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Which “Free” is for me? How to tell the difference in the Nike Free models.

Most of you probably know the Nike Free shoes offer a barefoot-like feel, along with cushioning, support, traction and underfoot protection. You might even be wearing a pair right now. But did you know that not all of the Nike Free are created equal?

Leah’s search to find a more cushioned ride as opposed to her New Balance Minimus Road Shoes led her to try out the Nike Free. After all, they have been coined the number one selling minimalist shoe.

20131118-221226.jpg How easy does it flex?? Is this a 3.0, 4.0 or 5.0!!??

She made the transition to a minimalist shoe one year ago when she jumped out of her Adidas Marathon 10’s and into the Minimus.

20131118-221827.jpgAdidas Marathon 10


Although she love the Minimus,  like many other minimal runners she felt needed a bit more cushion as her distances approached above ten miles. This is not an uncommon concern amongst many as even I want more cushion with my longer miles during marathon training.

As she began trying on the various models of the Nike Free, she quickly noticed there are three models that are designated by the numbers 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0. She had initially purchased the 4.0 at one store and then tried on a 5.0 in a second store. Confused as to the significance of the numbers, she asked someone in the specialty running shoe store she was in. The sales associate’s response was the higher numbers have a deeper groove on the sole of the shoe offering more flexibility. Thus, a 5.0 should be more flexible then a 3.0. Whoops!! This was incorrect information!! Leah purchased both shoes and brought them home to make a decision, and after much discussion and research she realized that the information given to her was was untrue.

20131118-222053.jpgLeah’s intense notes!

The Nike Free has three different midsole/outsole types—3.0, 4.0 and 5.0—which offer a range of flexibility and support. The higher the number, the higher the level of support. Nike Free shoes with a 3.0 outsole (the Nike Free 3.0 Running Shoe, for example) feature Nike’s most barefoot-like ride to date. It’s incredibly flexible and ideal for those who like to be as close to barefoot as possible while still wearing a shoe.


The 4.0 midsole/outsole (featured on the Nike Free 4.0 Running Shoe) is still very flexible but provides more support than the 3.0. The 5.0 midsole/outsole (featured on the Nike Free Run+) is the most supportive of the three, yet still offers a barefoot-like feel. The choice is yours.

What shoe should Leah choose??


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