Prose: Kim Nguyen (@317Kim)
Ed. note: In case you missed her work before, Kim is back with her second performance review here at TGRR. She’s currently a Wellness Coach at an Indianapolis-area YMCA (and can put Finch and I to shame in the fitness department). You’ll find the bulk of her contributions to TGRR on our Instagram page, where you’ll find shots of her own impressive collection as well as her work with effects on Finch and I’s photos. As you’re about to see, she knows her stuff.
Colorway Tested: Neo Turquoise/Atomic Teal/Chlorine Blue/White
Weight: 5.5 oz
Test Size: 6
The Nike Free Flyknit was designed to flex with the foot in motion. Through scientific data and athlete insight, Nike branded this approach “Nature Amplified”.
After 6 weeks of running with this product, I have to agree with this Nature Amplified approach. I like to run on different types of terrain to keep my knees in good shape and more importantly, to keep me motivated and interested in my run! Something has got to entertain me on this early morning 5 milers. The Free Flyknit has proven to be a perfect shoe for that.
While you’re going to get great fit out of a Flyknit-based shoe in general, the Free Flyknit fits more like a second skin than the Lunar Flyknit in my opinion. This is due to the sock liner and collar in the upper, which give it a close-to-the-foot, sock-like fit. I mean, as soon as I tried them on at Finish Line, I knew that these would be a great pair of shoes that I could run, lift, and go to work in from a fit standpoint.
There is so much elasticity and the shoe is so tightly woven that the shoe actually curls up at both ends when it is not on your feet! The compressive fitting upper is snug, but it helped remedy my overpronation (the inward rolling of the ankles through the footstrike) a bit by keeping my feet secure and locked in during my runs. This was a huge plus since I originally did not think that I would be able to run in these Frees, since they are made primarily for those with immaculate gaits and high/normal arches. Being able to put heavy miles in the Free Flyknits without my feet hurting was a pleasant surprise.
Unfortunately, there is that saying that too much of a good thing can be bad. My runs usually do not exceed a full hour, so I am not bothered by these shoes. When I’m at work, it’s a completely different world. My 4-8 hour shifts become a bit painful. As a Wellness Coach, I am constantly on my feet with clients. After about 4 hours, my feet are aching for my shoes to come off. I found that, when laced tight, the Free Flyknits can begin to cut off circulation in my feet and leave some heavy markings on the back of my ankles towards my achilles. This is why I gave the fit a 9 overall.
The most important part to remember is that this shoe does what it was supposed to – even if that doesn’t universally work for everybody and every activity. It carries me through my runs with ease. It’s just not suitable to be in all day due to the tightness of that second-skin fit and lack of serious support.
Lastly, the great debate: Team Socks or Team No Socks?
Because the shoe is seamless, a lot of people talked about running without socks. I ran the first week without socks and noticed that my feet were feeling clammy without socks because of the heat and sweat that accumulated in the upper. Fortunately for me, I had two pairs of Nike Hyper-Lite Elite Running No-Show socks in my closet that I thought would be a good fit. That was a match made in heaven!
Those are the perfect socks to wear with the Free Flyknits, since they’re thin, lightweight, and still let your feet breathe. My favorite part is that the anti-blister collar on the socks adds some additional color to the sneakers to give it a different look every now and then. I am definitely Team Socks on this one. (As for laces or no laces, I prefer mine with laces since they just look like Kukini Frees without them and I have enough of those.)
Heel-Toe Transition: 9
The Nike Free midsole/outsole is one of the most popular technologies that Nike has ever created. It just works – especially for those desiring a minimalist feel. There are basically three midsole levels within the Free hierarchy, with the 3.0 being the most barefoot, 4.0 being slightly more substantial and the 5.0 providing maximum cushioning and support within the Free line. With that said, 5.0 is still flexible and retains that same “superbendy” sole that makes the shoes a joy to run in.
The articulated 5.0 sole consists of hot-knifed sipes, which are strategically-engineered flex grooves through the arch of the foot which help ensure natural movement in the mid-foot as the runner transitions stride. This is the flexible shoe that we all love with a minimal heel-to-toe drop that helps propel your feet forward to keep moving during your run.
Due to my overpronation, I require a great amount of responsiveness and support from the cushioning of my running shoes (I’m one of those people that mixes up my shoes as well – the Brooks Adrenaline 13 is another of my go-to’s). Although I prefer the Lunarlon system on my Nike runners, the Free Flyknit did a great job on providing sufficient cushioning on my runs. Due to my specific needs, I wouldn’t necessarily run a half marathon with these babies, but it works great for my 5Ks. It’s important to know your needs as a runner too; just because a shoe may not work for you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s trash.
After accumulating over 50 miles on the Free Flyknits, the cushioning has not deteriorated and I am pretty confident that these will be in good shape for at least another year.
The Free Flyknits do not offer a large amount of heavy-duty traction compared to the Lunarglides, Lunar Flyknits, etc. It’s a free bottom with some extra BRS 1000 carbon rubber on high-wear areas. The Frees did well on the track and on the treadmill, but I noticed significant wear on roads, sidewalks, and trails.
(If you’re doing a significant amount of outdoor running, check out these options.)
Materials/Durability: Upper 10/Sole 7
The Nike Flyknit upper features a unique zoned performance mapping patterns based on how pressure is exerted on the top of the foot. Nike Sport Research Lab scientists employed pressure-mapping technology to locate stress areas, and designers used that data to create the new upper. A exercise physiologist like myself finds this amazingly intriguing and I really appreciate the scientific side being demonstrated on the upper.
I noticed that zones on the top of the foot have more stretch built in it to enable that natural flex, while a tighter weave embodies the rest of the upper to stabilize the forefoot and heel. The awesome elasticized construction on the collar fits securely around the ankle without irritating the skin.
Another reason to love the Nike Free Flyknit is that it utilizes that knitted one-piece upper because it reduces Nike’s typical upper waste by an average of 88%. If you are ever interested in seeing what the designers at Nike use, check out the app called Nike Making – it’s a tool to inspire designers and creators to make better choices in the materials they use.
I have no doubt that the upper will hold up for years to come, and the upper on my old Lunar Flyknits still looks flawless! Underfoot, the actual Nike Free platform might be questionable since I have already done some trail running in them. If I keep alternating runners, then these will last a lot longer, but I am probably just too rough outdoors on those Free bottoms.
Overall, the Nike Free Flyknit is another amazing addition to my Nike Running collection. It performs well and looks fantastic in all of its colorways – I am loving all of the new innovations by the Swoosh. At $160, the price is steep, but just know that you are getting a great quality runner! My decision to cop was a no-brainer since I always have to have the newest creations from Nike.
I’m looking forward to trying out the Nike Hyperfeel Trail this week to spare my other runners from that rough terrain. #werundirty
2 thoughts on “Performance Review: Nike Free Flyknit”
Good review. I’ve been looking for a good shoe to run/train in. But one small thing. Nike’s Free series has 4 levels. 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 7.0.