When Nike released the original Free line of shoes 10 years ago, it kicked off the minimalist revolution in footwear for its unprecedented flexibility and barefoot feel. While the Free 5.0 was instantly popular and became the mainstay of the line, Nike soon offered versions that featured both less and more cushioning. The new Free RN Distance, which debuted in mid-November, shares similarities to the erstwhile Free 7.0 and Free Everyday. Like its predecessors, it’s a very lightweight shoe with a snug, sock-like fit, amazing flexibility and smooth ride. The flexibility is made possible by the hexagonal-siping pattern in the rubber outsole, which allows the shoe to bend and move exactly how your foot moves. (That’s a good thing if you have strong feet and lower legs and don’t need any added stability or support.) What’s new about this shoe is the copious amount of well-balanced, moderately soft midsole cushioning and some added structure that comes from the Flywire arch support system. It’s not quite a maximalist shoe, but it kinda feels like it.
Despite the thicker amount of foam and rubber under foot, the Free RN Distance offers unparalleled agility for an everyday training shoe. Our wear-testers found it best for short to medium-length runs, long intervals, fartleks, shorter tempo runs and races up to 10K. (One tester raved about it as a go-to shoe for treadmill running.) As with other Free models, we found it took some adjustment time—and considerable lower leg and foot strength—to be able to run longer than an hour in this shoe. But the extra cushioning allows it to run long better than other Free models.
This is the shoe for you if … you’re looking for a very well cushioned neutral shoe that offers supreme flexibility and a natural ride.
Approximate weights: 7.8 oz. (men’s size 9); 6.6 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; 20mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)
RELATED: Shoe Of The Week—Altra Impulse