One year ago, Nike SB presented the Lunar Oneshot, a model that boasted a new design as well as new sole technology. To the public eye, updated sole technology can often be overlooked by a shoe’s new design. But the sole in fact, holds just as much importance as a sleek new design, since it affects the performance on board much more. A proper sole defines and characterizes the spectrum of grip, boardfeel, durability and comfort. With that in mind, Nike SB introduced the Free. For three years, designers, engineers and team riders like Sean Malto, Daryl Angel and Shane O´Neill worked on the perfect implementation of the Nike Free technology in a skateshoe. Whether or not those three years are considered time well spent is something we delve into now.
The Nike SB Free fits true to size.
Overall, durability of the Nike SB Free is average. Surprisingly, the sidewalls lasted pretty well even though their design features potentially weakening openings. We didn’t manage to do any major damage to those. The lace loops are designed well too, minimizing the contact between griptape and laces. Apart from that, the front foot area suffered quite some damage. The thin rubber sole didn’t protect the upper material too well and as a result, the dreaded kickflip hole showed its grim face. The area around the top lace loop suffered some damage as well; the foam material popped out here. The sole itself showed great durability though. No slick spots appeared, and judging by the deep thread pattern it’s quite unlikely that some would show up anytime soon.
As expected, flex is one of the most characteristic strengths of the Nike Free sole construction. That’s quite important when it comes to skateboarding, especially in the front foot area. The heel area of a Nike Free running shoe usually features a more stable construction with added cushioning. The Nike SB Free is no different. Overall, the cushioning of this model is slightly above average and takes medium abuse quite well. The thickest part of the sole is located in the middle area, protecting you from primo landings. The sole around the heel is a little thinner.
As shown in the pictures above, the Nike SB Free is cut rather wide in the heel area whilst being pretty slim in the mid and frontal area. The shape is rather parallel, ending in a slightly pointy toe area and a blunt tip. The shoe molds tightly to your foot, thus creating great foothold in the mid and frontal area.
The Nike SB Free clearly puts its focus on boardfeel and grip. The Nike Free Technology generally aims to recreate the natural movement of your feet. This shows especially when looking at the sole. The 8 deep grooves in the toe area ensure a maximum in flex, which in turn, positively affects grip and boardfeel. This, in combination with its thin sole construction in the toe area, creates great contact between board and shoe. The grip is balanced pretty well too, not too little and not too much. All in all, the Free technology was adapted perfectly in terms of skateboarding needs like boardfeel and grip.
Most important features for a comfortable skateshoe are weight, ventilation and a well crafted inner area. The Nike SB Free is the most lightweight shoe in the SB line, next to the Koston One and the Lunar Oneshot. Compared to most other models, the Free emerges victorious. Ventilation is above average too. The inner area is crafted quite well, although some slight pressure marks were noticeable during the first few sessions. Those pressure marks are connected to shape and stability. Surprisingly, the Free is rather stiff during the first session, but slowly gets softer and softer with more wear. Luckily, it never gets too soft, which ensures the shoe’s stability and shape. The heel almost feels like it is being hugged, but without providing enough stability. This improves comfort during wear, but leaves something to be desired when it comes down to protection.
Nike SB once again revealed their potential and demonstrated their commitment in terms of technology and innovation. All in all, the Free is a convincing model, especially due to a great balance between boardfeel and grip. But flaws in terms of heel stability and durability weaken its overall performance, leaving us still a bit hungry to test the perfect skate shoe.
Check out the Nike SB Free at ARROW&BEAST