Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nike Flex Run 2017 vs 2018

With Skechers Malaysia no longer collaborating with me and a few of my team mates in Team 2ndSkin, as they moved into a different market segment in Malaysia, I found myself having to start looking again for shoes that will suit me. I be lying to say it be easy - because over the years, I've been so used to Skechers that I can tell you what model I am wearing even with my eyes closed. If you read my Review sections, you will see the numbers of Skechers I've worn, and loved. All good things come to an end, and I found myself looking at options.
Cheap options if I may say so myself.
A Ringgit Saved, is a Ringgit earned.
When Royal Sporting House (RSH) had a warehouse clearance sales at the end of May 2019, i went to take a look and was lucky to have chance upon two pairs of Nike Flex Run, one a 2017 model, and the other a 2018 model. They were sold for RM90 (Original when launched, RM490!) and RM110 (also RM490 when launched) each, with the 2018 being more expensive (because newer). I found both to be my size, and the price point was hard to say no to. Those of you that were there for that RSH sales, will remember how they put in another 50% off if you buy a third pair - and that was what I did as we got another pair for wifey (Saucony) and paid RM80 for a RM160 on-sale Litefoam series.
Nike - What Is There To Hate
Nike Pegasus 36. Image from Nike Malaysia
My last pair of Nike was courtesy of Nike Malaysia. They were the Pegasus+, which had the integrated hole to put in the Nike+ footpod. This was in 2008. That was 11 years ago, which made the Pegasus I had to be series 25, or Pegasus 25+. For those of you not in the know of the series, Pegasus is now at series 36. I was given a Nike Triax 10+ back in 2007 as well, and a pair of Adidas Supernova 7 (in 2007). I have written extensively of these shoes, and has put them all in a write up comparing it here. These shoes back in 2008 cost about RM350 onwards (RRP, not after discount). A bargain if you compare the pricing of running shoes now. Pegasus 36 full price is RM495.00 on Nike official store. Even the cheapest Skechers running shoe (GoRunRide5) is going for RM300 discounted. Who will buy Skechers at that kind of pricepoint when they now go "Britney Spears" with BTS? I won't.
The Nike Flex Run
With that kind of shoe pricing, you can now understand my excitement of getting a pair (or in this case, two), at total of RM200. Now, Nike Flex Run is a version of running shoe made for beginner runner. It's not even close cousin of the Nike Free (now called Nike Free RN, maybe leaving the "u" made them a gram lighter?). Flex Run as a model only came up in 2014, and they were super ugly.
Nike Flex Run 2014. Image from RunRepeat.com
3-years later, the Flex Run had a full refresh, and with complete material change and design, made to look more "Free" like. It has now looked like a kissing cousin of the Nike Free. Sexier. 
Nike Flex Run 2017
This pair has clocked close to 380km since I wore it in June, 2019. It was my main pair until Asic Relay 2019 run soaked this pair up with so much sweat it now been washed twice to rid of the un-dried smell (thank you Haze for blocking the sun!)
Super Striking Orange
This pair is light (221gram for men US8) and the fabric was thin. Reminds me of the quickdrying Skechers GoBionic series. Drop is 7mm, and does not qualify as a minimalist trainer. Although it gives the close to the ground feel, it is more because the sole were thin. Because there were humps at the bottom due to how the sole were laid out, you will feel strange for a first few run - and you get used to it. The aggressive lugs of the 2017 provides it with great flexibility, and you almost felt "free" in it. It bounces pretty well, providing a bit of energy return.
How the Flex was run
As this was the 2017 unit, I was fearing it may not last long due to the storage time potentially deteriorating the glue of the sole to the upper. For RM90, i had some hope it won't. Happy to report, it's holding up nicely until now. Two photos down will show you when this shoe was made - 17th Feb 2017, and this batch received and order for production (PO Date) at 14th December 2016.
Disappointing finish
The insole is removable, and i was disappointing to see how Nike finished the shoe. It is as if no thoughts were given to at the very least, make them nicer. This also meant, you will not be able to run this without insole, or risk hotspot/blister. You be surprised that insole adds up stack height of shoes, and removing insole in this Flex 2017 may give you a 4mm drop, close to ground feel.
The upper however, pretty impressive finishing
The Flex 2017 is a lightweight trainer, and what they lack in structure, they have these latex/silicon band that help to keep shape when the runner uses them. The toebox borders on E (wide), but more likely a D (narrow). I've learnt to size up shoe and knows what to look for. For this, I took a EUR46 when i usually wear a 45. Many times, some shoes are very pretty and nice, but it is at risk of you not being able to run in them. Many fashion "running" shoes nowadays. 
I went a full size up due to the toebox. Left date number is PO date, right date number is manufacturing date. US system -MM/DD/YY
The tongue is just nice padded, and it does bites into the top of your foot if you do not adjust it correctly before tying the shoelace. The arch support is neutral (read: none). There are many ventilation holes which helps to provide both light savings and also breath-ability. My fear is getting one of these snagged in some sharp corner or stones, and the it may tear it. But that's like some far-out possibilities. Interestingly, online review did mention that the top was easily damaged after a few months.
Support comes in form of some thread doubling as shoelace holes
This shoe completely lacks any reflective materials. There are none on this shoe. So if yo run a lot in early morning or late evening, you may want to remind yourself to bring along some lights so others can see you. A bit disappointing as small things like these should be standard!
