Nike Free RN 2018

8.2
8.2 score
[Editors rating (8.0) + Users rating (8.6)] / 2 = Runnerclick score (8.2)/10

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Editor rating: 8.0 / 10
User's rating: based on 15 user ratings
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Nike Free RN 2018Review Facts
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Years ago, several employees at Nike became interested in the fact that the track team at Stanford trained barefoot in the grass. Running barefoot allow these athletes’ feet to move naturally, expanding and contracting without the hindrance of a bunch of rubber and plastic around their feet. In many ways, this seemed like the ideal running workout. Of course, running on grass is extremely limiting. And, for a number of different reasons, most people can only run barefoot if they are on a soft, flexible surface.

The employees at Nike were inspired to create a shoe that mimicked the experience of running barefoot in the grass, while still allowing runners to put miles in on hard surfaces, such as asphalt and cement. The fine mesh upper of the Nike Free RN 2017 puts little pressure on the top of the foot (making it almost feel like you’re barefoot), and has many small openings that allow air flow for breathability and comfort. The outsole is made of soft foam, with small amounts of rubber at the toe and heel to aid in traction without adding much extra weight. And the “cuts” along the outsole allow the shoe to move with the runner’s foot, making it as if you really are sprinting through soft grasses like the Stanford team — even if in reality you’re just jogging down the neighborhood sidewalk. Given this lightweight, minimalist comfort, as well as the sleek, low-profile design, the Free RN 2017 is a shoe that will appeal to anyone looking for naturalistic, minimalistic, and stylish footwear to complete their workout and casual wardrobe.

Pros
  • Lightweight, minimalist design mimics barefoot running
  • Cushioned more than other “barefoot” running shoes
  • Breathable, flexible, and comfortable
  • A variety of fun color combinations
  • Can be worn as running shoe or stylish city walking shoes
Cons
  • Lightweight, minimalist design means it’s not super durable
  • Stones and other debris can get caught in outsole
Outsole
Outsole

Outsole

When first designing this line of shoes, employees at Nike were inspired by track teams training barefoot in the grass. The Nike Free RN 2017’s outsole was designed to mimic this practice. The outsole is very soft and scored with deep grooves. Its auxetic tri-star pattern allows the shoe to conform to the natural movement of your foot with every step you take. While the flexibility of the sole gives you that barefoot feeling, the comfy cushioning in the foam heel allows you to run on hard surfaces, like asphalt and cement, without feeling discomfort.
Midsole
Midsole

Midsole

The same geometric auxetic pattern that defines the outsole is at play in the Free RN's midsole. As in the outsole, here the concept is the same: make all parts of the sole able to mimic the natural movements of the foot, moving as you move, going where you go. Nike used scientific studies to understand how people's feet expand when lifting off the ground with each running stride. They then used that information to create a splaying midsole that imitates the way your body reacts to force. Not only does the shoe expand with the natural expansion of your foot, it also absorbs shock upon impact, helping you run longer, faster.
Upper
Upper

Upper

The upper of the Nike Free RN 2017 is made of a circular-knit mesh material. The seamless design allows for the small expansion of your foot that happens every time you strike the ground when running, while the mesh improves breathability. In some areas, the mesh is reinforced for structure; in others the density of the mesh is lower, providing even better air flow. The shoe also boasts the Flywire lacing system (light, strong cables anchoring the laces) which allows the shoe to adapt to your foot movements while still keeping it snug and secure. In addition to those features, the upper has an internal liner which keeps the shoe feeling nice and tight around the top of your foot.
Weight
Weight

Weight

Part of the appeal of this shoe is that it’s very light weight, with a men’s size 9.5 weighing in right around 8 oz. One of the ways Nike achieved this nice light weight was by forming the outsole of foam, and placing hard rubber at just the toe and heel of the shoe. With shoes as light as these, you can run faster longer without your legs and feet feeling weighed-down and exhausted. You can also toss them into your suitcase without worrying about making your luggage over weight, so you’ll be ready to go for a run, or a comfortable long walk, wherever your travels may take you.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

Thanks to the thin, fine mesh of the upper, the Nike Free RN 2017 has excellent breathability. Anyone who has gone running, or even just walking, on a hot summer day appreciates just how important this aspect of footwear is. When wearing this shoe, you can rest assured that even the slightest breeze will help cool your tired feet.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

The Free RN 2017 wins full marks for comfort. Designed to mimic the natural movements of your foot, this lightweight shoe quickly feels like a part of you. The outsole is soft, light, flexible, and lightly cushioned. The upper is made of mesh so your feet won’t get hot and sweaty, thereby protecting you from that most uncomfortable of feels. The low-cut heel has nice padding, but still maintains the structure-less form of the shoe, which gives it its characteristic sock-like comfortableness. If you are look for a shoe that can be both your jogging shoe and the last piece of your everyday casual look, this comfortable footwear is the thing for you.
Style
Style

Style

When it comes to running shoes, everyone wants style — you’ve got to look the part out there on the running trails, where everyone is checking everyone else out as they jog by. Thankfully, the Nike Free RN 2017 does its part in making your workout wardrobe fabulous. Available in a variety of colors, from classic blacks and grays to flamboyant pinks and reds, the Free RN will match any exercise outfit you want to pair it with. In fact, thanks to its sleek design and minimalistic profile, the Free RN can be stylishly worn with any casual clothes. This is the perfect urban shoe, making you stylish whether you’re running the streets or window shopping down the sidewalks.
Durability
Durability

