I’ve never used Nike shoes, I’ve nothing against them just never actually liked a pair enough to buy some. Over the years, I’ve never even been that interested in Nike shoes. Then a while ago along came the Nike Free trainers. Could Nike be jumping on to the barefoot supporters bandwagon? Hedging their bets in case the movement really took off? Or were they really worth looking at?
On first inspection, the Nike Free 3 don’t appear to have anything to offer the runner interested in minimalist shoes or barefoot running: looking a bit too supportive, a bit too cushioned and rather high in the heel. But they are light.
More recently I began to take more interest in them when a friend got some (and successfully runs marathons in them), and then my better half got some too.
Today, I ran couple of miles in them and it was quite a revelation. In feel, they have most in common with my aqua shoes. This is amazing, I thought they would be more like my old (very old) Asics that have long since lost most of their cushioning and support.
In fact, they feel very different to the way they look.
For a start, the heel sits very much lower than a more traditional shoe and they flex in every direction to a remarkable degree. But it’s on the road where the real difference is noticed. As mentioned, they feel similar to aqua shoes, more so than any other running shoe I’ve tried — even the very lightweight Inov8 F-lite 230 or the Zoot Ultra Race 2. The toe box is not wide, but the flexibility of the structure easily accommodates my wider-than-average foot.
The road feels very firm beneath the Frees and consequently they do not encourage heel striking. There is very little detectable foot movement on impact unlike more cushioned shoes. This, in common with running barefoot, should help keep many lower leg rotation issues at bay as pronation is controlled in a natural way.
A surprisingly good shoe for those who want an alternative to the typical cushioned, supportive shoe.
As with any minimal type shoe, a degree of caution is urged as they look like they’ll offer more protection that they actually do. And, unlike running barefoot, where skin soreness will limit distance, a conscious effort will have to be made to keep runs short initially as the body adapts to a changed running style.
They are quite difficult to source, but well worth seeking out.