10 years of product engineering, performance innovation and many happy runners later, Nike celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Nike Free by bringing together Olympian Paula Radcliffe and Founder of RDC Charlie Dark to lead a run taking in London’s iconic landmarks ahead of the Virgin London Marathon last week. Check out the full story after the cut.
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As a late initiate to the London’s thriving running scene, I remember the excitement of my first Gait analysis during the build up to Y&Y’s Run To The Beat / VERSUS Challenge. The results came back as expected, my inexperienced footing and awkward running stance demanded the additional support of the slightly ‘clunkier’ but well cushioned/responsive Air Pegasus. Admittedly, I was initially disappointed and converted the minimalist Nike Free worn by the all ‘cool kids’. As I clocked up the miles on my road to Ninja Running Enlightenment; my stance improved, I learnt to compensate my ‘foot-roll’ and my reliance on responsive/cushioned running shoe lessened.
I began alternating between my trusty Air Pegasus (which I still wear on race-days for sentimental reasons) and the Free Flyknits during training for my sophomore half-marathon. The experience of running in Nike’s minimalist shoes is no comparison to the trend of barefoot running but it certainly comes close to a more natural ride. The feeling of being unburden by shoes and connecting more with the ground beneath has definitely had a positive impact on my attitude to running/exploring the city.
Victoria House, the temporary HQ for the Nike Free experiment was subject to an incredible transformation showcasing both the innovative technology and unique history of the Nike Free. The neon basement housed various installations including some that allowed visitors to experience the Nike’s ‘Natural Motion’ by comparing footprints with iconic athletes and Nike ID workstations to flex creative muscles. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the morning session with Paula Radcliffe who lead a 5k run to trial the Nike Free footwear. I was however privileged to hear from Nike Running Creative Director Sean McDowell again but this time on the heritage of the Nike Free from it’s introduction in 2004 till its current evolution.
The talk was followed by an amusing warm up session by Charlie Dark before setting out into Holborn’s crowded streets speeding (leisurely cruise in my case) past iconic landmarks whilst Charlie acted as part tour guide/part motivator. After 45mins of traffic stopping, pedestrian dodging and pavement hopping later, we arrived back at the Victoria House rendezvous point.
Nike has further pushed the boundaries of personalisation with introduction 3 levels with varying levels of cushioning and support; the 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0. During the run, I donned a pair of aqua Nike Free Flyknits 4.0 which in my opinion are perfect for runners transitioning from traditional responsive shoes. The light Flyknit upper provide a comfortable contoured fit whilst the new outsole hexagonal flex grooves allows the foot to more more naturally. Nike’s uncompromising design philosophy combined with the personalisation available through Nike ID means that I probably wear the Free Flyknits as much (if not more) in my daily life as I do when I go for a run.