Shoe Review: Nike Free RN Distance

Nike Free RN Distance in motion

Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

I’ve been wearing Nike Free running shoes for the past four years. Until a few months ago, I had stuck to the Nike Free 5.0, which doesn’t provide much in the way of support or cushioning, but that’s exactly why I liked them. I’m used to wearing flat, minimally supportive shoes in my day-to-day life, so it felt like a natural fit for my low-maintenance, neutral stride. I liked the feeling of being closer to the ground and letting my feet be a little more active while on the move. They helped me gain ankle and foot strength and stability, which helps prevent injuries. And since you’re not counting on the shoes for cushioning, you can wear them for a really long time.

Over the years, I’ve been told again and again that the Nike Free was not designed for long-distance running, but hey—they’ve worked for me and that’s all I care about. I’ve worn them for four marathons and numerous half marathons and I’ve made out just fine. The only small concern I’ve had with them is that by the end of a long run or race, maybe about 30 kilometres in, the bottoms of my feet start to get a bit sore. Nothing that keeps me from continuing on, but just mild discomfort from repeatedly pounding the pavement. I just considered it a natural part of marathon-distance training, but late last year I did begin to wonder how I might fare in a slightly more cushioned shoe. I hesitated to make the switch, though, because there wasn’t anything similar enough on the market at the time and I worried about injuries popping up if I picked the wrong pair—not to mention that it’s a lot of money to spend for essentially a roll of the dice. There’s never really a good time to end up with a running injury, and I just didn’t want to risk it. I was happy with my shoes, and why fix what isn’t broken, right?

But then, in late winter, it was as if the swoosh fairies had been reading my mind: Nike announced its newest shoe, the Free RN Distance (CAD $155), a Free model that was actually intended for long-distance runners like me—for runners who loved the minimalist feel but wanted a little more cushioning for long training runs and races.

Nike Free RN Distance closeup

Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

The Nike Free RN Distance combines the Free’s signature hexagonal flex grooves for natural movement with Nike’s ultra-lightweight Lunarlon cushioning, providing additional support for longer-distance running. The single-layer, seamless, knitted upper provides ultimate breathability, with integrated Flywire cables that work with the laces to support your arch.

I finally made the switch in late March, just a week before my Around the Bay 30K race. I probably should have started running in them a bit earlier to break them in before the big day, but I was fairly confident that the transition would be a smooth one—and it was. I took them out for several runs of various distances before the race, and they felt fantastic, like running on clouds. The upper is definitely stiffer than that of the original Free, but not overly so. They felt slightly too narrow for my wide feet at first, but after a few runs they stretched out nicely. I ran the 30K race in them, finished my marathon training in them and then ran the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon in them, with PBs all around.

Nike Free RN Distance behind

Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

The biggest difference I noticed while wearing these shoes for my long-distance races was that I didn’t experience any foot soreness or fatigue at all. My feet felt fantastic—supported but not smothered, cushioned but not weighed down—leaving me quite literally free to focus on everything else and just enjoy the experience. The tagline “free to go farther” couldn’t be more spot-on. My past two races were the best ones I’ve ever run, and I can’t help but attribute some of that success to my new shoes. And a nice bonus: they’re so bright that my boyfriend was able to easily spot me as I approached the finish lines.

Nike Free Auxetic Midsole Technology for Running and Training

Photo courtesy Nike

Want to try the Nike Free RN Distance or any other models from the Nike Free range for yourself, like the new Flyknits for running and training? Nike is currently offering 30-day trials, so you can test out your preferred pair and then return them hassle-free, dirt and all, if you so choose. But I have a hunch you won’t want to give them back. 😉

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