Friday, July 2, 2010
My Zero Drop Nike Free
Now that I've been running in more minimalist shoes (like the Vibram FiveFingers), sprinkled with some true barefoot running, I can't stand big shoes with built-up heels and extra support and cushioning. I just want shoes that allow my foot to work without interference. A little protection is fine, but I want a low heel, wide forefoot, no motion-control features, flexibility, and lightness. The Nike Free shoes I've used in the past seemed OK except for their high heels. They are lightweight, flexible, have virtually no arch support, and the upper material in sort of stretchy. The toebox could be a bit wider, but it's not too bad. Lately the big heel has been keeping me from using them for almost any run. OK for walking when I heel strike anyway, but almost useless for running.
Through the Google minimalist runner group, I started to read--and see photos about--people altering their shoes by "zero-dropping" them. Essentially, a zero drop shoe is one that has no differential between the heel and toe. They are flat across the bottom. Sometimes there is still significant cushioning (midsole material), other times, almost nothing but a thin outsole. Looking at my Nike Free 5.0 shoes, I thought they could be quickly zero dropped. I found a local cobbler, and after a brief conversation, I left my Free 5.0's with him. A few days later I picked them up. Now I have "new" Nike Free shoes...sort of a Nike Free 2.0 (still has some cushioning, but zero dropped with no extra heel rise). I should have taken before & after photos, but I only have the "after cobbler" photos. I've only done one 5-mile trail run in them...they felt good. I could land on my forefoot and run with a short quick stride. I'll see how they perform on roads, treadmill, and more difficult trails. If they do well, I may have my own path to personalized, minimalist shoes. The Nike Free line of shoes has a lot going for it--wide availability, flexible, lightweight, moderately wide forefoot, and comfortable upper. They have one big disadvantage--a big cushioned heel. Find yourself a cobbler, and that disadvantage can be removed. It cost me $5 (original estimate was $10, but it was easier than he thought so I got a discount). Sweet! I wonder what other shoes I have lying around that can be converted to a "new minimalist" style.
One of the members of the Google minimalist runner group has excellent before and after pictures of his recent Nike Free Run+ conversion. Check it out on his July 1, 2010 blog post. He's also had a pair of Nike Free 3.0's zero-dropped with success.