Nike’s Free Runs have been my go-to running shoes for quite some time now. I have used them from quick jogs to 10K marathons. On top of that, I have a few pairs that ended up as beaters with casual use.
With that said, I have probably retired 5 or so pairs which translates to 2,000+ miles spent with this model.
This is why I’m excited to review the featured running shoe for this post, the Nike Free RN Flyknit. There was a time when Nike Flyknit shoes became so hype that I wanted to have one. However, I failed to get a pair. Well, that is unit now – and it’s a Free Run version.
So I am understandably excited. Without further ado, let’s get to the review.
Nike Free RN Flyknit General Information
For this review, we’re going to talk about the Free RN Flyknit 2018 model, so it’s a fairly brand-new model with state-of-the-art technologies and features.
First, let’s take a look at how Nike marketed this Free Runs. From the Nike Shop:
Made for short runs when you want a barefoot-like feel, the Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 Men's Running Shoe is the lightest in the Free RN family. Its sock-like upper has more stretch yarns than previous versions, so it hugs your feet more than ever. The innovative sole has an updated construction, yet still expands and contracts with every movement. The packable design makes the shoe easy to stuff into your bag—so you can get in a few miles on the fly.
Here are the key specs and features of the pair:
- 1-piece Flyknit upper provides zoned stretch, breathability and support
- Updated midfoot construction creates better ventilation
- Flywire technology integrates with laces for dynamic fit
- Elastic yarns added to the heel for a snug and adaptive fit
- Dual-density midsole and tri-star outsole add flexible cushioning
- Midsole uses Phylon core foam and injected unit sole foam
- Updated auxetic tri-star pattern expands and contracts with each step
- Texture added under toe and heel enhances traction
- Dynamic heel provides a snug and adaptive fit
Upon opening the box, I was greeted with a very attractive shoe. I opted for the classic White/Black colorway and I really like the design. It’s like the old Flyknit racer that I always wanted to have but now they come in Free Runs which is even better. While these are primarily athletic shoes, I still care about style and no one wants to wear ugly shoes.
It’s a good thing that Nike knows their athletic shoe fashion.
After much swooning over the looks of the Free RN Flyknit, I was immediately drawn to the upper material which really feels soft and comfy. The construction and materials of this pair just scream breathability to me. If your feet tend to get hot and sweaty while running, this is a good pair to consider.
For the 2018 model, it feels like they added some additional cushioning compared to last year’s RN Flyknit. The extra cushioning really gives the pair a plusher feeling.
However, it is important to mention that these shoes run half a size small, so size up when you order.
Since this is a Flyknit model, we’re going to do this pair a disservice if we don’t talk about the upper first.
This shoe features the one-piece Flyknit upper which is supposedly designed to conform to the natural shape of the foot. It is an updated construction with a more open weave design which should help in facilitating airflow. The Flyknit upper does a good job of providing a more adaptive fit so it basically wraps around my foot like a glove.
The upper is just so flexible that it’s easy to achieve a comfortable but secure fit.
There’s also the familiar Dynamic Flywire technology that helps the runner get a more customized fit. The Flywire cables are designed for tightening the laces quickly which in turn also tightens the upper as well. This somehow gives me control of adjusting the amount of midfoot lockdown by simply tightening or loosening the laces, depending on my needs.
Nike has updated the Free RN’s soft cushioning feel with its new outsole design.
If you know your Free Runs, you will know that they featured hexagonal grooving for grip and traction. Well, if you like that feature, you will probably be disappointed with the Flyknit RN’s outsole design which Nike calls the “Tri-Star.” This is basically a new triangular lug pattern which reminds me of Kobe Bryant’s logo to be honest.
Personally, I am not a big fan of this change since it’s Nike’s way of leaving traction in the dust. Try running with these shoes on mountain trails or gravel and you will likely get little pebbles stuck on the outsole. Therefore, these shoes are only best worn for paved roads, sidewalks, or treadmills.
Nike claims that the new Tri-Star pattern will allow the foot to expand naturally without sacrificing weight and protection. Running on this shoe does more a lot more natural but the traction is definitely not the best.
