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Nike Free 5.0 2015 Review: Yes, You Can Run in Them!

Nike Free 5.0 2015Over the past several years the Nike Free 5.0 has consistently been one of the best selling athletic shoes in the United States. Go to any school and you’re likely to see many kids sporting the flexible and colorful 5.0s. When I was in Disney World earlier this year the Free was probably among the most common shoes that I saw on folks at the parks.

Where you are less likely to see the Free 5.0 is at a running race. The reason is that the immense popularity of the shoe is tied more to it’s use for casual wear rather than for running. In terms of typical usage, it’s more of a fashion shoe than a running shoe.

I’ve been running in various versions of the Nike Free since 2009, and they have consistently been among my favorites. With their moderately thin, super-flexible soles, and minimally structured uppers, the Frees are intended to provide a more minimal, barefoot-inspired ride. Nike described them as a training tool to be used on occasion to strengthen the feet and legs. I tend to use them more as a lightweight trainer for shorter to moderate distance runs. And for that purpose they have served me very well.

The 5.0 is the most amply cushioned member of the Free collection. I’ve run in a few previous versions (it used to be called the Free Run+), but the 2014 model was a no-go for me due to a constricting band at the base of the lace rows. It dug into my foot and caused pain, an experience others with high-volume feet have reported as well. When I first saw the pictures of the 2015 version of the Free 5.0 it appeared that this band was gone, so I ordered a pair to give them a try. I’m glad I did as the problem has been fixed, and I’ve really enjoyed running in the shoes over the past several weeks.

Nike Free 5.0 2015 side

Specs

Per Running Warehouse, the Nike Free 5.0 2015 weighs in at 7.6 oz in men’s size 9. Stack heights are 23mm heel, 15mm forefoot.

Upper and Fit

I’ll start by saying that the Free 5.0 is a ridiculously comfortable shoe, and I think this is part of what drives its popularity. Yes, they consistently look great. Yes, they come in a rainbow of colors. Yes, they have a swoosh on the side. But add in the fact that they feel like slippers on your feet and you have the makings of a bestselling shoe for the masses.

Nike Free 5.0 2015 top

The 5.0 has a generous fit in the forefoot which is a major plus for the comfort factor. I think most people are used to wearing shoes that are a bit narrower – put on a shoe like the Free and you can feel the difference when your toes have a bit of room to move around. I almost always go up a half size in Nikes, and I did so in this shoe as well – the bit of extra space up front makes for an even roomier experience.

Nike Free 5.0 2015 interiorOne of the things I’ve always loved about the Free shoes is that they lack a heel counter. In case you’re not familiar with the terminology, a heel counter is a firm, plastic insert located in the back of many shoes to give the heel region structure. In the Free 5.0 there is no counter at all, and this adds to the slipper-like experience. The lack of a heel counter is also one of the reasons why I often recommend the Free to people with insertional Achilles tendon issues that may be aggravated by a plastic counter in the heel.

The remainder of the upper is soft and flexible, and the interior is super comfortable and suitable for sockless wear. The laces are slightly offset to the side, and loop through flywire bands that help to lock the middle of the foot down. The mesh over the forefoot has a bit of give/stretch – very nice.

Overall, I’d go so far as to say that the Free 5.0 is the most comfortable shoe I have worn this year. I’m having a hard time keeping them off my feet!

Sole

The sole of the 5.0 has the characteristic siping grooves that are featured on all Nike Free shoes. The sipes make for an extremely flexible sole that bends and rolls with ease. Your foot will basically do what it wants in this shoe, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing. I love a minimally controlling shoe so they work very well for me, but they can also exaggerate foot movement in some cases. For example, I filmed my wife running in an older version of the Frees and the sole flexibility tended to exaggerate her pronation on one side (she has a bunion on one side and tends to cave some shoes during late-stage pronation).

Nike Free 5.0 2015 sole

Scientific studies have actually found that people transitioning to Frees can experience higher impact loading due to the reduced amount of cushion, and another study found that runners transitioning into Frees had higher injury rates than those transitioning into either the Nike Pegasus or Vibram Fivefingers. This points to the potential risk of a moderately cushioned shoe like the Free 5.0. There is enough cushion that it probably won’t stimulate a major change in your stride, but there is probably less cushion than you are used to having to deal with the impacts of running. As such, it is suggested that you use some caution when beginning to run in a shoe like the Free 5.0.

Nike Free 5.0 2015 medial

In terms of the ride, I find the Free 5.0 to be semi-firm with not a lot of rebound. It’s a smooth shoe due to the extreme flexibility of the sole, but it is not the most responsive shoe on the market. It’s not a shoe you would choose for your next 5K, and probably not the best choice for a marathon unless you have done extensive training in them. I prefer them for runs from about 3-10 miles. My max in the 5.0 2015 is a bit over eight miles in one run, and short of a few hot spots on the inside of my heels (not sure what caused this) they worked just fine.

