Nike LunarSpider (R5) Review

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The Nike LunarSpider (R5) is a good, but not great lightweight shoe. It's reasonably comfortable and offers good cushioning for its weight, but it's pricy and the forefoot plastic shank makes the cushioning a little uneven. The LunarSpider is marketed as a 'racing flat' but I use it as an everyday training shoe, as it provides everything I need with none of the typical excesses of a modern running shoe. The LunarSpider is also not a minimalist shoe, as it has enough cushioning for long distances and the plastic plate further reduces ground feel. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Nike LunarSpider R5 top
Nike LunarSpider R5 bottom
Nike LunarSpider R5 inside
Nike LunarSpider R5 outside

1 Characteristics

A slice through the forefoot, showing the black plastic shank. The foam cushioning is slightly thinner under the shank, and I could feel the difference when running.
  • Why you’d buy it. The LunarSpider is a great shoe, but remember it's more expensive and less effective than its competition.
  • Cushioning . The LunarSpider is not quite as soft or well cushioned in the forefoot as the better shoes like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. I think this is partly due to the hard plastic plate that runs under the forefoot. This plate also makes the forefoot cushioning a little uneven as the foam under the plate is not quite as thick as the foam on its own. The rear cushioning is as good as the Nike Streak, but not the Hyper Speed, and it's heavier than either. That makes the LunarSpider good, but not great.
  • Drop. The LunarSpider only has 3mm of drop when loaded, which is pretty good for a mainstream shoe.
  • Structure. The LunarSpider uses Nike's "Lunarlon", which is two types of foam; a soft foam under the rear and midfoot and the other acting as a cradle for the rear, and extending under the forefoot. This is an interesting idea, but as far as I can tell, the two types of foam are pretty much identical except for their color. This is not a problem, but it does add cost to the production of the shoe without producing much benefit.
  • Flexibility. The LunarSpider has a springy plastic shank that extends from the rear of the shoe to very close to the tip. The shank can be seen in the underside pictures as black "Y" shaped plastic, but the actual shank is much wider under the surface. Under the forefoot it's about 2 inches/50mm wide. This shank reduces flexibility, something I normally dislike. However, unlike foam that simply resists bending, the plastic shank acts as a bit of a spring, helping toe off. I only noticed the difference at slightly faster paces, as my stride lengthens and there's more toe off emphasis, but I came to rather like it. One downside to the shank noted above is that the cushioning is uneven under the forefoot.
  • Outsole. The LunarSpider has firmer outsole under the heel, but it has an aggressive plastic outsole in the forefoot that provides great grip on road surfaces. I appreciated the extra grip when running faster on wet asphalt, and it gives extra confidence on sharp turns.
  • Shape. The LunarSpider is not designed to fit a human foot, so I cut open the toe box so my toes would not get squashed in. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is inflexible and only has a seam where the green and blue upper meets in the pictures. The upper is fairly standard and quite breathable, but for some reason Nike has added strings from the midsole to the eye holes for reinforcement. (You can see these as black lines on the pictures.) While these did not cause any problems, they do seem a little pointless. There is a tiny bit of padding around the rear of the foot, plus a bit more padding around the ankle opening. It's not the most comfortable upper, but it's not bad either.
  • Tongue. The LunarSpider has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue has only a tiny bit of padding.
  • Lacing. The LunarSpider has flat laces that worked well and I never had them come undone.
  • Heel Counter. The LunarSpider has rigid heal counter which reduces the rear comfort a little bit.

2 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

2.1 Nike LunarSpider and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The LunarSpider is a reasonable shoe, but it doesn't have any advantages over the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. The LunarSpider is heavier, but not as well cushioned as the Hyper Speed. It's also quite a bit more expensive.

Nike LunarSpider R5 top
Nike LunarSpider R5 bottom
Nike LunarSpider R5 inside
Nike LunarSpider R5 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via these links.

2.2 Nike LunarSpider and New Balance RC5000

The LunarSpider is more than twice as heavy as the ultralight New Balance RC5000 while providing only slightly more cushioning.

Nike LunarSpider R5 top
Nike LunarSpider R5 bottom
Nike LunarSpider R5 inside
Nike LunarSpider R5 outside
New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
helping-hand.jpg

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via these links.

2.3 Nike LunarSpider and Asics GT 2000

I tend to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 is nearly twice the weight of the LunarSpider but provides slightly less cushioning in the heel and not much more in the forefoot. There's a lot more padding in the GT 2000's upper, but I've not found there's a huge difference in comfort. Given the weight and inflexibility of the GT 2000, it feels like a clog compared with the LunarSpider.

Nike LunarSpider R5 top
Nike LunarSpider R5 bottom
Nike LunarSpider R5 inside
Nike LunarSpider R5 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Nike LunarSpider

How Nike LunarSpider compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Nike LunarSpider compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Nike LunarSpider compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Nike LunarSpider compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review Bionic Highly Recommended $95 6.4 7.0 10.9 15 18 2 4.5 9
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 11 11 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
New Balance 980 Review NB 980 Worth considering $110 4.6 10.1 15.7 21 30 5 4.6 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Brooks Transcend 2 Review Transcend Recommended $170 5.1 12.6 19.6 30 36 6 6.5 4
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.