All about the Nike React Element 87

he Nike React Element 87 feels like something completely unto itself.

The Swoosh has had a long history with innovation. From technical marvels to shocking visuals, we’ve seen a lot. However, this modern model just feels…different. It stands as a notable point in Nike’s time within the runner’s category.

From a functional standpoint, it’s a special debut of new tech. Visually? It comes across as a maverick in footwear design – eschewing overt chunkiness for subdued futurism. Even its debut – first seen at Paris Fashion Week – is unorthodox.

And yet, the React Element 87 stays within its margins. That is, it is a fundamentally Nike-built product from front to back. And, like any Swoosh runner of this profile, it all starts with the design mission.


Darryl Matthews, Sportswear Innovation Designer, led efforts via a simple goal. The ethos was to put together a shoe that made running and walking “more comfortable.” It may seem like a mundane statement to make. After all, what runner isn’t made with that mission statement in mind? However, consider the specificity of this approach.

The design team behind the Nike React Element 87 wasn’t just thinking about athletes. Beyond the speedsters of the track and field, it was the commuter they kept in mind. The React Element 87 needed to support the feet of people who had long daily journeys. This wasn’t just an advertising line, either. The design team was serious about this intention from the very beginning.

The initial phase involved pressure-map-testing the strides of heavy walkers. People who did a lot of their commuting on foot were analyzed. This analysis focused on where the feet “experience the most fatigue from commuting.” From journeys to work to getting errands done throughout the day, it was all broken down into data.

To mark what they found, the designers drilled holes into the shoe’s sole that reflected these pressure points on the foot. Then came the React midsole, engineered and molded to support these trouble spots.  

As it turned out, this process was for more than functional reasons. Mapping out these pressure points resulted in a beautiful wavy pattern – it was like a heat map.

So, Matthews has the intuitive idea of creating what Nike calls “an algorithmic pattern” based on that map. It was then debossed onto the outsole and applied as a finishing touch. Form meeting function isn’t a new concept for Swoosh designers. And yet, this execution has a particular elegance to it.

The Abloh influence

Virgil Abloh’s deconstructionist influence is all over this issue. For Nike, their work with the iconic designer has been more than a retail success. The React Element 87 is proof that he’s had an effect on the design culture as well. He’s helped to popularize the concept of stripping a shoe down to its essentials.

Nike’s long history in exposed design elements is highlighted by its Air Max line. However, the React Element 87 represents an evolution of that. The upper is in a translucent construction – no frills, no useless materials, nothing without purpose. The tongue is asymmetric and is inspired by the minimalism of the Zoom Fly SP

It’s a benchmark design in Nike’s history within the runners category.

Fit and Feel

The feel of the shoe is the highlight here. The React cushioning is world-class and has an impressive durability profile. In addition to that, the translucent textile upper is as snug as it is visually interesting.

As far as sizing goes, the Nike React Element 87 is like most Swoosh runners. You’ll want to go with your usual size as they fit true to size.

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