The Nike Free Run Distance 2 is a shoe for efficient neutral runners who love the natural feel and motion of the Free series, with more substantial construction that accommodates everyday training. True to its Free series roots, this model is an outstanding option for midfoot strikers who want a minimalist feel without compromising speed or mileage. Its primary drawbacks are underfoot grip and durability due to the lack of any outsole rubber.
Fit Sizing on the RN Distance 2 is true to size in length, with a slightly curved last and wide toe box across the metatarsal heads. The upper is a free-floating, form fitting mesh bootie that is locked down with a completely separate external overlay that secures the midfoot and rearfoot quite well.
Comfort The form fitting upper rides like a sock, moving and flexing comfortably with your foot throughout the range of motion. The external overlay is a solid layer, which leaves only the toebox area for extensive ventilation, so the RN Distance 2 rides warmer than other shoes in our testing. Moderate padding around the heel and ankle collar feels just right for wrapping and cradling the rearfoot. Underfoot cushioning is quite impressive considering the relatively low platform on this shoe.
Responsiveness Midsole construction is the clear strength of the RN Distance 2, and highlights Nike’s advanced technology in both of the materials that stand between your foot and the ground. The thin layer closest to the foot is Lunarlon foam, Nike’s softest and lightest midsole compound. The thicker layer is auxetic, which means that it stretches in both a lateral and sagittal (front to back) direction with impact; the deep triangular cutouts allow this multi-directional expansion. When the material undergoes impact, elastic return is generated from all directions, creating a more energetic response. Our testers were impressed with the quick response and bouncy feel of the RN Distance 2.
Ride Quality The auxetic cutouts on the underside create a highly flexible midsole with full movement in all directions; it also picks up small rocks and gravel like a vacuum, which can sometimes detract from the smooth rolling feel from heel to toe. The 4mm midsole drop favors midfoot strikers, but heel strikers will still appreciate a nice transfer of momentum from heel to toe. There is no outsole rubber at all on the bottom of the shoe, which compromises traction in wet conditions, and our testers who pronate mildly report that the midsole compound scuffs down relatively quickly with higher mileage, eventually causing mild asymmetries to be accentuated.
Speed The RN Distance 2 isn’t the lightest model in our test group – although it’s close – but the secure fit and very strong midsole performance make it a shoe that’s easy to run fast in. It has an excellent cushioned feel for its platform height, and combines the minimalist feel with enough protection to let you hammer the pace.