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Running Shoe Review: New Balance 870v3 and 890v3

A look at two New Balance running trainers. Which model might be best for most runners?

NB 870v3

If you love the feel of the New Balance (NB) 880v3 neutral trainer but need a bit of support you may want to consider the NB 870v3 model. This is a stability trainer with an 8mm heel offset. It weighs 9.8 ounces. The shoe has a friendly, slightly wider than average fit that does not require you to have the narrowest of feet.

The underfoot cushioning of the 870v3 is immediately apparent in part because the slip-lasted model has a flexible blown rubber forefoot. The shoe has a REVlite midsole that offers a fine amount of protection for one’s feet. Support for mild to moderate pronators is provided in the form of a relatively firm, but non-obtrusive, medial post (some efficient runners might not notice the post while running).

The 870v3 should serve as a well cushioned and durable shoe for runners who train on a variety of surfaces, both hard and soft. But some runners will look for a lighter and perhaps more personally exciting shoe, and this brings us to the NB 890v3.

New Balance 890v3

Some will remember the NB 900 neutral training running shoes line. These were low-to-the-ground lightweight trainers that were great for running under all conditions and on almost all surfaces. I ran in most of these models and I sometimes still jog in a pair of the now-classic NB 903s from 2008. The NB 890v3 reminds me of the old 900s.

The third iteration of the 890 is a lightweight neutral trainer that weighs between 9.1 and 9.55 ounces (depending on the data source) and comes with a 8mm heel drop. It’s semi-curved and has a low toe-box, but enough room up front that it does not become an issue. The 890v3 has a unique fit and feel reminiscent of a late 80s/early 90s racing flat. The fit is snug and secure — with the added bonus of more than sufficient protective foam around the ankles — and this is achieved without tight lacing. The colorful flat laces can be tied quickly and do not come loose or undone.

The 890v3 has a nicely cushioned insole and REVlite midsole; together these provide a bounce you can feel in the shoe’s ride. The fully blown rubber sole is ultra-flexible, a bit of good news for both forefoot strikers and those with inflexible feet. The sole is a hybrid-patterned one, flat enough to be used on roads and nubby enough for trail runs.

On sidewalks the shoe transforms heel strikers into mid-foot strikers, a positive thing, while providing protective cushioning. The NB 890v3 offers great energy return on asphalt; on this surface the shoe feels fast. The NB 890v3 would be a good choice for a 5K to a half-marathon shoe for most runners, and it would clearly be a desirable marathon shoe for efficient runners.

I found this model to be near wondrous on a hard-packed dirt trail as the very flexible sole allows the feet to “ramble tamble” at will (whatever John Fogerty meant by that). The shoe may be wondrous enough to foster “wanderous” training runs.

On a crushed gravel track the 890v3 lets your foot dig in while providing an exemplary level of protection on what can be a wearing surface for tender feet and metatarsals. On an oval track the shoe seems to adjust to any foot landing pattern — forefoot, mid-foot or heel striking.

While the NB 890v3 is technically a neutral shoe, I suspect that a wide variety of runners could train and race in it (exempting Clydesdales and moderate-to-severe pronators).

New-Balance-890V3-Sole-620x340

The grippy sole on the NB 890v3 means that it’s a shoe I would choose and feel free to run in on a rainy, slick and slippery day. This model breathes confidence in its apparent ability to come through under any conditions, something which breeds confidence in the person wearing the shoes.

If you’re headed to your local running store to try out models like the Mizuno Wave Sayonara and the Saucony Mirage 3, you may want to also do a trial run in the New Balance 890v3. There’s a chance that your heart and/or your feet may fall in love with the shoe.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

These New Balance models were either manufactured or assembled in the United States.

The 870v3 is well recommended.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-new-balance-870v3-and-890v3/

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Running Shoe Review: Montrail FluidFlex

Is the Montrail FluidFlex a WYSIWYG trail runner?

In the past, I had an interesting experience with the Montrail FluidFeel running shoe as it looked like one type of shoe (heavy and bulky) but ran like another type (light and nimble). So I was interested to see if this would be the case with Montrail’s FluidFlex model. Read on to see the verdict.

Montrail-FluidFlex1

I came across the FluidFlex at Fleet Feet in Davis, California. The shoe has a surprisingly racing flat-like look for a trail running shoe, but then it weighs only 7.6 ounces; it’s quite light. And it looks bold in coal with red Montrail side lettering and a yellow FluidFoam midsole. I wound up buying the FluidFlex hoping that the shoe might prove to be as light, fast and flexible as it appears to be.

I can say right off that the FluidFlex offers great cushioning in a lightweight shoe. It’s nice to walk in and only the asymmetrical lacing system lets others know that this is not a racing flat. The fit is narrow and secure but not tight because of the highly flexible upper. The fit at the rear of the shoe is exemplary; one’s heels and ankles are well surrounded and protected.

The FluidFlex fosters such a smooth ride while running that I began to think of it as the Montrail Glide runner. The shoe has a floating sock liner which adds to its uniqueness. On the road, the shoe’s high level of flexibility allows the feet to go through the proper landing cycle — heel, then mid-foot, then forefoot. The shoe does not interfere with one’s normal foot strike, and allows the feet to land flat.

The feel of the FluidFlex on roads and trails is quite similar to the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1 and the La Sportiva Helios. On asphalt it simply feels good to run in.

On a track the FluidFlex makes one feel like Steve Prefontaine, possessing the ability to put in some strong, fast laps. The heel padding is soft but the landing is secure and anything but mushy. The fast and steady nature of the shoe is maintained on a crushed gravel trail.

