Review: Nike Free 5.0

As you guys know, I’m a big fan of Born to Run. And, as anyone who’s read the book can tell you, Nike doesn’t fare well beneath the ever chopping axe of Chris McDougall. Now, I don’t subsribe to the notion that Nike is any more evil than your standard, run-of-the-mill large corporation, but I still walked up to their booth at the “Big Shoe Off” with some trepidation. Would the rep knife me in the foot while laughing hysterically? Would he try to staple a high-drop, stability shoe to my feet?

Hardly. As it happens, Jarrett was a sweetheart. A super nice guy and very knowledgable rep. When I told him about this blog and what I tend to write about, he immediately apologized for not having some of Nike’s newest zero drop minimalist shoes (he only demos the shoes each shop carries), but offered up a pair of their newest Free shoes, the 5.0.

Now, you guys will remember that the Free was Nike’s original “HA! Just kidding, if you want a barefoot feel here you go” shoe from way back. As time has passed, they now run the gamut from zero drop low cushion to lower drop mid cushion, always with a highly flexible sole.

I used to run in a pair of Free shoes, way back in the day. I liked them, and actually wore holes into them. So when I threw the 5.0s on it was a little bit like going home again.

The Free 5.0 has an 8mm drop, a fairly large drop for a minimalist shoe. It more rightly falls into the MIDmalist category, a transitional area where you might be looking for something a bit easier on your calves while still providing a lot of underfoot flex. You could use them for middle distance racing as well, with enough cushion underneath to take them out to the 1/2 and full marathon distances.

Something that I immediately realized once on my way in the Free was that while the shoe was definitely an 8mm drop, it felt much lower, in the 4mm category. The rep said that was a common reaction, and he felt that the flexibility and give of the un-coupled sole helped the shoe run “lower”. It definitely felt like that to me, so we’ll just go with that.

The upper was your typical mid-range Nike, comfortable with a “fly-wire” overwrap that I found just a tiny bit overly aggressive for my taste. My forefoot is fairly high volume, and I felt as thought the flywire wrapped a touch too tightly. Other than that, the shoe was incredibly light (8.9oz) & comfortable, with a ton of feel coming up through the sole. It gave my foot a workout, which is really the point of the shoe.

Outside of the fly-wire, the only other issue the shoe had (and this is actually the case for any waffle de-coupled flex-groove shoe) is that objects can get up in between the rubber pads. It happens. Rocks, sticks, unspeakable horrors which you accidentally step on and then curse about all the way home, all can get up in there. They can be a pain to clean out, and sometimes you end up tracking pebbles, gravel and whatever else into your living room. That’s the way the hexagonal flex grooves crumble.

Cost: $100
Score: 8/10 RAWRS (Light, fast, middle of the road shoe, best for smaller volume feet)

High: Flexible, light, airy
Low: Slightly aggressive fly-wire wrap, flex grooves can capture trail debris

Check out reviews of the other shoes I tried out over at my event post of The Big Shoe Off!

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