How the Nike Free Running Shoe Performs

Lightweight, Flexible Shoe for Walkers and Runners

Nike Free Running Shoes

Simon McGill/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

The Nike Free line of running shoes are comfortable shoes that fit like a glove. The extreme flexibility of the grooved sole allows your foot to move as it wishes, not being forced to move how the shoe wishes. The insole provides some arch support and the shoe has enough cushioning for a typical brisk walking or running workout. Learn more about these shoes and how they can fit into your walking wardrobe.

What Makes the Nike Free Line of Shoes Different

The Nike Free line of shoes is designed to imitate running barefoot, with extreme flexibility in the sole and upper. Nike shoe designers used pressure mapping and motion capture to determine what is going on with your feet when running and walking barefoot on grass. They put this data into designing a shoe that is supposed to train the intrinsic muscles of the foot, strengthening your foot and giving you more natural stability.

Nike continues to innovate with this line. The Nike Free RN is the latest version of the Nike Free running shoe. You can also choose from the Nike Free RN Commuter shoe, perfect for wearing as part of a casual work wardrobe and fitting in a run or brisk walking workout as well. The Commuter is foldable to fit into your pack or purse. The Nike Free RN Flyknit comes in a wide variety of colors to suit your style. As well, you can design your own version with Nike iD, getting just the color and trim combination you want.

Features of Nike Free Running Shoes

These are the major features of the shoe:

  • Nike provides a suggested training program to build up time in the shoe and get used to this very flexible shoe.
  • The shoe provides good sole protection on pavement or pea gravel.
  • The shoes are meant for shorter runs of 3 to 6 miles.
  • Many different colors and versions are available for men, women, and children.
  • Models have been continuously improved for over a decade.

Drawbacks of Nike Free Running Shoes

Be aware of these factors:

  • They do not come in a variety of widths, although some models come in regular and wide.
  • The narrow toe box and low volume depth of the upper does not fit some foot types.
  • These shoes do not have the best grip in slippery conditions.

Expert Review of the Nike Free Running Shoe

The Nike Free 5.0 debuted over 10 years ago and this shoe model has stood the test of time. They were immediately popular with walkers and runners. Here is a rundown of whether they have features that make them good to use for fitness walking and running:

  • Fit: If you have wide feet or a bunion, you may avoid Nike shoes as they typically have narrow toe boxes. The Nike Free is no exception. These shoes fit like a glove. You can wear a thin sock or no socks with them. You probably won't be able to use orthotics in these shoes.
  • Flexibility: Walkers more than runners need a flexible shoe to allow the foot to roll through a step. The Nike Free imitates being barefoot but still provides some support and protection for your foot. The outsole is grooved so that each inch of the foot can flex as it naturally wishes to do. As most shoes are less flexible, Nike recommends that you ease into wearing this shoe for a limited amount of time each day at first until your feet get used to them. This flexibility may not be appropriate for every walker, such as those who need motion control. These shoes are best for people who have a neutral gait.
  • Upper: The upper is comfortable and designed to move with the foot. The shoe feels great without socks. The smooth upper is less likely to irritate a bunion, although the narrow toe box might be a problem.
  • Fast: Lightweight shoes are great for brisk walking and running. Although the heel is extended in the running version of the shoe, you can get a great heel plant and roll-through for a fast walking stride. These shoes can make your feet want to zoom.

The Bottom Line

The Nike Free line of running shoes is appropriate for walks and runs of 30 to 60 minutes, but they may not provide enough cushioning for longer workouts. They are best for walkers and runners who have a neutral gait and do not overpronate. You can also enjoy them as a comfort shoe to wear all day and sneak in some workouts on your breaks or at lunch.

Was this page helpful?