Nike Free 5.0 2014: A No-Go For Me

2014-04-04 08.05.42When you’re in the business of writing about running shoes, it pays to be quick about sharing thoughts on new shoe releases, particularly when the release involves one of the top-selling shoes in the country (world?). This week Nike launched the 2014 Free line, and my plan was to pick up a pair right away and fast-track a review (i.e., run in them pretty much exclusively for a week or two to get enough miles for a solid review).

Last night I went to the local Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up a pair of the Nike Free 5.0 2014. I initially tried on a pair in size 10.5, which is what I wore in the previous version, and they felt a bit long. I asked to try a 10, and I immediately noticed that something was amiss. There is a welded overlay that extends continuously from the sole on each side up and across the base of the lace row (see area circled in red below). Overlays like this are great for providing support to an upper, but the problem is that they don’t stretch. There’s no give. And when they extend continuously across the entire upper of a shoe they can create a point of restriction. If your foot has a larger circumference than the tunnel created by the overlay, it will dig into your foot since it doesn’t stretch.

Nike Free 5.0 2014 overlay

In the size 10’s, this overlay was so tight that it was actually digging painfully into my foot. I started having flashbacks to my experience with the forefoot band on the original New Balance MT10. It’s unfortunate because the forefoot of the new 5.0 is roomy, stretchy, and feels great, and I think the size 10 was a better fit. I wound up taking the 10.5’s home, and was planning on running in them today, but when I tried them on this morning I could still feel distinct pressure  from the band even in the larger size.

My experience tells me that when you feel something distinctly off in a shoe, it’s probably not a good match. If I ran in them I wouldn’t be able to return them, so I’ve decided they are going back to the store unused (I’ll grab a pair of the Free Flyknit 4.0’s when they come out instead). I had such a bad experience with the same sensation in the old NB MT10’s that it’s just not worth the risk (it’s strange, I almost have a phantom sensation in that area as I sit here wearing a totally different shoe – kind of like a food aversion that develops after a case of salmonella poisoning).

My guess is that people with narrow feet, or those who have a relatively low-volume forefoot will not have a problem and the Free 5.0 2014 will work fine. My feet are average width (I can fit fine into most racing flats, which tend to be narrow), but may be slightly higher volume than average (i.e., taller top to bottom). Thus, the circumference of my foot in this area exceeds the circumference of the tunnel created by this restrictive overlay, and thus it’s a no-go for me. So my rec would be that if you have a wide foot, or a thick foot from top to bottom, these shoes may not work out for you either (and if you had a problem with the forefoot band on the NB MT10, stay away for sure!). Narrow or low volume, you’re probably good to go.

2014-04-04 08.06.20

What frustrates me about this is that the shoe otherwise looks and feels great. I love the new sole, and the forefoot is roomy and has a nice stretchy feel to it. What’s more, the problem could be so easily fixed by just adding a gap of stretchy material into the overlay strap (maybe at the base of the lace row) to allow expansion for a higher volume foot. Seems like something that should have been caught and fixed in the development process. I’m hopeful that the Flyknit upper on the new Free 4.0 will perform better. We’ll see!

If you have a wide or high-volume foot and you’ve tried on the new Free 5.0, I’d be curious to hear if you’ve had a similar experience?

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.


  1. Interesting. I purchased a size 13, which is what I normally go with. They felt roomy than the previous version. When I walked with them, I felt a pinch in the pinkie toe area, which did throw a red flag up for me. In fact, I posted a comment about it yesterday on a forum through Runners World before I ran in them. I posted that I was concerned what this may result in, in run. Contrary to what I probably should have done, I ran in them. 20 miles. And surprisingly (thankfully) they didn’t cause me any problems as it’s relative to the spot that was buckling in, in walk. What I did not experience that I believe you are alluding to is the tension across the whole forefoot–I think I would have picked up on that and like you, would have been a bust. In the past weeks, I have run in the Mizuno Wave Sayonara’s and have really liked them. These Free’s, for me, rank right up there with them.

  2. Running Warehouse has great prices (can use RUNBLOG10) on the outgoing Free 5.0 model.

  3. Chad Smith says:

    I am eager to try on the new Free Run 3.0 flyknit. I have older versions of the 5.0 and 4.0. However, for running, I only want the 4mm drop version of the Nike Free, having already run in the 8mm 5.0 and 6mm 4.0. Trying to go lower each time I buy a new Nike Free. The upper on the new 3.0 looks very interesting.

  4. I have felt this forefoot band in other models like the Mizuno Wave Rider 16, and the Inov-8 Terrafly 303. Totally agree with you about how they can be annoying. Then again, I have wide feet (wider midfoot than forefoot).

  5. Paul Joyce says:

    Peter, despite my reservations I got a pair of these and am glad I did. Unlike the NB MT10 I could only feel the forefoot overlay in one small area but it did not cause any discomfort while running. There is a lot to like about this shoe and its a big improvement on previous versions of the 5.0.

  6. Spot on with your analysis. After putting 30 miles on my newly purchased Free Run 5.0 2014 shoes I’m afraid I can no longer wear them. I started to experience pain from the overlay digging into the top of my foot. It is too painful to run through.

  7. I’ve have now put more than 180 km on my 2014 5.0′s and I gotta say that I’ve not experienced any pain due to the overlay. I did however in on of my last runs experience pain du to having my left foot laced up too tight, but like I said not due to the overlay

  8. Santiago says:

    I have the same problem! Annoying pressure, that finishes by hurting my feet. Can not return them, 115€ thrown to the garbage!

  9. I have had the same exact issue, with the added problem of some stiff material digging into my pinky toe when I am walking/running. My feet are wider so that may be the issue. Very frustrating as otherwise they are a nice shoe.

  10. Same problem with me. I really can not understand why nike didnt recognized this during their development process. The big problem is that i like the shoe very much and Its the first one of the nike free series with nice colours. Really sad that i have to return my green one.

  11. It’s interesting reading these comments! I have the exact same pair that is posted first, the red and yellow. While I first adored the new look and initial feel of the shoes, it all came down to how I felt running in the them. There was no discomfort in the forefoot area, but I also have narrow feet (and also wear a size 9) My biggest and perhaps most bothersome issue is the tongue. It is a thin layer of foam that intertwines with the laces. Contrary to the previous cushiony tongues of past nike free runs, these are definitely a downgrade. After around 3 miles, I could feel the laces begin to pinch my foot because there is practically no barrier between the foot and the laces. That is my only real complaint about the shoe; however, I wish they would have just stuck with the previous tongue.

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