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Nike Free 3.0 v4: Initial Thoughts

Nike Free 3.0 v4I have a long history with the Nike Free 3.0 line. Back in early 2009, the original Free 3.0 was my first foray away from stability shoes, and it was the shoe that convinced me that I did not need a lot of support and structure in a running shoe. I fell in love with that shoe from the moment I put it on my feet, and I still have a soft spot for it.

I next used the Free 3.0 v2 a bit as a work shoe (bought a pair in black), but it somehow lacked some of the elegance of the original, and the narrowness of the 3.0 started to bother me a bit. I subsequently passed on the v3 as it represented only a minor update from the v2. The Free 3.0 v4, just released a few weeks ago, is a completely re-designed shoe from bottom to top. I thought I’d write up a few preliminary thoughts about them now that I’ve had them for about a week.

Nike Free 3.0 v4 Side

First and foremost, be warned that the 3.0 v4 is a low-volume, relatively narrow running shoe. I initially ordered my usual size 10 from Running Warehouse, but the shoe was incredibly tight and there was no way it was going to work for me. However, it looked great and seemed like my kind of shoe in all other respects (lightweight, flexible, 4mm drop, etc.), so I decided to exchange for a 10.5 and see if that would work. The 10.5 felt a bit better, but was still tighter than I typically like. I found that removing the insole improved the fit quite a bit – it’s one of those awful memory foam (aka, sensation-robbing) style insoles that I have come to despise. I swapped in the very thin insole from a pair of Skechers Go Bionics, and the fit was improved enough that I opted to keep the shoes and give them a go on a run.

Nike Free 3.0 v4 Top

The Free 3.0 v4 is a very nicely made shoe. The interior is soft and quite suitable for sockless running, and the upper is very minimal yet seems like it will be plenty durable. There is no tongue, and the shoe has the sock-like construction of early versions of the Free Run+. The pair that I bought were a vivid orange color – probably the brightest shoes that I own! My one big concern about the upper is that it is not very breathable. I wore them around town one day and my feet definitely stayed quite moist inside the shoes – the shoe needs more open mesh regions and less of the solid overlay material. I think the rather snug fit contributes to the lack of air-flow through the shoe.

Nike Free 3.0 v4 Sole

One the run the sole of the Free 3.0 retains the fantastic flexibility and soft feel of it’s predecessors in the 3.0 line (maybe a tad firmer?). The sole is 4mm drop (21mm heel, 17mm forefoot), and shoe weight is just a bit over 7oz with the insole removed. Gaps in the sole are much narrower than in previous versions which should help to prevent rock and stick collection in the gaps. I felt like the shoe stretched a bit as I ran in it, which gives me hope that a break-in period will continue to improve the fit.

I plan to put more miles on this shoe in the coming weeks, but if I had to summarize the initial pros and cons they would be as follows:

Pros – well-made, sole feels great underfoot, retains the excellent flexibility of previous versions, nice looking shoe

Cons – not very breathable, low interior volume, and narrow through the forefoot

The Nike Free 3.0 is available in a variety of colors at Running Warehouse.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Having run in both, I’d very much like to have a Free with the midsole of the 3.0 v4 and the toebox of the 4.0 v2. While the new designs of this year’s uppers allow for weight reduction with structural support, the trade off is ventilation – as you pointed out, Pete. I’m looking forward to your review.

  2. Brian Martin says:

    Hi Pete, I tried to try these on on Friday – tough to get my feet into my usual size 9 and as you say very snug around the forefoot. But even worse for me, the lack of volume in the midfoot and the toe box meant the upper was squashing down on the top of my foot and my toes just walking around – very unusual sensation. The midsole looks great, but the rest of the shoe is probably not going to work for me – not sure why they changed the upper material as it feels horrible. Lucky I have a spare pair of 3.0 v3! Brian

  3. I have a pair I`ve been using for my some of my training for a couple weeks now. The width wasn`t a problem for me, but I also took the laces off. They fit just as well without them. The biggest two problems I`ve had is that they don`t vent well at all and they get sloppy when I`m doing sprints around turns, and having the laces on didn`t help with that at all.

  4. Greg Strosaker says:

    I just ordered the 3.0 v4 as a walking around shoe, and potentially to try out initially on some shorter runs.  Thanks for the review, I’ll certainly be sure to try it without the insole as well.

  5. Couldn’t you just poke holes into the upper for ventlation? I’m considering doing that. 

  6. Paolo Roncallo says:

    I have only run 12 miles in mine and already the toebox has expanded nicely. The decreased heel to toe ratio makes these feel far more comfortable compared to v2.

  7. Madolyn Leigh says:

    I have these shoes and they are great!

  8. Chris Miller says:

    How is the heel/toe drop compare to the version 3? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer on what the heel/toe drop of it is. Running Warehouse list it as 7-8mm but I’ve heard that it too is closer to 4mm. Just trying to figure out if this is going to be an adjustment or not…

  9. I remember when Pete first posted this that some people were asking about the breathability, I can give you a hands on opinion.
    I´ve run (own) both the 3.0 v4 and the 5.0 v4. I like them a lot, but I have to be honest I am very disapointed too.The 5.0 is too high (heel) for a true minimalist shoe (I know they are not precisely intended to that market), although very comfortable and much roomier in the toe box than the 3.0. They are heavier than the Kinvaras. The 3.0 is too narrow, so take Pete´s advice and go half a size bigger than normal, although I did this instinctively even the half size bigger than normal feels weid, too long and still to narrow. My toes feel cramped… Both are the worst breathable shoes I´ve own, even for nike standars.  I find the breathability of the 3.0 to be the worst ever particularly if you run in hot and/or humid weather. Our summer weather ranges from 25 to 42°C, that means running when the sun comes down around 7pm onwards but still temp remains at an avg. of 32 to 37°C, so yes, around here breathability is a very important issue….  The 5.0 are a bit better but truly not much better. My take is the 5.0 v4 is the best in the Free run lineup right now, but, it would be great if they took the 5.0 platform and made it a 3.0 with the 5.0 upper just with much better breathability.

  10. Mina Krstić says:

    hey! im thinking of buying this shoes but mainly for walking and everyday activities, should i ? thanks!

  11. Hi! I recently bought this shoe. When I took out the insoles, I started to love them. The fit was better and I had more ground feel. However, the seams/stitching rub against a part of my foot and I got a blister. That run was sockless. I’ll try socks next time, but if it comes back, do you know what I could do? I don’t have any thin insole to put inside. Do you think I could tape it or something? Thanks.

  12. Loved my 3.0 v2, thought I’d give these a try. Do not like the sole as much as the v2, just seems much less flexible. But I’ve only walked around the house in them.

    I can already see these don’t feel like they will breathe as well. They also feel heavier.

    But I hate wearing socks and I liked the idea of going sock-less with these but will not like them if they get moist and squishy when walking around town.

    I wear a size 11 (Saucony, Asics) and this was a true size 11 for me as well. I tried them on with no socks.

    Paid $59 from running warehouse (liquidation + coupon), so I guess for the price I will keep them. I didn’t want to pay $90-$100 which is why I waited so long to order a pair.

  13. Carlos Peña says:

    hi ive been reading about the sizing of this model, pete can you tell me your foot size without shoes, so i can get an ide about wich size i shoul buy

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