As I mentioned in my blog, I have been building my run in my Frees with no problem. I keep thinking that there is going to come a time when I am going to need a more supportive shoe. Do you think that there is a need to switch shoes? Even if I am preparing for a marathon distance.

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Hey Margot - great question, but you have to remember the number one purpose for the Nike FREE. To build foot strength and natural arch support. So as you continue to build your run time in thre Frees, this also means you are building natural strength, therefore NOT needing stability from a "band aid" shoe! Notice how the bottoms of your feet have changed....they have muscles and a strong arch. I have also noticed that you hardly pronate anymore, which has you utilizing your VMO and glut for stability and power. This means your entire leg is firing and functioning properly. Also notice how you do not have all those aches and pains that used to come from running.
This is a great question, and one that I was going to ask...

I've been running in the Nike Frees for a couple of years now, almost exclusively. For the first two years, it was 10-15 miles / week. Last year I decided to train for my first marathon, and trained only in a couple pairs of Frees. I ended up running the 26.2 in a pair of Nike Free 5.0 Cross that were a few years old. It is possible, and if I can do it, just about anyone can!

My main question is: I still find that I have a tendency to heel-strike in the Frees (which introduced some foot/shin/calf pain during my training), so I'm wondering what the barefoot running proponents think of them. Since I've been more attuned to form, I've noticed it's easy to correct in the Frees, but I wonder if I'd be better served going to something like the Vibram Five Fingers.

The Five Fingers are great but for long distances they aren't for everybody. You could try a minimalist racing flat like the Adidas Adizero. With less of a heel than the Frees, you'll be less inclined to heel strike.
PS- I have Free Trail 5.0s and love them. Eric is right-on (below), of course. :)
Wow, I hadn't even seen the Free Trail 5.0s, I might have to look into those.
I'm just starting to make the transition from the streets to the trails. Thanks for the advice!
Justin - If you are looking for a trail shoe, check out La Sportiva. Try either the Fireblade or Skylite. They are great and basically a racing flat for trail with a great low profile. I hated the Nike Free Trail, as they seemed too high profile for the rocks and trails up here. I found that my feet would slide side to side. But there is pretty rugged terrain in the Tetons and they may perform better on softer, smoother terrain else where - E.
One more Justin - I would stick with the Frees right now as they are a great way to continue to build crucial foot strength WHILE you train. Also, weak gluts can often product shin/calf pain. Try doing the Fit ball Lunge in the video section - E
Hi Justin - I would suggest using the Fivefingers for strength building and shorter runs, that are not key training sessions. Again, my main use with my athletes in using the fivefingers is to develop foot strength that will help injury prevention and develop good mid-foot striking. This is the only purpose I use barefoot running. There are "enjoyment" runners out there who run barefoot for the life style if you will. Shoes are neccessary for racing and training.
So, dealing with good form will be an ongoing focus and takes lots of repetition to develop muscle memory.
Since you are still having trouble heel striking with the Frees, it might now be appropriate to focus on another critical component, run cadence. Next time you go out for an easy run, do this: Count each time your right foot strikes the ground for 15 seconds. Aim for a target of 23 foot strikes per 15 seconds. This will get you near 93 strikes per minute, which is an ideal cadence for speed, efficiency, and economy. To acheive this, you will need to get on the balls or mid foot and quicken your stride. Think of running on hot coals.
Then, think about this - Your cadence should be the same regardless of speed.

So at this point, sounds like the frees are working for you, switch your focus to cadence and see if that helps.

Hope that helps - E
Thanks Eric. I need to get back to working on cadence. That's one of the biggest changes I made last year, but now that you've reminded me, I feel like I've gotten a little lazy about it. Working from memory, it seems that my cadence has slowed, introducing a bit of reach and heel strike. I'll definitely be focusing on this over the next few easy runs to improve form and economy!
Eric, you had a couple of recommendations for minimal trail shoes - would you (or anyone else here) have any recommendations for road shoes? I'm currently wearing Asics Kayanos for my main shoe (lifelong overpronator) and I'm working on increasing my foot/arch strength with Nike Frees and some of the exercises in the video section.

I'm hoping that I can work my way out of needing such supportive shoes over the next few months, but I'm not sure if I could (or should) move towards the Frees being my primary shoe. My thinking is that I should be looking to migrate towards a conventional, but minimally-supportive running shoe but I'm not sure what I should be looking at.

Hey Jason - Keep working on strengthening the foot. From my experience, when your Asics start feeling REALLY uncomfortable, this is the time to make the switch out of your Asics on your longer runs. I have had good luck with my coached athletes running up to 2 hrs in the Nike Free on road. Past that point, you may start to experience blisters because of the road friction. I just has a triathlete switch from the Nike Free to the Brooks racing flat for her long runs and races. But she continues to use the Free on shorter runs to continue to build foot strength.

So give the Brooks racing flats a try, or the Nike racing flats. I believe they are called the "marathoner". I am also in the process of testing some Inov8 for the road and will keep your posted.

So, to directly answer your question, keep building your run time in the Frees and using your Asics for runs longer than what you can do in Frees. I feel that once you get your Free run up to 45 min., you are then good to go much further. Plus, Like I mentioned, at some point your Asics will start feeling really uncomfortable. This is the sign your feet are strong enough for more free and/or racing flats.

Hope that helps - E
I too have a pair of Asics but I like the look of the Brooks racing flats....

I can currently see two alternatives for the Brooks racing shoes, with the considerably lighter version (175grams) being recommended for use up to half marathon and no more...and the heavier model (246 grams) being recommended for longer distances...

I am not running too far at the minute, about 30 miles per week with a long run of about 12-15 miles once per you feel I would benefit more from the lighter shoe? I was going to factor them in on my shorter (5-7 mile runs) and keep the Asics for the longer distances until my feet start to strenghten.


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