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Nike Free RN 5.0 Performance Review

This year’s Nike Free RN 5.0 is a significant departure from the Nike Free RN 2018. It’s still made for shorter runs but this year’s updates have made it a better all-around tool for your shorter runs, training, and gym workouts.

Buy the Nike Free RN 5.0 via Finish Line
(up to 50% off multiple colorways)

Buy the Nike Free RN 5.0 via Nike

First, an upfront clarification. This is not an everyday runner. Anyone using it as an everyday runner will hate running and probably end up injured. However, it’s great shoe to have in your running arsenal. It’s built to deliver natural motion on low mileage, sprint heavy days. And if you’re using it on a rubber track, beach, artificial turf, or grass you’ll really like the Free RN 5.0’s flexibility and close-to-the-ground feel.

We had a chance to review the Nike Free RN 5.0 from both the female and male perspectives and will include both opinions below. We each put 25+ miles in them and wore them in a variety of other circumstances such as weight lifting and everyday casual wear. Heel to toe drop is 6mm (14mm forefoot, 20mm heel).

Jodi’s take: They aren’t a shoe I can do long distances in due to the fact there is zero cushion. 4 miles and under is their sweet spot. As someone who has been running for over 10 years now, I see the shoes in my rotation more as tools. I used the Free RN 5.0 as my shoe for those days where I wanted to make sure I didn’t overdo it.

Drew’s take: The product description on Nike’s website says “Low foam density lets your foot feel connected to the ground.” I agree that 1) my foot felt connected to the ground and 2) there is foam. But…it doesn’t feel low density. The foam has very little give and feels denser than the 2017 and 2018 Free 5.0s. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you’ll want to use these on softer surfaces. My beach runs in these were awesome, my runs on concrete not so much. You need a softer, more forgiving surface to balance out the lack of cushion. If you’ve got that, you’re good. If it’s only city pavement for your runs, I’d suggest a different shoe.

Jodi: The Free RN 5.0 has a strong water shoe vibe. The upper is almost suffocating when I pull them on each time. I thought it was weird that the 3.0 version doesn’t have any laces at all, but after wearing the 5.0 I can attest that the shoes really don’t need laces. I haven’t had to retie them once since the initial wear (something I always appreciate). Once I get going they feel like a second skin. The only thing I don’t like about the upper is the fuse line along the heel that serves as a sort of heel cup. It gives the back of my foot a weird pressure as I’m getting ready to head out the door. Luckily it disappears completely once I’m running but I would never want to wear them casually.

Drew: My foot is narrow so I don’t get the suffocating feeling the Jodi gets when wearing the Free RN 5.0. I’ve worn them multiple times casually and haven’t had any irritation. I didn’t like going sockless in them but the super low no shows (such as these from Strideline) work well and those are the socks I rock while lifting. Just like Jodi, I’ve been able to avoid messing with the laces ever since I tied them the first time. At this point, they’re extremely well-fitting slip-ons. Which, let’s be honest, is a cool side benefit. Having no heel counter makes the back of shoe look weird (as does the overextended heel of the sole) but it doesn’t make any functional difference. They do have achilles pillows, which, if I’m not mistaken, is a first for the Free line.

Jodi: While I don’t love the look, the way they have rounded everything under and around your foot so it really feels like you are running with no shoes is really neat. You can literally roll the shoe into a ball. Looking at the wear on the outsole, I can see that it helps me land further back in my stride. I still get that forefoot landing, but (maybe because of the non-existent cushioning) my body/feet are disbursing the load more.

Drew: There’s no legitimate support from the upper. The support is entirely handled by the exaggerated and rounded lines of the sole. It’s good for straight line running and provides a stable base for squats and deadlifts. If you take these trail running you’re begging for a fat, black and blue sprained ankle.

Jodi: Traction isn’t an issue. I’ve run thru a bunch of sprinklers trying to keep cool. Going from dry pavement to wet grass and back hasn’t been a problem.

Drew: Hold on. Give me a second to finish laughing about the mental image I have of people looking out their windows just to see Mrs. Wing charging through their sprinklers. If you’re in the greater Sacramento area, keep an eye on your front lawn when those sprinklers are going. You never know what you might see. Ok, I think I’m good. Back to the review. Per usual, Nike’s foam sole grips just fine across various surfaces. There is a change in the flex grooves this year. For the most part they’re super tight and several don’t go very deep. I didn’t get any big rocks in them like in year’s past (smh remembering the Free Run 2). The little rubber pieces at the big toe and outside heel don’t do much of anything although they should theoretically improve durability. As with any foam-bottomed sneaker, you won’t be getting 300-500 miles out of them before they break down. But again, if you’re putting that much distance on them you’re asking for an injury so keep them for 150-200 miles worth of (short) runs and you’ll get your money’s worth.

Jodi: It’s mesh, cloth, fuse, and foam. The materials serve their purpose by disappearing while you run.

Drew: A stretchy mesh is the base of the entire upper. I’d like to see them use it on more runners because it’s got a nice feel to it. The shoe gets “support” from synthetic suede overlays that feel like felt. The synthetic suede overlays cap the end of the toe and are placed at all the high wear areas. There are various pieces of fuse which seem to be largely used to hold the pieces of the shoe together. Well, except for a superfluous piece covering the inside of the big toe. That one looks cool but it’s not doing anything functional.

Jodi: The Free line has come a long way since I first tried them 7 years ago. Or maybe my line of thinking about them has changed. Instead of purchasing a running shoe to be my one and only runner for the next 6 months, I now have a small rotation. I have my shoe for when I feel light and springy, a shoe that is great for long runs, and another that I know is Mr. Reliable. And now I have the Free that I use to help keep me in check. I use it for the days that I still want to get a run in, but want to make sure I don’t get carried away and rack up the miles.

Drew: The bottom line is that the Nike Free RN 5.0 is a perfect sprinting and weightlifting shoe. You’d mess them up doing some of the rugged CrossFit type exercises but they can handle anything else in the gym. You’d hate them for trail or long runs, but on the track, beach, or treadmill they’re exactly what you need. I like the hardly there feel and that you’re forced to use your stabilizer muscles. Also, since a lot of people don’t like the look (personally I don’t mind it), the Nike Free RN 5.0 is going to get discounted and be a great pickup for 25-50% off.

Buy the Nike Free RN 5.0 via Finish Line
(up to 50% off multiple colorways)

Buy the Nike Free RN 5.0 via Nike

  1. can Mrs. Wing do a full video review as well? then have NW commenting on the background and coming in on the conversation part..

  2. I love the look but my ankle is hurting due to the tight tongue underneath the laces. My ankle feel irritated and compressed from the slip on style tongue.

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