Free and Lunar technologies create a soft and flexible ride. Combined with a 4mm heel-toe offset, the comfort-oriented ride is great for easy days or daily runs. Men’s Free RN Distance | Women’s Free RN Distance
Think of the Nike Free RN Distance as a mash up of the Free 3.0 and the Lunar Tempo. The Free RN Distance borrows the 4mm heel-toe offset from the Free 3.0, but has more midsole under foot. In fact, the Free RN Distance is 2-3mm thicker in the forefoot than the Free 3.0 and Lunar Tempo. Like other Free shoes, the Free RN Distance has a heavily siped midsole/outsole (thinly cut grooves), which delivers tremendous flexibility. The pattern of siping is multi-directional and similar to the most recent Free shoes. While the center of the midfoot is not siped, and the resultant shapes are larger than other Free shoes, the sensation of flexibility and adaptability seems the same.
From the Lunar Tempo, the Free RN Distance borrows a modified, accordion-like midsole structure, which delivers a soft, compliant feel. Furthermore, the Free RN Distance has a Lunar core foam midsole interior, which delivers a much softer feel than any previous Free model. Where some runners may have felt Free shoes lacked ample cushioning for longer runs, the Free RN Distance, with its thicker sole and Lunar cushioning, welcomes longer runs.
Similar to other Free Shoes, the Free RN Distance has a close-to-the-foot fit. The midfoot and forefoot are shallow and provide a snug fit for medium to narrow feet. If you have a high instep, thick, full volume feet, or wider feet, this shoe is not going to be a good fit. While the toe-box is shallow, there is more room around the ends of the toes than other Free shoes and the pointy, super shallow Lunar Tempo. Your standard running shoe size should work well for this shoe.
Immediately the shoes felt very soft underfoot. The upper felt quite snug in the midfoot and forefoot, but the heel felt loose and there was plenty of length for my toes. Walking around I could feel the arch structure of the shoe. It wasn’t uncomfortable, simply noticeable, which is something I like. The shoes still felt quite soft walking in them, the heel did not slip, and the upper moved well with the foot without having any pressure points or creasing issues.
Since the initial shoe fit seemed a bit suffocating, I switched from my normal thick socks (needed to make most shoes fit well) to a thinner pair of socks, and the fit was dramatically improved — comfortably snug and secure in the midfoot, good space around the toes, and no heel slippage.
The initial soft underfoot feel was retained during the run. In the forefoot, this is one of the softer feeling shoes available. The soft Lunar foam and tremendous flexibility made my forefoot feel like it was engaged during the run. I can’t say that this will strengthen my foot, but it did feel like my forefoot was very active. The original Altra Instinct also made my forefoot feel very active, but lacked the cushioning of this shoe. The Under Armour Gemini is a current shoe with a similar forefoot feel — soft and flexible. The advantage the Free RN Distance has over the Gemini is the lack of added weight caused by the additional 4mm of offset in the Gemini. However, if you tend to be a rearfoot striker the 8mm offset of the Gemini is a good option.
Doing a few pick-ups mid run, the Free RN Distance lacked the responsiveness I desired. Lunar foam usually has good bounce-back as evidenced by the Lunar Tempo, but I think the combination of the Lunar foam with the high flexibility sole resulted in the shoe’s inability to snap back with good energy return.
Recommendations and Comparisons
With it’s 4mm offset and soft, flexible ride, the Free RN Distance is a great option for midfoot strikers seeking a comfort-oriented ride for regular runs or easy days. Due to the lack of energy return, I do not recommend this shoe for tempo runs or faster intervals. This shoe would be a great long run or easy day compliment to runners who like the Saucony Kinvara 6. The Free RN Distance is most similar to the Brooks PureFlow 4 and ASICS 33-FA. The PureFlow 4 feels like it has better energy return and comes close to the softness of the Free RN Distance, whereas the 33-FA is about as soft as the Free RN Distance but has a different character. The 33-FA feels more like a traditional shoe underfoot, whereas the flexibility of the Free RN Distance is a distinguishing characteristic. The Kinvara 6 is definitely the firmest feeling shoe of the bunch.
It’s great to finally have a 4mm offset road training option from Nike. Prior to the Free RN Distance, the Terra Kiger (trail shoe), Streak LT (racing shoe) and Free 3.0 were the only options. Now if we could only get Nike to make a go-fast, protective 4mm offset shoe with zoom air in the forefoot. You know, like a 4mm offset Zoom Elite or a Terra Kiger-like shoe for the roads.