Do you like bulky running shoes? I sure don’t. That’s why I like designs like the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Shoe. I hate that feeling when putting on a pair of runners feels like stepping into a time machine and ending up at a ‘70s disco. And at the end of my run, I find myself wondering how much better my speed and distance (and comfort) would be with lighter shoes. How different my legs would feel if every strike wasn’t identical.
I like when a shoe feels natural to run in, and when I can feel what’s going on under my feet. I also like when my running translates well to running without shoes. This is why I recommend that everyone gives minimalist running shoes a chance.
The Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe
They call it a minimalist shoe, and it’s a minimalist design in general, but it has some more elaborate features. The main thing is that it offers some support and cushioning to make it a better everyday trainer. But it aims to retain a natural gait and minimalist feel at the same time.
It stands out in Nike’s free running series because it’s simpler, lower, and a more snug fit than the models that came before and after. Because of this, some runners still seek out the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe over its newer and more available versions.
The first thing to note is the incredible flexibility of the rubber sole and the shoe as a whole. You can fold the shoe, twist it, and ball it up without a struggle. While a foot won’t allow it to bend that much, this flexibility ensures that your foot can bend without restrictions.
The shaft is about 2.5 inches tall, measured from the arch. It has a tight but flexible opening. The heel counter isn’t very structured and it has just enough support to hold your heel down without restricting your flexibility.
A minimal, breathable mesh upper gives a comfortable, universal feel. It also makes the shoe light, and the Dynamic Flywire design holds it in place without restricting your movement. There’s not much padding, so the temperature and airflow stay good. It does have a foam cushion in place to dampen your landings.
Some customers report that the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe is a bit on the smaller side. So if you’re in between sizes, you’ll want to go for the bigger one. Otherwise, your toes may get squished.
On the run
The minimalist label of the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe doesn’t mean it’s only for short running. They make a good choice to cover long distances as well. However, this depends on preferences and biomechanics. You don’t need support and padding if you run on trails or running tracks. But if you plan to run a lot on sidewalks or rough terrain, you may want a more elaborate shoe for long runs.
That being said, the Nike 5.0 Free Women’s Running Shoe offers more cushioning than many minimalist running shoes. It’s more akin to a flexible, lightweight trainer, rather than pure minimalism. As a result, it’s very versatile, and a great shoe for transitioning into or out of the minimalist clique. The Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Shoe doesn’t try to force a mid-foot strike as many other trainers do, so it’s suitable if you’re working to fix a bio-mechanical imbalance. And if you want to be able to run barefoot as well, a minimalist shoe like this is ideal.
It doesn’t really provide the “barefoot experience” though. The heel-to-toe differential is a bit too high at nine millimeters, and there’s too much cushioning in the midsole. However, this cushioning is firmer than that of Nike’s other midsole cushion shoes. So it’s still closer to a minimalist shoe. But you need to use socks with the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe because the upper isn’t seamless and will chafe a barefoot.
How the Nike 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe Compares
Since it’s hard to base a solid assessment on a running shoe in isolation, we’ll take a look at a few competitors as well to see how the Nike 5.0 stacks up. We’ll compare the Nike 5.0 Free Women’s Shoe to the New Balance Minimus, Adidas PureBoost, and Puma Ignite Netfit.
The New Balance Minimus series is very popular among minimalist runners. With the goal to provide a natural running feel, they’ve refined these sneakers into a collection of minimalistic running shoes. We will focus on the 10v1, which is more optimized for trail running.
This running shoe has a very durable construction. It can handle rocky trails with ease. One key feature here is the Vibram outsole. If you’re not familiar with Vibram, their signature soles provide good grip and protection while also retaining the feeling of running barefoot. The sole has flex grooves for extra movement. There’s a little bit of support foam, just enough to cushion your strike a bit without other effects.
The upper is a synthetic mesh, which makes the shoe both light and breathable. There’s a wrap just before the toes, to keep your foot in place and prevent weird flexing. It may feel a bit strange at first if you’re used to regular sneakers, but it helps maintain a natural movement.
