Comparing Barefoot Running Shoes – Nike Free vs. Invisible Shoes

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running Shoes, Running Sandals | Posted on 10-03-2011

I bought my first pair of Nike Free about 6 years ago, soon after they came out.

I LOVED them. The flexible sole really let me feel the ground in a whole new way and they quickly became the only shoe I wore. Once I had the chance, I went to NikeID and made a custom pair that were all black… my “dress” Frees ;-)

On the one hand, I’m glad I did that because earlier this week I needed to appear for a legal arbitration hearing and the only pair of “real” shoes I owned were those all-black Frees. For the last 18 months, all I’ve worn are Invisible Shoes running sandals or my sprinting spikes (I’m a sprinter, not a “runner”).

On the other hand, I could barely remember why I used to be such a Free fan.

Compared to huaraches, where the only thing between you and the ground is a few millimeters of rubber, the sole on the Free felt a mile thick.

But the weirder thing was how quickly my stride changed. With the big, cushy, heel on the Free, I was almost instantly reaching out with my foot and landing hard on my heel, using the padding. In fact, with the elevated heel, I couldn’t even find a way to land on my mid-foot as I was walking… no matter what I did, my heel struck the ground first.

Let me back up a bit and add one fact: I removed the insole from the shoe. The insole — at least the 5mm one that comes with it — has 2 rubber “bumpers”. One under your heel, and one under the ball of your foot. Without those shock absorbers in place, I noticed something else about the Free… the sole offers some cushioning at first, but once you’ve fully compressed the foam, it’s really solid. Jarringly solid.

I could feel the jolt of force run from my heel to the back of my head. After just 5 minutes of walking, I had a mild headache!

After 2 days of wearing them, my right knee is out of whack and I’m writing this post during a time I’m usually out on the track, training.

It’s been so long since I’ve worn any of the “barefoot” style running shoes that I forgot how un-barefoot most of them truly are.

Nike says “Don’t wear our shoes!”

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running Shoes, Running Sandals | Posted on 01-03-2011

The only thing we’d say different is, “Hey, if you want to be as close to barefoot as you can, but with some protection, get some minimal sandals from Invisible Shoes” ;-)

Huaraches versus Nike Free

Posted by | Posted in Huaraches | Posted on 15-11-2009

I’ll never forget putting on my first pair of Nike Free shoes.

It was like magic.

I’d walk down the street, feeling every nook and cranny and pebble… but with a soft cushion in between me and the offending ground.

I loved them. I wore them everywhere. I bought a custom-made pair that is totally black — my “dress Frees.”

That said, I never ran in them.

This is, in large part, because I’m a sprinter by trade and not a distance runner. And the Free offers more cushioning that I want as a sprinter.

Once I joined the Boulder Barefoot Running Club, and had starting clocking more mileage than I ever had before, I thought about my Frees again and put them on.

Well, once you’ve experienced the freedom of barefoot, the Nike Free isn’t nearly as free.

And if you want protection from the elements, the Free is a long way from the barefoot feel of a huarache.

The Free has a significant heel. And while the sole is flexible along every plane, it’s nothing compared to the flexibility of a thin sheet of 4mm Vibram Cherry Sole (what I use in the Invisible Shoes). In fact, the thinnest insert for the Nike Free is thicker than the Vibram sole!

I still wear my Frees to walk around (heck, they look great).

But for running, for me, it’s either huaraches or skin.