For years, the Nike Free shoes have pushed the design and the cushioning aspects to replicate the sock-like feel and finish for an unhindered running experience for those who prefer that. I remember the first time I took to the Free 3.0 as far back as the summer of 2015, and that shoe complete with the Flyknit upper, the computer assisted knit and the lightweight phylon foam midsole combined for what was a rather lightweight running shoe. That is a concept which Nike has evolved over the years, neatly bringing us to the Nike Free RN 5.0 (2019) edition. This is priced at Rs 7,995 and is perhaps the most radical change the Free shoes have received in a long time. This would be ideal for what the company categorises as ‘low mileage runs’, which in our book means daily runs with the feeling of running barefoot, but not exactly a marathon preparation.
You will either love this design. Or absolutely dislike it. There is no middle ground with the Nike Free RN 5.0 running shoe, the 2019 edition. I am still to make up my mind on these, to be honest. Though I quite like the Black/Anthracite/Volt/White colorway, you can also choose from the rather attractive Obsidian Mist/Midnight Navy/Volt/Metallic Silver, the simple Vast Grey/White/Bright Crimson/Black, the subdued Indigo Force/Summit White/Blue Lagoon/Deep Royal Blue and the attention gathering Summit White/Black/Blue Hero/Volt Glow colorway options. Enough colours then, but it is just the beginning of a long line of changes that you will see. Gone is the Flyknit upper, which I honestly loved in the Nike Free shoes thus far, and that has been replaced with a mesh that has synthetic suede overlays to provide support. There is no doubt that this mesh is quite stretchy and offers great ventilation too, but it is no Flyknit to be honest. That does make the design look rather busy, unlike the easy on the eye Flyknit uppers—and whether you like this or not is subjective. That said, the upper’s design contours do blend well with the fairly wide and contoured midsole and outsole, and that is perhaps why the Flyknit had to be done away with.
Slip your foot in, and you will find plenty of space in the toe box for even the widest toes. The side walls don’t really tighten in, but do a rather gentle job of keeping your foot snug and secure. If you are wearing this without socks, the soft inner lining keeps things nicely cushioned. That said, you will notice the changes in material when the mesh ends and the overlay starts. The lacing system has been reimagined as well, with a single crossover only to keep things uncomplicated. Simply put, the Nike Free RN 5.0 are a very comfortable place for your feet to be in.
One of the unique design elements of the Nike Free RN 5.0 is the lower than usual density of foam beneath your foot. No, Nike is not saving some pennies or trying to pass of some boosted material as the best in the world, but the simple premise is to offer the runner as much of feedback from the running surface as possible, while keeping them as close to the running surface as possible. The Nike Free RN 5.0 has a 6mm offset, which pegs the heel at 20mm and the forefoot at 14mm. A lot of the conventional running shoes have a 9mm or 10mm offset. Additionally, this puts the foot 2mm closer to the ground compared with last year’s shoe, and that adds to the barefoot running feel. None of this really explains the visual delight that is the midsole and the outsole. In essence, a serious amount of data mapping was used to design this sole, after understanding where the foot naturally bends and where the pressure points are. There are what Nike calls “ hot-knife cuts” on the side of the midsole flex as well as the outsole to enable that support and extra flex. In fact, the Nike Free RN 5.0 is more than 26 percent more flexible than last year’s shoe, which is perhaps a testament to the work Nike have done on this implementation.
It is important to add that in my opinion, the Nike Free RN 5.0’s midsole actually absorbs the harshness from uneven running surfaces and loose material such as pebbles better than its predecessors.
Start running in these, and the sheer lack of weight is what gets you initially. You will slow down, you will glance down a bit perplexed, and then after a while, you will glance down in sheer amazement. The Nike Free RN 5.0 are incredibly easy to get the hang of, inspire of the radical design. Even for someone switching from a Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo or an Asics GEL-Quantum Infinity or a New Balance Lazr lineup, for instance, to the Free RN 5.0, the latter just makes the change extremely easy to get used to. The launch movements from standstill just drive you forward, and the bounce-back provided by the running surface does well to keep you going. In fact, you will probably become addicted to making short distance dashes, just because it is great fun in the Free RN 5.0.
With a Rs 7,995 price tag which is surely on the affordable side if you are looking for high-spec and tech-infused running shoes, one really cannot argue with what the Nike Free RN 5.0 brings to your running shoe arsenal. It you like the unhindered and close to the ground sort of running experience, things don’t get more natural than the Nike Free RN 5.0. Unless you want to actually run barefoot.