I love shoes. Well, that’s not completely accurate. I love RUNNING shoes. Even though my company has a business casual dress code, I still wear running shoes daily. Rebellious.
4 years ago, I found the perfect shoe for me: the Saucony Kinvara 3. I loved this shoe. It was lightweight. It had the perfect 4mm drop. It was a neutral shoe. It didn’t have any major stability structures built in. I loved it. So I bought 3 more pair.
Then, the Saucony Kinvara 4 happened. Still a good shoe, but with some minor tweaks, it was no longer the shoe for me. So, for over two years, I’ve been on the hunt for my next “Kinvara 3”.
Since mid-2015, I’ve run in the Nike Free Flyknit. Overall, I liked the shoe for most of the same reasons that I liked the Kinvara. While I wouldn’t have complained with slightly more cushion (the Kinvara had a bit more), I was able to get over that gripe with the rest of the shoe’s benefits, including its flexibility and the fact that I didn’t have to untie/tie it to take it off/put it on. Maybe I’m kinda lazy. Maybe I’m efficient. I’ll call it the latter.
Towards the end of 2016, I decided I was going to start building up to the marathon distance, with a goal of hitting a BQ time by 2019. To do this, I knew I needed something heftier than that Nike Free Flyknit. It’s a great shoe for me for anything up to the half marathon, but that really stretched the upper limits for me.
This Christmas, I was set up on a blind date with the Nike Free RN Distance (http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/pd/free-rn-distance-mens-running-shoe/pid-10930731/pgid-11816715). At first glance, this shoe looks like the lovechild of the Nike Lunartempo and the Free. I’ve had both, and I’ve liked both. So their lovechild is a good start so far, I thought.
First, the details. I would classify this as a pretty lightweight shoe. At 8.8 oz. for a men’s size 10 (I wear a 12), it’s a tad beefier than the Nike Free Flyknit (7.6 oz. for a men’s size 10). This model also has a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm, remaining pretty consistent with a lot of the more “minimalist” (these certainly aren’t minimalist shoes, but with the lack of some of the supportive structures in other models, I’ll lump it in that realm) line that Nike produces.
The shoes go on really smoothly. The comfort around the top of the foot is felt immediately. Standing up, it’s soft, but firm. I felt the benefit of the extra cushioning that I don’t get from my Free Flyknit, but it’s still not too stiff.
Looking at the bottom of the shoe (sorry for the dirty soles, but I’ve tested these more than a few times!), it still has the same flexible pattern that the Free line is known for. Despite the thicker sole, it bends well and has good flexibility. Again, not as much flexibility as the Free Flyknit, but more than the vast majority of running shoes on the market. Consistent, again, with the Free line, it has protrusions on the sole in spots where your foot tends to strike the ground first and needs more traction, specifically in the forefoot and heel. The black protrusions are glued on, while the white is molded with the remainder of the sole. The only downside to this design, I’ve found, is you occasionally have to pull things out of the grooves.
The upper of the shoe is soft and flexible, and implements Nike’s Flywire technology. For those unfamiliar with the Flywire system, it is a series of “cables” that run along the upper of the shoe from the base to the eyelets. The laces pass through both the eyelet and the Flywires. This creates a both a secure fit around the foot, while still allowing for flexibility. I’ve worn several different models that use the Flywire technology and have found that it works incredibly effectively to create stability for those with neutral feet, like me.
I took the shoes out on my first run, and they immediately felt great. They were light, they were flexible, but I could feel the difference from my Free Flyknits instantly. I’m not smart enough to say whether or not I noticed any improvement with things like energy rebound, but they didn’t feel any worse. Throughout that 5 miler, I had no issues with the shoe slipping at all.
After 4 more runs in these, I bought another pair. Whoops. Worst case, they become casual shoes. Best case, they become either my replacement when these have too many miles, or I rotate them into the lineup.
I’ve now put 127 miles on these. After 127 miles, they still feel just as they did out of the box – soft, yet firm, and plenty of flexibility. While I’ll still run in the Free Flyknit for non-track speedwork (I’ll break out the spikes once track sessions roll around) and for 5k and possibly 10k races, these are the new go-t0 shoes for me. It seems that, after 2+ years, I may have finally found the right shoe again.
Stats & Info
Weight: 8.8 oz (men’s size 10)
Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm
Price: $120 (Nike ID and Shield models cost more)