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Nike LunarTempo Review

Nike Lunar Tempo Scorecard

Color: White/Total orange/Game royal/Black

Nike's marketing pitch: Ultralight cushioning for high speed miles.

Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 21° C/70° F

Upper: Single piece engineered mesh. Flywire cord based lacing support.

Midsole: Lunarlon foam inserted within a firmer EVA casing. 8 mm heel to toe offset.

Outsole: Carbon rubber waffle lugs under heel and forefoot.

Weight: 212 gms/ 7.5 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29

Widths available: Single, D (medium - reviewed)

There is this sparsely populated product niche which happens to be the space between racing flats and conventional trainers. It is here where the LunarTempo clicks in perfectly, like a square peg in a square hole. Good for speed runs, carries very little weight and fits roomy except for the toe box.
Nike Lunaracer+ 3
Superbly lightweight, uniform transition, night time reflectivity, cushioned+supportive ride, great forefoot feel on synthetic track
Tongue slide, slopey toe-box which might cause an half up-size
Nike Lunar Tempo

Here’s another Lunar-something fresh out of the oven. What does this one do?

The Nike LunarTempo is an interesting shoe, and a very competent product at that.

One which manages to differentiate itself not only against the rest of Nike’s running line, but also within the crowded running marketplace. A shoe which combines a ridiculous level of lightweight, along with excellent ride characteristics. Areas like cushioning, support and transition are blended well together as a cohesive whole.

Now close your eyes and think of other models which can do something similar. You’ll probably draw a blank, except for the Lunaracer 3, the shoe on which the Tempo is based.

Nike Lunaracer 3

For all practical purposes, view the LunarTempo as a roomy alternative to the existing Lunaracer 3. The other one’s due for an imminent update.

The LunarTempo bears a striking resemblance to the identically priced Lunaracer 3, similar to the point of being its doppelgänger. That said, there’s talk that the LR is due for a sweeping refresh in 2016, an event which will drive some design distance between the two.

For now, you’d have to treat the LunarTempo has a variant of the Racer 3, and hence both merit a joint discussion during this review; even if you’ve never worn the LR and have no intention of doing so.

One thing which massively impressed us about the original Lunaracer (in 2009) was its weight. Back then the Racer was 198 gms/ 6.9 Oz for a US 11, a magical sub 7 Oz weight threshold which many attempt to cross often, but rarely end succeeding.

Things haven’t moved much since, and the current Lunaracer 3 uses the same midsole platform of 2009 vintage. Which means there’s also this anachronism which is the Nike+ cavity, making the Racer 3 the last bastion of the once ubiquitous (Nike plus) transmitter pod.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Foam lasting on top of LT’s midsole…

Nike Lunar Tempo

…Lunarlon foam insert underneath. Which means that the orange foam is outer casing.

It is this midsole framework that the 2015 Nike LunarTempo is founded on. Speaking of shared design aspects, the Tempo has a Lunarlon foam insert embedded within the EVA casing. At first glance, it might seem that the entire midsole is made of Lunarlon, like how the LunarLaunch was cobbled up.

But the firm ride suggests otherwise, and proof of that is revealed when you cut open the foam lasting. What’s visible beneath is a glimpse of an white Lunarlon foam, similar to how the Lunaracer 3 is stacked up. Yet it rides slightly differently from the Racer, an area which we’ll be happy to detail in due course.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Accordion like looks of the LunarTempo midsole, borrowed from the Lunaracer.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Lightweight outsole construction, combination of midsole foam and carbon rubber pieces mounted on top.

Midsole sidewalls retain that accordion-eque aesthetic of the LR3 with its sharp, ribbed texture. Switch over to outsole view, and you’ll see a layout derived from the Racer. The sight of wide spaced foam pods or waffle shaped rubber slabs greets you, depending on the area. While both shoes share a full ground contact outsole, the LunarTempo brings in some tweaks to the front, which essentially translates into more rubber coverage than the Racer 3.

Outsole tip has been beefed up with a full U-shaped piece and there’re additional bits on lateral forefoot, an area prone to wear and tear for many of us. This material increment over the Racer 3 affects the LunarTempo’s ride behavior on synthetic race tracks – in a good way.

Going back to the Lunaracer 3, its upper has an undeniable race focus, which means that it fits snug and well ventilated with a visible degree of stripped-for-action minimalism. The toe bumper is shallow, and the aggressive execution of the Flywire cording results in a higher level of midfoot grip.

