Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit Running Shoes Review

Nike 3.0 Flyknit Running Shoes

The Nike 3.0 Flyknit shoe. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

I’m warming up in the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit shoes. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

That’s me giving the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknits a try. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit Sole (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit

Trying the new Nike Free hexagonal tread. I’m far left. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes are great for treadmill runs

The Nike Free 3.0 Flyknits have earned a spot in my shoe rotation. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Trying the new Nike 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

Wow, I look serious when I workout. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

Tester shoes for the Nike Free Stride treadmill sessions. (Photo: Nike)

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.

Nike Free Stride Treadmill Session

The Nike Free Stride treadmill session. (Photo: Nike)

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 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.

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Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


04 2014

28 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    It’s Nike’s version of the ruby slippers :)
    Lesley recently posted..Salmon with Pesto and Puff PastryMy Profile

  2. 3

    Great review. I like minamalist shoes, and I would like to give these a test run. Haven’t seen these in stores recently, though I prob wasn’t looking
    Jojo @ RunFastEatLots recently posted..Greetings from Disney WorldMy Profile

  3. 5

    Very thorough review! I’ve always thought Nike shoes looked comfortable (and very pretty, too) but I feel like the tread wears SO easily. My husband runs in Nike’s and he doesn’t run near as much as I do and runs out of tread much faster than me so I’m not sure I want to drop $140 on something that won’t last me as long as my Asics! But could be worth testing out when I’m at the Nike Women’s Half Expo later this month!

    • Karla Bruning

      Interesting. I wonder if it’s the tread or if it’s him–some people just wear shoes harder, have a harder step, etc. I don’t think I’ve worn the tread out of any of my shoes of any brand! I always have 2-3 pairs in rotation. I’ll have to keep an eye on these. Excited to hear about the NWM DC!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..How To Watch The 2014 Boston Marathon On TV Or WebMy Profile

  4. David powell #

    Hi Karla
    Great review, like you I couldn’t get on with the old ones but do love my other lunar fly knits so very interested to try these (boy version obviously!) although I expect well have a wait to get them in the UK!

  5. 9

    Hmmmm, I’m very intrigued by these. I love my PureFlows (even though they hate me) because they’re so light it’s like I’m wearing nothing but still landing on softness. I might have to give these a try…but I’m a little scared of the whole running on a treadmill in front of people thing. We’ll see.

  6. Mjb #

    Did you wear socks? Do you feel comfortable going sock less in these?

  7. A Serrato #

    I just brought the Nike Free 3.0 from a Nike clearance outlet. For the cheap price, if they don’t work to run in, I will use them for everyday use…. But I love the color!

  8. Josh #

    Thanks for the honest review. I’ve been running in Free 3.0s for three years and love them so I really want to give the Fkyknit 3.0 a try. Your review was very helpful. Thanks!

  9. Katie #

    Can you tell us any more about how your friend cut his shoes to protect his achilles, and how happy he was with the result? I’m getting ready to do the same thing. I love how the sole of this shoe feels, and I love a sock-like upper (though I’d much prefer if it were thinner and not so warm), but it pinches my achilles too much!

    I’m just afraid of making the shoes unravel, or creating a new spot of irritation.


    • Karla Bruning

      He simply cut a slit at the top of the heel to open it up a bit, and kept wearing them happily. I’m not sure about unraveling, though. He hasn’t told me anything about that. And he wore his with socks, so the cut didn’t cause any irritation. Hope that helps!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial SwimMy Profile

  10. Katie #

    I just realized you were talking about last year’s shoes, not the new 3.0’s, which is what I need to cut into. I think it’s only the stiff lower part of the upper that pinches, and the soft part that’s really around the ankle that is in danger of unraveling. So I think a hole rather than a slit is the best bet for this shoe. It’s an expensive experiment, but the shoes are close to unwearable as they are now. I talked to a nike rep and he basically said I need to spend longer breaking them in, but I think that’s nuts.

    • Karla Bruning

      I’m with you. I don’t think a running shoe that’s working for your foot needs extensive breaking in. Yes, it’s an expensive experiment, but if the shoes are unwearable, why not? Good luck with it. Please comment back here and let us know how it goes!

  11. 21

    Great review, Karla.
    The Nike Free Flyknit is a fantastic shoe, easily one of my favorites so far this year. Once you go Free, you’ll never go back
    Canus @ recently posted..8 Supplements to keep a Runner’s Body GoingMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      I’m still wearing mine! Especially love the new Free Flyknit 4.0.

  12. 23

    I have one pair of these Flyknit and i gotta say i really love the design, from the upper to the sole. it’s just unique ! it’s also great running in these, very comfortable :)
    Your review is really helpful and great as well! keep moving!
    Hoang Nguyen recently posted..The Secret Of Choosing Sports ShoesMy Profile

  13. 24

    I love the style and the colors, too. We must be very confident when running in these shoes :)

  14. 25

    Great review, Karla.I totally agree. The Nike Free Flyknit is an excelelnt shoe. One can never go wrong with Nike.

  15. 26

    Great article, what about different colors? Is any other color available in the market? Like black or blue.

    am interested in buying one!

    • Karla Bruning

      Yup, they sell them in a rainbow of colors.

  16. 28

    Red, red gimme some red.


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