Can a pair of sneakers really change your life? If they’re Nike Free, maybe just maybe

Recently, I pulled my calf muscle playing basketball. I’ve pulled many muscles before but this was a different kind of pain. Couldn’t walk much. Took me darn near 30 minutes to limp from the parking lot to the doctor’s office. Diagnosis? Grade II strain. Basically you’re out a month.

A week later, the wife and I are celebrating the anniversary and she offers to buy me a pair of shoes. I’ve been hearing about these Nike Frees and Nike Free Runs for ages. A buddy says it’s like wearing a sock and once let me slide my foot into his. It felt OK, but I didn’t really walk around much.

Now, at the store, I try one on and it feels like nothing I’ve worn before. It’s soft, instantly comfortable. Nearly barefoot but with a softer ride. I instantly wanted these. So, a $105 credit card transaction later, I had a new pair of black Nike Free Runs and they’ve quickly become my favorite shoe.

When I put them on the next day, my calf pain was less when wearing them. I couldn’t explain it and still can’t. Call it mental. When I put on my old shoes or several pairs of them, there’s more pain. With the Frees, there’s less pain. Perhaps it’s because the Frees are more designed to mimic walking or running barefoot. It’s really akin to wearing your favorite pair of slippers all day, just like my friend said. They’re also available in quite a few bright colors, just like my friend said.

I’ve not tried the Vibram Five Fingers or the adidas versions where the shoes have individual toe inserts, but these Frees are my favorite shoes now. And it’s not like Nike needs a big hit or anything. The company has just taken over NFL apparel needs. Every basketball player seems to want to wear Nike and of course, speaking of basketball, they’ve got the Jordan Brand, so named for Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever.

And in June, Nike reported its fourth quarter revenue was up 12 percent — to $6.5 billion.

That’s a whole lotta shoes.

I suspect a good many of them are Nike Frees, which launched in 2004 and now come in three versions:

*Nike Free Run+3: Features the innovative Dynamic Fit construction, wrapping the arch and helping to eliminate the space between the foot and the shoe for a glove-like fit. A seamless upper provides lightweight support and ventilation where needed most.

*Nike Free 4.0: Modified siping helps inch this shoe closer to barefoot. A seamless upper and molded sock liner that follows the curvature of the foot provide a great fit and enhance comfort and support.

*Nike Free 3.0: Additional siping in the arch and a seamless lightweight upper help make this the closest Nike running shoe to barefoot for foot strengthening and flexibility. Pods of solid rubber in high wear areas enhance durability and traction.

For me, these are the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. When I heal, I can’t wait to walk and run in these. I have a flat foot and usually wear some wide, firm bottomed shoes to keep my feet from over pronating (rolling inward too much). I may still need that, but as I’m getting around a little more gingerly than normal, I’m really enjoying my Nike Frees.

Just wished Nike didn’t only make them, outside of black, in all those bright colors.

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