Tag Archives: mid-foot strikers

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Will Scarpa’s Modern Minimal trail running shoe put a spark in your step?

The Scarpa Spark is an attractive and clearly well designed and manufactured trail running shoe. According to Scarpa North America, this shoe is a “Mountain Minimal trail running shoe designed for moving fast and confidently on rugged terrain.” Does the Spark fulfill this goal? Read on to see my verdict.

Scarpa Spark (sharp)

I received the Spark in the ocean and lime color way (it’s also available in black and green apple). My first impression was that the shoe looks more expensive than its list price ($119). The Spark weighs 9.2 ounces and has a 6mm heel drop. The shoe has a EVA midsole of impressive size, which promised a good measure of protection for sore feet.

The Spark has a gusseted tongue and a lacing system that securely holds the feet in place. The shoe fits comfortably a half-size up from walking shoe size. The Spark is narrow in the back and in the mid-foot, while providing plenty of room up front for one’s toes. The heel counter is low and there’s plenty of cushioning around the ankles.

The Spark’s insole fit well and did not present any issues. The laces stay tied.

I could feel the Spark’s great cushioning the second that I stepped out of my front door. The first trail that I encountered was a crushed gravel one, and the toothy, rugged Speed Lite outsole provided good traction on this surface. (The Spark’s feel on the trail reminded me of a pair of Nike trail running shoes that I once owned, the Nike Air Terra Kimbia.)

As I moved on to an asphalt road, I found that this model provides a stable ride. Neutral runners and minimal-to-moderate pronators should be able to use it as a road trainer.

The Spark’s strengths make themselves known on two surfaces. On hard-packed dirt trails it’s as if a stability control system was turned to “on,” keeping all the yaws in check. On hard rock trails, the toothy sole grabs and controls the rocks and keeps them from moving you sideways.

On sidewalks, the Spark is likely best for mid-foot strikers. There’s not much forefoot flexibility, and the shoe is not built for natural heel striking. The relative lack of energy return and bounce on concrete results in one’s feet staying close to the surface (as with the Asics GEL Neo33 2), but this means that for some it will make a good mid-distance training shoe.

On a crushed gravel track, the shoe felt protective with one exception. My sensitive metatarsals sometimes complained when I was running laps in the Spark. It may be that this model could use some additional metatarsal area padding.

The Spark proved to be a very good fire trail runner. The outsole lugs provide just enough surface grip to make a runner’s feet feel safe and secure. I would have no hesitation about wearing this shoe on wet weather days.

The Scarpa Spark is a highly protective shoe considering its weight and price range. While the shoe does not feel “fast” in use, it nevertheless never feels like a boot. The outsole looks like it will hold up for several hundreds of miles of wear and tear. All in all, it’s a pretty impressive package.

Verdict: The Spark is a trail running shoe that allows one to move confidently on mild, moderate and rugged, challenging terrain. It also performs well off the trail. While it’s best suited for mid-foot strikers, runners of every ilk should be able to use the Spark as a safe, well-constructed and highly durable trainer.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-scarpa-spark/

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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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