Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 review

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Color: Volt/White-Blue glow-Night factor

Intended use: All runs except trail and in rains/snow.

Surfaces tested on: Road, synthetic track 21° C/70° F

Upper:  Knit upper made of synthetic threads.

Midsole: Lunarlon foam, injection molded EVA (Phylon in Nikespeak). 11 mm heel to toe drop.

Outsole:  Carbon rubber (BRS 1000), injection molded EVA, blown rubber in forefoot (Duralon)

Weight: 272 gms/9.59 Oz for a half pair of US11.

The 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2 gets a brand new outsole, 80% new upper with improvements which enhance the functionality of the shoe. At  the same time, things we liked in 2013 remain intact - like adequate levels of cushioning and its unmistakable neutral running character. And yes, the dreaded tongue slide is gone with Flyknit Lunar 2 featuring a integrated, knitted tongue. Weighs 10 gram heavier than Flyknit One, but also $10 lighter on the pocket.

Saucony Kinvara 5, Brooks Pure Flow 3, Brooks Pure Connect 3, Asics Gel Electro 33

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Novelty is a fickle thing. What was exciting yesterday is not quite so today, and enduring product appeal is only ensured by a winning combination of function, form and price. The 2012 Flyknit Racer whipped up all things footwear to a state of frenzied excitement, and close on its heels the Nike Flyknit Lunar 1 was thrown in. It put on a spectacular show by bringing together two of Nike’s newest and brightest – Flyknit and Lunar. It was commercially a (shoe) box office hit, setting great expectations for the follow-on. The shoe had winning elements of technical brilliance, like a conforming fit and carpeted ride but also came with undesirables like tongue slide.

It has been more than a year since the 2013 Flyknit Lunar’s release, and most of the initial glitz and glamor has worn off. What really matters now is the state of evolution – how is the newest version better than the last? Nike’s history of footwear evolution has been anything but linear. At times, the brand blows everyone’s socks off with never before tried innovation which delivers. And there are days when the so called new model is a sad retrograde, devoid of any innovative aggression. We’d like to call out the latest Vomero 9 as one such example.

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The 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2 gets a brand new sole unit.

Yet, somewhere between these two extremities is a third approach, where Nike tackles evolution in a conventional, straight forward way. Which is – following the familiar recipe of the last shoe, without changing much of its character which made the earlier version a success. The 2014 Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 is one such instance, where revisions are small, yet noticeable improvements. What’s surprising though, is the magnitude of big changes the shoe went under to deliver these seemingly minor upgrades. In what is a departure from Nike’s evolution rulebook, the 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2 sees an outsole change plus upper tweaks. For those familiar with Nike, it is common knowledge (and observation) that their outsole design changes only once every two years. The high cost of metal molds being the primary reason, so Nike tries to make the most of a new sole design, extending their lifespan for two years for a particular model. What brought about this act of untimely benevolence? Not sure, but could have something to do with at least three of Nike’s 2014 shoes – the Lunareclipse 4, Flyknit Lunar 2 and upcoming Lunarglide 6 featuring  similar design language for the outsole.

So this is a moment to savour, this pleasant deviation of Nike’s evolution cadence. With sweeping changes, the Flyknit Lunar 2 carries over only a few of previous year parts, and while doing so stays true to first generation Lunar One’s functional goals.

Design and construction updates:

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In retrospect, the design advancements seem to suggest the brief for the 2014 Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 – improve overall fit, better the ride and get rid of tongue slide. It does so with aplomb, and fixes areas in which the 2013 instance was found wanting, but in the process sheds some of its original sexiness. Styling is subjective, of course, and we seldom comment on it. But last year’s Lunar 1 looked faster, with the swoosh right on centre panels, its sharp end giving the shoe a streamlined aesthetic. In 2014, emphasis is on form resulting from brute function – five inverted funnels rise from base of mid foot to the top, its tubular ridges shrouding Flywire cables. What good do these converging, knitted tubes do? These ensconce the thin Flywire cords, insulating the sides of the foot from unwanted friction caused by the latter. We’ve seen in non-Flyknit models like the Free 5.0 and Lunarglide 5 that Flywire cords can be irritating if only separated by a thin layer, so this structural change is welcome. But the design looks uninspiring and it fails to move us the way the original Flyknit One did.

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With tongue knitted to the upper, tongue slide is now so 2013.

