Nike Free Flyknit and Nike Free Hyperfeel are the latest running shoes announced on July 16 by Nike. Pocket-lint got to handle both pairs of shoes to see how they felt on the foot and underfoot, at the company's headquarters and development centre in Portland, Oregon.
We didn't get a long time with either of these running shoes. Not the time to complete a more common 5km, 10km or yet longer run for which plenty of prospective purchasers will be considering the forthcoming products' suitability But we did manage to catch just enough time out of the day's presentations to rotate quick runs between the two - fear not, running friends, we didn't pop one on one foot and one on the other - through a grassy field, then finishing up on a tarmac stretch.
The first pair we got to wear were the ultra-bright Free Flyknit. We're not massive fans of the "look at me" luminous green/yellow colour, but plenty of other finishes are available to suit a wider variety of tastes.
These near-barefoot running shoes aren't as stripped-back as many competitors' barefoot shoes, but have been given the Nike treatment by super-thing and lightweight sectioned sole which gives a slightly greater feeling of protection.
The ankle area of the Flyknit slipped around the foot with relative ease and stayed firmly in place. They hug tight to every section of the foot, but not in a clamp-like or pressured way. It's only when on the move that greater sensation can be felt from what's underfoot as there's not a huge amount of cushioning.
Our feet are relatively wide and so some spill to the outer sides of the shoes gave some slight "roll" during the run. But the natural feel and ground-to-foot experience ought to be good for long-distance runs with minimal impact to muscles compensation for the foot position. We say ought, as the short period of tarmac that we braved in the 30C Portland heat was hardly representative of a full-on race.
Next up the Hyperfeel. These are like a hybrid of the Nike Free 5.0+ and the Nike Lunar series, combining Flyknit material alongside Lunar sole of both of those shoes into one new form.
Getting the shoe on the foot is a far tighter experience than the Free Flyknit. The shoelace threads sit very snugly indeed across the top of the foot, but after an initial wander they fall into place and are comfy on the foot.
The difference in running experience is hugely different from the Free Flyknit too. With the free Hyperfeel there's still plenty of underfoot sensation, but a fair amount of "bounce" delivered by the Lunar sole which sits right up under the foot for that extra cushioned feel. It's not like wearing pumped-up Nike Air kicks or anything like that - as these are running shoes through and through - but that extra protective feel was definitely to our preference. It's just right, not to excess.
On the flip side, we think the more comfort-focused Hyperfeel is probably best for short-medium distance tarmac runners where those stray gravel chunks and other on-road obstacles won't disrupt the flow of run whatever you happen to tread on.
The centre-to-rear feel of the cushioned sole doesn't extend too far forward, so we would like to experiment with a longer distance to see whether such impact would cause more muscular compensation that might hinder those longer distances. In such a case we think the Free Flyknits would be the optimum choice - but it's all down to individual taste.
For us it's the Hyperfeel that ticked most of our boxes. But that's the thing: it's all about personal preferece, running style and what will suit. And the difference between these two running shoes - and despite overlap in the types of technology that each pair uses - is considerable when on the foot.
There are stacks of other shoes out there to consider too - this overview of Nike's latest is a direct comparison to highlight the different feel and target audience between the two. Elsewhere whether you're looking for the yet more cushioned Adidas Boost or beyond for trail running shoes from The North Face, there're lots of options to think about.
The Nike Free Flyknit will be available from August 1, priced $160 (£106), while the Nike Free Hyperfeel will be available from September, priced $175. UK prices to be confirmed For more information visit: www.nike.com