Tag Archives: Asics GEL-Neo33 2

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Will Scarpa’s Modern Minimal trail running shoe put a spark in your step?

The Scarpa Spark is an attractive and clearly well designed and manufactured trail running shoe. According to Scarpa North America, this shoe is a “Mountain Minimal trail running shoe designed for moving fast and confidently on rugged terrain.” Does the Spark fulfill this goal? Read on to see my verdict.

Scarpa Spark (sharp)

I received the Spark in the ocean and lime color way (it’s also available in black and green apple). My first impression was that the shoe looks more expensive than its list price ($119). The Spark weighs 9.2 ounces and has a 6mm heel drop. The shoe has a EVA midsole of impressive size, which promised a good measure of protection for sore feet.

The Spark has a gusseted tongue and a lacing system that securely holds the feet in place. The shoe fits comfortably a half-size up from walking shoe size. The Spark is narrow in the back and in the mid-foot, while providing plenty of room up front for one’s toes. The heel counter is low and there’s plenty of cushioning around the ankles.

The Spark’s insole fit well and did not present any issues. The laces stay tied.

I could feel the Spark’s great cushioning the second that I stepped out of my front door. The first trail that I encountered was a crushed gravel one, and the toothy, rugged Speed Lite outsole provided good traction on this surface. (The Spark’s feel on the trail reminded me of a pair of Nike trail running shoes that I once owned, the Nike Air Terra Kimbia.)

As I moved on to an asphalt road, I found that this model provides a stable ride. Neutral runners and minimal-to-moderate pronators should be able to use it as a road trainer.

The Spark’s strengths make themselves known on two surfaces. On hard-packed dirt trails it’s as if a stability control system was turned to “on,” keeping all the yaws in check. On hard rock trails, the toothy sole grabs and controls the rocks and keeps them from moving you sideways.

On sidewalks, the Spark is likely best for mid-foot strikers. There’s not much forefoot flexibility, and the shoe is not built for natural heel striking. The relative lack of energy return and bounce on concrete results in one’s feet staying close to the surface (as with the Asics GEL Neo33 2), but this means that for some it will make a good mid-distance training shoe.

On a crushed gravel track, the shoe felt protective with one exception. My sensitive metatarsals sometimes complained when I was running laps in the Spark. It may be that this model could use some additional metatarsal area padding.

The Spark proved to be a very good fire trail runner. The outsole lugs provide just enough surface grip to make a runner’s feet feel safe and secure. I would have no hesitation about wearing this shoe on wet weather days.

The Scarpa Spark is a highly protective shoe considering its weight and price range. While the shoe does not feel “fast” in use, it nevertheless never feels like a boot. The outsole looks like it will hold up for several hundreds of miles of wear and tear. All in all, it’s a pretty impressive package.

Verdict: The Spark is a trail running shoe that allows one to move confidently on mild, moderate and rugged, challenging terrain. It also performs well off the trail. While it’s best suited for mid-foot strikers, runners of every ilk should be able to use the Spark as a safe, well-constructed and highly durable trainer.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-scarpa-spark/

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Keep On Running

Running Shoe Review: Asics GEL-Neo33 2

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 is a stealth running shoe in more ways than one. The model that I received from Asics arrived in a bold black/lightning/royal color combination that makes it appear more aggressively serious than a daily mid-weight (10.2 ounces) trainer. And then there’s the fact that there’s no visible medial post in this stability shoe — other than a few almost invisible dots in the midsole — but the Duo-Sole support is most definitely present.

The name does not refer to 33 revolutions per minute. Instead it refers to the fact that Asics’s technology is intended to support the 33 bones in the human foot, and this is the second version of this model (thus, its replacement will be known as the GEL-Neo33 3). This shoe has a semi-curved last and a slip-lasted midsole, something that is almost standard on stability running shoes. The fit is narrow from the ankles to the arch of the foot (providing a secure fit), and allows plenty of room for the toes upfront.

The heel strike in this model is quite soft, but the cushioning is sterling and the ride is responsive. I encountered no issues with the lacing.

Experienced runners generally have one thing to say about Asics running shoes, “They require no break-in period.” Correct, and this is true of the GEL-Neo33 2. It’s comfortable as a runner from the very first steps and miles. It’s also a strikingly comfortable walking shoe — something that is not unprecedented. I’ve often used Asics 2000 series running shoes as my Friday and weekend walking shoes.

The GEL-Neo33 2 has an innovative 8mm heel-to-toe drop (the traditional standard is 12mm and minimalist shoes tend to have a 4mm or less drop). As such, it’s likely to assist someone intending to transition from a running shoe with a traditional heel height, like the Mizuno Wave Rider 16, to a minimalist-style shoe like the Skora Core.

The relatively flat sole and lowered heel results in mid-foot landings, and rules it out for sprinting. You’ll find your feet staying closer to the ground as you jog along. You may also find yourself running with smaller/shorter and quicker steps, something that’s actually quite efficient.

I found the support on the GEL-Neo33 2 to be more than minimal, in the mid-range stability category. It should work for anyone with pronation issues, which become more important as motion control shoes are being phased out of production.

So how does the current iteration of the Neo work on the roads? On crushed gravel it performs like a champ. The fully cushioned insole and the forefoot gel pad unit provide great protection, even on a day when one’s metatarsals are bruised and swollen. On concrete, the Neo delivers both a nice bounce and a satisfying energy return. The shoe does not feel as smooth on asphalt but it’s still a far-above-average performer on this surface.

One thing I almost never risk is taking a new running shoe onto a rock-filled trail but I decided to do this with the Neo. It worked perfectly well, remaining highly protective (no stone bruises) with minimal slippage — probably due to the unique multi-pod pattern on the sole. Just keep in mind that you’ll be pulling plenty of rocks out of the sole once your day is done!

The Neo should work well for flat-footed runners, because it has an atypically flexible forefoot for a stability shoe and the forefoot bed is flat — no raised areas to contend with.

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 displays multiple strengths, although those gifted runners unaffected by pronation issues may want to look instead at the sleeker GEL-Lyte33 2 model (8.4 ounces and with a 7mm drop). For many the Neo will serve as a protective and durable trainer, and a shoe that will maintain their running form on race day whether the distance to be completed is 3.1 or 26.2 miles.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Asics-Gel-Neo33-Dropped-HeelAsics GEL-Neo 33 2 (480 x 360)

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 retails for $100.00.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-asics-gel-neo33/

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Coming Up Next…

Asics Gel Neo orange

A running shoe review. We take a look at the Asics GEL-Neo33 2 stability trainer.

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