What if I told you that you that you could have a shoe that performed well for both running and lifting?
Many have tried to combine the two, there have been some decent performers, but nothing has been compelling enough to actually make me want to replace my top picks with. Until now – nothing has achieved both as well as the Nike Free X Metcon.
The initial community response to the FreeXMetcon was that they would be more Free than Metcon. Honestly, that’s probably the shoe I’ve seen most people walk into the box with when starting CF. Then people quickly realize how ineffective they are for training, develop some kind of hate for them, then pick up Nano’s or Metcon’s; it’s what I did. And I get it, they look more like Free’s than Metcon’s, complete with Free forefoot flex grooves, a new sock-like design, and overly cushioned looking midsole. But the Metcon name means something: stability – Despite the Free moniker, it has to be stable.
Spoiler alert: They are.
Build Quality/Construction – 6/6
The FreeMetcon’s sport a huarache-like silhouette that’s starting to introduce training shoes into the world of modern shoe design. Finally, a shoe that you wouldn’t mind wearing out with some joggers or jeans. Most people love it, myself included, but of course there are always some haters. Colorways at launch are simple, but not bad looking. Nike’s obviously holding off the good stuff as there are some really cool features to each colorway, but none of them combine all of them in one.
The upper is a bootie comprised of a few different fabrics; it’s sock like in design but not a single piece, though the seams aren’t pronounced so it feels like it is. Around the ankle is a neoprene like material that’s a little bit more cushioned which flows down to a thinner more breathable, flexible fabric that is adorned with a TPU webbing presumably for durability reasons. There’s no Flyknit here, but it’s not missed, the upper construction fits well and is really comfortable. Weight ends up being similar to other training shoes at 11.19oz for a size 10.
For support, there’s TPU heel counter that extends around the Achilles all the way around the ankle that’s also used in the lacing configuration. Embedded into the upper are 3 sets of Flywire that do a good enough job by themselves to get you a nice fit, but you can also lace the heel counter lower if you wanted to really lock the shoe down. At the rear heel of the shoe you’ll also find the now standard, TPU heel clip for handstand push-ups.
The key change to the Free Metcon is that it doesn’t use a drop-in midsole like the standard or DSX Flyknit models. Inside you’ll find a normal thin sockliner with a softer midsole compound that you can’t really see, a denser carrier foam, and finally harder rubber pieces at the bottom of the outsole. The carrier foam feels more dense than a normal Free’s would and the rubber pieces give the shoe that extra added bit of stiffness for the sake of needing to be able to lift in these shoes. The middle of the outsole has the largest piece of rubber that wraps up the sidewalls for protection against the rope, but also acts like a midfoot shank. Of course, since it is a Nike Free too, the forefoot has the same flexible hexagonal pattern that lets your foot move freely.
Everything flows well together to create probably the best designed trainer of 2018.
Fit – 6/6
As I mentioned earlier, the upper is a hodgepodge of fabrics with not a single one being Flyknit – do I care? Not when the shoe fits this well. Though I’ve heard varying results of how the shoe fits people’s feet, in my case, these shoes fit perfectly. No heel slip, no overly pronounced arch, generously wide toebox, and a size 10 fits with the perfect amount of space left over. Metcon 4’s in the same size fit with less space in front of the toes, whereas the DSX Flyknit 2’s fit with a LOT more space in front of the toes. There’s adequate space for your toes to splay but not so much that the shoe can feel sloppy.
One of the worries I’ve heard was that since Free’s are traditionally more narrow, these would be too. They’re not, at least at the toe box and the midfoot/heel are pretty normal in width without a huge arch.
My sizes for reference:
- Metcon – 10
- DSX FK2 – 10
- Nano 8 – 10
- LunarEpic – 10.5
- Epic React – 10
- Chucks – 9.5
- Romaleos – 9.5
Flexibility/Comfort – 6/6
These are seriously comfortable shoes.
Like wear them all day comfortable – Run in them, lift in them, coach in them, go out in them. I personally do not like to wear shoes for extended periods of time that don’t have structure (not a huge Boost fan), and the Free Metcon’s nail the balance between cushion and support right on the money. Yes, they are a little more cushioned, but not to the point where you feel like you’re sinking in quicksand. You never feel like you’re falling out of the shoe or like if you turned too fast, you might tweak your ankle.
Free equals flexible. Are they as flexible as traditional Free’s? Nope, because they’re a training shoe. Are they more flexible than a normal training shoe? Hellyes. Running in these shoes is an eye opening experience. You’ll immediately think to yourself, “What have I been missing out on in life?” and start to question your very existence. Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but running in the Free Metcon’s is like no other training shoe to ever come before it. They have plenty of structure for a powerful stride, while remaining soft enough to not irritate your feet, and provide excellent energy return. Simply put, these are the best training shoes to run in. Period. They might even be my favorite running shoe overall right now mainly due to all of the things I listed and their 5mm drop.
That flexibility and comfort carries over for training purposes too. Burpees don’t feel like a chore, they’re responsive for box jumps and you don’t lose track of your footing for double unders. I couldn’t think of anything better for HIIT or boot camp training.
Stability – 5/6
There were a lot of people doubting the Free Metcon’s ability to lift in and I’m here to happily shut that nonsense down. With Metcon in the name, how could you doubt them? These are not designed to be a replacement to the competition spec. Metcon 4, or even the DSX Flyknit 2. They’re a shoe that serves a different purpose, something you’ll actually want to run in, that you can still throw weights around with. At what point would you might not want to be using these shoes for lifting? Depends on the lifter – In my opinion, intermediate to elite level lifters will be able to use this shoe for just about anything without any negative effects to their lifts, both Oly and power. Whereas I think novice lifters might have more trouble with stability just due to the level of body control and mobility they might not have developed yet. On the flip side, if you never want to go heavy heavy, they’ll probably work for novices just as well.
I’ve made it my mission to try to take these shoes to the limit, but I don’t think I’ve come close yet. Even when I think I might not be able to do certain things in the Free Metcon’s, I try anyways and I’m always surprised at the level of stability they have. I pulled a 5 rep deadlift PR at 505, not a weight that I would normally trust to a shoe that has a taller profile, but they proved to be just fine. Squatting yielded the same results, unlike the first DSX Flyknit, I never felt like the shoe was turning into mush under me and power delivery was nearly on par with a normal Metcon shoe.
They don’t perform quite as well with Oly movements as they do power, but they still worked for me up to as high as my maxes go. When you can’t get your feet as set, the flexibility of the shoe invites you to end up forward if you don’t catch perfectly. This was most noticeable to me in shoulder to overhead cycling, but was there in cleans and snatches as well. This will be more subjective for people that just have better mobility overall than I do.
Value – 5/6
At $120, the Free Metcon’s are not an entry level shoe, though they are cheaper than the flagship Metcon products. If you could ONLY have one shoe and you’re a CrossFitter, I’d still recommend going with the Metcon 4. If you’re a normal gym rat and you wanted an all around good shoe you could do anything in, I’d go with the Free Metcon. If you’re debating between DSX FK2 and this, I’d go Free Metcon. If you wanted a more minimal run trainer, Speed TR 2.0’s are great but personally I’d pick these for their comfort and better structure. If you want the closest thing to the Nano 8 but don’t want a Reebok shoe, get this. If you already have any of the shoes listed, just get these to have too.
I’m blown away by the Free X Metcon’s, whatever wizardry Nike used to conjure up a shoe that is comfortable, flexible, and stable should be outlawed because they just changed the game. I still think Nano 8’s are the best overall training shoe, but the Metcon 4 just got knocked down a notch by the FreeXMetcon.