Tag Archives: lightweight running shoe

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: 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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Ready to Run

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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Coming Up Next…

Zoot Banyan

A running shoe review! We take a look at the Zoot Banyan trainer.

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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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