Since then, the running shoe market has experienced two seismic shifts.
The first craze involved the minimalist trend. The idea is to have a shoe that is “barely there” to facilitate improved form and fewer injuries. However, over the years, enough runners realized that minimalist footwear just caused newer injuries.
So the market shifted to the next trend: ultra-comfortable shoes with lots of cushioning.
It didn’t take long for the Nike Free line to accommodate runners who want a more “natural” running experience. However, Nike made sure that the shoes have enough structure to support bigger bodies.
This gave way to the advent of Nike Free RN Distance. Today, we will be reviewing this pair and see if it’s worth your time and money.
Nike Free RN Distance General Information
The Nike Free RN Distance is a shoe that’s designed for efficient neutral runners who prefer the natural and free motion of the Free collection.
According to Nike:
The perfect pairing of comfort and flex, the Nike Free RN Distance combines the soft cushioning of Lunar foam with traditional Nike Free flexibility for a natural run that can go the distance.
Light | 8.3 oz
Low | 5.7 mm
Very Low | 27.0 mm
Low | 21.3 mm
List of Features:
- Single-layer circular-knit upper for a lightweight, comfortable fit.
- Unique midsole features a Lunar core inside a firmer Phylon foam carrier for soft cushioning that remains flexible.
- Nike Free outsole construction allows a natural range of motion from heel strike to toe-off.
- Minimal rubber outsole pods provide durable traction where you need it most.
When I first laced up the Nike Free RN Distance, it feels more like a slipper than a running shoe. The whole shoe wraps around your feet which kind of reminds me of a climbing shoe.
As with all Free running shoes, the Free RN Distance features a very flexible sole. The pair does remind me of a minimalist pair like the Inov-8 Roclite. However, it’s worth noting that the Free RN has a good bit of cushioning around the foot.
The pair only weighs about 8.3 ounces which is very lightweight – again, very comparable to minimalist running shoes. The heel of the Free RN Distance is also very flexible which is not the standard when it comes to running shoes. The heel is made up of foam and fabric instead of the usual plastic heel cup.
All these elements add up to a feel that is quite close to barefoot running.
The outsole of the Distance no longer features the blown rubber pieces that were added to the sole. Instead, the sole unit is now made from EVA material with some slight differences in the midsole. Like the other Free models, the hexagonal pattern has been ditched in favor of windmill style cuts on the sole unit of the pair.
The hexagonal pattern was integral to the flexibility of the shoe and I was initially worried. However, the new windmill style still provides the familiar flexibility and responsiveness while also providing superior grip.
The shoe’s midsole is made up of combinations of materials.
If you have the Distance 2, it comes with both Lunarlon foam and EVA that work together to provide a cushioned ride and tight response. The lower midsole portion is primarily constructed with EVA which is more durable and provides a higher level of grip.
The Lunarlon foam has always been a standout for me and you can trust that it will give the pair the much-needed cushioning.
Overall, the midsole unit does a great job of keeping things supportive and well-cushioned.
The upper of the Distance features a one-layer circular knitted mesh that provides a good fit and breathability at the same time. Back in the day, many manufacturers would experiment with polymers and synthetics for their uppers. Therefore, it’s nice to see that Nike opted to go with a one-layer circular knitted mesh instead.
The upper is also fitted with Flywire cables which serve as the core component and backbone. This allows for a seriously adaptive fit. I have always been a fan of this type of construction since it really works well for providing support without adding too much extra weight.
The resulting scenario is that the feet are allowed free movement and flex when necessary – extremely useful for long distance runs.
Is It Breathable?
If you are doing long distance runs regularly, you want a pair of shoes that will keep your feet cool and dry.
I’m happy to report that the Free RN Distance does a good job in this regard, thanks to the patented single-layer knitted upper. Most of the shoe is covered with lightweight and thin components which help in keeping the feet cool and dry, even after running for high miles.
The shoe features excellent airflow through the upper. Under the foot, you can find a good deal of foam and rubber which prevents the increase of internal temperature.
