Review: Nike Free RN Flyknit 2017
A shoe that feels like a sock
The successor to last year’s Free RN Flyknit, this is an evolution of the sock-like concept of the running shoe, replicating the unhindered experience of training and running barefoot. The 2017 version continues to have a minimalist design. But while the 2016 edition featured design enhancements (compared to its predecessor, the Nike Free) so that it could wrap better around the foot, the 2017 edition tweaks the near-seamless upper for extra strength and a bit more support.
The 3D Flyknit mesh upper is what essentially defines the shoe’s sock-like fit, and the Flywire cables wrap the foot for better lock-in by holding together the upper with the sole. Knits are placed strategically around the entire upper, essentially to reduce foot movement inside the shoe while running—this is a good thing because the less foot movement there is inside the shoe during physical training, the better it is for traction, grip and change of direction speed.
The shoe is quite lightweight—around 60% lighter than the conventional upper materials of some other running and training shoes.
There is a lot of space in the forefoot, and generous wriggle-room for the toes—some shoes have such a snug fit that it can lead to a cramped feeling. The only drawback of the new materials in the 2017 edition is the slightly coarse finish of the inner upper part of the mesh, which means you’ll have to wear socks while wearing the Free RN Flyknit 2017. Secondly, while the mesh itself is a bit stronger, it offers slightly less ventilation than its predecessor—at least that is how the foot feels initially when you upgrade from the 2016 edition.
The outsole is perhaps the most interesting part of the 2017 edition. It has a tri-star pattern that is cut into the foam—it looks exactly like a web of triangles. The 2016 shoe had a flexible interconnected geometric-design outsole pattern; the 2017 tri-star evolution improves on this, extending equally both vertically and horizontally to match the movement of the feet. It offers the same grip as its predecessor on most conventional surfaces, such as concrete, a sand track or the treadmill surface. There is extra protection on the front and back of the outsole, for your toe and heel.
The extra grip that the Nike Free RN Flyknit 2017 offers will come in handy on a slightly damp surface.
The midsole in the Nike Free RN Flyknit 2017 is dual-layered, with a layer of foam beneath the foot. Runners will surely notice the change in heel-toe drop, 8mm rather than the 4mm in last year’s Free RN Flyknit.
There are five colour combination options to choose from, including blue lagoon/hot punch/black; black/volt/white (this being our personal favourite because of the simplicity and the unique colour combination); and blue lagoon/legend blue/polarized blue/pure platinum.
So though there are no radical changes in the latest update, incremental improvements to the structure, strength, comfort and running feedback make already excellent fitness footwear even better. It remains lightweight to wear (224g) and offers a snug fit. If you wish to spend a little more, there is the adidas PureBoost DPR (Rs15,999; Shop.adidas.co.in), which has a knit upper, heel protection and a stretchable outsole too.