Nike Free 2014: Natural Motion
Nike recently held an exclusive event in London to introduce its brand new Nike Free 2014 range of shoes, celebrating the innovative line’s 10 year evolution, origin and ultimate concept. Designed for running, these shoes have become a common sight across the world, with their style and comfort translating perfectly to lifestyle shoes. New for 2014 are a whole host of Nike Free designs, but essentially there are 3 main shoes to consider: the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit, Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit and the Nike Free 5.0. Rather than revolution, the Nike Free 2014 range is more of an evolution.
Nike Running’s Creative Director San McDowell led us through a quick history of Nike Running, showing some iconic shoes and innovative designs and technology that have propelled runners for over a decade. The first step along this path was the waffle shoe, with Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman pouring rubber into his wife’s waffle iron to create a flexible sole with grip way back in the 60s. The first proper release of a track shoe by Nike was the Cortez in 1972, a simple design stripping everything down to the basics for a runner. Then in 1986 the Nike Sock Racer helped carry Boston Marathon winner Ingrid Kristiansen over the line. The visually offensive, bumble bee styled running shoe, designed to be worn sockless, was ultra lightweight and had a single mesh upper without laces. Skip ahead in time to the Nike Air Hurache, a design still prevalent today, and has structural and supportive straps that make it incredibly distinctive and mark a departure for building in heel counter. The Nike Air Rift took another innovative step forward by splitting the toes to allow for better propulsion, coupled with a lightweight sandal design and wrap around Velcro. The Nike Air Presto was released a few years later with a design instruction of “a t-shirt for your foot”, producing a beautifully engineered and even better looking shoe in sizes from XXXS-XXXL, ditching industry convention.
Turning back the clock to the early ’00s, and the current incarnation of the Nike Free was born. Visiting Stanford University, Nike designers observed their running team training barefoot on the grass, deciding that this helped strengthen the runners’ feet and should be the goal for a new line. Finding inspiration in the kitchen again, Tobie Hatfield saw the way an ice-cube tray flexes the solid cubes of ice, and sought to translate that range of motion onto a sole. A group of athletes tested the first incarnation of the Free’s and showed more muscle growth, better strength, flexibility and balance. This led to the birth of the Nike Free 5.0 OG in 2004.
Over the past 10 years, we have seen updates to the Nike Free range to bring us to where we are now with the 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 and their striking new innovation (that may be a pun). Nike dedicates a lot of manpower and expense into research and development, and their design teams noticed that, whilst we may be moving forward in straight lines, our feet do not. It is an incredible variant depending on your type of strike (heel, mid or front), in which you apply pressure and roll off uniquely and individually. This requires more than just the typical linear range of motion, hence the new hexagonal flex-groove pattern on the sole, which allows a greater, almost 360 degree range of motion for the wearer.
The heel has also undergone a slight design revamp, now more pronounced, rounded and raised. Similar to the hexagonal sole, this anatomically led design focuses on allowing a greater roll of the heel when you strike. In addition to the sole, and the heel, the upper part has seen an improvement with the implementation of the Flyknit technology we love so much. It is, quite literally, a sock for your foot. Saying that, the Nike Free 5.0 2014 standard doesn’t have a flyknit upper and reverts to the more classic two piece, however, through the iD studio, you can choose a 4.0 Flyknit upper with a 5.0 outsole and visa versa.
So, what do we think? The new Nike Free’s for 2014 are certainly a massive step forwards in running (and lifestyle) shoe technology. Just picking up a Nike Free trainer and twisting it in your hands, it is amazing at just how flexible they have become in comparison to our last pair of Nike runners. We love that the flyknit has been included because, quite frankly, it feels great and can’t be beat. We expect to be able to review the Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit and the Nike Free 5.0 separately, but our fist impression from a short run is that the new hexagonal sole is ridiculously comfortable and fun to jump around in!
Appearance wise, whilst they have somewhat retained a a-symmetrical look in the 5.0, the new range look pretty good. Since you can customise an awful lot through the iD studio, we can’t quite comment on the colour ways since you might as well make them personal. The look of the 5.0 is solid and classy, and whilst we aren’t fond of the base overlap on the inside or the covering of the big toes, we think that they’ll be a good hit with your average recreational runner and lifestyle wearer. The Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit has the most distinctive look of the trio, with its extremely low profile, Flyknit patchwork multicolour design, and sock lining. We wouldn’t expect to see anyone wearing these on the street, but they make a real statement when out on the track. The Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit sits somewhere in between these with its mid-profile and rounded forefoot design, we think these might just be the best of the bunch, but the upwards rounding of the sole at the toes leaves a lot to be desired, these aren’t elf shoes after all!
Available now online and in stores, the Nike Free 2014 collection makes a great step forward whilst taking into consideration everything that has come before it. We like them. We like all of the line up, actually. Our proper testing is what really matters though, so stay tuned!
You can view all shoes now online – Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit, Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit and the Nike Free 5.0.