With a 4 millimeter drop, it helps keep your feet at natural angles. The overall design lets you run “barefoot style” on rugged terrain better than a primal human and with more comfort. Sizing is similar to the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Shoes. You’ll probably want to get half a size higher than usual.
On the run
Due to the low profile and minimal heel support, it doesn’t promote an immediate heel strike as you land. This lets your foot work in its natural manner, and it helps strengthen your ankles as they get to work more.
Being trail shoes, this environment is where they shine most. The balance of protection and natural movement make them good on almost any terrain you’ll encounter on an unkempt forest trail. And the sole design lets you feel and grip the ground as needed, something a typical running shoe can’t offer. The main thing that could be better is the grip. It’s not bad by any means, but the general versatile feel could make you overconfident, and you could end up slipping on a mucky surface or fine gravel.
While the trail is its preferred home, the Minimus also doubles as an excellent everyday shoe just like the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe. You’ll feel natural comfort on all surfaces, and it’s still a viable shoe for shorter runs in the city. They’re durable and can handle regular washing without damage.
Customers like the comfort, natural feel, and stylish appearance of the Minimus. The only common complaints are the sizing issue and that it may take a while to get comfortable with them.
This is a fast running shoe with a focus on comfort. It’s lightweight and rather minimalistic like the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe. But its focus is a bit different.
The Pureboosts are flexible but not as flexible as the Nikes. They also have a bit more cushioning. This makes them more adapted for urban running. But overall, they’re light, flexible, and low to the ground, which lets them compete for the same spot as Nike Free shoes.
The sole uses Adidas’ Stretchweb and Boost technologies. This makes the sole very springy while also giving you a more cushioned feel. The heel counter lets your ankle and Achilles tendon move in a natural way.
It has a simplistic, breathable upper, much like the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoes. But it’s one piece, other than the tongue. So the shoe has a snug, sock-like fit.
On the run
The approach of balancing natural movement with support and cushioning is similar to the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe but with more focus on comfort and performance. If you prioritize a natural feel, you’ll still want the Nikes for sure. But if a more modern shoe is your preference, consider these instead.
Runners report that they like the great comfort and springy feel. The main complaint seems to be that some think the tongue feels weird, and that that they may wear out somewhat fast. So if you want something that really lasts, the Nikes are a better bet.
Lightweight, simplistic shoes with a springy sole and clever lacing. While not a direct counterpart to Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe, it’s a strong contender.
The shoe is very bendy. It will stretch far and snap back fast, and it’s durable enough to handle lots of it. You’ll have good grip and high-energy return when you run, thanks to the Evertrack sole with flex grooves. The drop and strike aren’t as natural as what you’d get with the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe, but they’re not extreme either.
What’s really cool is that you can lace the shoe however you want. The net lacing system lets you use wider or narrower lacing, or aim for more heel support, or whatever you please. This video will show you how.
The lacing net helps guarantee a good fit for your foot. They may not even need breaking in.
On the run
You get enough cushioning for long running sessions, without the excessive feel of many running shoes. The heel support is firm but not restrictive, and the drop is moderate. These factors make it excellent for running in the city and on rocky trails.
The Puma Ignite is comfortable enough for everyday use as well. You won’t have any issues walking around in these, and they don’t look bad either. If the shoe’s collar gets uncomfortable, you can fold it down.
Buyers love the feel, the lacing options, and the good support. Their main complaint is that it can be hard to fit it to your foot at first due to the unusual lacing and the lack of a tongue.
Pros and Cons
After all those comparisons, it’s time to summarize the key takeaways. Here are the best and worst things about the Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe.
If a simple, natural yet springy feel is what you seek, this is an ideal shoe for you. The balance between support and free mobility makes it suitable for almost everyone.
If you’re looking for a plush and bouncy running shoe, this isn’t the ideal candidate. In that case, you’ll prefer the Puma Ignite. And if you want more minimalism, the New Balance Minimus is your top choice.
Nike Free 5.0 Women’s Running Shoe
For a shoe with “minimalist” in its sales blurb, it’s very cushy and springy. I prefer a bit of bounce like this rather than an all-out minimalist design. You can run on hard surfaces with fewer risks, and they do well as everyday shoes this way.
Nike has done an excellent job balancing support and comfort with a natural running style.