Small beads in a heel pocket compress with each foot strike.
The RW Takeaway: An exciting new cushioning concept boosts heel comfort for new runners.
- Novel cushioning made from beads feels soft on landing.
- A foam forefoot delivers a more traditional experience at toe-off.
- The upper is too narrow in the forefoot.
Weight: 9.1 oz (M), 7.4 oz (W)
Drop: 11 mm
Joyride is a novel cushioning concept from Nike. It’s kind of like running on a Tide Pod; pockets in the sole are filled with thousands of tiny thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) beads that shift and compress each time you land on them. Nike first rolled out the feature in a $180 shoe targeted toward beginners, with four separate pods covering the entire bottom of the shoe. Our gripe at the time was that the shoe was heavy and too expensive for the new runners Nike was targeting.
Joyride Dual Run
- Beads under heel provide soft landing
- Forefoot foam delivers a traditional toe-off experience
- Affordable alternative to Joyride Run Flyknit
- The toebox is too narrow
This new, cheaper shoe uses only two pods in the back half of the sole, combined with foam under the forefoot. This gives you the unique cushioning when you land, but a more familiar toe off sensation as you advance through your stride.
The cushioning isn’t just a gimmick. Our testers were shocked by how soft the shoe felt, without compressing like a marshmallow. The forefoot, however, was a hot spot. Testers unanimously agreed that the toebox was too pointy and got uncomfortable if you pushed runs into double-digit territory.
VISIBLE TECH IN THE SOLE
There was an age when visible technology was all the rage. Of course, Nike’s Air Zoom, with windows cut into the sole so you could see the air bag, is an obvious example. But other brands followed suit, exposing bits of gel to the edge of the shoe so runners knew it was in there, or carving out the midfoot foam so you could see a plastic stabilizing plate. Much of that disappeared a decade ago when minimalism took hold, but it’s slowly making its way back into modern footwear. Take, for example, the semi-transparent compartments in the heel and midfoot of the Joyride Dual Run. Is it necessary, as a performance feature? Nah. But it’s a unique style element that reinforces to the wearer that something different is happening.
That “something different,” of course, is only found in the Joyride shoes, and testers tell us it’s a strange sensation on first wearing. You can feel the beads shifting around against the bottom of your foot. Then, once it settles in, the shoe feels kind of ordinary.
“The cushioning, especially in the heel, was my favorite part of the shoe, but I didn’t really notice a big difference from any other foam technologies I’ve tried (Ultraboost, Fresh Foam),” said one tester. “I just don’t think it’s groundbreaking technology or really sets the shoe apart from other Nike or competitor running shoes.”
This, however, comes from a performance running angle; admittedly, our long-time testers are not the first-time runners or casual set that the Joyride is specifically intended for. But our findings are reassuring that, even when putting in high mileage, the sensation is soft underfoot and totally runnable.
COMFORTABLE, THOUGH TOO NARROW
Our wear-test team was unanimous in its assessment of the fit: The upper is stretchy and comfortable, the length is fine, but the toebox is just too tight. Thankfully, that single piece of engineered mesh has some give to it, so you can easily get through a few comfortable miles. But anytime we tried to push into double-digit territory, the shoe felt too snug. Going up a half-size won’t alleviate the problem—we tried—because the shoe will feel too long.
That stretchy mesh, along with the pull tab on the back, almost make you want to just slip the shoes on and off without untying them. But, don’t do that. You’ll break down the heel support as you cram your foot inside as well as shred the soft collar lining each time you pry your foot out. Please untie your shoes after each run.
WHAT ONE TESTER SAID
Lakota Gambill, RW photographer
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Heel
“The Joyrides really are an amazing pair for early runners. The cushioning being the main factor of the shoe, you are able to tell that the Joyrides care about comfort just as much as they do style. The cushion of the beads eases the impact through each stride and gives you an extra bounce, which takes away the extra lull when getting through those first miles. In comparison to other shoes I’ve tested this year, I find the Joyrides are a simple shoe. Not meaning the technology of the shoe itself is simple, but the purpose is. Other shoes have a lot more features for veteran runners. The Joyrides are simple in their use, comfortable, and very stylish overall. They are the perfect shoe to go from work to the gym.”