triumph will do just fine.
Besides, the foot sits too high above the midsole to be affected by the medial post. Nike tried to change this by starkly contrasting the lateral and medial midsole densities on the Structure 17. But when we reviewed that shoe, we found it to be a stability disaster, much like Kayano 22.
One could argue that a ‘so and so stability shoe’ helped reduce soreness, or simply felt better. Sure, but have you tried all ‘stability’ shoes, or even neutral shoes? Chances are, a lot of so-called stability shoes will not suit you, and some neutral shoes will. And even for a ‘neutral’ runner, some shoes are going to feel better than the rest.
The one shoe/category fits all is a seriously flawed and oversimplified cookie-cutter concept, because running shoes are extremely personal. The key takeaway from doing all these reviews and interacting with our readers is this: Pick a shoe which fits and feels the best. It should be not be overtly soft (Nimbus 17), or do funny things to your gait (Structure 17).
And yet, the whole pronation control notion is so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that everyone truly believes it. People in running shoe stores. And almost everyone working for a shoe brand. Speak to most designers, product managers and or even senior management in brands, and chances are you’ll get a consistent answer.
Most believe that shoes with medial posts are necessary for a certain group of runners. So clearly there’s no deception here. Just an old wives tale which everybody thinks to be true. Believing in conventional wisdom is another way to put it.
Even solereview did too, once. As recently as two years ago, we actually used to mention cringe-worthy things like how a particular shoe was ‘not suitable for people with high arches’. So we were no wiser, as you can see.
Exclusion to this line of thinking would be custom built orthoses. There are people who genuinely require supportive inserts for various reasons. And we believe that a professionally designed sockliner can help with certain issues. The insole is in direct contact with the sole of the foot, and is hence much better placed to provide supportive action.
Feel free to rip apart what we just said, but you can see where all this is coming from.
Our critique of pronation control footwear does not change the fact that the Nike Air Zoom Odyssey is indeed a very stable shoe with excellent ride characteristics. Key to this is an overall feel of firmness, and a balanced midsole design.
The inner midsole features a medial post which never seems to end, but it doesn’t result in the shoe feeling lopsided. For starters, the lateral (outer) sidewall of the midsole has a nicely filled up design. There are no deep grooves which might cause the heel to pull to one side.
Secondly, the midsole foam density is rather firm. The visual resemblance with Vomero 10’s sidewall is just that – the Odyssey does not have the softness of the Lunarlon topping. The only thing soft on the Odyssey is its faux-Ortholite footbed.
There are a few other things. The medial post isn’t rock hard like on the Structure 18. Instead, there’s some amount of compression built in, which creates a sense of balance between the lateral and medial midsole foams.
And you have the cardboard/cellulose board layered over the heel Zoom Air bag, which dials in a degree of stability.
What really brings the supportive ride home is the concealed layer of softer midsole foam (in black). In a what is a design parallel with both the Lunarglide and Vomero, a top layer of foam extends from under the heel center right till the toe tip.
Not only does this foam refine the transition quality, but also creates a softer core within a firmer foam casing. This helps keep the heel seated in the rearfoot center.
Not to be overlooked is the Odyssey’s outsole design. It is full contact, with harder rubber in the mid and rearfoot and softer rubber under the forefoot. The carbon rubber is identical to what’s used on the Pegasus/Vomero/Elite, which makes the heel and midfoot section extremely durable over long term usage. The blown rubber on the other hand, is more susceptible to the ravages of time and mileage.
Till the point where the midfoot ends and forefoot begins, there’s continuous coverage through the ‘crash rail’ design. This smoothens heel to toe progressions.
The Odyssey’s cushioning comes with a caveat. At slower speeds, the ride is actually quite firm and flat except for the initial layer of softness coming from the thick insole.
Cushioning and responsiveness gets activated at higher speeds, when the Zoom Air bag and the softer Cushlon core becomes accessible. This reminds us of some of adidas Boost models, where the ride behavior changes with speed.