The LR3 tongue has near-zero foam padding, and though the collar packs some softness inside, it is far from plush. In a way, the LR 3 upper has a lot in common with the Zoom Streak 5 – another lightweight road racing shoe but way different when it comes to overall fit and feel.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The upper here is roomy for the most part, comfortable and well ventilated.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Five columns of Flywire are concealed, keeping the exterior profile clean.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Last row of lacing is outsourced to a reinforced, regular eyelet.

Nike Lunar Tempo

You can see the Flywire cords below, don’t you? And the texture of the painted Swoosh logo looks like reptilian hide at close range.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Breathable interior lining acts as a barrier between the Flywire strands and your foot, sock-clad or not.

On the LunarTempo, things take on a more relaxed and plusher stance. Forefoot has more splay room, a result of both a late lacing start (greater distance between the tip of the shoe and lacing) and tamer application of Flywire cords.

Nike’s popular cinching system string up the sides, but with one lesser column than the LR3 ( six rows vs. five) and a stealthy, concealed design which has only the top part of the Flywire visible. Inside, there’s a fabric lining which separates the foot from the direct pressure of Flywire lockdown.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Like the tip of an iceberg, only the top part of Flywire can be seen.

Nike Lunar Tempo

What was once new is now familiar. ‘Engineered’ mesh, a buzzword for a single fabric with varying knit structures.

Rest of the Flywire cords lie beneath the surface of LunarTempo’s upper, which happens to be this single piece, engineered mesh oft seen on models such as the Structure 18 and Vomero 10. The fabric is open in some areas for stretch and ventilation, densely knit in others for support – you must know the drill by now.

On a related note, the Lunaracer 3 fit could be modified to match the Tempo’s relaxed nature – made feasible by opting not to use the Flywire loops. But that’s not an apple to apple comparison and the resulting Flywire sprout would make for an eyesore too.

Nike Lunar Tempo

This is the LunarTempo’s tongue. A regular joe as far its design as concerned – look ma, no sleeves!

Nike Lunar Tempo

Foam and soft textile lined tongue back, very conventional trainer like.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The upper heel stays away from minimalism; adopts the tried and tested fabric and foam mix-n-match.

The LunarTempo tongue feels like an organ transplant from the Vomero or Structure 18. Single unit design with top mesh and bottom lining; foam betwixt the two and the trademark Nike tongue flap design which is prone to moving without a gusset.

Heel collar is more ‘traditional’, making good with a soft, foam backed fabric lining. It does not use a full sized internal heel counter, though it might seem like that from the outside.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The counter with a reflective insert on either sides looks molded…

Nike Lunar Tempo

…but fold the upper over, and you’ll discover that it is only partially so. The internal stiffener is a much scaled down version of what usually goes around in these parts.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Which means that it is semi-collapsible. Of course, not to the level of contortion a Nike Free possesses – you have to respect the difference.

Instead, it depends on a small vertical strip of heel puff – visible when you fold the upper around its edges (see above). While the heel is not super soft, it still ends being somewhat collapsible; a desired design trait for runners trying to avoid a shoe with a rigid heel area.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The Flywire threads have reflective bits woven into them.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Here’s what you get at night.

Nike Lunar Tempo

And the heel is shiny too.

Reflectivity isn’t forgotten on the LunarTempo. In fact, there’s plenty of it, as is the case on the Lunaracer 3. The heel underlays are proper shine-brights, and the midfoot Flywire has reflective bits woven into its structure, ditto like the LR. There’s a catch though.

The LR3’s exposed Flywire twinkled like tiny stars on a dark night, but the LunarTempo dims things down a bit because most of the Flywire is concealed below the mesh.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Much space for forefoot splay, though the toe-box is cramped.

With the aforementioned design differences vs. a LR3, the Tempo ends up being much more accommodating with regards to upper fit.

The midfoot and heel have adequate hold without that tenacious quality of lockdown, and the forefoot has plenty of room, on par with regular trainers. The tongue isn’t attached to the upper sides, so it ends up sliding laterally.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Ok, the tongue loop is reinforced, but sorry, slide happens.

The lacing has a broad spread, so the reinforced tongue loop is helpless in arresting sideways side. From our experience, even a non-gusseted tongue could be made to stay put simply by moving the position of the loop.

