Nike came out with the first Free in 2004. Nike Running is all about natural motion and trying to enable the athlete to run as smoothly as possible. This system is very natural and allowing it to move with your body. But the added benefit here is that it’s strengthening your foot and reducing injuries thus allowing you to run longer, further, and enjoying the run even more.

According to Nike, the Nike Free Run+ 2 is more flexible than the Nike Free 5.0 and more supportive than the Nike Free 3.0 models.

Tobie Hatfield, Director of Nike Innovation Kitchen, said this about the Nike Free: “We really wanted to understand what was preventing the foot to perform or to mimic barefoot training in traditional shoes and when we found out it had a lot to do with the sole of the shoe. The midsole, the outsole basically was too rigid for those small intrinsic muscles of the foot in order for them to go through their full range of motion. It really allowed the foot then to be more in control of the shoe instead of the shoe being in control of the foot.”

With the latest release of Nike Free Run+ 2, I decided to take a deeper look into how it has evolved. Weighing in at 8.8 ounces (US Size 10) and having a stack height of 26mm, this model has a 6mm (measured by my digital calipers) differential.

The first thing I noticed is that the toe box looks narrow even though I sized up by a half size. But I was pleasantly surprised that it was wide enough to accommodate my 2E+ wide foot! Even with the insole intact.

The amount of cushioning is moderate but firm. And the siped outsole is incredibly flexible – Nike have taken siping to a new level! The outsole is made of a full length Phylite material and it’s siped all the way from the heel right up through the midfoot, right up into the forefoot so it gets a really nice flexible movement. Here’s some design drawings in order to appreciate the intricate siping.

You can see from the drawings where all the siping and flex points are in the finished outsole. For the energy return system, the ‘waffle pistons’ in the outsole work in conjunction with the Phylite midsole by helping to absorb impact, then springing back to the original shape for added responsiveness.

The results? Amazing flexibility on all axis! The downside is that little pebbles or rocks or debris get caught and are hard to remove (while running).

Nike also added extra rubber in the heel and up in the toe where you need additional durability and traction when clawing off the ground.

The lacing system is non-traditional – it’s a hybrid between a glove and traditional lacing. The asymmetrical lacing system helps to reduce pressure over the top ridge of the foot for enhanced comfort. The full inner-sleeve construction provides a dynamic, sock-like fit that hugs the foot, but still allows for easy-on and -off. You could probably remove the shoe laces and converted the Nike Free Run+ 2 into a slip-on running and walking shoe! There are welds underneath the overlays that replicates the tendons in your foot, giving you the support just where you need it around the arch and also in the heel. The inner sleeve inside the shoe really hugs the foot.

The molded sock liner mimics the curvature of the foot for a great fit, enhanced comfort and added support.

The Nike Free Run+ 2 also incorporates the Nike+ chip – there is an estimated 4 million+ runners using Nike+…

The Nike Free Run+ 2 is a great transitioning shoe for runners just starting to wean off heeled running shoes. I walked and ran in these shoes for more mileage than I had planned because of the cushioning – great for long runs on asphalt and hard packed trails. The super-flexible outsole also sold me on its merit. The 6mm drop has no impact on my running form in all surfaces. As I had mentioned earlier, it takes some maintenance to clean debris stuck in the outsole.

For runners who prefer some cushioning and running long distances (half marathon and beyond), this could be the shoe for you. For those who prefer better ground feel and less cushioning, you will not like this shoe.

But what surprised me most is that my female wear tester has a pair and decided that it was a better shoe for her as she is transitioning to a Merrell Pace Glove zero drop shoe. The extra cushioning and flexibility gave her a more uniformed transition phase without too much foot and ankle soreness. And she also wear the Free for casual occasions.

There are many colorways available for both men and women but each retailer only carry a subset of all the available colors for both men and women. Here’s are some of the popular colorways for Men’s: Black, Red, White, Blue.

And popular colorways for Women’s: Blue, Red, Grey, Black.

The Nike Free Run+2 is now available at Zappos and Road Runner Sports.

*Product provided by Nike (MSRP $90). CMP.LY/1 Review

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