We like a good Nike sequel. Bar the bad sequels like Footscape or Rift 2s, for the most part it seems to allow the Nike design team to study and improve, compensating for any shortcomings and bringing in that new-new. In the running side, after a blur of fast-forward evolution since Free and Lunarlon came into being, sequels have been considered affairs that tweak the previous instalment. The Run Free was an office favourite when we first got hold of it in a similar black and white colourway...then the Lunar Eclipse arrived and...ummm...eclipsed it as our everyday ride of choice. But that's an unfair comparison anyway - they're two very different shoes, with the Free still on that quest to replicate barefoot benefits.
This formula of that intricately cut framework, a mesh sock-style fit and some severe-looking Free grooves in the outsole is a recipe for good-looking shoes - it's the best Free shoe since the Free Trail debuted. The Free Run 2+ is a vast improvement on a tremendous design - the new Free siping pattern is even more flexible, still tricking out the original Waffle pattern to the next level and the faintly asymmetric lacing pattern makes it a Footscape offspring of sorts, but the key change here is on the upper. The downside of today's performance pieces is a lack of natural fabrics - it's all strange, synthetic, featherweight fabrics these days that practically float out the box. Good for running, where grams affect times, but they can make a shoe feel cheap too.
So you need to compensate with detailing. That's where the Free Run 2 goes triply hard in the paint. Showboating with their fancy laser-cutting techniques, the cutaway, layered pattern, blending printed on panels and overlays evokes the golden age of the massively overlooked Nike Chapuka, but whereas that was some H.R. Giger-esque Alpha Project madness, the supportive detailing here is based on the ligaments of the foot, endeavouring to imitate their purpose too. The medial side is interesting too, with a stealthy little cutout swoosh in their, and shades of LeBron IV on that inner midsole.
This model's a superior start to the season and having seen what's in store until the end of the year, we're confident that there's a respite to the reign of the retro with some future cult classics in the mix. It feels nice to get excited about new shoes again and these are worth regular rotation. The grey/green and white/reds have got us excitedly for the first time in a short while and these should be hitting running stores and NikeTown imminently...