We think this was on the adidas Adios Boost – the laterally biased loop is more effective there than centered.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Notice the extreme slopey-ness (not sloppiness) of the LunarTempo’s business end.

There’s only one part of the LunarTempo which we’re not a fan of, and that’s the toe-box. The front profile has a prominent slope, and that’s ok – many shoes do, including the Lunaracer 3. What makes the Tempo’s toe bumper different is its construction.

Inside, there is a separate strip of synthetic glued on to the mesh. This is clearly meant to provide structural support and shape to the toe-box, yet it differs in design from other shoes. In many other cases, the entire forefoot has a type of stiffener inside, but that frame lies sandwiched between the upper mesh and lining.

Nike Lunar Tempo

This is the puff underlay under the toe-bumper. Same as Lunaracer 3, but behaves differently.

Not so on the LunarTempo. Since the toe puff is exposed, it creates a ridge where it ends and the mesh begins. A couple of things happen. The LunarTempo feels a half size smaller than what it actually is – if the toe box were more rounded, it would have felt truer in sizing.

And if you half upsize on the LunarTempo – which most will end up doing – the ridge of the toe-puff is felt right over the big toe.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The soft upper mesh over the pliable toe-stiffener creates a ridge of sorts. Not irksome, but noticeable.

And it is not only the toe-puff which is the cause of it, but rather its design. We say that because the Lunaracer 3 uses an identical construction, but except for the shallow toe box, there is no ridge like effect. It is possible that the contrast of the LunarTempo’s upper material is causing this. The mesh is much softer than the stiffener, whereas on the LR3, there was better consistency.

The backing is made of a soft material and does not have the potential to cause blisters, but the sensation can be compared to a leaky faucet. If you fixate on the sound of drops hitting the kitchen sink, you can’t go to sleep. If you ignore it, you’ll barely hear it. This analogy applies to the LunarTempo’s toe box too; the shallow frontend is an irritant only when you train your senses on it.

Nike Lunar Tempo

With the exception of the shallow toe-tip, rest of the upper scores high on fit quality.

Otherwise the overall upper fit is very comfortable and the spacious interior is a pleasant surprise on what is definitely a shoe meant for faster workouts. Normally these kind of shoes tend to squish down on your foot with all the might the mesh upper and lacing can muster.

When we took the LunarTempo for its first outing earlier this month, the first impression felt somewhere between the 2010~11 Lunar Elite and the current gen Lunaracer 3. Although we were expecting it to feel a lot like the LR3 given its shared midsole set-up, it proved to be different in more ways than one.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Firmer cushioning than the Lunaracer 3, but more than the Zante, adidas adios and Boston.

Firstly, the LunarTempo has a firmer ride (in the heel) than the Lunaracer 3. Since the midsole foam density isn’t all that different, we would pin the cause to be the volume of the Lunarlon foam under the heel. We’re assuming for now that the LR3 has more Lunarlon foam inside, hence feels softer.

On the other hand, the LunarTempo forefoot comes across as plusher than the LR3, and we see that as the handiwork of a softer Ortholite insole.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The LunarTempo has a softy-squishy insole. Removable and molded.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Ortholite is a dominant force as a OEM supplier of footbed. Kinda like what Gore-tex is for waterproof fabrics.

Compared to the firmer, compression molded EVA insole of the LR3, the Tempo uses an Ortholite (similar touch and feel of what’s used on Nike Free) footbed. This open cell foam makes for a plusher soft top, and makes the forefoot feel effectively more cushioned than the LR 3.

Nike Lunar Tempo

Cushioned, but not soft. There’s a difference between the two – you know that, right?

View the LunarTempo in isolation without a LR3 comparison, and what you need to know is that the Tempo is cushioned, but in a slightly firm way. No sink on heel or forefoot strike, and the weight loading is super smooth and economical in its nature.

Like most shoes which behave similarly, the reason is the shoe’s use of uniform material across its length. In this case, that consistency is delivered by a heel to toe Lunarlon insert within a firmer EVA surrounding.

And this might sound strange, but the Tempo also feels very supportive.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The firmer EVA casing makes for a supportive ride.

By which we mean not the myriad ways in which a shoe tries to control your foot roll, but in a more simpler sense of that word. Which basically is a derivative of the Tempo’s very neutral behavior – a characteristic achieved by keeping the foot centered.