A quick comment on durability. After about 30 miles of running and extensive casual wear the soles of the Free 5.0 look pretty good. The only exception is that one of the black outsole patches near the heel has worn down on one side to reveal a different colored rubber below (I’m a bit of a scuffer). I don’t expect this will be a problem from a functional standpoint, but you may not get hundreds of miles out of a shoe like this that has such a small amount of rubber on the sole.

Conclusion

Nike Free 5.0 2015 sole heelThe Nike Free 5.0 2015 is lightweight, flexible, and incredibly comfortable. If your sole reason for wanting them is for casual use, go out and get a pair right now, they are that good. For running, they aren’t fast and they aren’t super cushioned so not the best choice for an all-around trainer. But for short to moderate length runs where you want a very flexible, minimally controlling ride with some cushion they are a solid option. And if, like me, you couldn’t wear the 2014 version due to that tight band over the forefoot, rest assured that the problem has now been fixed.

The Nike Free 5.0 is available for purchase at Running Warehouse US, Running Warehouse EU, and Zappos. You can also customize a pair in whichever color combo you could imagine via Nike ID. Sales made through these links help to support this site – thanks!

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science
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.

Comments

  1. I have been using those for running since 15th April. Before those I have been using only Nike shoes (dart 9 and Lunar Forever 2). I have done like 40-50 miles with those and so far every run they work better for my foot. I run like 5-10k 2 times a week. First I was scared about the cushioning but not anymore. Btw, I’m like you – I tried both models 2014 and 2015 – can’t believe it feels so different.

  2. Mark Halburn says:

    Watch out how/what you recommend to the masses. You’re going to get people hurt.

    • I think I was pretty clear about the research on Nike Frees as they pertain to injury risk. That being said, these have as much cushion as many other popular shoes on the market, they really aren’t that minimal.

      • Tommaso Cavasi says:

        I’m pretty doubtful about your last statement.
        I run in frees since 2012 but i also use pegasus and the difference in cushioning level is more than subtle.

        • I didn’t say they compare to the Pegasus, I said they compare to “other popular shoes on the market.” This includes things like the Saucony Kinvara, New Balance 1400, Mizuno Sayonara, etc.Compared to something like the Merrell Vapor Glove or even the New Balance MR00 they are far from minimal.

          • Matheus says:

            Hey Peter, I’m a Nike Free 3.0 user from Brazil. I intent to buy a pair of Merrell’s Vapor Glove, would you have nay recommendations on how the size fits on these? I use 12 on Nike’s. I can’t really try them since I’ll buy intenrationally, so I’m looking around the net for some guidance.

            Thanks.

          • I have the Vapor Glove 1, haven’t tried the 2. I wear my usual size in the Vapor Glove, and if anything might consider sizing down as they run a bit long. My best guess for you would be to stick with a 12.

          • can they be safely used for brisk walking without fear of injury ?

          • Sure, don’t see why not.

      • Ironically, when I wore my Free 5.0 (I think they would be 2013 models, before the band on the metatarsals) I had an entire year injury free. I ran up to 10 miles in the them regularly and had no problems. After they wore out I switched back to regular trainers (don’t ask) and have started having “issues” again with my lower legs and hips.

  3. Have you tried out the Lunar Tempo? It looks like an interesting shoe and just was curious of your thoughts.

  4. I am not a runner myself but I am planning to start doing power walks in a few months when I go back to BC Canada. I have been doing some fitness training (1hr 5 times a week) and I could feel the difference by using better running shoes.

    I probably will have to pay attention on how cushioned and comfortable they are.

    When I am ready to buy some shoes for my power walks I will definitely check your reviews to see which running shoes could be a good option for me.

  5. Peter
    Are there similar shoes in flexibility but have a more responsive feel? I’m in search of a more suitable every day trainer. I like the comfort of the new 5.0 and had no issues with10 milers. I’ve been running in the 5.0 as PF prevention and they seem to help. Thoughts?

    • Tough to combine extreme flexibility with responsiveness since a stiffer sole tends to yield a snappier ride. You might check out the New Balance Zante – it has a slightly greater toe spring so feels flexible but gives a pretty responsive ride. The Skechers GoRun 4 might be another worth a look.

  6. Sorry to bug as I’m sure you’re busy testing out other shoes but have you tried out the new free flyknit 4.0s? Haven’t seen any reviews of them online and was wondering if you at least some first impressions on it?

  7. I need to have that shoe, LOL! Hope they are available here, btw how does it feel on pavement? I need kinda cushioned shoes, I really like those.. But I have several shoes that I use, some are minimalist.