The midsole of the Free RN Flyknit is double-layered which means better comfort and responsiveness. There’s a firmer carrier system here where you can find the soft Phylon foam core. Again, this adds additional protection and comfort to the shoe.
Both layers add up to a great bouncy feel that helps with shock absorption and allows for a more responsive toe-off. The midsole’s support is plenty adequate, especially for underpronators. The shoe does feel like it struck a good balance of plush cushioning and solid responsiveness.
Nike has, more or less, succeeded with the construction of the shoe’s midsole.
Is It Comfortable?
I’ve tried this pair with and without socks and I must say that it passed with flying colors, as far as comfort levels go. The shoe, in general, just feels flexible, supportive, and responsive.
The padding around the heel not only provides a nice response but also prevents friction and allows a better fit. The Flyknit upper is very commendable as the design hugs the feet in the most precise and comfortable way. I’ve worn them during workouts, treadmill training, and sprint runs and they feel as comfortable after break-in.
It’s the lightest model in the Free RN line, so I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s like you’re wearing nothing. The updated construction and updated sole add up to a highly comfortable footwear.
The shoe is clearly designed for shorter runs and achieving a barefoot-like feel. And for the most part, it has succeeded.
How Much Does It Cost?
If you’re going to get the shoe straight from Nike, the Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 will cost you $120. It is an okay price for a pair that comes with plenty of features and high-quality materials.
However, you have to keep in mind that the Free RN Flyknit is mainly designed for shorter runs. It’s not the best option for trail running or long marathons. Thus, this limitation removes a good deal of versatility from the shoe. I doubt many of you will spend that amount of money for something that you can only use for short runs.
However, this pair did see a lot of use from me like weight lifting and casual use.
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How It Compares?
The Free RN Flyknit 2018 will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. If you are looking alternatives, here are some pairs that might just tickle your fancy.
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The adidas Men's Ultraboost is a lot more expensive than the Free RN Flyknit 2018. However, if budget is not an issue, this is a pair that you should consider as it offers a lot more.
First off, I really love how the Ultraboost looks. It just looks stylish with a very fashion-forward shape. Whether you are running or wearing it for casual use, you can trust that you will look good doing it.
The responsiveness of the midsole is one of the highlights of this shoe. I was able to stay comfortable throughout my runs. Plus, the quality of the materials and construction are just on-point. Yes, it’s a bit expensive but it really is worth the investment. It’s highly recommended for neutral runners.
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The Reebok Men's Fast Flexweave Running Shoe is one of the best-fitting pairs I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.
On top of the exceptional fit, the Flexweave is just a very comfortable shoe. The upper area is made from the Flexweave Technology which is basically a design with supportive fibers weave into the figure 8. This allows for a stronger and more flexible upper.
The upper material is seamless and stretchable which provides the much-needed breathability and comfort to the feet. In my experience, my feet will always come out fresh out of these shoes. Cushioning is also another highlight as it gives sufficient support and stability while running.
Best of all, the Flexweave is cheaper when compared to the Free RN Flyknit.
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If you prefer a pair that will take you anywhere, the Mizuno Men's Wave Inspire 14 Running Shoe should be added to your list.
The Airmesh upper will keep things light and breathable, so you will not miss the Flyknit mesh that much. However, the best part about this shoe is the outsole. Mizuno makes some of the best outsoles in the industry so it’s no wonder that it has done such a great job with the Inspire 14. With that said, the outsole provides excellent heel to toe transition and creates a smooth landing.
The Inspire 14 is more of a stability shoe but it’s a good alternative to the Free RN Flyknit.
What We Think
The Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 is a solid pair that certainly feels like it’s catering to a certain niche.
It’s one of the lightest pairs I’ve worn and is excellent for promoting midfoot strikes and a smoother ride. Flexibility is also amazing and I’m still impressed with how responsive it is. However, the outsole redesign did sacrifice traction which means that I can’t use this shoe for rougher terrains.
The price is also a major talking point which I am taking issue with since it’s not as versatile as I would have liked. If you love doing shorter runs, you will find a lot to love with this shoe.
We rate the Free RN Flyknit 2018 a solid 7.5 out of 10.
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