So don’t be discouraged when you find the Odyssey firm when walking around on the shop floor. Get on the treadmill if the place has one, and try to unlock some of the cushioning experience with a quick run.
What we said of the Vomero 10 also holds true for the Odyssey. That the forefoot has a softer feel than the rearfoot, and that’s because of three factors. The Zoom Air bag does not have a cardboard cover unlike the heel bag (which has one), so the foot has direct access to its responsiveness. Then you have majority of the forefoot midsole constructed of a softer foam, except for part where the medial post interlocks with it.
The underfoot is padded with softer blown rubber in the front, so when all these features combine, you have a softer front-end. Needless to say, the Odyssey will find a happy home in a forefoot striker’s running shoe closest.
The net sum of all the parts put together is a great ride. There’s a strong support overtone to the midsole, yet delivers gobs of responsive cushioning when summoned. The consistency in midsole material – which is the black foam lining the center – helps create a quality of transition which is efficient. The latter is also helped by the firmness and the weight of the shoe.
For all what the Odyssey manages to pack-in, a half pair of US 11 comes in at a respectable 327 grams/11.5 Oz. While that is not exactly featherweight, it is light in relative terms. The Odyssey weighs less than the Adrenaline, Inspire, 1260, Hurricane, Ravenna and the Kayano.
Another shoe we recommend highly is the adidas Sequence Boost. Last year’s 7th version was great, and even the 8 is very good except for a few areas. The Sequence’s weight is also exactly the same as the Odyssey, and it behaves similarly. No bias, a very balanced ride, and cushioning on demand in a lightweight package.
One thing which the Odyssey does very well is delivering a distraction free and a consistently comfortable ride. There’s aren’t any soft spots, pressure zones, or bumps felt underfoot. This isn’t surprising given the well proportioned midsole design, but there’s a reason why we say this. Which brings us to the topic of the Nike Structure 18 and 19.
Runners looking to switch from the Nike Structure will want to know how these two compare, and that’s a valid ask. Both these models are from Nike’s stability category, so it’s worth spending some time highlighting the differences.
It must be pointed out though, that while both the Structure 18 and 19 share an identical midsole design, they ride differently due to a few design updates.
Sure to be noticed is the way in which the Odyssey’s under-arch area is constructed. On the Structure 18, the very hard medial post is interlocked with a softer wedge of midsole foam. This foam extends into a high, and somewhat aggressive curve just under the arch.
This is felt underfoot regardless of whether you’re running or walking. Something like this isn’t universally accepted. Some will love the feel of the ‘under-arch’ support, while others would love to shave this part down.
Well, don’t shave it down, and get an Odyssey instead. The new midsole design flattens the pointy curve of the Structure, and sticks to a traditional midsole edge like the Vomero 10. Some might miss the midsole curve, but in the bargain you experience a less distracting feel.
In addition to all that, the Structure 18 is a firmer riding, and more stable shoe than the Odyssey. This is mostly due to a much firmer midsole (and lack of a softer core+heel Zoom bag), and a rigid insole base. So no matter what your running speed was, the Structure 18’s heel felt firm and flat. The forefoot was more responsive due to the Zoom Air insert and blown rubber.
On the other hand, the 2015 Structure 19 turns out to be a different beast. The new Structure 19 comes with a couple of updates which makes it feel vastly changed from the 18. The insole with the rigid casing has been replaced by a mushy open-cell foam type, and the midsole foam has been softened.
So it ends up softer, and less stable than both the Structure 18 and Odyssey. The heel feels unstable, and a lot of that is due to the lateral midsole groove coming into play. On the Structure 18, this was not an issue because the midsole was extremely firm, and hence resistant to compression. There’s no protection under the insole too, so the Structure 19’s heel feels like it’s pulling to one side.
Moral of the story? The Structure 18 is the most stable and firm, followed by the Odyssey and then finally the strangely altered Structure 19. We still have to put in a lot of miles on the Structure 19, but so far things aren’t looking good for its overall score.
