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Early Impressions: Nike Lunaracer+ 3

The very first Lunaracer was revealed to the Malaysian market in 2008 as the competition shoe to the Lunar Trainer. Even though, they’re both retired for a long time, both pairs of these shoes are safely stored in a collectible box full of running memorabilia I’ve accumulated over the years.

Running in the early versions of the Lunaracer is a bit of a love-hate relationship for me. What works:

  1. Flyweight, the first shoe I know that dipped below 6oz yet accommodating to most runners of different speed.
  2. The cushioning offered were first class for a shoe this light.

What wasn’t done right:

  1. The upper was stiff and plasticky, the collar has a tendency to cut into the skin and the toebox low and narrow enough that I’d have blisters and black toenails 80% of the time I wore them.
  2. Version 2 was a step back and got plenty of stick when it was launched due to it’s poor upper (added materials) but it offered a tad more durability.

I’m not the only one. You only need to check on the Internet to find that many have the same opinion. Despite the negatives, I was willing to trade the discomfort for the lightness and cushioning it offered during the marathon.

Nearly 5 years after the first version, 2 years after the second, a year after the re-issuance of the first version, the Oregon company has finally refreshed the series. Targeted for end January 2013 release, the Lunaracer+ 3 (LR3) features a completely revamped upper but retained the mid and outsole from the earlier version. One wouldn’t have realized the LR3 to be a LR.

The redesigned upper is softer and much more breathable. Nike however clarified with me that they’re not of the same material as the Zoom Flyknit Racer’s (5.6oz). The other conspicuous change is the move from the very thin embedded Flywire fibers to the exposed and thicker strands, now called Dynamic Flywire. Rather than giving you a stiff wraparound the midfoot, you can now lace up per your preference. Overall build quality is very good, improved from the recent reissue. The shoe lays flat on the ground and doesn’t wobble around.

The US10.5 Lunaracer 1 (reissued) on the left and US9.5 Lunaracer 3 on the right. Visually there’s little difference.

I was hesitant when I saw that the review pair’s size is US9.5 as I could only fit into a US10.5 of the earlier versions. Nevertheless, 9.5 was OK perhaps due to the softer and more breathable upper which provides a bit more give to the toes. US10 would be ideal for me. As you can see from the photo above, there’s visually little to separate both the new and old versions in terms of sizing despite the drop in a full size.

Structurally, there aren’t much stiff material used on the upper. As described above, the Flywire is now moved externally. The toebox and heel counter are all supported by thin plastics which doesn’t reduce wear comfort or cut into the skin.

The build quality is excellent as you can see from this close-up shot.

The little dots you see on the Dynamic Flywire strands are actually reflective elements, and together with the large strip down the heel section, the shoe is very visible in low light conditions.

The following 2 photos show the broader tongue and more substantial heel tab of the LR3. The minimal padding used in the earlier version is retained. A wider tongue means less chances of it slipping sideways during the process of running. The notch on the heel tab will theoretically reduce the chance of scraping into the wearer’s skin. I’ll be able to verify this as I dig into the shoes over the next few weeks.

If there’s one thing I could tweak, that would be the stock sockliner. While many would love the anatomical aspect of it, I’d rather a flatter option. I’ll look out for alternatives out there as a manner to tweak my ride. Having a flatter sockliner will create a little bit more space up front while reducing a bit of weight – you’ve already seen that the sockliner adds close to an ounce to the shoe.

Flip the shoe over and there’s no difference to the arrangement of the lugs and materials used. This wasn’t a problem area, so it needs no change. I will nevertheless still keep the LR3 for MP long runs and races to minimize the wear and tear.

I’ve taken the LR3 on a few quick runs throughout the week and it didn’t disappoint. My runs were done alternating the stock sockliner as well as the replacement thin and flat Scholl insoles (RM18).

The following are my observations:

  1. The fabric upper is definitely more giving not only in the forefoot region but throughout the shoe.
    With the stock sockliner, the US9.5 has just enough wiggling space for the toes. With the Scholl insoles, there was a bit more room. Go with your preference.
  2. Heat dissipation was markedly better due to the open mesh of the upper.
  3. As the midsole is essentially the same as the original version, the shoe retains a nice blend of cushioning and responsiveness.
  4. I’ve no problems landing midfoot in them.
  5. Runningwarehouse.com states that the stack heights as 25mm at the heel and 20mm at the forefoot, which gives a 5mm drop. Interestingly the original LR has a 7mm drop per the same website.
  6. Slight slippage when toeing off on wet bricked surface.

The Lunaracer has been my favorite racing shoe for the marathon since its introduction in 2008 – help yourself to the reviews of the earlier versions here. The current version 3 is the best so far and retains the positive elements of the shoe while improving the troublespots which has been the upper.

Suffice to say that I’ll be wearing it only for key long runs and special races. With this positive step forward for the Lunaracer, will Nike be bringing back the Pegasus Racer or the Skylon TC? The Nike Lunaracer+ 3 will be on the shelves end January and will retail for RM449.

Disclaimer: Review unit of the Lunaracer+ 3 was provided by Nike Sales Malaysia. In the interest of full disclosure, the company is also a regular advertiser on this blog as well as on RunnersMalaysia but the inputs and comparisons were all mine – afterall I’ve been wearing them since the original version!

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