Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gear Check - Nike Free Run+

There wasn't anything too unusual about this morning's run. It was much more comfortable outside this morning. Lower temps and lower humidity made for a nice 4 miles. It was nice to run without stopping today. Yesterday's intervals involved lots of sweating during the breaks. As long as I keep moving, the sweat keeps evaporating, so today was a pretty comfy run!

Since there wasn't anything too exciting about today's run, I thought I would do another gear check. Today, I'll take a look at my shoes.

I know it's the work and training that make me faster... not the shoes I'm wearing... but sometimes the right pair of shoes makes a big difference. I'm a fan of Nike and stick to them pretty exclusively. Over the years, I've worn a handful of shoes that I felt were really 'special' and each one made me think, "Nike, please don't change a thing... just keep making this exact shoe forever." Of course, they never do. I have yet to find a shoe that Nike doesn't at least modify in some way every single year.

In high school, I got a pair of Air Pegasus and called them my Magic Shoes (Forrest Gump was new back then). Not too many years ago, I fell in Love with a bright yellow pair of Air Elites. I even bought the follow-up versions of the Elites until they were discontinued a couple of years ago. Recently, Nike switched to the Lunar Foam in a lot of their shoes and moved away from the 'Air' cushioning system. I bought a pair of Lunar Glides and hated them. I don't have plans to ever return to the Lunar series.

Most recently, I bought a pair of the Nike Free Run+ shoes. I had been drooling over the Nike Frees for a while but was hesitant to make the switch to a shoe with so little cushioning. The current trend in running shoes is to go for a 'minimalist' feel... decreasing the amount of cushion and weight of the shoe and moving toward a more barefoot feel.

The Lunar Glides were a step in the minimalist direction (even though I hated them) and I Loved the feel of the Frees when I tried them on, so I bought a pair and slowly worked them into my training rotation. There's significantly less cushioning in the Frees, but it wasn't long before I was wearing them on every run.

I think the idea is for the Frees to be used in shorter training runs and speed work... not as a full-time running shoe. I definitely recommend newer runners only using them part-time until they're sure it won't cause stress injuries. I've been using them full-time and have worn them in several marathons with no ill effects.

They seem to be the most comfortable when I'm either at a slow jog or moving at a pretty good clip. Slower-to-middle paces require more concentration to make sure my feet are striking properly. This probably says a lot about my stride and mechanics at different paces.

I'm wearing last year's model of the Free Run+. Nike already made changes to the shoe for 2011 and I haven't tried them on yet so I don't know how they compare to the pair I'm wearing. In this picture, you can see the segmented tread on the bottom of the shoes.

Reebok recently came out with a similar design but I have a weird aversion to Reebok so I haven't tried them on. The next two pictures show how flexible the tread design and lack of cushion make the shoes. The idea is for the shoe to flex with the natural motion of your foot.

The low-to-the-ground, flex-with-your-foot, natural feel of the shoe makes them super comfortable. There's also no real tongue to the shoe. What would be the tongue is attached, so the shoes actually slip onto your feet and then the laces secure the fit as needed. If I didn't already have too many shoes, I would buy another pair just to wear around all day.

There are only two negative aspects to the shoe. One is that the tread is segmented but each segment is relatively smooth so the grip isn't the best on smooth surfaces. I've noticed a little slippage when I'm on the rubberized track at the high school (especially if the track is wet). This hasn't been a big deal so far, but you don't get the firm, sticky grip that some other shoes supply. Another problem is the segments Love to snag stray rocks. God help you if you run on a gravel trail in these babies. Most of the time, it's little pebbles I don't notice until I finish my run. Then I find a stick and go about popping them out from between the segments of tread. (I'll admit, digging out the rocks is oddly satisfying.) Every now and then, I'll pick up a bigger rock that gets wedged in and I'll hear it 'click, click, clicking' with every step. The big ones tend to eventually fall out on their own or get worn down until they're silent. This guy was with me for the last mile and a half today and he was noisy:

Overall, the Nike Free Run+ has been my favorite running shoe so far. I Love the minimalist feel and haven't had any problems with injuries. (Knock on wood.) In fact, I finally broke down and bought a pair of even more barefootish shoes... Vibram Fivefingers! I've been walking around in them but haven't taken them out for a run yet. We'll see how they turn out. Until then, I'm Loving my Frees!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance
Distance: 4.00 Miles.
Time: 28:42. 7:10Avg. (7:12, 7:02, 7:09, 7:15)
Route: Old Town Eureka Loop.
Conditions: 70 degrees. 7:15AM.

Notes: Great weather this morning. Tried to enjoy it while it lasts. The forecast for next week had a lot of 99's in it. Next week, Middle Distance goes up to 6 Miles!

Daily Miles: 4.00 Miles.
  Run - 93.21 Miles.
  Bike - 62.51 Miles.
  Swim - 3,700+ meters.


  1. Was going to ask you're opinion on the five fingers! A guy at work loves em..runs every where off and on road..seems crazy to me.

    Glad to see you're nike enthusiasm has persisted.

  2. So far, I Love the fivefingers. They're SUPER comfy but I've only gone for a short jog in them. I'll be mixing in some short runs soon. I'll put up pics sometime soon. I got the newest version with a drawstring and more of a tread.

  3. Sound's like you have the Bikila LS.

    I've been running/lifting/everythinging in them for three years and I'm on my third pair. Started with KSOs, then got a pair of KSO treks, and now have the Bikila LS (for my ridiculously high instep).