Since the midsole consists of a softer core surrounded by EVA firmness, it helps the foot stays its course during the gait cycle. No sensation of the foot leaning to either sides, nor bottoming out of the midsole like how the Nike Lunarlaunch ended up doing. (We cut a slit in the midsole side, but it was too hard too photograph it – the Lunarlon was way inside.)

Nike Lunar Tempo

Perfect for all kinds of workouts. Lives up to its name too.

And firm cushioning+supportive feel+transition makes the LT (don’t confuse LT with the Streak LT here) the perfect weapon for fast runs. There is plenty of cushioning for going the distance, and unlike typical ‘fast’ shoes, there is plenty of forefoot room, barring the slanted toe box. This combination is further sweetened by the incredible lack of physical bulk(US 11 = 212 gms/7.5 Oz), making the Lunar Tempo one of the lightest shoes available.

We’d go as far to say that you can expect some improvement in running timing; many say that shoes make no difference, but trying running in a heavier shoe, and switch to a LT – perhaps you’ll agree to agree.

Nike Lunar Tempo

We don’t test all shoes on track, but these gentlemen deserved a duel in their natural surroundings.

Since shoes such as the LunarTempo and Racer 3 are typically nice track training tools, we took them both for a spin, and the experience ended up somewhat contrary to our assumption.

The assumption was that the firmer forefoot and tighter fit of the Lunaracer 3 would make it a better shoe for speed bursts or intervals on synthetic track. Well, Nike’s old workhorse does feel efficient on tracks, there’s no denying that. But we hadn’t factored for the slightly changed outsole design of the LunarTempo, which has a solid bearing on how the shoes perform on track.

Nike Lunar Tempo

See that horseshoe shaped rubber strip around the toe? That makes track intervals much fun on the LT’s.

We pointed out the additional outsole rubber on the Tempo. In more precise terms, a full U-shaped tip and a couple of lateral rubber lugs. Now this horseshoe shaped insert has rubber strips on it, with a higher raise of ribs and wider spacing (between them) when compared to the Lunaracer 3. So you when you’re speeding fast on tracks, the tip of outsole mimics a fraction of what you experience on track spikes – they provide last moment grip before those explosive push-offs.

The sensation of rubber tip crunching or scraping the synthetic track surface before the foot takes off feels nice; a toned down equivalent of Christmas tree spikes around the tip of a track shoe. This makes the LunarTempo feel more connected to the ground – especially in the forefoot – while the LR3 felt a little more docile, for lack of a better word.

But it doesn’t mean that it’s a home run for the Tempo from a track use perspective. The Lunaracer 3’s firmer forefoot and snugger upper are positives over the Tempo when used in track workouts. It’s a close call, really, can’t say one shoe is better over the other. It might just boil down to subjective likes and dislikes.

Nike Lunar Tempo

The LunarTempo has a sense of balance. Firm but cushioned midsole, and topped off with a soft insole. Speedy genes, yet the upper isn’t a vice.

As far as road use is concerned, the LunarTempo is an easy shoe to sum up. If you’re out looking for a shoe which marries lightweight, reasonably spacious fit and speed manners, then this is the train stop you should get down at. The LunarTempo is a bit more than a repurposed Lunaracer 3; the shoe holds its own with a new trick or two up its Flywire fastened sleeves.

It’s a bridge between the minimalistic levels of pure racing flats and lighter, neutral shoes. It’s 8mm drop isn’t going to bust your Achilles, so the LT is perfect for transitioning down from say, something like a Pegasus, but without the unforgiving ride and fit which usually follows on tempo shoes.

There are other models in the fray as far as this category is concerned, but the LT is adequately differentiated, without being necessarily better or worse in comparison. Like the cushioned Fresh Foam Zante, which has a narrower front with slightly less support in its ride. Or the twins of adidas adios and Boston Boost, which arrive packaged with a marginally elevated heel to toe differential and narrower tops.

Simply put, the LunarTempo is another successful model from Nike’s 2015 hit machine. Very, very versatile; feels at home on tracks as a training tool as well as fast paced road running, raceday or daily workouts. And in most places, going for less than its $110 advertised retail price. If this isn’t a definition of a sweet deal, what is?

(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price – in March.)


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