Tag Archives: Blogcritics Sports

Running Down A Dream

Saucony Grid Fastwitch 6 (2)

Running Shoe Review: Saucony Fastwitch 6

Is the Saucony Fastwitch 6 the antidote to too much cushioning in a street racer?

I was hoping that the new version of this lightweight street racer would prove to be the brightly shining star in Saucony’s galaxy of running shoes. Well, sometimes dreams come true and sometimes they don’t.

On first impression, the Fastwitch 6 is a beautiful shoe with a stunning orange and black color scheme that will be especially pleasing to graduates of Princeton, the University of the Pacific and UTEP. It’s also quite protective for a shoe that weighs in at slightly less than 7 ounces. Some of us likely have some old wool socks that weigh more than that!

The Fastwitch is unique in delivering a firm ride for a racing flat, feeling more like a European model than an American runner. Pull out the supplied insole and you’ll see that the top of the midsole feels rock hard. This seemed promising for runners who have become weary of overly-cushioned models.

The Fastwitch provides more than a modicum of control – it’s a performance stability racer, perhaps too stable for most runners looking for a low-to-the-ground flat. (I found myself wishing that it was a bit more neutral.) One of the positives about this shoe is that its structure supports a mid-foot landing. The heel cushioning is fairly neutral – neither overly stiff or soft; it’s just “there.”

Unfortunately, the Fastwitch 6 seems to be afflicted with two quite serious flaws. The first is the fit problem. I had to order a full size up (since I had heard rumors that it ran unusually short), and yet the shoe barely fit. I have narrow feet. Still, I had to put on an old thin, ragged, worn-out pair of Buffalo Chips Running Club socks in order to manage to squeeze my feet into the ‘witch 6. But this is not the worst of it…

The second problem is the innovative, irritating Flex Film upper from Saucony that’s used to reduce weight. That it does but at quite a cost. The Flex Film material is of the non-stretch, unforgiving sort. There’s not a tenth of an inch of “give” in it – there’s apparently no way of reducing the grip of the material on the sensitive upper part of the runner’s foot. It becomes a bit torturous rather quickly, and my body began to repeatedly send my brain a single message, “Let’s take this shoe off as soon as possible!”

If I had to run a half-marathon in the Fastwitch 6, I imagine that the top of my feet would look like Tillamook shredded cheese after completing 13.1 miles. It’s not a pleasant thought.

There’s much that’s promising about this edition of Saucony’s attractive road racer. Let’s hope that the folks at Saucony get on the case and fix the two big flaws in the Fastwitch when they release version 7.0. With a couple of repairs in place, the next Fastwitch might be more than just a daydream.

Joseph Arellano

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-saucony-fastwitch-6/

Interestingly, these comments about the Fastwitch 6 appear in the current (March 2013) issue of Men’s Fitness magazine: “Road warriors get going with the supportive yet flexible Fastwitch 6. Its breathable upper and water-drainage ports make this Saucony one of the best all-rounders.” (Water-drainage ports? I didn’t see them on this shoe.)

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Just A Momentum

Newton Terra Momentum 3

Running Shoe Review: Newton Momentum All-Terrain Trainers

A few weeks ago, I was at a local running store looking for a pair of shoes while battling plantar fasciitis. A young salesman suggested I try on a pair of Newton running shoes, to which I less than graciously responded, “I’ve never heard of Newton running shoes!” Fortunately, the Newtonians from Boulder, Colorado provided me with a pair of Newton Momentum All-Terrain Trainers to try out under real-world conditions.

The Momentum shoes come in a distinct orange, yellow and grey color scheme that seems to present a message of optimism at first glance. And they come with a nice, medium-width fit that’s snug but not too snug. The laces, however, seem a bit short and the all-too-supportive insole wound up pushing my toes uncomfortably upward; this was easily resolved by swapping for a cheaper, thinner insole. The toe box itself is flexible.

The Momentum is first and foremost a trail runner and one feels the obvious energy return from the four cushioned lugs in the forefoot of the shoe. But walking on a dirt trail felt odd, as if I were wearing snowshoes with crampons attached. Interestingly, this is not a problem when walking on concrete – the smooth surface allows for a comfortable “rocker” motion that makes walking quite pleasurable.

I tried this all-terrain shoe on multiple surfaces, and found that I enjoyed the run most on hard concrete. This is a surprise, but perhaps not so surprising knowing that the Momentum is loaded with cushioning spread from front to rear. It’s not as comfortable when running on uneven asphalt, but this is likely true with any running shoe.

Like all Newtons, the Momentum is structured to encourage a mid-foot or front-foot strike and it’s easy to get used to it. One does, though, feel the new muscles that are being used (especially if you’re a natural heel striker, like I am) – I quickly felt the twinges from my inner thigh muscles. Newtons should be broken in slowly and gradually, although all the padding underfoot leads one to feel quite confident about avoiding injury.

As advertised, the Momentum is a neutral running shoe with just a touch of stability for minimal pronators. While perhaps changing your normal foot strike pattern, they do not push your feet inward or outward. These runners move you forward with little wasted motion and without a needless bounce. (A number of today’s most cushioned running shoes are overly bouncy, which adds sideways motion – or drifting, and this actually requires extra effort to compensate for the distraction.)

I found that running in a pair of Newtons is like experiencing running from a new perspective. The Momentum is a lightweight, well but not overly-cushioned shoe that supports an organic running motion. While this is not a minimal shoe, it does sit more level to the ground than traditional running shoes. Although this is the first pair of Newtons that I’ve jogged in, the shoe’s construction seems to support the theory that less is more. There’s something almost instinctively retro about the appearance and build of the Momentum.

