The newest incarnation of Nike’s Free line of running shoes, the Nike Free Run+, is now featured on the Nike Running website (see image to the left from the Nike Running Blog). Here’s how they introduce this brand new shoe (quote is from inside.nike.com):
“Barefoot running. Everyone’s talking about how great it is, but is it truly beneficial? We think so. And here’s why.
Barefoot running frees up your foot’s range of motion, allowing you to strengthen muscles you don’t normally use in a typical running shoe. But we understand that you aren’t crazy about squishing your toes in mud or dodging broken glass with bare feet.
Enter the Nike Free Run+. Its flexible design closely mimics the natural movement of your foot. And unlike a lot of regular running shoes, its flexibility provides a world of comfort on the run or while walking around.”
This pitch shows that Nike is aiming squarely at the barefoot/minimalist running trend with this new shoe, yet I find it somewhat surprising then that the shoe is billed as having “increased support under the arch for improved stability” and “more cushioning for an exceptional ride.” Both of these run counter to the whole idea of minimalist and barefoot running, which preaches less support and less cushioning (and the best example of a shoe minimizing these is the Vibram Fivefingers).
The Free Run+ seems to be moving even further away from what Nike did so well in their more minimalist Free 3.0 line (one of my favorite shoes,
which appears to have disappeared – Update: they’re back for now), and I can only assume that they are tying to appeal to a more mainstream market. That’s not saying that this shoe isn’t a vast improvement on most more typical running shoes in terms of it’s flexibility and weight (it likely is), but I like to whine when a personal favorite (the 3.0) goes away. If they could make this same shoe with a smaller heel-toe drop, I’d be first in line to buy it, and I would still like to give these a test drive and write a more formal review (Update 4/17/10 – all I can do is speculate right now, but I just wrote a post that fleshes out my preliminary disappointment with this shoe – On Minimalist Running Shoes: Vibram has Balls, Nike Dropped Them).
In addition to introducing the shoe, Nike also provides a post about how several elite level runners use the Free Run+ in their own training – these include the likes of Paula Radcliff and Kara Goucher – not too shabby there. I like the look of the new shoe, and it will be interesting to hear feedback from the running community once it starts to hit the store shelves.
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.