The Running Warehouse Blog has released details about two new Nike Free models set to be released sometime around Summer 2010 (the post also discusses new models in the popular Lunar line as well as some others). As a big fan of the original Nike Free 3.0, I’m a bit disappointed with the direction the Free line is taking, so it will be interesting to see what people’s reactions are to the new models. Below are sample photos taken from the Running Warehouse Blog (great site for shoe info by the way – I highly recommend checking it out), along with some of my preliminary thoughts.
My Take: First, I will say that I like the look of the Nike Free Run+ (I believe the picture above is the women’s version), and could easily see myself wearing it from a purely aesthetic standpoint. However, I’m not so sure that I like what Nike has done with this shoe from a structural standpoint. Apparently, and as reported on the Running Warehouse Blog, the appearance of the Free Run+ coincides with the discontinuation of the Free 5.0 and Free 3.0. I really like the original (i.e., generation 1) Free 3.0 because it’s about as minimal as a running shoe can get without completely removing the sole. Mine is extremely lightweight (~6.8 oz) and flexible, has very little structure in the upper (slipper-like), and the outsole/heel is not heavily built up. I haven’t worn the 5.0, but my wife owns a pair and seems to like them for running. What I see in the Free Run+ is a more dramatic buildup of the heel (i.e., a less minimal shoe than the 3.0), and probably a relatively large increase in weight (I’m only guessing at this since I haven’t seen a number reported). The claim is that the Free Run+ will have greater flexibility due to deeper grooves (siping) in the outsole, but I find it hard to believe that a shoe can be more flexible that the original Free 3.0. It will be interesting to see the reviews come in on this one, and I could be entirely wrong, but my suspicion is that this shoe is targeted at a more general running audience rather than those of us who specifically like the earlier Free models for their minimalism. (Update 4/19/10: Nike has just released the Free Run+ – check this post on the release of the Nike Free Run+ for more details.)
Update 10/27/2010: I have now posted my own Nike Free Run+ review. Check it out here: http://www.runblogger.com/2010/10/nike-free-run-review-nice-transitional.html.
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My Take: Another attractively designed shoe, the Free 7.0 V2 is set to replace the Free Everyday. In looking at the pictures above, it appears to have a less built-up heel than the Free Run (again, pure speculation at this point), which seems kind of strange (I’m wondering what number would be assigned to the Free Run?). The upper is medially posted for greater support and stability, but the shoe has deeper outsole grooves and thus should be more flexible than the Free Everyday. Using Nike’s 10 point scale with 0 being barefoot, the Free 7.0 seems accurately classified as a slightly minimal than your typical running shoe.
Summary: While both of these shoes are attractive, they seem to be moving away from the more minimalist style of some of the earlier Free models. Given the growing popularity of minimalist shoes like the Vibram Fivefingers line, I find this somewhat surprising, though it may just be a case of the market changing faster than the shoe development process. Should be interesting to see where things go from here.