Nike Frees--a worthy investment?
April 22, 2009 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Nike Free running shoes: are they worth it?

My obsession over the past week or so is in buying a pair of Nike Free running shoes which simulate (?) the feeling of running/walking barefoot, and I want to hear about your experience with them. The 7.0 version doesn't really seem terribly different from regular shoes--there's still a lot of shoe there. And anyway, where I'm at (in Japan), the two versions available are the 5.0 and the 3.0. This is my main focus--which is better? Has anyone used both? It seems the 5.0 has more arch support, which I need as I have pretty high arches. If I get the 3.0 could I add arch support or would that defeat the purpose? And lastly, where are some websites where I can buy them and have them shipped internationally? In Japan the price is about $120, so I think I can get them cheaper from the US.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!
posted by zardoz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to run barefoot, you might consider actually running barefoot. Or with thin sandals. Or for a more tech solution, vibram five fingers. A recent article on the subject of running shoes. (Disclaimer: I run in five fingers, though only intermittently because I bike every day too so I often can't make myself get up and run.)
posted by R343L at 5:46 PM on April 22, 2009

Previously on The Green. May not answer your exact question, but could still be helpful.
posted by aheckler at 5:57 PM on April 22, 2009

Seconding the Vibram Five Fingers, I've never used the Nikes, but the vibrams are great, and very versatile, although a bit tricky with the sizing. Do a google search for them and you'll find a few places cheaper than the official store.
posted by Scientifik at 6:43 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: This article about shoes and barefootness and whatnot, which I probably first saw on Mefi, might be worth reading.
posted by box at 6:45 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I've seen the Vibram "shoes", and they're interesting but I'm not ready to go so hardcore just yet. I've read elsewhere that the Nike Frees are a good middleground A good progression as I understand it is running shoe --> Nike Free --> Vibram/barefoot.
posted by zardoz at 6:47 PM on April 22, 2009

My best girl friend was in the new commercial (where everyone is at naked running camp). I'll ask her what she thinks of them.
posted by radioamy at 6:52 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: Totally anecdotal experience:

I've got the 5.0s. Walking felt normal from the start (they have a big enough heel that you can heel-strike all day long when you're walking without a problem). It took me about fifteen minutes of running to adjust to not crashing down on my heel when I land. And after that, I was wishing I got the models with less cushioning.

I'll almost certainly get the Vibrams next, and part of me wishes I had just gotten those from the beginning.

A note of caution: if you're planning on wearing these in the gym to do anything standing weight training, don't. The soles are incredibly compressible (much moreso than other shoes) and thus very unstable when there's extra load applied to them. (squats, for example, could end disastrously)

Also: some people have complained about the durability. I'm incredibly hard on my training equipment, and I've never had a problem with the shoes, with the exception of the laces coming untied bizarrely often.
posted by oostevo at 7:22 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your feet are weird enough to need custom orthotics do you think these would still work?
posted by small_ruminant at 8:12 PM on April 22, 2009

I was considering the vibrams, but when i actually tried them in the store, I could not get my foot to feel comfortable in them. The toes just felt weird.
So I went with Nike Free 5.0s. I'm no proffesional runner, but I enjoy them. They came with pads that go into the shoe. With the pads they're 5.0, w/out they are 4.0s. I use them without. I have a problem with my knee, and it has not been an issue while I run in these, for whatever that's worth.
posted by pyro979 at 8:31 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: FWIW, I'm not a hardcore runner, or even jogger. I used to run about 3 times a week, maybe up to 5k each time, sometimes less. And in the past 6 months not at all. So I won't be needing these for marathons or anything like that.
posted by zardoz at 8:50 PM on April 22, 2009

the laces coming untied bizarrely often

Here's a recent thread on shoelace knots.
posted by and for no one at 9:15 PM on April 22, 2009

In my experience, the Vibrams seem like they will either fit your foot or they won't. My second toe is slightly longer than my big toe when flattened out and the Vibram Five Fingers would not fit my foot properly at all. One size was too big for my foot in general and the next size down was just too short for my second toe to fit without pressing hard against the end of the shoe.
posted by strangecargo at 9:28 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: In the past I have been prone to numerous injuries while running so after a LOT of money spent on physio and being advised to use orthotics I was sick of it so decided to look into barefoot running.

I started with the Nike Free 5.0 [this i still my daily goto running shoe.] and running has been injury free ever since. You do quickly learn to run without the dreaded heel strike which seemed to be the cause of all my problems.