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One major update on the 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2 is the new tongue. It is knitted into the upper, which results in a sock like feel – and puts an end to the tongue slide which was so irritating in the 2013 Flyknit One. It is also stretchy and perforated, which reminds us of the Nike Free Flyknit upper. Besides fixing the tongue slide, fit level around mid foot is vastly improved; the elastic component spans across the top taut, keeping the foot locked down. Laces change to traditional ones from the ribbon type, giving the tongue top a raised profile. An extra eyelet is added just before the collar area, giving runners an option of adjusting lacing pressure.

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Seamless and breathable interior.

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Larger pores on top allow better ventilation and movement; dense knitted sides lend structural support.

Ventilation has been cranked up by way of integrated Flyknit panels featuring larger pores on the sides, a much helpful addition to help the shoe see through warmer climes of late spring and summer. The upper sidewalls also firm up, by use of hard triangular inserts inside the funnel shapes – an addition not there in the original Flyknit One. Reminds us of collar stays used in dress shirts – hard but pliable.

The toe box area stays more or less untouched, save for the Flywire cord going right unto the front, in an effort to create a snugger forefoot fit.

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The firm collar area is an exact fitment from last year’s Lunar One. The heel counter is hard, with internal stiffener sandwiched between the lining and Flyknit mesh. While padded with foam, the collar walls are high with a noticeable inward lean towards the Achilles – the effects of which we’ll cover in our ride experience breakout later in the review.

Midsole/outsole design:

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The 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2’s outsole inspired by pressure map data – according to Nike.

In an unexpected move, the 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2 gets a completely new sole design. Not that anything was wrong with the 2013 outsole, which did decent underfoot duties on Flyknit One, and later the Lunar Flash. It was perhaps the urgency to get all fresh 2014 introductions on to the new ‘pressure mapped’ outsole design – a distinct pattern featuring concentric loops of rubber under the forefoot. Look past that, and the basic set-up has a lot in common with the Flyknit One – the softer Lunarlon foam sitting interlocked with a firmer midsole base.

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The midsole sides look all sinewy.

While on topic, the flanks look finely sculpted with angular sinews molded into lower sidewalls. This is a digression from accordion ridges look on the Flyknit one, and the new design lends the Flyknit Lunar 2 midsole a more muscular look, for lack of a better analogy. The contrasting speckles, which we so liked in the 2013 version, returns on the new midsole.

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The Ortholite Sockliner is the same as the one before. Memory foam like compression and a friction-free top cloth gets the job done nicely.

The heel area rubber is split into more pieces, increasing the number units from three to four. There are also spread apart further from one another and with realigned positioning. A bigger rubber chunk sits right at the edge of  heel center, and flanked by two smaller pieces. The fourth rubber piece extends alongside outer midsole, stopping just short underneath the arch area.

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No Nike+ cavity anymore, but the imprint remains.

Do keep in mind that the Flyknit Lunar 2 drops the ‘+’ suffix, with no cavity to drop in the first generation Nike+Apple transmitter. The reason being, iPods and iPhone of late have been featuring inbuilt pedometers  the last few years so dependence on the transmitter+receiver set-up should have waned. At least that seems to be the logic, but if you haven’t moved up from your 2010 iPod, you’d want to reconsider spending money on the Lunar 2. Or buy an aftermarket sleeve which affixes the transmitter on your laces.

The 2014 Nike Flyknit Lunar 2: The Experience

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Despite all the new bits, Nike hasn’t rocked the boat with Flyknit Lunar 2. The upper is more or less made of same materials, so first entry into the shoe feels familiar. But as soon as you start running in them, the differences make their presence felt. The integrated Flyknit tongue doesn’t slide sideways anymore and works together with the upper to result in a snugger fit than the 2013 Flyknit One. Forefoot space feels much tighter than last year, caused by: a) Flywire cords extending right unto the last eyelet and wrapping around the sides, b) A slight change in Flyknit weave which is tightly packed around the forefoot area and c) hard triangular inserts in the medial mid-foot panels.

If you compare brand new Flyknit One to a just-out-of-the-box Flyknit Lunar 2, the forefoot space will feel similar. But the Flyknit One upper loosens up considerably after a few months of usage, so we felt a marked contrast in fit after wearing this year’s Lunar 2. And with the forefoot area structurally beefed up, it seems unlikely that the Flyknit Lunar 2 will loosen up the way its predecessor did.

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The Flyknit Lunar 2 (right) has a similar heel design to the older version on left. Pull tab with reflective accents, and a hard molded heel counter.

