Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I'm (Nolonger) Running In - Nike Free 3.0 Shoe Review

I had always intended to put some posts together that went through some of the shoes/gear that I play around with in my running. The point of these posts was that I wanted to write about what I'm using and hopefully liking. It was not in the plan to spend that much time looking at what I am no longer using, but the Free changed my mind.

The Nike Free 3.0's were given to me from a co-worker. They were a sample pair that didn't fit him, so he passed them on to me knowing that while I run I also obsess about the shoes and other gear.

Free shoes so I did not mind the color

I started running in these as I was recovering from some ITB pain that travelled with me through most of the summer. I used them for some mid-length runs at first. While I enjoyed the feel of the shoe, there was something about the upper that always made me take some time away from them.

During my hot summer runs, I found that the neoprene-type upper worked like sweat bags on my feet. There was no way for the feet to cool down. This has been a significant complaint that I've seen everywhere the shoes are reviewed. My problem with hot feet is that the wet friction starts to tear my toes apart. I somehow seemed to forget the pain, because I eventually took the shoes for a nine mile run in the sun. When I got back, I found a puddle of blood and the start of what would become a black nail.

The blood bath. Looked much worse when I first removed the shoe. Lost the toenail a few weeks later.
Another "challenge" I found with the shoe was the flex point on the top of my foot near the first knuckle on my big toes. The too thick upper creased consistently in the same spot, mixing with oil and sweat, digging a little hole in each foot. Now, I seem to be left with a permanent scar.

Recently, I took them out of the closet again for a short, easy run. After a few months in shoes with larger toe boxes (Altra Intsinct 1.5's), I quickly remembered why the shoes had collected dust. I bled for the first time in months. The spots on top of my toes were raw again. I can appreciate the fact that shoes can only fit as well as the design of the feet within them, but I would guess that few find the swimsuit effect comfortable. This would be the last time I would run in the Free's.

The split sole. Flexible and pillowy soft
This is really too bad. Nike obviously has the resources to design and test the perfect shoe, but something is missing here. Another reason to feel regret over torching these shoes in an oil drum on the street is that the outsole is great. Responsive, flexible, pillowy soft. You feel the ground but do not spend the majority of the run wishing it wasn't there below you.

When I first came back to running seriously, I went through a bit of a shoe romance, collecting many models, trying different types and feels. Now I just want a shoe that fits and feels good every time I put them on. Bring on Altra.