The FluidFlex has a flared sole that supports and reinforces a high level of lateral stability on a hard-packed dirt trail. The hybrid nature of the “town and country” sole underfoot provides just enough grip on a hard-rock trail to keep one traveling straight ahead rather than slipping and sliding. The sole also allows the feet to move sideways while in motion. It may be counter-intuitive but this provides a reassuring measure of stability control.

Montrail FluidFlex

The FluidFlex feels low-to-the-ground and it has a minimalistic 4mm heel drop. For some runners (especially long-term heel strikers), this will signal the need to break in the shoe slowly and carefully. In my case, I initially experienced some soreness in my calves and stinging in my heels. But this was only temporary.

The Montrail FluidFlex lives up to its name, providing fluid flexibility in a shoe that’s more protective than it’s looks would indicate. While it may be a lightweight shoe, it’s quite durable in use. My well-used pair has minimal signs of wear on its still vibrant black and yellow sole.

Verdict:

The Fluid Flex is a WYSIWYG trail running shoe. It is the shoe that it appears to be and more.

Runners, whether fast or slow, should be able to use this shoe as a trainer on a wide variety of surfaces. It will serve as a good marathon trainer and race day shoe for some competitors and as a fine 5K to half-marathon shoe for many. Joggers with inflexible feet and runners fast enough to chase cheetahs will benefit from the shoe’s ultra-flexible, blown-rubber cushioned forefoot.

The FluidFlex is an excellent trainer to run in even if you never go near a natural trail.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Montrail FluidFlex retails for $90.00.

This review initially appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-montrail-fluidflex/

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Pearly Queen

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1

Has Pearl Izumi produced a pearl in the Road N1 training shoe?

Pearl Izumi motion

Pearl Izumi. It sounds like the name of a new toothpaste (“It will make your teeth shine pearly white!”). But Pearl Izumi means “fountain of pearls” in Japanese, and the company may have produced a pearl of a product in the Road N1.

This is a neutral running shoe with a unique appearance. When I opened the box supplied to me by the manufacturer, I noticed that the blue and yellow colorway Road N1 looks somewhat like a triathlon shoe and a bit like a skateboarder’s shoe. While it is built on a semi-curved last, it hits the eye as being semi-straight, a factor that brings to mind the skateboarding shoe analogy.

The Road N1 weighs 8.2 ounces and has a low heel drop in line with being a minimalist-style trainer-racer. One retailer lists the heel drop for this shoe as 7mm, but it may be irrelevant as the shoe is said to possess a variable depth midsole (a “dynamic chassis”) which permits it to be used by heel, mid-foot or forefoot strikers.

Pearl Izumi may have invented the seamless upper and it’s immediately clear that the Road N1 possesses an excellent fit. The shoe holds on snugly to the entire foot and especially so the top of the foot, yet it is anything but uncomfortable. The toe box is relatively low but it never rubs on the toes.

This shoe has a nicely padded heel counter and there’s an efficient lacing system which is slightly off-center. The manufacturer’s attention to detail is reflected in the simple fact that the shoe’s laces are neither too long nor too short. They’re just right!

Initially, as you hold on to the Road N1 and test its flexibility, it feels a bit stiff. But this is not a problem on roads; it feels flexible enough in action.

When you first walk in this shoe, it feels like you’re walking on top of an air cushion, nice and soft. Interestingly, there’s been some debate and confusion about the feel of the shoe on the run. Pearl Izumi states that its midsole “promotes a smooth and quick running sensation,” which is referenced elsewhere as an “ultra-smooth” ride. But one retailer’s website states that the shoe has minimal cushioning and a “semi-firm” ride. Which is it? I’d say the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I view the Road N1 as delivering a cushioned firm ride on a par with the feel of the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoe. Cushioned but firm is not a bad thing. In fact, it may offer the best of both worlds to a large number of runners.

I think that Pearl Izumi is correct when it highlights the shoe’s quick running sensation. When jogging on a crushed gravel trail, I felt I could run at a quick pace, especially because the midsole is highly, unexpectedly protective. Even though the Road N1 has no dedicated pad, the cushioning at its rear is mid-range, not too firm or too soft.

The Road N1 produces an agile and pleasingly bouncy ride on a hard-packed dirt trail; it allows the runner to move confidently, even as the trail twists and turns. The shoe is just competent on a natural trail since the sleek, flat sole cannot generate much grip.

This product also feels fast on urban and suburban sidewalks. Forefoot runners will find that they can get up on their toes in this shoe, taking advantage of the blown rubber outsole. What’s surprising about the N1 is that it possesses a good deal of inherent stability, more than one would expect from an “N” (neutral) series model. There’s a yellow colored support bar built into the outsole which works well.

On asphalt, it delivers a steady-paced, relaxing journey. This translates into a good choice for a race day 5K to half marathon shoe. One caution about the shoe is that it should not be used on rainy days, as the flat sole will produce a slippery ride.

The Road N1’s quick but shielding suspension makes it a natural choice for running training laps on a crushed gravel track.

Verdict: With the Road N1, Pearl Izumi has produced a shoe that’s light, fast and protective. It should serve quite well as a daily trainer for mid-foot and heel strikers. Some fleet-footed runners may place it at or near the top of their rotation when it comes to shoes they wear on critical training days.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A pair of Road N1s was provided by Pearl Izumi for review purposes. This shoe retails for $115.00.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-pearl-izumi-emotion-road-n1/

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Coming Up Next…

Mizuno Wave Rider 16 (300)

A running shoe review! We take a look at the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 trainer.

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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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