For many years now, the Nike Free line has consistently one of the best selling running shoes in the United States. Whether you’re walking in a wall or traipsing around Disney World, you’ll likely see adults and children wearing their colorful Nike Frees.
But is popularity the only thing going for Nike Free?
Well today, we’re going to be highlighting the Nike Free 5.0 and its features. What makes this running shoe very popular with everyone? Is this a good investment for a running shoe?
Let’s find out!
What is Nike Free 5.0?
The Nike Free line has been around since 2009 but there’s no sign that it’s going away anytime soon. Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it’s used more in a casual manner rather than as a running shoe.
According to the marketing pitch straight from Nike’s website:
It feels good to run free, unburdened by shoes or socks, connecting with the ground, inciting your senses with
texture and temperature. That feeling fuels the concept of natural motion—and Nike’s mission to create shoes that place an athlete closer to the ground, more in tune with one’s body and innate physical abilities.
It looks like Nike really wants the Free collection to be the definitive running shoe but many customers just can’t stop wearing them casually.
Is the Nike Free a good pair of running shoes? That’s what we are about to find out.
Key Specs and Features
First, let’s check out the key specifications and features of Nike Free 5.0.
- Flywire cables work with the laces for more support as you tighten them
- Rounded heel is made to roll with the ground as you stride
- Textured toe and heel foam sole sections for traction
- Offset: 8mm
- Rubber sole
- Shaft measures approximately 3" from arch
- Flywire technology for ultra-lightweight support
- Nike Free Phylite midsole doubles as an outsole for lightweight cushioning, durability and reduced weight
- Deep hexagonal flex grooves for a natural, barefoot-like ride
- No-sew overlays throughout provide support and durability without added weight
Nike Free First Impressions
My Free 5.0 pair came in a striking bright blue and fluorescent yellow colorway, so it made a good impression on me right out of the box.
One of the first things I’ve noticed is that the 5.0 retained the lower part of the Free Run 3 and introduced updates in the upper. Perhaps the most obvious change is the implementation of the Dynamic Flywire in the midfoot lacing system.
As many of you expect, the Free 5.0 is very flexible and I had no trouble rolling the entire shoe into a ball. Of course, no one’s feet actually bend that much but it’s a great test to see just how flexible the pair is. The same flexibility can be found in the heel counter.
However, there’s one caveat to the shoe: it’s not true to size. I’ve compared it with my other pairs and it looks like the Free 5.0 runs at least a full size smaller. Because the fit was smaller, running with the Free 5.0 for a number of miles is simply not doable. I had to return to the shop and go a full size higher.
If you are looking to buy the Nike Free 5.0, I highly recommend that you try it in person or at least, go a full size higher than your usual.
Nike Free Outsole
The Nike Free collection was made with the flexibility and a weightless experience in mind, similar to how it feels to run in barefoot. The Nike Free line has benefited from pressure mapping and motion capture to simulate the mechanics of barefoot running.
The Free 5.0 features a hexagonal groove design in the rubber outsole which allows a multi-directional, flexible movement. The heel of the outsole also features a more rounded heel which helps with responsiveness and comfort, especially if you’re a heel striker.
Nike Free Midsole
Like the outsole, the Nike Free’s midsole was also designed to provide a more natural wearing experience.
The midsole is the ultra-lightweight Phylite foam which is 60% Phylon and 40% rubber. The Phylite midsole is quite durable which can double as an outsole too. This doesn’t just make the shoe more lightweight and flexible, it feels tougher as well.
Phylite does a decent job of providing low-profile cushioning and shock absorption during my runs. The midsole is also rounded around the heel which adds better protection to the foot and encourages a more natural stride.
Nike Free Upper
The Free 5.0 features a newly-designed upper which allowed Nike to do some weight savings. On top of the weight savings, the new upper gave the Free 5.0 a better overall fit. Coupled with the Dynamic Flywire in the midfoot, the shoe just feels secure without feeling too restrictive.
At first, I was concerned with the Huarache style heel counter but my worries went away once I got to try on the pair. The heel feels tight and secure, and there were no heel-slippage while I did my runs. However, despite the secure fit, I doubt that the Free 5.0 would be good without socks.
The engineered mesh material remains consistent and breathable.
The Comfort Experience
Nike Free has always been my go-to casual pair and that’s mainly because they are just so comfortable. Thanks to Nike’s vision of providing the most natural wearing experience.
