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Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi EM Road N2

Has Pearl Izumi produced a well-balanced running shoe in the latest version of the EM Road N2?

Having had a positive experience running in the Pearl Izumi E:Motion (EM) Road N1 racer-trainer running shoe, I looked forward to having a go in another of their models. Fortunately, the company provided the EM Road N2 model – technically the second version of this shoe, the Road N2v2. For simplicity, I will refer to it as the Road N2.

Pearl Izumi states that this neutral model provides “the perfect balance of light and fast with just enough cushioning and durability.” Is this true? You can see the verdict below.

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The first thing noticeable about the EM Road N2 is the nice low-to-the-ground feel. As for the fit, while the shoe initially feels snug – a bit like a tennis shoe – it loosens up after some break-in miles. There’s enough room for the toes to splay naturally up front, but the forefoot appears to be a bit firmer than on the Road N1 model. In fact, the forefoot firmness seems to fall midway between that on the Road 1 (more flexible) and the Trail N2 (less flexible). For most, it should be just about right in terms of protecting sore toes and feet.

The Road N2 weighs 9.1 ounces, the same as the Trail N2, but it’s heavier than the N1’s 7.7 or so ounces (the forthcoming version of the N1 will weigh 8.6 ounces). In today’s running world, it’s a mid-weight shoe.

The fact that Pearl Izumi pays attention to the small details is reflected in the shoelaces. They’re just the right length, not too short or long.

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Upon hitting asphalt and concrete roads in the Road N2, one feels a pleasing amount of spring and energy return. Although it’s a relatively low shoe, heel strikers can pound away at will thanks to the brand’s dynamic (variable) offset midsole. The dynamic offset midsole eliminates forefoot slap and provides a light rocker panel feel, which easily transitions the foot from heel to mid-foot and on to the forefoot. This is a shoe that can be used by any type of runner, but mid-foot strikers will likely feel the most at home in it.

The heel cushioning on the Road N2 is not too soft, nor hard (more New Balance than Mizuno). The overall underfoot cushioning is what I would describe as soft-landing but firm in movement. Had I been blindfolded, I might have guessed that I was running in either the New Balance 890v3 or a pair of Asics Gel-DS Trainers. The key point is that my feet never felt beat up after runs in the Road N2.

What’s quite impressive about the Road N2 is the shoe’s excellent directional stability. This is not a floppy, sloppy, running shoe. You need not worry about your feet hitting each other, and there’s no sense of wasted sideways motion. Although the Road N2 does not feel fast like the Road N1, it’s a great tempo trainer. Set a pace and the shoe lets you almost effortlessly lock onto it and stick with it. And there’s a comforting uniformity in that each footfall feels the same and the ride feels the same on both feet. (It’s sometimes disturbing to run in a pair of running shoes in which the left and right shoes seem to have been manufactured in different factories.)

On a gravel-covered dirt trail, the Road N2 feels protective like the Road N1, but is less slippery due to a more traditional sole pattern. Using this shoe on a rainy day would not be a problem – something that’s not necessarily true in the Road N1.

It’s off-road where one realizes that the Road N2 provides an excellent mid-foot fit and support. On a hard-packed dirt trail the shoe feels limber but stable – and it winds up being a fine runner on a hard rock trail. You don’t feel the rocks underfoot and there’s virtually no slippage.

The Road N2 is a hybrid running shoe that would be a good choice for travel, especially when the traveler does not know what type of surface her or she will be running on at his/her destination, or whether the surface will be wet or dry. This shoe will pretty much have things covered whether you’re landing in Milwaukee, Seattle, or San Diego.

Verdict:

The Pearl Izumi Road N2 should work well for the person seeking a durable, protective shoe that can be used for slow, moderate or aggressive training runs on roads and trails. The shoe may work especially well for those who prefer to put in their miles on tracks, running at a rock-steady pace. The Road N2 can serve as a type of metronome for those oval runners.

Most runners will find the Road N2 to be a very competent 5K, 10K or half-marathon shoe, and some will find it protective and stable enough to run a full marathon. The Road N2 is not the flashiest shoe on the market – and perhaps not in Pearl Izumi’s own catalog – but it does most everything quite well.

Yes, this is a well-balanced shoe. All in all, it’s another clear water pearl from this brand.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N2v2 retails for $120.00.

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-pearl-izumi-em-road-n2/

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Running Shoe Review: New Balance 1400v2

new-balance-rc1400-v2

Is the New Balance 1400v2 a fast and efficient training and racing flat?

The New Balance 1400v2 is a lightweight flat – only 6.3 ounces in the men’s edition, that looks fast and feels fast. I spent some time in this shoe provided by New Balance and found it to be intriguing. Is it a winner? Look for our verdict below.

NB 1400v2

They must be making the sidewalks softer; at least that’s what I thought while walking in this model. The 1400v2 offers the easy comfortable feel of a bedroom slipper, something that’s typical of a racing flat. It’s remarkable that the shoe feels so well cushioned, coming in at under 6 and one-half ounces in weight. But the REVlite midsole cushioning does its job and does it well.

The shoe is relatively narrow but offers multiple lacing options which can be used to either loosen or tighten the fit. There are two center eyelets which you can elect to use or not. I made use of the eyelet that keeps the tongue in place, but not the one further down.

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The four bold colorways on the 1400v2 ensure that you will at least look fast at the starting line of a race. No guarantees on whether you’ll finish fast. I received the blue with blue atoll and neon green combination – which I really like, but the sulphur yellow with blue and race red colorway is also striking. (The other two options are a relatively simple blue with green combo, and the comparatively dull olive with yellow. Your running buddies will not need to wear sunglasses if you choose the latter iteration.)

