Shoo Revoo: Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit
I’ve spent the last few weeks trying out a new lightweight running shoe – the Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit.
Despite my clumpy gait and less-than-svelte frame, I’ve found myself favouring the more minimalist footwear, and found that this type of shoe works for me just as well as any more cushioned ones I’ve tried. The Free 4.0 is certainly a minimalist shoe, weighing in at just 238g and with a 6mm drop, so I thought I’d give them a go.
I’ve never run in Nike before. For some reason, when I first started running I gravitated immediately towards what I perceived to be more runny brands like Brooks, Asics and Mizuno. The brands that I knew of in my pre-running days (the likes of Adidas, Nike and Reebok) were filed away as “fashion trainers” rather than proper running shoes. Was I about to be proven wrong?
Ohmygod these are comfy. They’re light and snug, with a real slipper-like feel to them. For the first few hours I couldn’t bring myself to take them off, and when I did it was just to gaze lovingly at the beautifully designed hexagonal tread pattern. The upper is made of stretchy fabric that hugs the foot without feeling claustrophobic. Despite the stretchiness, the uppers feel supportive, especially around the heel area which is lovingly cupped by a band of stronger fabric.
There’s a note on the box advising you to take it easy on the first few runs while you get used to the lack of traditional cushioning. Showing my usual respect for such warnings my first run saw me doing 5 miles of hill sprints. Ouch. But despite my cavalier attitude to common sense, I got away with just a bit of tight-calfiness (real word) and found that it only took a couple more runs to bed them in. I’ve already raved about the fit of these shoes, but the other thing that particularly impressed me was the “hexagonal flex groove” pattern cut into the sole. As well as looking good, the hex pattern flexed in every direction, making the shoes ridiculously responsive. The way the sole flexes also makes them really grippy, to the point where I started wondering if, given a bit of a run-up, I could jump up and scamper along the wall like a lizard. I didn’t try it, but only because a Police Community Support Officer was already eying me with suspicion, possibly due to the way I kept stopping to look at the soles and make appreciative “ooooh” noises.
In the interests of writing a balanced review, I’ve tried to come up with at least one thing I didn’t like about the Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit1. The only thing I’d say in that respect is that they’re best suited for use on roads, as the sole would quickly get clogged up on a trail run. The second run I did in them was a nice slow 9-miler along some gritty cycle paths, and afterwards I sat and prised about 10kg of little stones from the grooves on the sole. But even that was quite relaxing and therapeutic, like polishing a beloved classic car2.
In summary, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m very much taken with these shoes. I’d be tempted to write them love sonnets and send them cupcakes every day, but I won’t because they’re shoes and I’m not mental3. Nike sent me the test pair free of charge and, as with all my reviews, it was on the understanding that if I thought the product was crap I’d say so. One question I always ask myself when testing out new kit is “if this product got eaten by angry badgers, would I go straight out and buy another?” Unsurprisingly, the answer this time is a solid “yes”.
1 Other than the long-winded name. They need to sort that out. Maybe their next range could just be named after cartoon characters or something. For instance “Nike Snarf” and “Nike Scrooge McDuck”
2 And I finally got to use the bit on my multi-tool that’s for getting stones out of horses hooves!
3 Okay, a bit.