The collar area hasn’t changed at all, and structural inequality between front and rear of the shoe is glaring. The forefoot and mid-foot is pliable Flyknit, but the rear has multiple layers of fabric and an extremely rigid internal stiffener. The padded collar has a prominent lean inwards, gripping the foot with tenacity. That takes care of foot slip, but the whole area feels very obtrusive. We wish the area was a tad more minimal.

The sole unit has a good level of cushioning, very much so like the Flyknit One. The rear comes across as more cushioned because of revised under-heel placement of rubber pods. Since they are spread apart from each other, they press into the softer midsole foam on impact and delivers a superior sensation of compression. In comparison, rear-foot strike on the Flyknit One felt flat. In the forefoot is where big changes happen. From the oft used rectangular waffle configuration, the area now has an array of concentric rubber loops, with the smallest piece affixed right under the forefoot center.

With that, underfoot cushioning seems to radiate outwards from the centre – Nike says that this design is inspired by insights from foot pressure map data recorded during running. This new pattern will spread across different 2014 models – apart from Flyknit Lunar 2, the LunarEclipse 4 has it, and to be followed by the Lunarglide 6 in June 2014. Logically outsole durability should be higher the 2013 Flyknit One because of the ample use of rubber. If there’s a trade off, it is a slight loss of forefoot flexibility caused by the unbroken loops of rubber. Weight too, with a half pair gaining 10 grams over the 2013 version.

The Flyknit Lunar 2 is decidedly a neutral running shoe, with none of the motion control tricks of the Lunarglide or Eclipse. It is also not to be mis-classified as a minimal shoe. It’s got a 11 mm heel to toe drop, with deep cushioning and bulked up collar area.

Things which could be better:

Dislike is a pretty strong word, and we’d have to hate something really bad to describe it as such. But we won’t use it here. In Flyknit Lunar 2’s case, we think that there are a few places which can be improved, but as such, these aren’t deal breakers. We’d like to line-up these for you.

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A) The Flywire cords: The length of loops passing through the Flyknit upper is inconsistent. Two cords on the right shoe were shorter than the rest, pulling the laces lower than necessary. Not only does it shorten the available length of  laces, but also makes the eyelets useless. Correct position should be the end of the lace loops aligning with the eyelets of the upper so that lacing pressure is on both Flywire and the upper. This is not so much a design flaw as it is a manufacturing one. But the fact that our shoe was faulty suggests that other Lunar 2 pairs might be prone to this issue.

B) Stiff collar: For a shoe which features a minimal Flyknit upper, the collar area feels like a retrofit from a trail running shoe. The walls are high, the heel section curves in on the Achilles. Does not cause any rash or discomfort, but just feels like too much build for a lightweight running shoe.

C) Decreased flexibility: The evolved outsole design decreases exposed midsole foam in the forefoot, and the shoe is stiffer than the Flyknit One. And adds some weight too – 10 grams heavier for a half pair of US 11.

D) Goofy tongue: 80% of the tongue is knitted to the upper and does away with tongue slide, and that’s great. But the remaining 20% is free of bondage and has a mind of its own, sometimes sliding to one side and on other occasions, crumpling up under the laces. Much like a droopy ear of a Chihuahua, and never stays centered. We believe the reason to be the fused tongue label on the top which is quite thick – that prevents the flap from having any grip on the foot top.

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D) Painted-on swoosh: A purely aesthetic element, but it looked tacky in the 2013 Flyknit Lunar one, and it does here too. Hope Nike finds a better way to get their logo on Flyknit uppers.

Conclusion:

The 2014 Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 incorporates a slew of revisions compared to last year’s Flyknit One, while keeping the latter’s fundamentals intact. With the redesigned sole unit, cushioning behavior changes a wee bit. The exasperating tongue slide has disappeared by use of an integrated upper. The forefoot feels narrower as an outcome of modified upper construction, and that might not be a bad thing since the 2013 Flyknit One had a tendency to slack up. The Flyknit One felt very snug just out of the box, but that was not a true reflection of long term fit. After 30 miles or so, it became much looser than what it was originally. In comparison, the Flyknit Lunar 2 fit feels consistent throughout, as more miles are put on it.

Overall, the shoe has improved in function when compared to last year’s avatar. Only if it didn’t look so dull, with its ungainly looking funnels pouring Flywire cords out.

2013 Flyknit One vs. 2014 Flyknit Lunar 2: Visual Summary

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Flyknit_Lunar_2_vs_Flyknit_one

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(Disclaimer: Solereview.com paid full US retail price for the shoe reviewed)

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