After about 7 months I decided it was time to transition to the Vibram. The first time out I ran a 3k and I tore the soles of my feet up. Fast forward to a few more runs and all is fine. My feet are now much stronger and I still remain injury free.

However I mainly use my Vibram for bouldering now, so i have moved back to using Free's. Later in the year I will no doubt be using the Vibram more. But the Nike Free 5.0 is definitely a great transitional shoe.
posted by moochoo at 12:31 AM on April 23, 2009

Another strong vote for trying on the Vibrams before you buy them. I had to surgically modify my husband's (the shoes, not his feet) because he is exactly between sizes and could not wear the shoes for too long.

Also, the article linked by box says that arch support is actually not your friend. Anecdotally, I used to have super-arch support shoes and ditched them for flat footers (well, actually round-I am a devotee of the MBTs). My arches ached for a bit but then strengthened and felt tons better.
posted by nursegracer at 2:37 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: The number you find next to a Nike Free shoe (3.0, 5.0, 7.0...) is an index that Nike uses to evaluate the degree of "barefoot feeling" of their Nike Free.

It works on this logic: 0.0 is barefoot and 10.0 is a normal running shoe. The 7.0 is slightly more deconstructed than a normal shoe, the 5.0 is halfway in between and the 3.0 leaves your foot very free to move.

I wouldn't suggest people to just replace their running shoes and use the free (or go barefoot). The idea behind the Free is to have a shoe that you use once a week (on average, depending on how often do you run) for a short run (max 5k) in order to stimulate and strengthen your foot's muscles.

We just run an article on the best running shoes for flat feet on our blog and one of the suggestion is to use the Nike Free to improve your foot's natural support.

We are writing a Nike Free review in these days, so you might want to stay tuned and read it!

Personally I have a very bad flat foot and I use the Nike Free 5.0 - the advantage is that i love them also for just walking around or for plane trips, you almost forget you wear them.
posted by madeinitaly at 4:26 AM on April 23, 2009

Response by poster: madeinitaly--awesome blog! It seems I am a neutral pronator, according to your site. Which would be a better choice, the 5.0 or the 3.0? I think I've decided to buy the Free, I just don't know which of the two would be better.
posted by zardoz at 5:27 AM on April 23, 2009

I love my Frees (I love my vibrams more, but I started with the Frees and think that is a reasonable progression.) I adored the 4.0s but they seem to be discontinued. The 5.0s are less awesome but still awesome. Haven't tried the 3.0s.

I am a pronator, had been wearing heavy arch-support shoes and orthotics for years to try to prevent knee issues, and when I switched to barefoot style the knee issues went away entirely.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:46 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: zardoz, I'd err on the side of more padding and step down, just to be careful. Buy the fives, wear them out or just stick with them until you get used to running on them and have a comfortable gait, then step down to the threes. If you move down too quickly you will risk injury, even running short distances. The fact that you're not a heavy pronator bodes well for you, but caution's a good thing.

Though I would recommend doing the occasional very short run barefoot on a treadmill or grass or track. You learn a lot about your gait that way. I also discovered that just wearing a pair of FiveFingers out and around while I run errands and whatnot helps strengthen my feet as well. The only downside is that you'll have to have the WHAT IS ON YOUR FEET?!?!?!? conversation every time you go to the supermarket.

It really pisses me off that they don't make Frees for wide feet. I'd love to have a pair. No fucking love from most running shoe companies.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:50 AM on April 23, 2009

thanks for appreciating the site, let the love come! :)

and for the 5.0 vs 3.0 dilemma - if you believe you don't have an overpronation issue then i think you would be fine with a pair of 3.0, especially if you use them as a everyday shoe.

If you use them for running, I'd still go for the 3.0 and just be cautious about being very progressive - let your feet and running gait adjust slowly and you'll be fine!
posted by madeinitaly at 8:22 AM on April 23, 2009

My friend who was in the commercial (and thus got a free pair) said she wears hers once or twice a week now, which is apparently how much you're supposed to wear them. She said "out of all the Nike shoes I've tried (which has been a lot lately) they are my favorites. Super lightweight but with enough cushion."
posted by radioamy at 3:45 PM on April 23, 2009

zardoz, in case you still want to read more, here is the nike free 5.0 full review on our website! there is a very cool video from Nike as well that shows how the shoe was engineered.
posted by madeinitaly at 1:55 AM on April 24, 2009

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