Last week, I popped over to Niketown in New York City to try a pair of the new Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes. They’re an update to the Nike Free 3.0, a shoe that previously did not have a Flyknit upper. Nike gave me the shoes to keep and a spot in one of the Nike Free Stride treadmill sessions taking place at Niketown in New York City.
The 32-minute Nike Free Stride workout focused on curating a more efficient and natural stride in the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit shoes. A gentle warm-up and mini-stride clinic preceded a butt-kicking hill interval workout, as a DJ pumped throwback jams into the multi-story atrium of Niketown.
I’m not usually one for exercising on a stage while shoppers watch, but I was curious to try the shoes.
Nike had previously given me a pair of Nike Free Flyknit+ shoes, which came out in summer 2013. They were similar to the Nike Free 5.0, but with a Flyknit upper. I ended up not reviewing them and not including them in my Holiday Gift Guide for one simple reason: I didn’t love them.
I found them too tight around the ankle, to the point of being constrictive. Another runner I know even cut his Flyknits to reduce pressure on his Achilles tendon. While I like my shoes to fit well, I like my laces tied loosely. With no functional laces, the Flyknits are more like a supportive sock. With a tight top, they just weren’t the shoes for me.
So I’m happy to report that the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes have a much more comfortable fit in this newest version of the Flyknit upper.
Altogether, Nike made three major changes to the 2014 Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit from the previous versions of both the Free 3.0 and Free Flyknit.
1) The sole has a hexagon flex groove pattern, verses rectangles in the last iterations of all the Nike Free shoes, so that the foot can move easily in any direction.
2) The heel is more anatomically shaped with a slimmer and rounder design, meant to roll with your foot strike. Instead of the wide heel shape of the last shoes, these really hug the contours of your heels. Take it from me: you’ll feel the difference.
3) The Flyknit upper is new to the Nike Free 3.0, and gives a more nuanced fit than the upper in the last version of the Nike Free Flyknit+ shoes. It’s more flexible, with specific areas that stretch, support and breathe. Those laces you see on the shoes? Mere decoration. Think of this shoe as a sock or baby bootie, no laces needed.
Do I notice a difference in the new hexagon sole when I’m running? Not really. But I do love the way they ride, so I suspect that has something to do with it. I definitely feel an extra spring in the step.
I also love the way the shoe feels under the heel. I absolutely noticed and appreciated the difference in the heel shape and contour right away. It’s so darn comfortable and feels terrific while I run. It feels like someone is cradling my heel in their hand. This is certain: the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit feels different than any other shoe I’ve worn. I think that’s due, in large part, to that cradle effect at the heel and the stretchy Flyknit upper.
Finally, the Flyknit upper hugs your feet in all the right places and is incredibly breathable, without being too tight. Certainly, there will be runners who still find the fit too snug. They’re much more fitted than your average running shoe. But for me, they now fit like second skin in a good way. They’re like a hug for your feet without feeling like boa constrictors have you in a death grip.
If you tried the previous Nike Free Flyknit+, and like me weren’t a fan because of tightness, you may want to give these a second look. As much as I disliked the last iteration of the Free Flyknit+, I love this new one. If you’re curious about Flyknit but want a little more shoe, the new Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit running shoes are another option. They also have a Flyknit upper, but feature a 6 millimeter drop versus the 3.0’s 4 millimeters.
Now that I’ve run in the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknits a few times—all on the treadmill, I have yet to take them on the road—I’ve decided to officially incorporate them into my shoe rotation, which includes: Asics Gel-Kinsei 5 as my trainers at 9.8 ounces with a 9.3 millimeter heel-to-forefoot drop; the New Balance 1400 as my racing flats at 7.1 ounces with a 10 millimeter drop, and now the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit as my low riders at 5.7 ounces with a 4 millimeter drop.
I can even see the Nike Frees becoming my sprint triathlon shoes. The single-seam construction of the Flyknit upper makes them ideal to wear without socks. I can just slip them on after the bike portion and run sock free.
Plus, I adore the women’s color-scheme with a fiery upper that graduates to a dark berry. The new Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit comes in six color patterns and retails for $140.
Is it the shoe for you? If you’re looking for a barefoot-like ride with minimal cushioning and a second-skin fit, it might be worth a try. If you have claustrophobic feet, maybe not. I definitely recommend testing it out before you buy, like most running shoes, unless you merely want them for their cool esthetic. Get thee to a running store, hop on a treadmill and take them for a spin.
If you’re in New York City and you want to try the new Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit shoes for yourself, spots are still available (as of press time) from May 13-21 in the Nike Free Stride treadmill sessions taking place at Niketown. They’ll provide you with a loaner pair to use during the session, much like at the bowling alley. Visit gonike.me/nikefreestride to sign up.
As mentioned, Nike provided me with complimentary shoes. But as I also mentioned, just because a company gives me gear does not mean I will write about it or lavish it with praise. I’m always completely honest in my experiences with a product, and carefully choose which products to review among the many I receive. For more information, read my disclosure policy.