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KNOW YOUR TECH breaks down the scientific technology used in your favorite sneakers and activewear. Let’s demystify your next purchase: today’s technology is Nike Free. This minimal outsole construction was introduced in 2005 to offer a naturally flexible alternative to standard performance sneakers. Inspired by barefoot running, Nike Free sneakers utilize a 0-10 scale to differentiate outsole profiles, with 0 being barefoot and 10 being that of a traditional sneaker.

What is it? A rubber outsole constructed with deep slices and reverse flex grooves, encouraging both flexibility and extension in both directions. Sneakers with Free technology often utilize similarly flexible and lightweight upper, which combines the natural motion of barefoot running with necessary protection and support.

How does it work? The idea behind Nike Free is to engage and exercise muscles that may otherwise be neglected in standard footwear. Starting with the flex of the toes, Free technology helps to tune   muscles for performance while strengthening stabilizer muscles to combat injuries.

Notable products: Free Flyknit, Free Trainer 7.0, Free Trainer 5.0

Bottom line: If you're intrigued by the concept of barefoot running but aren't quite ready to make the full-on jump, Nike Free technology provides a great transitional approach.

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