With a $150 MSRP, these shoes are packed with all sorts of fun features that give the shoe a long name. Let’s break down the parts in the name for the “Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit” shoe.
The “Free RN” part means the shoe is part of the Free line of shoes, and is for running (RN), instead of just general training.
The “Motion” part in the name means this shoe has a web of triangular pods on the sole, instead of the standard grid of shapes on other free shoes.
This triangular web gives the shoe a bit more flexibility/motion over the standard free sole. Finally, “Flyknit” is in the name of the shoe, which is Nike’s flexible cloth upper.
How do all these features work together in a running shoe? Does this shoe give you an authentic Nike Free running experience? I ran these shoes well past the 50 test miles to find out.
Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit General Info
The line of Nike Free shoes started after Nike heard that Stanford athletes trained barefoot on golf courses. Nike wanted to make a shoe that mimicked the barefoot feel.
This shoe had to flex move, flex and land like there was not much of a shoe there at all. The Free line of shoes has kept close to those goals, and keeps trying new new tech to get even closer.
Rather than put these shoes on my feet when I unboxed them, I grabbed them and started to twist them like I was trying to squeeze the essence of Nike out of them in juice form.
The Flyknit upper combined with the tri-star sole makes this shoe one of the most flexible I’ve ever tested. I even managed to roll the shoe up into a ball and put it into my pocket.
After finishing being a 2 year old, I slipped on the shoes and did a short run to figure them out. They’re almost a sock (but not as close to a sock as the NIKE LUNAREPIC FLYKNIT shoes are).
They flex like socks, they breathe like socks, and they kind of let your foot wander around like socks.
Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit Sole Unit
The sole is the craziest part of this shoe. Flywire, Flyknit, fly everything can stay seated on the runway as the tri-star pattern gets all the focus.
Nike Free shoes started out with a grid of square chunks of foam, then moved onto different geometric slits in the foam, and now there’s this tri-star pattern.
This tri-star pattern looks like a is a web of connected triangles that look like something M. C. Escher thought up. Except Nike engineers thought it up to give your feet a more natural running experience.
Studies found the foot expands and contracts as it impacts and lifts off, where it grows one size in length and two in width during impact.
Nike claims this tri-star pattern follows this length and width growth ratio on impact, which makes the sole auxetic and lets your feet have control.
I need to call out Nike on those claims. Yes, the sole has incredible flexibility and it expands when you squish it, but it’s not really auxetic, and the length+width expansion on impact aren’t really felt by your feet.
The word auxetic describes something that also expands in the opposite direction that you stretch it. Imagine you have a rubber sheet. If you pull it apart, the middle gets thinner.
If it was made from an auxetic material, if you pulled it apart, the middle would get thicker. The Nike tri-star pattern sole doesn’t do that. It just expands slightly more in width than in length when you squish it with your foot.
If an object compressed in one direction and expands in two other directions, the shoe has a positive Poisson ratio, which means the material is NOT auxetic. Ok, I’m going too far down a rabbit hole of material science.
My gripe with usage of auxetic aside, the shoe still does expand in length and width differently. The only problem is the 1:2 expansion ratio is lost since you have insoles sitting between your feet and the sole, and these insoles don’t expand like the sole does.
I’d say the sole of these shoes has a 1:2 ratio of useful tech to marketing hype. Alright, so you might not care about what the tech is supposed to do, you want to know how the sole feels.
It’s super flexible and provides a lot of feedback about the surface you’re running on. With a 4mm drop, and a mostly foam bottom with just a few rubber patches around the heel and toe, the shoe stays true to a Nike Free experience.
The shoe runs a bit large though, and the toe curls up a bit at the end, so I would recommend trying the shoe in your size, and then one half size down.
Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit Upper Info
The upper is all Flyknit, which is Nike’s cloth upper that uses high strength fibers stitched together in a shape that forms to your foot while staying light, and supportive in areas that need it most. It just feels so comfortable.
The lack of stitched or glued panels on the shoe really makes it easy to forget you’re wearing shoes. And the Flyknit upper is incredibly easy to slip on over your foot since there is no conventional tongue.
It’s just an inviting tube of cloth that stretches around your foot to hold it in place. Even the heel is Flyknit without any external heel counter(although it has an added patch of stiffer fabric along it to maintain shape and strength).
The only heel that comes close in minimal design and comfort is the heel in the Under Armour speedform line of shoes. To maintain the sleek look while providing additional support, Nike used Flywire technology.
These Flywire strands slip through the Flyknit upper to provide a direct connection between the laces and the sole for a snug fit. But I did not think it was snug enough.
Any lateral movement in these shoes lets your feet slide around a bit on the inside, no matter how tight the laces are. This is fine for casual running, and not ok for anything that needs extreme responsiveness or lateral stability.
Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit Conclusions
While testing these shoes, I found the one absolutely perfect use for the Free RN Motion Flyknits. They’re incredible for people rushing to get on a plane.
Jogging to the airport check in counter is a breeze and feels great with the dual-density midsole absorbing the shock of your foot landing on the tile of the airport floor.
Pulling the shoes off for security takes less than a second because the upper is so flexible. Putting the shoes back on before jogging over to your gate is just as easy due to the Flyknit upper.
Once you finally make it onto the plane, you can stretch and wiggle your feet all you want in your seat without any restrictions because of the tri-flex sole.
So what I’m getting at is that the shoes are comfortable, and decent for running. I just don’t think they make for a perfect daily trainer or racer.
They’re best suited for casual runs where you want to effortlessly get out the door and give your feet space to move around in. The Nike RN Motion Flyknit shoes are good, just don’t make them your only running shoe.
We thank the nice people at Nike for sending us a pair of Free RN Motion Flyknit to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.