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Nike Free Trainer 5.0 Review

Nike Free Trainer 5.0
Photo: Nike
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Price:  $95 List
Pros:  Inexpensive, comfort, fit.
Cons:  Weightlifting, wear easily.
Manufacturer:   Nike
By Jacob Jizrawi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 17, 2017
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Our Verdict

Spring 2017: The Free Trainer 5.0 is No Longer Available
Nike has been producing a versatile training shoe for quite some time. The Free Trainer 5.0 is Nike's newest installment into this line of shoes. The idea behind the design of the shoe is to create a lightweight shoe that mimics the feel of running barefoot, offering you a substantial amount of support in all movements; from running and line drills to lifting (at least so they claim). The designers spent eight years studying shoeless running and all the biomechanics involved. What they got out of it was an understanding of your foot's natural movements; specifically how it is positioned and angled when it hits the ground, along with which areas of the foot carry the most pressure upon impact.

Our Analysis and Test Results


Comfort was one of the primary focuses in the design of this shoe. One way this was achieved was by utilizing what they call "no-sew construction." This allows the shoe to be more fluid and flexible, eradicating stitching, making the shoe more comfortable. However, the majority of the shoe's comfort comes from its sole. The Free Trainer 5.0 offers you a fairly thick sole, which in the realm of comfort does a great job absorbing the pressure dealt when your foot impacts the ground. However, I found the thickness of the sole to take away from the usability of the shoe. Although the shoe, as a whole, is light, the sole made it feel clunky when performing various movements. It made it more difficult to gain a sensory perception of where your foot was in relation to ground — something that could be important during exercises like box jumps.


The structural design of the shoe is very interesting. Free Trainer 5.0s feature a dual-pull lacing system, which was modeled after a Chinese finger trap. The idea behind constructing the shoe's upper this way is to provide your foot with continual support while performing a wide range of different movements. The dual-pull system locks in around your foot, creating a snug, glove-like fit that is intended to move synchronously with your motions. This is definitely one of the features of the shoe Nike was successful in producing. I was able feel the shoe tightening up around my foot while running, yet able to feel it loosen up when I was not moving around.


As a shoe, the Free Trainer 5.0 offers you a substantial amount of protection; however, as a CrossFit shoe, these shoes don't stack up quite as well. Overall the thickness of the upper mesh and the woven, dynamic fit technology (also know as the Chinese finger trap) helps shield your foot's rough impacts, while the thick outsole of the shoe is virtually impenetrable. The reason these shoes are not as protective when it comes to CrossFit is that unlike Reebok's Nano models or the Inov-8s, they are not designed with specialized features intended to shield your foot from CrossFit movements; specifically rope climbs, double unders, toes-to-bars, or even burpees.


In comparison to the other shoes that were tested, the bulkiness of the design makes the Nike Free Trainer 5.0s much less sensitive. Although you are not able to feel the ground beneath your feet while performing movements, the deep grooves in the outsole enhance the shoe's flexibility, promoting a more natural motion of your foot. This is another area where the woven upper technology is successful. Having the shoe lock in around your foot while you are working out allows you to feel the way you are moving and utilizing your foot, which is great to have in a sport where technique is key.


One of my biggest complaints about the Nike Free Trainer 5.0s is how they hold up in weightlifting movements, or rather, how they don't hold up. Although the durability of the soles provide you with support throughout your lifts when you drive through your heels, the thickness of the sole causes me to lose a lot of stability. An absence of lateral stabilization made each lift uncomfortable to perform. Additionally, it is difficult to feel the ground — something you want to feel while asserting a driving pressure through your legs into the ground.


Running is where the Free Trainer stands out. These shoes are built more closely to a traditional running shoe than a minimalist. The solid rubber pods of the outsole equip the shoes with a substantial amount of traction — designed in a pattern that also maximizes flexibility and durability. The lighter weight and snugger fit of the shoe, designed to mimic barefoot running, can be most noticeably felt. I definitely felt most comfortable using these shoes for runs and sprints as opposed to weightlifting.

Jacob Jizrawi