Before we jump into the upper story, a few flaws on the Odyssey are worth mentioning. This is an extremely well designed shoe, but the pair we bought had shoddy finishing. There’s a lot of glue smeared near the heel clip, and lasting marking lines are visible near the toe area.
This did not cause a fit issue like on the Tempo Boost, but this example should have landed at a factory store with a healthy knock-off its retail price, and not sold to customers at full sticker. We did praise the Vomero 10’s fit and finish, but unfortunately the Odyssey does not live up to the same standards.
It’s becoming routine on Nike Flymesh featuring models to completely leave reflective elements out, and the Odyssey is a nod to that thinking. This shoe has no reflective elements, even of the ‘faux’ variety.
And lastly, there are no widths available for the Odyssey. There will eventually be a NikeID option, but that is more expensive and has limited distribution.
Nike introduced its new ‘Flymesh’ upper on last year’s Structure 18 followed by the Vomero 10, and the fit quality always came with a weak spot or two. The Structure 18 had an uneven spread of midfoot lockdown, and the Vomero came with a heel which felt loose.
Things became better with the Zoom Elite 8’s design, and the Odyssey improves on the fit even further.
The fit pressure inside the upper feels uniformly distributed. The forefoot is snugger than both the Vomero 10 and Structure 18, a result of moving the lacing forward (towards the toe) by around 5 mm and corresponding adjustments in the Flywire’s placement.
Yet, there’s decent space in the front, leaving exactly a thumb’s width of margin. The Odyssey runs true to size, like the Elite and Structure.
The Flywire cords are now flat, so you can’t really call them ‘wire’ now, can you? Anyway, even the existing Flywire in its string form is so far away from the original Vectran fibre design that talking about it is not worth wasting time on.
Nike is pretty good at calling very ordinary things by extraordinarily sounding names, and that’s what this is.
The flat loop format comes with its distinct advantages. On the outside, the straps sit flush with the upper – both on the sides and the place where it forms the lacing loop.
This aspect prevents any pressure hot spots which was experienced with the prior versions of thread shaped Flywire. The straps mostly stay exposed on the outside, held by guides knit into the upper structure. Inside, the straps lie anchored to a reinforced strap like all other Flywire based models.
Interior fit is smoothened by the inner sleeve, which also ensures no tongue slide. On the last few Flymesh models reviewed, namely the Structure/Vomero/Elite – the tongue padding was very minimal, which let some of the lacing pressure through.
Mercifully, better sense has prevailed now, and there appears to more foam packed inside the Odyssey’s tongue.
Nike has used a new tongue and collar lining on the Odyssey, eschewing the use of its tried and tested premium lining. Has a soft hand feel, so nothing to complain here. The heel grips far better than the Vomero 10, and that’s because of a couple of reasons.
Both the Vomero and Structure (18 and 19) had two eyelets holes in addition to the Flywire loops. The reserve one was meant for heel lock lacing, which normally comes at the expense of the lacing length falling short. On the Vomero 10, if you did not use the last eyelet, the heel felt loose.
The Odyssey does something different. It eliminates the last eyelet altogether, and instead moves the solitary eyelet towards the heel, somewhere in between where the two eyelet rows (as in the Structure/Vomero) would have been.
This helps secure the heel area better, with only one downside. If you wanted to make the heel grip even better, there’s no fallback in form of the last eyelet.
There’s also an external heel clip, which isn’t there on the Vomero/Structure. This is a design borrowed from the Lunarglide/Eclipse, wrapping not only around the heel but partially under it. And know you must – it does not have the invasive feel of the Lunarglide 6/Lunareclipse 4. The heel clip design has been corrected on the Lunarglide 7, and the Odyssey also gets this non-intrusive counter design.
So there you have it, the Nike Air Zoom Odyssey. If a running shoe with a medial post makes your day, then this is the model to buy. It is actually stable, has responsive cushioning, and is fairly lightweight.
We have a hunch that this shoe is going to become immensely popular in its category.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price.)