Tag Archives: cushioned running shoes

Running Shoe Review: Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T.

The Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. (F.K.T. stands for fastest known time) is an attractive, lightweight trail running shoe. Is it a shoe that also holds up as a daily trainer for those who run on hard city surfaces? See our verdict below.

columbia montrail fluidflex fkt running warehouse

One can almost tell by looking at a pair of the new Fluidflex F.K.T. that it has the soul of a fast shoe. It’s just 9.5 ounces in weight, and feels lighter on one’s feet. The shoe has a seamless upper and an outsole that is almost identical to the one on the bottom of the Montrail Fluidflex, circa 2013. According to Columbia Montrail – which provided a sample for review, the Fluidflex offers “enhanced mid-foot stability and a smooth ride on the trail.” Of this, there’s no doubt.

The Fluidflex has a minimal 4mm heel drop and a protective Trail (rock) Shield in the forefoot. The shoe appears to be semi-curved, is slip-lasted for comfort, and provides a snug fit. Notably, the shoe comes with a commercial grade, high quality, aftermarket-looking insole. It’s impressive and means that the runner who buys this shoe will not need to make a post-purchase drive to the local CVS or Walgreens.

The tongue on the Fluidflex is overly short, especially for a trail shoe, but this is a minor quibble. A second quibble has to do with the fit. My narrow feet wished for more headroom in the forefoot and a bit more space on the lateral side. My small toes were crying out for more space! Luckily, the upper loosens up with the passage of miles, so patience has its virtues with the Fluidflex.

columbia fluidflex fkt

On a dirt and rock covered trail one can feel the Fluidflex’s lugs dig in. These lugs may be relatively small but their strength becomes quite apparent on a newly mown grass trail. They dig in so well, so securely, that it feels like one’s running on clawed cat’s feet. Excellent!

On a hard-packed dirt trail, the shoe offers a B to B+ ride. The Fluidflex is just nimble enough to bring out the mountain goat in a runner. On a trail made up of large and small hard rocks the Fluidflex provides all gain and no pain.

Switching to an urban surface of concrete, the Fluidflex delivers straight ahead foot strikes with some bounce but not too much. It’s clear that this is a highly protective shoe, something that’s also apparent on asphalt. And this is a great tempo trainer; lock onto a pace and the shoe will stick to it like an auto set to cruise control. Nice.

The two flex grooves cut into the forefoot of the Fluidflex do indeed provide for a substantial amount of flexibility. This makes it a joy to use as an urban trainer. Whether you are a midfoot or forefoot striker, this shoe will accommodate your style. One caveat about this model is addressed to mild to moderate pronators: the current Fluidflex does not appear to be quite as stable as the earlier Fluidflex and Fluidfeel models – both of which I’ve run in.

This Fluidflex is consistent with earlier offerings from Montrail in terms of delivering on its promised smooth ride. If you ran in the La Sportiva Helios trail shoe, for example, and are looking for a similarly comfortable non-jarring ride, the Fluidflex is one to take out for a test spin.

One final and additional quibble before we arrive at the verdict. Because of the use of foam insoles, city and trail shoes are becoming increasingly soft. I would love to see a model from Columbia Montrail that offers additional firmness from the midfoot through the forefoot. Not a tremendous amount of firmness, but perhaps twenty to thirty percent more than is present in the current Fluidflex.

Verdict

At a price of $110, the Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. is a high value shoe. Its build quality is clear and the company has gone above and beyond in terms of details like providing an upgraded insole. While the shoe works well on both country trails and city streets, I believe its pluses are most readily apparent when it is used as a daily townie trainer.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-columbia-montrail-fluidflex-f-k-t/

Image credits: Running Warehouse; Road Trail Run

 

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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: The New Balance 880 v2

New Balance 880v2

The New Balance (NB) 880 v2 (v2 stands for version two) is a modern classic cushioned running shoe that will help some avoid the agony of the feet. The shoe presents itself with a nice medium-wide fit, and a better fit in the arch area. Heel strikers will love the exemplary build-up of solid padding in the rear; more than a bit reminiscent of the Nike Air Max running shoes of the ’90s. The raised heel will please traditionalists who aren’t rushing out the door to pick up a pair of minimalist running shoes.

The NB 880 v2 forefoot is extremely flexible which can help to prevent toe cramping in some runners with relatively inflexible (read, flat) feet. The insole allows the toes to lie flat, and there’s no apparent metatarsal pad bump – something that can actually irritate those with existing metatarsal issues. And there’s a midfoot stability under arch wedge plate which fortunately does not interfere with one’s normal running style, neutral or otherwise.

