It’s 1 A.M, and I should be sleeping.. but I’ve done something to my neck and back (I think it’s deadlift related) and it hurts to rest my face on a pillow.. or do anything else. And so it’s review time. Here’s a short but sweet review of my new favourite shoes: The Nike Free 4.0 v2s!
Buying a fitness shoe is serious business these days. Not only is it ridiculously expensive, but there’s also a very wide range of variety and choice. You’ve got shoes that are ‘ultra cushioned’, footwear that ‘corrects your posture’, creps that are great in the gym, and little canvas miracles that when worn on your feet.. do their best to emulate not being there at all.
The Nike Free 4.0 v2s (from here on out I’m going to refer to them as the 4.0s) are of the latter variety. They tend towards giving you that ‘barefoot’ running feel, which is meant to prevent injuries and is especially good for fore-foot and mid-foot strikers. I don’t actually know what those terms mean, but I am assuming it’s to do with which section of your that foot touches the ground first as you run – and therefore takes the most impact.
The Nike Free range, for those who don’t know, is a variety of shoes which attempt to cover a multitude of options between ‘cushioned’ running, and ‘barefoot’ running. The lower the number, the less the cushion you should expect on your shoe. The Free 3.0s having nearly no cushion at all, and the 5.0s having quite a bit.
The 4.0 then, is right in the middle of the two. The idea of these shoes is to promote the benefits of running barefoot, but also providing enough cushion so that you can run on say, a road, with a bit more comfort. Why is barefoot running so good? Well, it’s how we used to do things back in the day. We’ve spent more time not wearing shoes as a species, than we having wearing them – and it’s great for your posture, and preventing injuries to your feet. Some of the worlds best sprint and running coaches train their charges barefoot on the grass during the off-season in an attempt to minimize injuries when competition time rolls around.
I think I owe you the truth before we go any further, I’m not much of a scientific runner. I couldn’t care less what the offset between heel and toe is (that’s the height between toe and heel when wearing the shoe -it’s 6mm on the 4.0s, 8mm on the 5.0s, 4mm on the 3.0s) – as long as I don’t look like a spice girl, and the shoe is comfortable.
I do however, differentiate between the amount of movement the shoe will allow – the flexibility.
I like to be able to get a full bend in my feet, like if I try to stand on my toes, and not be held back by inflexible fabrics. The 4.0s are great for this, but the 3.0s are better. In fact, even the 5.0s do this well enough to satisfy me. As you can tell from the image on the left, flexibility is not an issue with the Nike Free range, and I like that.
Aesthetically, the shoes are LUSH. Pretty much all of the colour mixes are great in the Free range, and quite a few people remarked on their looks when I first started wearing my pair around. I don’t have much else to say on the subject, but check out the pictures!
Next thing I look for is the fit. Are my toes being squished or rubbed? Are the arches of my feet being forced down? Does my foot slip as I run? When I first put the shoe on, the first two were true. I have pretty wide feet, and as a warning – these aren’t made for wide-footed people. That problem was solved by loosening the laces… like a lot. But the second problem was harder to solve.
With the 4.0, Nike has done something a bit new and opted for a non-traditional tongue. In fact in the Free range (hah, free range), only the 5.0s have the traditional style of tongue. With the 4.0s, the tongue is sewn only on one side (I think the inner fabric and tongue are actually one piece of material), and comes from the in-step over your foot to the out-step – and isn’t attached to anything on the outer side of the shoe. This design makes for a ridiculously good fit, if you don’t have high arches.. which I do. Anyway, long story short, this problem was solved for me by yanking the tongue up once the shoes were laced, which left my feet feeling wrapped up cosy-er than.. well something cosy.
When you get running, you’ll notice the shoes are brilliant. All the research Nike does has paid off, and the result is comfortable, injury-and-sweat-free feet that look great. The snug fit makes for a no-rub experience, at least for my feet, and the shoes have just enough bounce and cushion that the pavement feels relatively soft underfoot.
When you wear them in the gym, the experience is just as good. Plenty of people are proponents of the barefoot squat, and I’m one of them, having previously always taken off my shoes when in the squat rack – like as a sign of respect at a friends house. With the 4.0s I no longer do that, and this not only likely pleases the people who are used to sharing the gym with my ‘workout feet’, but it’s easier for me as well. The cushion on the shoes is small enough that I don’t feel like it’s displacing any of the power I generate through my heel either, and that’s genuinely important.
After a horrible start where I thought I’d have to send them back, my adjustments paid off – and I now love the shoe to pieces. It’s the most comfortable footwear I own, and I wear them whenever it’s socially acceptable.. and then sometimes when it’s not. As a note of caution, if you have wide feet or high arches – try a size up first! Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with these for either gym or running. If you’re a winter runner you can get a ‘Shield’ version of the shoes, which offers a bit more protection. But I have worn mine on grass and mud in winter, and had no problems whatsoever with the normal version.
All in all, I can’t recommend these enough – but if you’re a serious runner – I apologise for the lack of technical talk and forward you to a better review.
I only really made this review to show off these bad boys anyway…