The Terra Momentum all-terrain runners are a natural choice to throw in one’s travel bag, knowing that no matter what type of running surface waits in another town, these shoes will provide the protection needed to get you through a set quota of training miles. The fact that other runners may ask you what type of shoes you’re wearing is just a plus.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-newton-momentum-all/

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Ride Captain Ride

Saucony_ProGrid_Ride5_GrayCitronBlue

A review of the Saucony ProGrid Ride 5 running shoe.

In 2000, Saucony released the Grid Azura cushioned running shoe. For a supposed neutral shoe it was a pretty stable runner due to its low profile stance, almost straight last, and durable rubber in the forefoot. It was a lightweight and airy shoe for its time, and I was warned that it might hold up for only a couple of hundred miles. Now, more than twelve years later, it’s a running shoe that I still use a few times each month, and there’s little indication that it’s nearing the end of its useful days.

I had expectations that Saucony’s fifth iteration of the ProGrid Ride would be a current day version of the Grid Azura. They seem to have a few things in common. The Ride is a low profile shoe with a lowered heel height and a close to straight last that’s unique for a neutral, cushioned runner. Appearance wise, it almost looks like a direct descendent of the Azura, even down to the triangular lugs in the front of the shoe. However, the Ride 5 has ultra-soft blown rubber in its forefoot. Surprisingly, the Ride 5 seems to be not just as stable as the old Azura, but even more so which can present issues for some runners.

First, let me point out a few accolades for this shoe. The new Ride looks to be beautifully constructed, has a nice, comfortable feel (size up a half-size), and brings with it some very functional flat shoelaces that stay tied. Unfortunately, this is about it for the positives. I expected that with the lower profile – somewhere in between that of a standard running shoe and a minimalist running shoe – the Ride would feel like a racing flat. No such luck.

I quickly found the Ride’s ride to be overly, surprisingly stable perhaps due to the hard plastic support bar found underneath the arch (the Azura had no such mid-foot support device). I felt as if my feet were being pushed outward on every step, something that would surely result in some fast wearing down of the heels. And the ride seemed indistinct, as if I could feel neither my heel planting nor the soft rubber up front. This was so surprising that I found myself constantly looking down – had I mistakenly put on an old pair of New Balance cross-trainers?

If I were to attempt to describe the feel of the Ride in one word, I would have to use the dreaded technical term “mushy” – generally not a word used in the laudatory sense.

Saucony has made much of the fact that the Ride 5 is an ounce lighter than the Ride 4, because of less cushioning in the midsole and less rubber on its sole. I’m not sure this is such a good thing, as both my feet and my ankles were sore even before the end of my first test run in this version.

Perhaps there are ultra-efficient, blessed runners who’ll run on their toes in the Ride 5 and find it to be an exceptional lightweight trainer. For this runner, it was an experiment that didn’t work. On to the Saucony Virrata or the Grid Fastwitch 6?

Joseph Arellano

The Saucony ProGrid Ride 5 sells for $109.95.

This review was originally posted on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-the-saucony-progrid

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On the Run

A review of the Mizuno Wave Precision Running Shoe.

The Nike Air Pegasus was the best-selling shoe of the late 1980s and early 90s.   It seemed to have everything going for it, from a slightly curved last that fit most everyone, to a firm polyurethane heel, soft blown rubber up front, and just a smidgen of pronation control.   The exposed air in the heel made runners feel like they were going to run faster, even if it was just a gimmick.

That beloved Pegasus was such a great shoe that I’ve been searching for its replacement ever since.   There are Nike Air Pegasus+ 28 and 29 models out now but there’s not much about them reminiscent of the original.   They offer a bouncy ride that seems to be directed to the youngest runners, and styling that appears to satisfy someone’s odd need for the 70s.

I’ve never been able to wear a pair of Mizuno runners since running stores have not carried my size.   But on my most recent trip to the local emporium, the salesman urged me to try the shoes he runs in, the Mizuno Wave Precision 13.   In this case, 13 is a lucky number!

Apart from the color scheme (more on that later), the Wave Precision comes off as the soulful heir to the “back in the day” Pegasus.   It offers a nice, slightly curved last that will fit most feet – size up a half-size – a firm heel in the back, soft rubber up front, and – perhaps best of all – a minimal helping of stability.   The stability comes from the built-in wave support in the midsole.   It’s just enough to keep your foot straight but not enough to alter your foot strike; as compared to the Nike Zoom Structure+ 15 which pushes back too much.   Like the Pegasus of old, it appears to offer something for everyone, whether they’re heel, mid-foot or front-foot strikers.   (I plead guilty to being a heel striker and I love the firmness of the heel on the Wave Precision 13.)

Are there any flaws with this model?   Yes, perhaps two…  The heel counter that protects the Achilles tendon is a bit firm and you may feel it after a long run; although this confirms that it’s performing its intended purpose.   And then there’s the matter of the colors.   Mizuno calls the standard (and only) color scheme Fluorite/Gypsum/Dress Blue.   It may strike some males as being somewhat feminine.   My wife calls them, “the cartoon shoes”, for which I’ve had no witty comeback.   Let’s just hope that Mizuno provides a restrained option in the future.   I have a feeling that a lot of the owners of the current Wave Precision 13 will be ordering another pair when the new color scheme(s) arrive.

If you’re a runner who can’t afford a time machine to take you back to the late 80s/early 90s – and the joy of running in ye-olde-tyme Pegasus running shoe – you can instead consider springing for a pair of Mizuno Wave Precision 13s.   A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Joseph Arellano

This article was originally posted on the Blogcritics Sports site at: http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/on-the-run1/ .   These running shoes, which retail for $109.99, were purchased by the reviewer.   

Note: This site will periodically feature reviews of products other than books, although it will remain as primarily a book review blog.

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