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Zoot Banyan soleZoot Sports Banyan

Running Shoe Review: Zoot Banyan

A few weeks ago, I would have told you that I do not like running shoes with soft heel cushioning and a bouncy ride. That was true until I wear tested the Zoot Tempo Trainer model provided to me by Zoot Sports. That shoe is impressive, and so I decided to purchase another model from Zoot, via Road Runner Sports, to see if I would be equally impressed with it. I selected the Zoot Banyan. Read on to see the verdict.

The men’s version of the Banyan comes in a tri color scheme that Zoot describes as black, green flash and safety yellow. I would describe the colors as bold black, lime green and electric green but I’m color blind. The color scheme in the women’s version is so jumbled that I won’t even attempt to describe it. (My wife says the color mix on the women’s version reminds her of Disney toys.) You can look it up online at the Zoot Sports site.

The Banyan has a virtually straight last, which means this neutral trainer can be used by minimal to moderate pronators. The Banyan’s fit is excellent and the shoe is comfortable; neither tight nor loose. The lacing system is off-center to relieve top-of-the-foot pressure, and it has a secure gusseted tongue. The shoe has a firm heel counter, which is protective, but you will not feel it as there’s plenty of interior padding around the ankles. The Banyan’s soft heel padding carries on a family tradition.

The Banyan has a low to the ground feel but this is not a minimal shoe. After a number of runs in the shoe, I thought of a way to describe its ride. If you could breed a Mizuno shoe (with a traditional 12mm heel drop) with a current Asics running shoe (most of which have an 8mm heel drop), their offspring would feel like this. It may not be totally coincidental that the heel drop on the Banyan is right in between the Mizuno and Asics levels at 10mm. Heel strikers will feel right at home in this model.

The Banyan is lighter in weight than the Tempo Trainer (9.4 versus 10.3 ounces). You might think this difference cannot be felt on the road but it is most definitely noticeable. The Banyan has a blown rubber forefoot, a ZVA midsole and a set of durable rubber pads in the heel. There are a total of 8 pads or pods underfoot, five up front and three in the rear.

There is a concern about these pads/pods, which is that they are glued on the sole. Will they stay on for 300, 400 or 500 miles? I don’t know.

One consumer noted on the company’s website that the Banyan running shoe is “a bit stiff out of the box.” This is a statement I disagree with. I found the shoe to have an almost broken in feel right from the start. And the sock liner seemed to be perfectly matched to the shoe, something that’s increasingly rare these days.

The Banyan’s forefoot sole looks like those found on a more traditional running shoe as compared to the Tempo Trainer. The appearance and feel of the forefoot sole reminds me of early 90s running flats, and the shoe appears to be more flexible than the Tempo Trainer. The Banyan is a less expensive shoe, but for the savings, you get a reduced amount of protection for your feet.

The Banyan is well padded enough to provide an enjoyable and bouncy ride on concrete. On asphalt, the ride is comfortable and steady. This would be a fine shoe to use for a 5K or 10K organized run.

The Banyan feels competent on crushed gravel, but the features that make this shoe special do not stand out on this surface. Because of this, I would choose another shoe for long training runs on crushed gravel trails or tracks.

The Banyan shines on a hard-packed dirt trail, as it’s both flexible and stable enough to deliver a fun run. If this was a car, we would say that it has a great suspension. I’m looking forward to locating a grass-covered trail for a Sunday drive in the Banyan.

Verdict: The Zoot Banyan is a very good to excellent shoe for urban and suburban pathways. It will appeal to those who like a bouncy ride combined with a soft heel strike, and those who prefer a lighter, non-minimalist, shoe for fast paced training runs.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-zoot-banyan/

The Zoot Banyan retails for $110.00. Since writing this review, I have had feedback from two runners, each of whom has run 300 to 500 miles in their Banyans. They have experienced no material or construction flaws with the shoe.

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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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