We know — words? After the 2011 sneaker wrapups were concluded and retro reigned once again, we asked the inimitable Gary Warnett to pen a few words on one of his favorite models. Because sometimes it takes someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of history to recognize greatness in the present. —RB

The award show interruption meme was played out a long, long time ago, but I'm gonna have to stop you to plead the case for the Nike Free Run+ 2. Design classics from 1988, 1995 and 1997 are a given, but if we ignore new models, we're doomed to see the same shoes in rotation every three years from now until infinity. Anyone who went by "Best Of..." lists would think 2011 was a weak year for new models, but Nike's running releases crushed it despite their lightweight feel 2004's Free and 2008's Lunarlon are the most significant Nike running technologies since Zoom and Phylon arrived. 

Why get excited about an SMU of an old Air Max when we should be getting hyped about the fact the Free Run+ 2 in Chlorine Blue and Total Orange was increasingly popular in onetime retro strongholds? In fact, it didn't just conquer retro Nike strongholds, but conquered realms of vulc-soled basics and formal footwear. This was an anti-heritage modern classic. This in an age when iconic and classic are hurled around like MMG members dispense dollars

Considered, futuristic fabrics and minimal stitching can make a shoe feel a little less substantial, but when it comes to performance running, that minimalism just makes them official soldiers in Bill Bowerman's battle against bulk. The Free Run+ 2's popularity can be credited to a boom in casual running, good design and boredom with the same set of sneaker shapes. Those underlays and overlays imitating tendons? The asymmetric lacing evoking the Footscape's fastenings? The gently tweaked Free 5.0 sole patterning? All perfect. This is what a shoe was meant to look like in 2011. What's going to get retroed in 2021? The same shoe cycle, or shoes like this? The Free Run+ 2, first Free 5.0 and original Lunar Racer are future reissue fodder. Trust me on this.


What's going to get retroed in 2021? The same shoe cycle, or shoes like this?


The Lunar Eclipse and Lunar Elite are other strong shoes, but this was the best yet. A brand-new shoe like this being given the Nike Sportswear Tier Zero treatment was significant too the City Pack was killer, especially the Brazil and London editions. Then Nike Running upped the ante with the Scotchlite-heavy Shield pack edition. And when that New Year vow finally kicks in, you can actually put these to work. 

This is where sneakers should be at this point in time. There's always time for a history lesson (those Air Max Nomos were an excellent retro choice), but the Free Run+ line is the future.