Nike Free Runs are a different kind of sneaker, perhaps, than any other model in its lineup. There have been praises and condemnations leveled at the Free Runs. Some suggest that they're bad for your feet, legs, and ankles, while others have the opposite opinion. Are Nike Free Runs bad for your feet? We've gone the extra mile to find the answers with research into the subject. After researching numerous reviews and expert opinions, here is what we learned.
Very Well Fit's opinion
Very Well Fit offers an honest review of the Nike Free model. Overall, they're comfortable with a snug fit and extreme flexibility. The grooved sole allows for the natural movement of your feet with little inhibition. They do provide some arch support at the insole with enough cushioning to make them suitable for light workouts and some running.
The Nike Free design
Nike Free shoes were engineered with a design that is needed to train the main muscles in your feet to strengthen them and add stability naturally. The intention of the design is to make the person wearing them feel as though they are running nearly barefoot. Both upper and sole are extremely flexible, but are they good for your feet?
Disadvantages of Nike Free Shoes
Nike continues to improve the Nike Free with continual improvements made over the past 10 years. The brand recommends using the training program they provide to become accustomed to the unique flexible design. This suggests that there is a learning curve for safety. The shoes are intended for running, but a maximum distance between 3 to 6 miles tops.
The shoes have a narrow toe box along with low volume depth. They don't fit everyone well. They're not the best at providing traction in slippery conditions and the width choices are limited. The shoes are comfortable for those with the right foot shape. For others, they won't work. There is a learning curve for wearing them. You're supposed to use them for short times to get used to them. They don't provide much control of motion so they won't work well for people who have balance or motion control issues. It's not recommended that you wear them for walks or runs that exceed 60 minutes. They're best for people with a neutral gait. Problems can happen if your gait is over-pronounced.
Members of the Lets Run forum are divided over the safety of the Nike Free running shoes. Some local running shops stopped carrying them because many of their customers came back in and complain of injuries from wearing the shoes for running. Heated debates broke out over those who claim hundreds of miles running with no injuries, but there was a consensus that the shoes are really intended to be worn for 20 to 30 minutes at a time until your feet become accustomed to them for safety's sake.
Evolution of the Nike Free Running Shoes
Runners World examined the later model of the Nike Free and remarked about the Free RN 5.0's new design. Nike retained the ultra-flexible sole for free movement, but the new design makes the muscles in your legs and feet work harder than other sneaker designs. They're made for strength-building, through the admission of the brand. The upper is stretchy and offers more room than previous iterations but the symmetrical lacing doesn't inspire confidence. These are trainers that are lightweight at 7.3 ounces each and affordable for $100. They've come a long way since their release in 2005. The model is still not recommended for runs over 3 miles. The same suggestions for the learning curve remain in place with limited wear time.
Running Shoes Guru remains skeptical of the minimalist design and remarks that these shoes are most suitable for soft running surfaces versus hard ones. The danger with minimalist designs is running over rocks and other debris because you feel them as your feet make contact with the ground. There is some level of foot protection but not much. This is a running shoe with limited usefulness for the sake of safety and comfort. Run Forefoot shares new research that suggests that the Nike Free running shoes may lead to damage of the feet and legs because of the lack of structure that allows feet to make unusual movements when running. This review points out that they are made to strengthen key parts of the feet, but there is also the danger of injury if the shoes are not used according to recommendations from the manufacturer.
Are Nike Free shoes bad for your feet?
For some people, Nike Free shoes can help to strengthen foot muscles offering more stability and control, however, they're not the right choice for everyone. There have been claims of injury from wearing them as running shoes. They're recommended for light running for those who prefer a barefoot running style. The flexibility and minimalist design make it feel like you're not even wearing shoes. The tradeoffs are that you can only wear Nike Frees for a limited amount of time.
You can only run so far in them, and you must start out slow to let your feet become accustomed to the design. They fit the definition of a highly technical shoe that offers little in the way of real protection for your feet. While many runners swear by them for longer runs, they're not using them in the way that they're intended. This is a precision shoe that offers a lot for people who are in training and wish to build foot strength. For the average runner, it appears that you're risking the health of your feet and legs unless you follow the recommendations to the letter.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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