  8. Thanks for this review of the Nike Free 5.0 – I ran for a while in the Nike Free 3.0 because I’d had the same problem with the flyknit options digging into the top of my foot and causing pain. They discontinued the Free 3.0, and I have been trying to decide if I’ll get the 5.0 or not. I’d used them for all my running, including half marathon training and the race, and now I’m realizing that I should probably splurge on a pair and save them for track repeats. When I switched from my Free 3.0s into a pair of Brooks PureCadence, I enjoyed the additional cushion on my long runs (much to my chagrin after reading Born to Run). Perhaps I should actually convert to someone who has more than one pair of running shoes going at a time. Thanks for the review, and for addressing the fit issue and saying it doesn’t dig on the top!

  9. Nike Free 5.0 is made to a really high quality and provides a comfortable and stable fit. Great review, Peter

  10. Short comment, and one I’m making after a bit of frustration. Bought these for my indoor running and am very disappointed that the sole on the left shoe has completely (COMPLETELY!) detached from the shoe after only 2 weeks! Comfortable enough when it was a whole shoe, but not durable – and definitely not worth the price tag.

  11. Nike Free 5.0 is made to a really high quality and provides a comfortable and stable fit.

  12. I just bought these for walking around Disney world. I saw your comment about seeing many people wearing them at WDW. Do you think these would be a good walking shoe or is there something else you would recommend?

  13. Hi! I just bought a new pair today and so far I’m loving it. My purpose of buying one is to prepare for my upcoming martial arts class this Tuesday. And so, I’m wondering, is this a good choice for training martial arts? I mean it’s flexible and lightweight so I assumed that it’ll work okay. Please tell me what you think. I’m pretty new to these things. Thank you. :) Oh and if you’re wondering which martial arts I’m going to learn, it’s Arnis or Kali. :)

    • Oh and, I’d just like to add from my previous comment, if you’re wondering what kind of Nike Free 5.0 shoes I bought, it’s Nike Free tr fit 5. Not sure what that means since again, I’m really new to these things. If anyone would enlighten me, it would be very much appreciated. :) Thank you. ^^

  14. Great review .: but I’m curious what u mean when u say it’s not a fast shoe? Personally I have been running in free’s for 4 years and do 40 miles a week .. They hold up .. Last month I did my 1st sub 4 hour marathon and a 43 min 10k in them … Just sayin 😉 or wondering ..

  15. i like nike free design, it very beautiful and provides a comfortable and stable fit.

  16. Are you sure that we need not wear socks for it?
    because it does not say its made of flyknit!!

  17. I changed to Nike free 5.0 as had insertional tendonitis, I couldn’t run but was walking fast then the occasional jog – the heel counter is great – but then I started running again in Nike Flyknit Lunar 3 with 10mm drop and the heel counter smacking into my heel at every stride – so I’m injured again and back walking in Nike Free – my question is – Many people suggest in the flatter shoes it would put stress on the achilles and cause more strain and an injury compared with wearing a cushioned shoe even though the Insertional tendonitis would get better – I would be interested in your thoughts hope you understand the ramble :-)

  18. I have been using the FREE 5.0s for about a year now. I ditched my orthotics and haven’t looked back. I have very flat feet but these did the trick for me. I run 3-5X a week and my typically run in the FREE is 4.0 miles. I have taken them as high as 9 miles without an issue. I do my long runs in the Brooks Glycerin. What shoe, if any, would you recommend pairing with the Nike FREE 5.0 for longer runs?

  19. Elizabeth Hayes says:

    Great article. I have the lady Frees. I love the shoe, great for training, etc. However….

    I went from Asics Kahana 6’s for trails and daily use. I didn’t expect to be transitioning into 5K mindset. I’ve worked my miles up with my Asics who admittedly have a lot more cushion, so I bought the Frees. My maiden voyage run was smooth and fast; however, as soon as I stop…. oh my gosh. I got super DOMS like my calves have been slit. Yesterday, was a repeat of having to stop a day for fear of injury – granted I feel like my legs are adjusting more than the maiden voyage.

    I’m glad you posted the studies, because I am trying to understand why this is happening, so I can adjust accordingly (and not miss out on training days!) .

  20. Nike is always my first choice but am confused to buy one because I have wide feet.

    anyone help me to find the right one for me?

  21. I have run in Nike Frees for several years injury free. I use them as daily trainers. I have run several marathons in them and even a 50k trail run. Now that I am doing more ultra running and my current pairs of Frees are showing wear, I am looking for a comparable trail shoe but I am nervous moving away from the Frees because I have had such good experiences with them.

  22. Devin Pruett says:

    I bought my first pair of Nike Frees 5.0 when I was in college and fell in love. As far as a running shoe, training shoe, or casual shoe this is my favorite. However, it seems that Nike has moved away from the fit of the 5.0 and now has a more narrower fit which causes my foot to pain or fall asleep during my runs. 5.0’s are hard to find and the fit is not comparable to the new version, I have even tried the fly knit. Does Nike plan on bring back the 5.0??? I hope so. If not I may be looking at another brand since I can’t seem to find a good fitting Nike Free-esque shoe fit.

  23. These looked amazing! I wish my feet likes Nike shoes, though. I always end up with blisters when wearing a pair.

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