I initially ran in the shoe on a gravel covered track where it felt protective but yet, yes, fast. According to the manufacturer, this model is “designed for efficient, fast training runs.” You may feel like Meb Keflezighi at the 18th mile of the Boston Marathon while running laps in this flat.

Despite the 1400v2’s light stature, it is not overly flexible and it provides a noticeable amount of stability on a track as well as on concrete. One’s feet land straight and stay that way; yes, this is efficient. This shoe feels like a lighter, racing version of the New Balance 890 series; the shoes clearly compliment each other quite well.

There’s just a touch of heel cushioning in the 1400v2, enough to make it comfortable for heel strikers. While the well-cushioned feel was present on a track and on concrete, I found that the shoe feels less cushioned on asphalt. This is likely a result of a fully flat, somewhat minimalist, sole interacting with an inherently uneven surface.

The forefoot on the 1400v2 has a smidgen of flexibility, but it’s not overly flexible, to the benefit of forefoot runners and toe strikers. The built-in firmness up front makes for a shoe that will hold up quite well on longer training runs and races.

I’ve often longed for a time machine that I could use to return to the days when Nike was turning out exemplary racing flats like the Pegasus Racer, the Air Myriad, and the great, classic Ghost Racer. Having been introduced to the 1400v2, it may be time to let go of that wish.

Verdict:

The New Balance 1400v2 is a lightweight, versatile shoe that should work well for many runners as both a daily trainer and as a shoe to wear for a 5K or 10K race. The one exception would be those with wide feet. Most racing flats are built for narrow feet, after all.

Runners who currently train in the New Balance 890v4 neutral cushioning running shoe may elect to purchase the 1400v2 and use it as their race day shoe.

The 1400v2 may be a great half-marathon to marathon trainer-racer for those who are built sleek and run sleek. At a list price of $99.99 it’s a bargain (and it’s currently being sold for even less on the New Balance website). You may want to pick up a pair before the 1400v3 is released.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Note: The 1400v2 has a 10mm drop (heel to toe drop).

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-new-balance-1400v2/

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Cloud Nine

ON Cloudrunner 2013 (4)

Running Shoe Review: On Cloudrunner 2013

Does the updated version of the On Cloudrunner provide a cloud-like ride, or does it offer other strengths?

Years ago a shoe was sold that was a delight for natural heel-strikers such as I am. That shoe was the classic Nike Air Pegasus with the rugged polyurethane heel. The “poly” heel was virtually indestructible and insured a solid heel plant with every step; it offered a consistent reward for a certain type of runner. That shoe was also blessed with an extremely flexible, blown rubber forefoot.

Running shoe construction is different these days and heel striking is something that is going out of favor. Thus, we have lowered heel running shoes and seemingly softer, and less durable, materials in the rear. Some running shoe companies seem to have adopted a goal of transforming heel strikers into mid-foot and forefoot landers.

With this as background, it was a surprise to run in this year’s edition of the On Cloudrunner, a shoe “engineered in Switzerland.” It’s a different type of running shoe, as is apparent when you look at the 15 Cloud Tec elements — or lugs, on the outsole. These lugs (smaller and softer in front, larger and firmer in the rear) are meant to absorb both vertical and horizontal shock. Despite the hollowness of the construction, the lugs offer Nike Air-like (or Zoom Air-like) protection against external forces — forces like concrete and asphalt.

My test pair, provided by On, came in an Anthracite and Methyl color combination, one that I would describe as dark gray and turquoise. Perhaps because of its Swiss roots, the shoe presents a message of being seriously functional rather than frivolous. No doubt some will find it to be too European/industrial looking — like an athletic shoe you would find at Ikea, if they sold such items; however, On does offer a striking 7.9 ounce Cloudracer flat for those who desire a flashy shoe.

The Cloudrunner is a mid-weight shoe at 11.5 ounces and despite being a neutral shoe, it offers some stability. I found it (a half-size up from walking shoe size) to be somewhere between medium and narrow with a uniquely-angled toe box that provides plenty of room for toe wiggling. The toe box is exemplary in being extremely flexible.

Two sets of laces, one in Anthracite and one in Methyl, come with the Cloudrunner. The laces stay tied. The wide-apart lacing pattern means that the shoe does not feel tight while you are jogging along. (I generally dislike running shoes with this type of lacing pattern but it did not present any issues this time around.)

This is not a shoe in which to spend much time walking. As with Newton running shoes, the outer sole lugs make walking feel quite awkward, and there are far more lugs on the Cloudrunner than on a pair of Newtons. To its credit, the Cloudrunner — the motto of which is, “I make concrete easy” — provides a good ride on concrete and an even better one on asphalt. This shoe, in fact, was seemingly made for running on asphalt; the Cloudrunner consistently maintains its stable and protective characteristics. I’m less sure of the notion that runners will experience the “running on a cloud” feeling with this model, instead they may find it to be firm.

The Cloudrunner midsole is built of a high quality EVA and it is likely to be extremely durable. Heel strikers will joyfully find that the heel — supported by the largest external lug — is firm and stiff. It may be the closest shoe to the classic Pegasus in terms of delivering a tenaciously solid heel plant.

The Cloudrunner is a trainer that would seem to be perfect for mid-range to long-distance runs, and it should perform quite competently as an event day racer, from a 5K to the half-marathon distance. I wish I had had these shoes on my feet when I ran my first half-marathon. And the second.

For most runners, these shoes should get the job done. For heel strikers, the party’s on at On!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The On Cloudrunner 2013 retails for $139.00. This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-on-cloudrunner-2013/

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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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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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