Durability

Due to their light weight, which is made possible by foam and mesh, these are not the most durable of shoes. They will last longest if worn only on the terrain they were made for: flat, smooth surfaces, such as asphalt and cement. The good news is, Nike has been coming out with a new model of the Free shoes every year for a while now. And since the shoes just keep getting better, you’ll probably want to replace your old kicks with the latest model anyway.
Protection
Protection

Protection

These shoes were not designed to provide a great deal of protection. The cuts in the outsole, which provide such incredible flexibility, do allow small rocks and other debris to get trapped in the bottom of the shoe. You may also feel bigger rocks if running over-road, because the outsole is made of foam, not rubber. The upper will not provide much protection either, as it is made of thin mesh. It is important to keep in mind what these shoes are meant for. Obviously they aren’t hiking boots, or even trail running shoes, so they simply aren’t made for terrain that would require more protective footwear. All the features that make these less-than-protective are the exact features that make the Free RN line so flexible, breathable, and all around comfortable!
Responsiveness
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

These shoes are wonderfully responsive. In fact, Nike’s goal when first designing this line was to create a pair of shoes that responded to impact the same way your foot naturally would if you were barefoot. The Auxetic foam of the outsole is made to expand and contract just as your foot does when you’re running. Also because of that lightweight foam outsole, you can feel the ground beneath you — which of course might be a pro or a con, depending on where you’re running. In any case, this is a shoe that responds to the movements of your body, no matter where you’re running or walking. It’s a shoe that helps you be you.
Support
Support

Support

Compared to the 2016 model, the 2017 Nike Free RN has a slightly more structured upper, thereby providing slightly more support. While the upper is still made of thin, close-knit mesh, it’s reinforced in key areas around the foot, giving you a feeling of snug security. Of course, this is still a very unstructured shoe. The minimalist design gives the shoe a sock-like feel, but the construction of the inner lining and the tongue makes the shoe nice and secure. It doesn’t feel like it’s squeezing your foot, but it is pleasantly tight, giving you the support you need.
Terrain
Terrain

Terrain

The Nike Free RN 2017 is ultimately an urban running shoe. Given its mesh upper and its soft, flexible outsole, this shoe is not made to withstand the rough, uneven terrain you’re likely to encounter while hiking in the countryside. Rather, this shoe is an excellent choice for running on paved trails, or wearing as a stylish walking shoe when visiting a new city.
Price
Price

Price

Nike’s Free RN 2017 is a reasonably priced running shoe, in the mid to upper price range of quality running shoes. It is currently on sale on several websites, making it an even better choice at the moment.
Tracion
Tracion

Tracion

The outsole is made of soft foam, reinforced with hard rubber at the toe and heel. The rubber is enough to provide traction on a smooth, even surface, but would not serve you well for quick turns and complex maneuvers. This is not necessarily a knock against the shoe — the Free RN was designed to be a daily runner, not a trainer. In order to keep it so lightweight, flexible, and free, the design of the shoe must be minimalist, not heavy-duty.
Flexibility
Flexibility

Flexibility

If only one thing could be said about the Free RN 2017, it would be that this shoe is flexible. There is no plastic at all in the outsole, and only a minimal about of rubber (on the toe and heel to provide traction). The deep grooves in the bottom of the shoe allow it to move with your foot; there is no hard material to keep the shoe from going where you go. If you hold the shoe in your hands and twist it in on itself, you’ll quickly realize that it's as flexible as an Olympic gymnast.
Stability
Stability

Stability

The bootie-like structure of the tongue — one, connected piece with the rest of the upper — gives the shoe support and stability, even before you lace it up. The laces run through Flywire cables, which are directly attached to the lacing system and go into the sole’s base. This combination of tongue, Flywire, and laces nicely secures your foot so you don’t have to worry about slipping and sliding around in your shoe while out on your run.
Drop
Drop

Drop

At 8 mm, the heel-to-toe drop is moderate, similar to the majority of standard running shoes. This is a greater drop than in past Nike Free shoes, due to the fact that the cushion in the heel has been increased. While this means it’s no longer a shoe that can be worn for weight lifting and running, it does make it more accessible to runners who have not conditioned their feet for barefoot running.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features

Mimics the natural movement of the foot
Flexible and responsive
Provides lightweight foam cushioning
Breathable and comfortable
Sleek, low profile design stylish enough for all-day casual wear
Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

The Nike Free RN 2017 does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s a minimalistic shoe that mimics the natural movements of the human foot, but it’s not an all-out barefoot shoe. The soft foam outsole cushions the foot as it strikes earth, but the cuts through the foam allow your foot to expand and contract as naturally as if it were barefoot. While this shoe is not going to provide a great deal of protection and is not suited for running on rough and uneven surfaces, that’s okay, because that was never the mission of the shoe. Rather, the Free RN 2017 is the ultimate urban shoe. Comfortable enough for long jogs with your running buddies, stylish enough to wear while hitting the mall with your girlfriends. Moderately price and available in a great variety of colors, this is a sneaker that will appeal to a great number of people.