Even if the pair is meant to simulate the feel of barefoot running, it still provides the right amount of cushioning and support for the best comfort. The full bootie construction was designed in a way that the seams don’t interfere with comfort. The tongue is also adequately padded to limit pressure on top of the foot.
Many people described the Free 5.0 as “slippers on the feet” and I tend to agree. The roomy fit of the shoe is not exactly common as far as running shoes are concerned. The Free 5.0 is designed in a way that allows your feet freedom of movement while still providing adequate support.
True enough, the Free 5.0 excels in terms of footwear comfort. Thus, you can’t really blame those who use their pair for day-to-day use. However, that’s not saying that it’s not good for high mile runs.
The Durability of the Pair
The Free 5.0 features an additional solid section of rubber under the toe for that much-needed extra durability. We’re looking at a BRS 1000 carbon rubber which is essentially a synthetic rubber with added carbon. This gives the pair a good deal of toughness and robustness.
The mesh upper features a construction that’s on-point making the shoe more durable while still keeping things lightweight. I have a Free 5.0 beater so I can attest to its durability as it’s not showing any signs that it will give out soon.
How Much Does It Cost?
When it comes to pricing, I have to say that Free 5.0 is quite comparable to many running shoes in the market. For the most basic design, expect to pay around $50 to $80 for a pair. More vivid colorways and styles will likely cost you $100 to $130.
All things considered, I think the price for the Free 5.0 is reasonable and you are getting a very comfortable pair that you can even wear every day.
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How It Compares
If for some reason that the Free 5.0 failed to get your interest, here are some other pairs that might be worth checking out:
The Saucony Men's Kinvara 6 Running Shoe is quite similar to last year’s Kinvara 8 which is not bad especially when the soft, smooth ride was retained.
The Kinvara has been a staple in my runner/trainer rotation and for good reasons. The Kinvara shines when you are running on paved surfaces and treadmills but it can also handle a more technical trail. You can trust that the Kinvara will deliver a consistently responsive ride.
The Kinvara provides an impressive balance of performance and comfort. If you love moderate speed work and marathon long runs, this is the pair to get. It is no wonder that it’s Saucony’s flagship contribution to the market of running shoes.
- Resin Waveplate offers lightweight cushion
- Lightweight, resiliant U4ic midsole foam
- This is a low heel-to-toe drop shoe designed for midfoot and forefoot strikers
If you love running flat, the Mizuno Men's Wave Universe 5 Racing Flat gets out top recommendation.
Everything about the shoe’s construction is minimal. The upper is nothing more than a thin mesh which is highly breathable. This is a very lightweight pair and gives more freedom of movement when compared to the Free 5.0. Given how light these shoes are, I can’t help but run fast while wearing them.
The Wave Universe 5 is obviously targeted to the niches of the running world. First, this is ideal for runners who want the lightest shoe possible because they want to run fast. Second, this is also geared towards the minimalists who just want a very minimal pair with a comfortable fit.
It’s not the best looking and cheapest running shoes out there but it sure is a lot of fun.
The Reebok Men's Yourflex Train 9.0 MT Running Shoe is very similar to the Free 5.0 in the sense that it can also be used as a casual pair.
For starters, the Yourflex Train 9.0 MT looks great. It’s just a stylish pair that won’t look out of place when paired with jeans or shorts. I’ve used this shoe for weight training and running, and I really enjoyed how they look. It’s truly a very versatile pair.
Like the Free 5.0, the Yourflex Train 9.0 MT is very comfortable even after long periods of time. The low-cut profile gives better ankle mobility which makes it more comfortable in the long run.
However, the best part about this pair is that it’s relatively inexpensive. Yup, it’s a runner that won’t break the bank.
The Nike Free 5.0 Running Shoe is lightweight, comfortable, and incredibly flexible.
Whether you want a pair for running or casual use, this pair should have no problem accommodating your needs. It’s not the fastest pair and doesn’t offer the best cushioning but it sure is very comfortable. The Free 5.0 is a good starting pair for those who want to try out natural running for the first time.
It can be quite pricey (depending on the style and colorway) but it’s a reliable and tough shoe which should last you a long while. Overall, it’s a quality shoe that offers a lot of value.
We rate the Free 5.0 an 8.5 out of 10.