Never mind that the color pallette is nearly the same, this is about the claim from each that they mimick bare feet for running/jumping/peacocking. For the general ideas and arguments for and against being barefoot, check out this article, titled “How We’re Wrecking Out Feet With Every Step,” published in New York Magazine. That’s not what this is about; this is a direct comparison between the Nike Free 3.0 and Vibram Five Finger.
The Nike Free, in my opinion, was the first real innovation from the juggernaut since the Air Go LWP, a shoe so light that you couldn’t wear it outdoors because they would shred inside of a week. The Free 3.0 have some great pros:
- They are light but still feel like you get some nearly-shoe levels of support. In fact they’re so light that my girlfriend thought they didn’t ship any shoes in the box before she opened the box.
- Benefit the athlete who has only worn overbuilt, over-supportive shoes over the years for fear of breaking their feet.
- They still look like shoes, so your wardrobe options move beyond constantly wearing board shorts or cut-off track pants.
The Free 3.0 does have some cons, however:
- They have a heel, more so than you would expect. I suspect this is because the shoe is still a running shoe and most weekend warrior runners have atrocious heel strike tendencies. The Free 7.0 “Trainer” actually has less of a heel in spite being more of a shoe.
- They also have a thicker sole than the 7.0, in spite being made of a more flexible material. Perhaps this is to make up for the general lack of padding and support.
- They don’t have nearly the peacocking ability of the Vibrams (more on that in a minute).
That said, I like these shoes and basically cycle between the Free 3.0, the Free 7.0, and my Vibram Five Fingers throughout the week. The Vibrams have become a favorite of mine for a few reasons:
- I used to be that douchey guy going to class barefoot when I was in college…so this is better than that.
- They are incredible if you’re a fan of attention. Just yesterday while waiting in line to see Star Trek I had the attention of a family next to me asking about the shoes, how thick the sole is, are the waterproof, etc. My standard response is that they, “keep my feet from being stabbed by spent needles around town.” People like that.
- When you run in them, you feel faster/lighter. Suddenly striking at your forefoot feels like a series of bounds as opposed to a resistive locomotive effort.
As I mentioned before, they look good being worn with shorts or messenger pants. Jeans and vibrams don’t seem to vibe well, at least for my tastes.
The only thing I don’t like about the vibrams: I can’t play basketball in them, or rather, I want just a wee bit more padding than they offer. I can play in the Free 3.0′s without excessive wear and tear on my feet. I feel the vibrams…er…vibe more with outdoor activities: hiking, exploring, dog walking, being “that guy.” Beats the hell out of scorching the bottom of your foot to “be one with gaia/be more like grok/feel the ground beneath your feet.”