The underfoot cushioning seems to be of the Goldilocks “just right” variety – enough to protect against rough road surfaces but not enough to deaden the enjoyment of the ride. Even better, while the sole returns some energy to the active runner it does not create a distracting bounce.

The lacing of the 880 v2 is off-center which reduces pressure on the sometimes sensitive upper-foot area.

This particular running shoe may be a bit hard to find as New Balance has begun to release some of its v3 (version three) models such as the NB 890 v3. I ordered my pair with the assistance of a local running store offering a discount on special orders. The good news is that once the NB 880 v3 is released, you should be able to order the 880 v2 – as an “endangered” shoe – via several discount online running shoe purveyors. However, you may want to order a pair right now to ensure that you can get it in your size.

The NB 880 v2 is a running shoe that provides a significant amount of protection for the feet while not attempting to modify one’s natural running style. This makes it a bit of a rarity these days. It’s also a running shoe that comes in nice, not garish, colors and it’s made in the U.S.A. (in either Boston or Lawrence, Massachusetts or Norridgewock, Maine).

If the NB 880 v2 was a car, it might well be a cozy, comfortable and smooth riding Nissan Ultima – an automobile that’s made in the U.S.A. (Smyrna, Tennessee). No complaints here.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

These shoes were purchased at The Running Zone in Elk Grove, California.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports website:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-the-new-balance/

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Born to Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (Vintage, $15.95, 304 pages)

This book is guaranteed to appeal to certain subgroups of readers who are absolutely going to love it: old, new and former runners, middle-distance runners, marathoners, long-distance and ultra-marathon runners, and those who gravitate to stories about indigenous tribes like the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest.   If you’re not a member of one of these groups, the subject matter is unlikely to hold your interest, unless from time to time you pick up a copy of Runner’s World or Marathon and Beyond magazine and find such to be fascinating.

Of course, there have been books – not intended for the general public – that have been huge and surprising successes, such as Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.   Yet, I suspect that this tale of world-class ultra-marathoners will remain a specialized taste for most.

This true story is about a magazine editor who gets to observe an almost-secret race between some of this country’s best ultra-marathon runners and a group of “fleet-footed Tarahumara Indians.”   The race itself comes at the book’s conclusion and is not as interesting as the build-up to it.   Instead, the book is at its best when explaining the science of long-distance running, and how and why the skill of running long distances has been essential to human survival and evolution.  

The author explains why there may be an almost instinctual need for some humans to run the 26.2 miles of a marathon, or further.   He is, however, mystified as to why some persons today avoid running altogether.   The section that active runners may enjoy the best is one in which Christopher McDougall fully details the reasons expensive and highly cushioned running shoes – and those sold in the U. S. continue to be more expensive and more cushioned with each quarter of a year that goes by – lead to inevitable injuries.   After finishing this section, many runners (not including this reviewer) will certainly think about hitting the roads in their running flats or rubber sandals or even barefoot.   Fascinating stuff!

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   This bestselling book is now available in a trade paper release.   “Inspiring… destined to become a classic.”   Sir Ranulph Fiennes

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Running Long: A Review of Born to Run

Born to run (sm.)This book is guaranteed to appeal to certain subgroups of readers who are absolutely going to love it:  old, new and former runners, middle-distance runners, marathoners, long-distance and ultra-marathon runners, and those who gravitate to stories about indigenous tribes like the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest.   If you’re not a member of one of these groups, the subject matter is unlikely to hold your interest, unless from time to time you pick up a copy of Runner’s World or Marathon and Beyond magazine and find such to be fascinating.

Of course, there have been books – not intended for the general public – that have been huge and surprising successes, such as Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.   Yet, I suspect that this tale of world-class ultra-marathoners will remain a specialized taste for most.

The story is about a magazine editor who gets to observe an almost-secret race between some of this country’s best ultra-marathon runners and a group of “fleet-footed Tarahumara Indians.”   The race itself comes at the book’s conclusion and is not as interesting as the build-up to it.   Instead, the book is at its best when explaining the science of long-distance running, and how and why the skill of running long distances has been essential to human survival and evolution.

The author explains why there may be an almost instinctual need for some humans to run the 26.2 miles of a marathon, or further.   He is, however, mystified as to why some persons today avoid running altogether.   The section that active runners may enjoy the best is one in which Christopher McDougall fully details the reasons why expensive and highly cushioned running shoes – and those sold in the U.S. continue to get more expensive and more cushioned with each quarter of a year that goes by – lead to inevitable injuries.   After finishing this section, many runners will certainly think about hitting the roads in their running flats or rubber sandals or even barefoot.   Fascinating stuff!

Knopf, $24.95, 282 pages

Joseph Arellano

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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