On Friday I went to Metrosports to pick up another pair of my favorite trail running shoes, the Asics Gel Eagle Trail IIIs. But another pair of running shoes caught my eye this time - the NIKE Free.
Created by NIKE to allow your feet to be protected but still have the biomechanical benefits of running barefoot, the NIKE Free can take your feet from the pampered, protected environment of the nicely insulated, cushioned, supported surroundings of a century of innovation in running/walking shoes to the scary, open place of running with naked feet.
I had read a lot about barefoot running lately. Many experts tout the benefits of strengthening the muscles in your feet to reduce the probability of injury. It also changes your running stance because heel strikes are not possible (they are painful!) and you need to run on the balls of your feet. This also provides an added benefit of an extra shock absorption joint into your kinetic chain.
I took them out for a brick run after my grueling King's Mountain ascent and definitely there was a difference from these shoes to my normal Asics Gel Nimbus shoes, which are Asics's most cushioned neutral shoe. Definitely more pounding on the feet as the NIKE Free's do not have much adding at all, and also definitely more flexing of the shoe due to the slices through the bottom sole rubber.
I hope to run more on these shoes over the next few months to build up my foot muscles. They recommend a gradual buildup over the next few months, and certainly not at distances/speeds as you would normally run.
It will be an interesting experiment.