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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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Keep On Running

Running Shoe Review: Asics GEL-Neo33 2

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 is a stealth running shoe in more ways than one. The model that I received from Asics arrived in a bold black/lightning/royal color combination that makes it appear more aggressively serious than a daily mid-weight (10.2 ounces) trainer. And then there’s the fact that there’s no visible medial post in this stability shoe — other than a few almost invisible dots in the midsole — but the Duo-Sole support is most definitely present.

The name does not refer to 33 revolutions per minute. Instead it refers to the fact that Asics’s technology is intended to support the 33 bones in the human foot, and this is the second version of this model (thus, its replacement will be known as the GEL-Neo33 3). This shoe has a semi-curved last and a slip-lasted midsole, something that is almost standard on stability running shoes. The fit is narrow from the ankles to the arch of the foot (providing a secure fit), and allows plenty of room for the toes upfront.

The heel strike in this model is quite soft, but the cushioning is sterling and the ride is responsive. I encountered no issues with the lacing.

Experienced runners generally have one thing to say about Asics running shoes, “They require no break-in period.” Correct, and this is true of the GEL-Neo33 2. It’s comfortable as a runner from the very first steps and miles. It’s also a strikingly comfortable walking shoe — something that is not unprecedented. I’ve often used Asics 2000 series running shoes as my Friday and weekend walking shoes.

The GEL-Neo33 2 has an innovative 8mm heel-to-toe drop (the traditional standard is 12mm and minimalist shoes tend to have a 4mm or less drop). As such, it’s likely to assist someone intending to transition from a running shoe with a traditional heel height, like the Mizuno Wave Rider 16, to a minimalist-style shoe like the Skora Core.

The relatively flat sole and lowered heel results in mid-foot landings, and rules it out for sprinting. You’ll find your feet staying closer to the ground as you jog along. You may also find yourself running with smaller/shorter and quicker steps, something that’s actually quite efficient.

I found the support on the GEL-Neo33 2 to be more than minimal, in the mid-range stability category. It should work for anyone with pronation issues, which become more important as motion control shoes are being phased out of production.

So how does the current iteration of the Neo work on the roads? On crushed gravel it performs like a champ. The fully cushioned insole and the forefoot gel pad unit provide great protection, even on a day when one’s metatarsals are bruised and swollen. On concrete, the Neo delivers both a nice bounce and a satisfying energy return. The shoe does not feel as smooth on asphalt but it’s still a far-above-average performer on this surface.

One thing I almost never risk is taking a new running shoe onto a rock-filled trail but I decided to do this with the Neo. It worked perfectly well, remaining highly protective (no stone bruises) with minimal slippage — probably due to the unique multi-pod pattern on the sole. Just keep in mind that you’ll be pulling plenty of rocks out of the sole once your day is done!

The Neo should work well for flat-footed runners, because it has an atypically flexible forefoot for a stability shoe and the forefoot bed is flat — no raised areas to contend with.

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 displays multiple strengths, although those gifted runners unaffected by pronation issues may want to look instead at the sleeker GEL-Lyte33 2 model (8.4 ounces and with a 7mm drop). For many the Neo will serve as a protective and durable trainer, and a shoe that will maintain their running form on race day whether the distance to be completed is 3.1 or 26.2 miles.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Asics-Gel-Neo33-Dropped-HeelAsics GEL-Neo 33 2 (480 x 360)

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 retails for $100.00.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-asics-gel-neo33/

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I Know What I Like

Mizuno Wave Rider 16 (350x263)

Running Shoe Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 16

Has firmness found a home in a running trainer from Mizuno?

The Mizuno Wave Rider 16 is something of a throwback at a time when running shoe companies are caught up in a battle between lightweight minimalist shoes and overly cushioned and expensive trainers. Version 16 of the Rider arrives with a standard 12mm heel drop and it’s blissful in that it is neither too light nor too heavy. This moderately neutral/normal pronation shoe weighs just under 10 ounces in the men’s version.

The Rider has an almost-straight last that provides inherent stability, and it allows for a “straight ahead” running style. The blown rubber forefoot on the Rider provides for luxurious cushioning, while the heel offers mid-range firmness. Although I wish the heel was a bit stiffer, no doubt most running enthusiasts will find it to be fine as is.

Mizuno describes the Rider ride as uniquely “harmonious,” and they may have fashioned the right label. Neil Diamond’s phrase “beautiful noise” also comes to mind.

I found that the shoe’s high and snug heel collar can irritate the ankle. This is especially noticeable when walking in the Rider; fortunately, it’s not as much of an issue while one is jogging. The extended – longer than usual – wave plate device in the Rider midsole gives it an increased level of firmness compared to most Mizuno runners. For me, this provides some relief from the high level of cushioning found in so many trainers these days – cushioning that often takes away more from the running experience than it adds.

The shoe’s upper is extremely flexible and comfortable. Let’s hope you don’t mind seeing the color of your socks through the fabric if you run in the unique white-Chinese red-black color scheme that I selected. (It looks like you’re running in a pair of contemporary tennis shoes.)

The Rider is quite functional as an everyday trainer and occasional road racer. For the majority of runners, the shoe should be supportive and protective enough for runs ranging from a 5K to the half-marathon distance. Having said this, runners who prefer a softer and more cushioned ride will likely gravitate to the Mizuno Wave Precision 13. Those who run like gazelles or cheetahs will be drawn to the green apple colored Mizuno Musha racing flat, which offers a touch of stability for distances up to the marathon. Not being part of one of those groupings, the Rider literally strikes the almost-perfect middle ground for me as both a trainer and event day racer. Two pairs might be as essential as one.

If you do pick up a pair or two of the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoe, you won’t need to catch the last train to Clarksville – or Clarksburg. You’ll be able to run there on your own well-covered feet.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:
http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-mizuno-wave-rider/

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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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