The Complete Performance History of the Nike Free

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It’s hard to believe it’s been almost ten years since the first Nike Free hit the market. The shoe that brought the concept of barefoot running to the mainstream has remained a best seller for the swoosh, equally accepted by athletes and fashionistas alike.

Originally engineered by Tobie Hatfield and Eric Avar, the Free was first inspired by Stanford athletes that were training barefoot on the university’s golf course. Taking this study back to the Nike campus, in 2002 a group of men and women examined wearing pressure-measuring insoles taped to their feet and captured their data with high speed cameras to study the foot in motion. The result of an eight year extensive study yielded the understanding of a “natural” landing stride, demanding a new running shoe from the brand with minimal heel to toe offset, unconventional shape, and a super Phylon flexible outsole.

Perhaps considered a redemption shoe for many runners of past generations, the Nike Free is a landmark shoe for the brand that sustained many running myths over the past few decades including a raised heel or excessive cushioning and overlays. The original Free from 2004 transitioned from the brand’s approach to barefoot running to eventually accommodate training to become everyone’s favorite coffee shop runner today, here is The Complete Performance History of the Nike Free.

Calvy Click is the Editor-in-Chief of Sneaker Report. When she isn’t writing about performance footwear and apparel, you can find her running around Manhattan to Rick Ross anthems. 


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  • zdev

    Dont forget about the Flyknit Free coming in June/July!

  • Lasivian Leandros

    Don’t forget that as the technology in the shoe has not changed sales have skyrocketed and so has the price. What started around 50$ has now risen to 100$ for a set. Way out of my budget anymore.

  • teah3223

    Excellent story on the free. Not to correct you, but there technically maybe “.5″ sole. The nike hyperfeel which debuted late summer of 2013, has an offset of 2 mm. The free 5.0 has on off of 8 mm while the 4.0 has an off of 6 mm. Mathematically, that would put the hyperfeel somewhere between a 1 and a 2 on the barefoot scale. Thats only if you wanna get super specific. Great read bro.

  • Guess who

    There were a couple earlier models that were missing, but overall good article