The Free RN Distance does give the wearer the ability to run freely.
Is It Comfortable?
The Free RN Distance has checked all the right boxes when it comes to comfort.
The upper made me feel like I’m wearing a soft cloth across my foot. This simply can’t be said with similar running shoes that have a latch-like and too constricting feel. I have to applaud Nike for implementing a single-layer knit material for the upper that just snaps across the foot.
On top of this very simple approach to comfort, Nike has also slightly changed the positioning of the Flywire laces which does wonders for the shoe’s overall comfort.
There are reviewers with chronic knee and joint discomfort relating that the Free RN Distance made a lot of difference with their runs.
Is It Durable?
Although it’s constructed like a minimalist running shoe, I was very impressed with just how tough this pair is.
I have been taking this pair for many runs now and it has yet to know any significant wear and tear. Despite the excessive bending around the toe box and hardcore miles of heel striking, the Distance still retains its optimal performance.
The BRS 1000 outsole has done a good job of holding the shoe altogether. The construction is also on-point with no noticeable flaws with stitching and it’s held together with strong bonding agents. It’s a surprisingly resilient pair despite its lightweight and minimalistic profile.
These running shoes will last you a long while.
How’s the Price?
As of this writing, the Nike Men’s Free RN Distance will cost you $110 to $180, depending on the size, model, and colorway.
The shoes feature high-quality material and construction which don’t just bring the comfort but durability as well. This is a well-suited shoe for those who are always active such as daily workers to athletes. I have been using this pair for quite a while now and has become a staple on my running rotation.
Despite being on the higher-end of the price spectrum, I have to say that the price of the Distance is very reasonable.
How It Compares
The Free RN Distance is not for everyone, I recognize that. However, that probably won’t stop you from seeking alternatives. Here are some other running shoes that are comparable with the featured product:
The NIKE Men's Flex 2017 RN is a solid pair if you prefer something for your cross-training needs.
For the price, you get amazing comfort, excellent breathability, and best-in-class performance. It’s a very lightweight pair, thanks to its engineered mesh construction and Flywire technology. I have to say that the breathability of this shoe is off the charts. Whether I’m hitting the weights or running the trails, my feet were kept cool and nice.
It’s not the fanciest shoe with tons of features but it more than makes up for its reliability. Seriously, I’ve been using these shoes as a “beater” and it’s still going strong over the years. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a sweet-looking pair as well.
Go for this shoe if the Distance is out of your budget range.
I’ll be frank here, I was never a fan of Skechers. There were some pairs that would catch my eye but I never found them to be very impressive. The Skechers Sport Men's Flex Advantage 2.0 Sneaker has changed all that.
The Flex Advantage 2.0 is a lightweight and neutral flexible trainer that is quite comparable to the Free RN Distance. It uses the Dual-Lite midsole that gives a combination of shock-absorbing cushion and a stable platform. Like with most Skechers model, the Flex Advantage 2.0 comes with a memory foam insole that adds so much to the comfort of the pair.
I was surprised at just how light these shoes are, despite having numerous elements that should sensibly add to the weight. I enjoyed these so much that I had to buy one for my wife as well. Skechers has done a great job with the Flex Advantage 2.0 shoe.
What We Think
The Nike Free RN Distance is yet another successful runner/trainer from Nike.
If you’re into long distance running, the Free RN Distance will be your best friend. It is very light and flexible which makes long running sessions a lot more enjoyable. There’s a lot of things under the hood that makes this pair a must-have.
I have used this pair on both 5K and 10K marathons and I must say that it has served me well. The comfort of the shoe can be attributed to the excellent upper and superior support. The 4mm drop will be more favorable for midfoot strikers but heel strikers will still love the energy transfer from heel to toe.
The only time the Distance has failed is during wet conditions. There’s no rubber on the outsole so traction is a bit compromised.
Other than that, this is a classic long-distance running shoe and we rate it an excellent 9.5 out of 10.