Nike Free RN 2017 Review
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The Free line of running shoes, developed in 2004, got an upgrade when the Nike Free RN was launched last year. The shoe evolved from the Free 5.0 model after Nike decided to do away with numbering. Before that, they originally used a numbering system ranging from 1 to 10, which differentiated in the thickness of the sole unit, thus between the feeling of going barefooted and that of wearing a traditional running shoe.
It’s a little more technical than that, but the bottom line is the Nike Free RN is designed to provide a high level of comfort, flexibility, and style for runners. Having been a fan of other Nike Free models, it wasn’t long before I got my first pair. Fast-forward a year later, Nike followed up with the 2017 version, and we got a chance to try them right after they were released.
I got my Nike Free RN 2017 in the blue colorway and put it to work right away to see how it would measure up with its predecessor and other running shoes I own. At a first look there isn’t a whole lot of difference in looks between the 2016 and the 2017 versions. However, Nike made some subtle changes that can be felt to some degree from the first time you wear them. Softer than before, yet a solid running shoe is the simplest way I can describe it, but let me break it down some more.
The 2016 version came with an engineered mesh upper that wrapped the upper foot without being intrusively noticeable. For the Nike Free RN 2017 the brand uses a circular mesh, one that responds better to the slight expansion of the foot that happens with each stride when running. To begin with, this type of material was developed by Nike to boost breathability and is reinforced in areas to provide a true sock-like fit. The seamless circular mesh does that and even more, making it easier for the average runner to go for longer distances. The looks are similar with the previous version, having larger areas where the mesh density is lower, thus to allow more air to flow and making it even lighter than before. The way the mesh density was allocated gives this new version a cool look, sort of like a magnified snakeskin pattern.
Another cool feature of the upper that stayed from last year is the Flywire supported lacing system that boosts the sneaker’s adaptability to foot movement while providing effective lockdown. Although the shoe is so light (at less than 9 ounces), it still feels secure on my feet while running on normal terrain. It might feel a bit strained if you go off road and do things like climbing, but then again, the Free RN was not really made for stuff like that.
The Nike Free RN 2017 has a sole unit that looks very similar to its predecessor. It kept the auxetic design with tri-star patterning on the outsole. The midsole is made, as before is made from IU foam and carrier and soft IP core. But form this new version Nike developed a new way to combine the two, adding in the end more cushioning than with the 2016 version. You can feel that right away as you run, and it’s much better for those who are not pros but want to run long distances with these. Both the design and outsole pattern are geared towards providing a more natural type of cushioning for the feet and now they are even softer than before. To put it simply, the Auxetic foam expands and contracts in tandem with your foot movement, while the patterning enhances flexibility.
Running in the RN on most flat surfaces, such as asphalt and grass is a comfortable trip, plus it grips really well. I would recommend keeping it off gravel, though, small pebbles might get in between the grooves. You get even more cushioning with the removable insole, which adds to its shock absorbing ability, plus its rounded heel does allow a more natural gait as the foot hits the ground.
The Nike Free RN 2017 is great if you’re looking for advanced cushioning and flexibility. It’s pretty durable too and stands up really well to wear. Mine still look fairly new, after several weeks of almost daily use. Another thing I like is that it is easy to slip them on and off, and I can easily pair them with a variety of casual attire.
I was hard pressed to come up with complaints for the Nike Free RN, except to say that they do fit a bit small (get a half-size up to be safe). Also, as I said before, they are not made for rough terrains, so you probably should ditch them if you’re going rock climbing or stuff like that. One more thing, a few reviewers did complain about it having a narrow toe box, but I didn’t find I had any problem with that.
With a fairly reasonable price and a sleek design, the Nike Free RN is a decent running shoe that rarely disappoints. Considering the technology the line is built on, I suspect it will only get better.