How it was laced. And no reflective tags anywhere
Problem after second run
The shoe, due to the narrow toebox, placed a very uneasy, and turned to be painful hotspot right under the big toe's bone. It was so bad that both feet swelled after a 15km run. I was super disappointed and I found out through interactions online, that it's "normal". I do not except the "normalcy" because a shoe like these are made to be used for running. 
see the swelling
Trying to identify the problem of the shoe, and understanding where the pain radiated helped me to pinpoint the exact issue. It was the end of the shoe tongue, that adds thickness to the first shoelace hole where my middle finger pointed to. This has caused the shoe toe-box to be closer/tighter, and disallow natural movement. The extra thickness acted as a persistent pressure point everytime you bend the feet to run. Understanding the issues, I re-laced the shoe and skipped the first hole completely on both shoes.
Yes, I experimented with one side fully laced, and the other skipping one hole
Happy to report, that solved all the pressure point on this Flex Run 2017. So, if you have similar problem with any of your tight ended shoes, do give this a try!
inner side profile
Nike Flex Run 2018
The Nike Flex Run 2018, or renamed as Flex RN 2018 was built similarly to the 2017 version in terms of structure. I can't understand the missing "u" though. Jokingly, maybe that helped Nike saved a gram of ink. 
Tongue retained the same honeycomb structure
This shoe priced at RM490 brand new when launched, and weight 255grams, with 6mm drop. Unlike the Flex2017, this 2018 update was classified as "Recreational" vs the 2017 "Competition". Unlikely the 40+grams extra pushed it to the next level. However, the Flex2018 does looked bulkier vs the 2017.
Outer side profile of Flex RN 2018
I took the same EUR46 size, and the front was a bit tight. While both 2017 and 2018 retained the same heel cup (they are super flexible and smooth), the front is noticably missing the latex line in the 2017. A slight update and the shoe material has none visible ventilation holes. It is also made in "flyknit" which was what Nike is known for recently in saving weight on running shoes.
Flyknit. Close mesh. 
The sole of the 2018 has been refreshed fully. It now carries a closed honeycomb pattern that were more similar to some of the Nike Free range.
Still gives you the "lug" feel
The closed pattern were less prone for small pebbles to get lodged in between - which really doesn't really effect the performance of the 2017 shoes.Maybe visual wise, as you will remove anything stuck in between the (2017) sole. The 2018 doesn't have that "space", and the flexibility did not change as shown in the photo below.
able to bend it 90degrees
Upon removing the insole, happy to report that the finishing is much better. I may try to run it without insole to see how it feel, though I doubt the material will be OK for longer run without socks (if no insole).
Much better
The 2018 also came with the thread that is used to secure the laces. I believe these help to provide good support once laced up. While some part felt restrictive on first feel, it may actually be because I did not pay attention to the 2017 when i first laced it up. You know what they say about new shoe, you get excited and all you want to do is to go out and run. 
Inner side profile. Noticed the higher arch cutting of the sole - it's still for neutral runner (read: no arch support)
The heel cup is worth a mention for both 2017 and 2018. I like them soft and actually hugs your heel. Because it's elastic, it sits in every curve of your heel, and help in preventing any chaffing and blister usually associated with "harder" heel cup.
The soft heelcup that molds around your heel as it's elastic
Learning from the Flex Run 2017, I decided to just skip the first shoelace hole, and lace up from the second onwards. With 48 days to Ironman Langkawi, I can't afford any injury due to new gear. And it is also a good time to test/try and see which one will be suitable for the upcoming SCKLM and the Ironman run league. Be reminded not to try new gear on your race day! This rules still holds true (eventhough I used to be a sucker to my own advice years ago, as I put myself and the gear to try for the sponsors).
Skipped the hole...
Can you see how my feet trying to break free from the toebox? It is that narrow, likely to be smaller than a D. But un-lacing the first hole help a lot! Please do note that the 2018 version comes with round laces vs 2017 flat laces, this may had added some weight too. Pros and Cons of flat vs round? not much if you know how to properly secure your laces, and never worry about it coming off ever even in the harshest of run. How? Here is how to tie your laces correctly.
As disappointing as the 2017 version, this doesn't come with a sliver of reflective material. So, if you are running on traffic area in early morning or at night, kit up with a flashing LED light and stay visible.
Front end similar with Flex Run 2017
Road Feel
Both shoes offer great traction and provide sufficient cushioning for average runner (like me). For speedwork it perform as you require it to be, never slips and secure feel. Longest I've ran with the 2017 is just 25km at tempo paced, and fastest so far is at my LTPace of 4:30 for 10km. The shoe lacks ventilation, and it soaks up in our hot and humid weather. I've had three incidences where the shoe (2017 and 2018) soaked up after a 21km and 10km run. I run without socks, and this only happened like a week ago - likely to be the hotter and humid weather. 
Flex Run 2017, and me
If you found a 2017 version, do consider to buy them if the price is right (remember, i paid RM90), as I felt it to be a better version of the Flex Run or RN. The 2018 version is more padded, and felt more cushioned, which is not what I prefer. But if you prefer slightly more padded shoe, 2018 is a good start - or go check the newer 2019 up, and make a visual comparison of it vs this 2017 and 2018, never know it it became a much better choice, as long as you are willing to part with your money for a newer model.
Just consider the newer Pegasus series, because that is what makes Nike, Nike. There is a reason why it's at their 36th iteration. My experience with Pegasus 25+ makes me wonder if 36 is "the shoe to have". Maybe I've just see if Nike Malaysia willing to give me a pair for review!