Next month, stores will see three new designs from Nike on its shelves: the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit, the Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit and the Nike Free 5.0. These evolved Nike Free models are said to harness the natural motion of a runner’s foot and body.
The new designs are essentially ‘stripped back’ versions of their originals with layers, seams and bulk eliminated to offer runners a more natural ride.
While the shoes are designed to mimic a more barefoot feel whilst running, Nike are keen to promote the new designs as being natural as opposed to minimal. Despite offering a relatively small heal-to-toe drop, all three designs have a sturdy and cushioned midsole offering protection and support.
Speaking with Nike Free Senior Innovator Ernest Kim, Kim told us that the new models have been designed with different access points to help runners adapt to a more natural running shoe. The Free 3.0 Flyknit is said to offer the most natural ride with a 4-millimeter heel-to-toe offset, followed by the Free 4.0 Flyknit offering a more cushioned ride with a Flyknit upper and 6-millimeter offset. Kim explained that the Nike Free 5.0 is the ideal entry point when making the transition from a supportive shoe.
‘We recommended starting off with a 5.0 so you can get accustomed to that lower heal drop and that much more flexible platform,’ says Kim. ‘Then if you feel like you do want a more natural experience you can progress down.’
We spoke to Kim about the three new models and their key features.
Natural movement on unnatural surfaces
The Nike Free range is reported to mimic a runner’s natural motion on unnatural surfaces. ‘We did a lot of our research on grass,’ says Kim. ‘We believe that we evolved on those types of surfaces but we also know that it doesn’t feel nice to run barefoot on concrete so that’s why Free was never about minimal, always about natural.’
The naturally flexing soles allow the foot to sit close to the ground and move more naturally. Likewise the hexagonal flex grooves on the outsoles are reported to provide a fuller range of motion that lets the foot adapt to the ground.
While some running shoes benefit from a structured, plastic heel counter on the back of the shoe, the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit uses Flyknit technology to support the heel. The Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit uses a non-stretch yarn in the heel area for even more stability and support.
Removing the structured heel counter frees up the runner’s natural gait and pares down weight. ‘We assessed everything in the shoe and anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary in delivering this natural motion running experience, we took away,’ explains Kim.
Soft, sock-like comfort
By stripping back the layers of the shoe, the new Nike Free models are much softer than the editions in the current market.
The Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit and the Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit have a virtually seamless one-piece Nike Flyknit upper, offering a sock-like fit that conforms to the shape of a runner’s foot.
The stretchy, featherweight, durable yarn hugs the shape of the foot for a flexible, lightweight and supportive fit. The Nike Flyknit uppers on the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit and Free 4.0 Flyknit offer a slightly looser weaver than previous models for extra breathability.
The Nike Free 5.0 couldn’t feel much lighter down to its Nike Flywire technology, no-sew overlays and lightweight mesh in the upper.
Talking about the shoe’s ability to harness the natural motion of a runner’s foot and body, WR asked Kim his views on the common industry assumption that, as runners, we were born with an incorrect running style, which our shoes are supposed to correct. He said:
‘That has been the assumption in the industry for a long time and if you think about it, it’s just so crazy. How could we have gotten here, if we were fundamentally broken. We couldn’t have run away from the lions and survive to mate.’
The Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit and Nike Free 5.0 are available through NIKEiD. The full Nike Free Ecosystem will be available on Nike.com and in stores April 2nd.