Nike Free Run Review – My Journey towards Minimalist Running
I love these shoes!
That’s all you need to know. Go buy a pair NOW! You can thank me later.
Not much of a review? Okay fine, I’ll give you some more detail…
Boy starts running
I started running regularly in 2012. Not by any decision of my own, but because of the new fitness program the Wanderers Rugby Club implemented for the season. Each Thursday, the rugby lads would pitch up at the 5:30pm Time Trial held at the Wanderers Club and we would huff and puff our way to the finish line (okay mostly the tight forwards and me).
After a few sessions I developed some nasty shin splints. Dave (our fitness and conditioning expert) recommended that I change from running in the old pair of sneakers I was wearing to some actual purpose-built running shoes. That weekend, I went out and bought a pair of New Balance 760s from the New Balance Outlet Store in Woodmead. Shin splints = gone!
The more we ran, the more we could see the changes to our fitness levels. My wife even joined in at the time trials.
A couple of months later, I was pulled (forced!) into the Pirates 10km race by my buddies Yazeed and Leith. As painful as it was, I finished. The more I ran the further I wanted to go. However, the 760s were best suited to the 5-10km mark and the further I ran, the more my knees would hurt after the run.
Don’t get me wrong, the 760s were a great shoe for a newb runner. They were light, kept my feet cool, and the N-ergy cushioning and TS2 stability block did the job. Only issue I had with them is the toebox was massive as I have a narrow-ish foot.
So, like most things I get into (aka obsessed with), I started my internet research and found out about the concept of minimalist and barefoot running. An interesting concept, but most agreeing that you need to work your way into the final “zero drop” phase.
Boy buys shoe
I was keen to try this concept out and some more research revealed that the Nike Free Run 3 with the 5.0 heel was the perfect gateway shoe to get me experimenting. So, in an attempt to avoid more knee pain, I went and bought my black pair a few days before my first 21km race.
I know, I know, I know… don’t run a race in new shoes
So I took them out for a 10km test run a couple of days before the race. They were light, soft, fit snug like a sock and were very very comfy. The 10km route was around the Sandton CBD and as I ran I noticed how the shoe urged me onto the forefoot. I also noticed that small stones from all the construction in the area (at the time) kept getting caught in the gaps in the soles which was really irritating at first – especially since I am very particular about how I treat my shoes. DAMN YOU KLIPPIES!
After digging those pesky stones out from my soles at the end of my run, my first impression of the shoe were great. They ran quietly (except for the clicking of the stones that were caught in the sole). They wrapped well around my narrow feet and I felt like these didn’t even need a real run in (I do recommend that you run them in just to be safe).
So I went with them into the 21km race two days later and guess what…no knee pain after…HALLELUJAH!
They did get better and better as I ran them in over time. The shoe seemed to mould to my foot and you could feel it promote a mid to forefoot strike.
I did experience some tightness in my calves and ankle fatigued during the first two weeks. This is expected when you move to a lesser heel-toe drop.
But what about your pronation boet?
To be honest, since wearing the Frees I haven’t really cared much about stability blocks and pronation. My personal philosophy has become, “You run how you run”. So long as there isn’t any pain or injury I’m fine with that. You never truly know what will work for you until you try it. Some people (my wife included) swear by a shoe that gives them proper stability and support. It works for them and that’s perfect.
For me, I love my Frees! (Did I say that already?)
They translated well at the gym and I felt more stable in my squats and deadlifts. I still use them regularly for weight training and my bootcamp/cross-training sessions.
I’ve worn them on runs with and without socks and have done the Two Oceans 21km race in them as well. They are still my go-to road running shoes today!
I even bought another pair because I love these shoes that much!
Nike have done an amazing job with these shoes. They seem to have perfected the bridge between form and function even more so with the newer Free Run 5.0s that I picked up – which I have worn both to the gym and casually with some shorts.
Maintenance of the shoe is quite simple as well, with a damp cloth doing the job most times. I have used a wet wipe on them as well and have even submerged my black ones after they got muddy with no resultant shrinking at all.
Boy loves shoe
An all-round great shoe. I would definitely recommend these especially if you are thinking about trying the minimalist-style thing out and not sure of foregoing cushioning or comfort. But, I recommend you start out with the 5.0 sole and take your time to move onto zero drop shoes.