Thoughts On The Frees & The Next Shoe

As I mentioned in a previous blog (Just for Kicks), I’m searching for new shoes. The quest is a journey for the right shoe that will allow me to run “naturally,” yet still provide some protection from sharp, ouchy, bad things (like pointy rocks, glass, and the occasional porcupine). The first pair of shoes that I tried was the Nike Free.

I was rather excited to hit the trails in a shoe that was touted to offer the extraordinary feel and natural foot movement associated with barefoot training without sacrificing underfoot protection or multi-surface traction. But once I hit those trails, I was somewhat disappointed. This shoe has some very positive positives, but some typical negatives.

The upper was the first thing I noticed. It is incredibly thin and almost sock like. It fit my foot perfectly, not creating any “hot spots.” If felt very comfortable, allowed good movement and created almost no constriction. Now some might say this is a bad thing. “You’ll roll your ankle”, “It doesn’t support you when your ankle twists sideways”, etc. But I feel that by allowing my foot to move freely, I am LESS likely to turn an ankle. With this freedom of movement, your foot becomes more aware of the surface beneath it and can “go with the flow” so to speak. The upper on this shoe truly gives you the ability to feel the ground under you and react accordingly.

As much as that was a big positive, the rest of the shoe was rather negatives. The heal to toe drop was far to great, the weight was to much, and construction of the out sole was flawed, and overall the shoe felt like a big squishy moon boot.

With the large heal to toe drop, it was hard to land fore foot without stomping my heal down simultaneously. With the large pumped up heel the overall weight of the shoe was noticeable. It was also noticeable that most of the weight was in the back half of the shoe. And finally, though it allowed for somewhat unrestricted movement, the “sliced” outter sole got filled with rocks, sticks, dirt, and other debris as I ran. The foam for the sole is so soft that large debris stick in the cracks and won’t fall out when the shoe goes through normal flexsion. You have to stop and pick things out all the time.

So even though I truly enjoyed the feel of the upper of the Nike Free, I returned the shoe and moved onto my next suggestion from the wonderful staff at Fleet Feet Boulder. The New Balance 101.

I have only done a couple of runs in this shoe, so I still need to do a few more before the jury gives their verdict, but I’ve got a few comments of it so far. I dislike the “rock plate” in the mid/forefoot part of the shoe (its the silver you can see through the tread on the front of the shoe). It is rather stiff and takes away the feel of the ground. Though it is not that “running on a 2×4” feel of most trail shoes, it is still rather stiff.

As much as I was a fan of the minimal, sock like feel of the Nike Free upper, I am only somewhat excited about the upper on this shoe. It is rather lightweight and as you can see from the picture, there isn’t much there. However, it is rather stiff and not that pliable. I guess that’s what you get with a more durable material, but again, I feel that it takes away from the feel of the surface beneath me.

I don’t think this will be the shoe for me (especially with the release of the New Balance MT10 Minimus Trail), but I’m going to give a couple more chances before I return them.  


One response to “Thoughts On The Frees & The Next Shoe”

  1. […] am really liking thus far) is the New Balance MT110. The two precursors to this shoe (MT100 and 101) missed the mark in my opinion. They tried to take a minimalist trail shoe and add too much to it. […]

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