A running shoe review! We take a look at the Scarpa Spark “Mountain Minimal” trail runner.
Tag Archives: new running shoes
Running Shoe Review: Zoot Ovwa 2.0
Back in the 2000s (2001-2003), Nike produced two excellent racing flats/lightweight trainers: the Air Myriad and the Air Ghost Racer (shown below). These were shoes built for runners who needed the smallest modicum of pronation control; technically, they were stability racers, but just barely. The best feature of these models was that the sole cushioning pads seemed to have been located in just the right place to support the runner moving at a steady pace. (I spent years searching for every pair of the Air Myriad and Air Ghost Racer that I could find in my size, or close to it.)
I had given up hope of seeing a modern version of the Air Myriad or Air Ghost Racer until I opened a box of shoes sent to me by Zoot Sports and saw the Zoot Ovwa 2.0. The Ovwa was originally designed for triathlon athletes and it’s a slip-on model. The Ovwa is so wildly colored — in brighter than bright blaze, safety yellow and green flash — that it makes neon-colored running shoes look conservative! (Those jogging beside you may need to wear sunglasses.)
The Ovwa is a snugly-fitting shoe for those with narrow to medium feet; however, it is not uncomfortable because the foot is surrounded by elastic. If you wear ultra-thin socks, you may feel a bit of irritation on your ankle bone; switching to standard or medium weight socks eliminates that. A half-size up, the fit seems to be just about perfect.
This shoe is a trainer for minimal pronators who want to run quickly. The forefoot’s blown rubber cushioning appears to be just as protective — and likely a bit more so — than that found on the front of the Tempo Trainer from Zoot. The heel cushioning is soft and it’s contained within a flared, squared-off heel. Squared-off heels not only look different, they also feel different in action. I’m a fan.
The Ovwa sits on a semi-curved last, it’s slip-lasted under the mid-weight insole, has a traditional looking grey colored medial post, and weighs 8.8 ounces. The 10mm heel drop means that it’s friendly to heel-strikers, while facilitating mid-foot landings. The rounded toe box is medium-low, not too high or low. Some runners will elect to wear this model without socks, as it has a fully lined interior.
The Ovwa is a very good track shoe. This shoe lets you land and bounce on the balls of the feet with relative impunity. The underfoot pads are placed in a way that makes it easy to maintain a quick and structured tempo on a track or on sidewalks.
The Ovwa provides decent protection for the feet on a crushed gravel trail and a close to heavenly ride on asphalt. The energy return from the shoe’s cushioning system allows you to kick your feet up high. Despite this, there’s a touch of European-style firmness in the mid-sole (something that was true of the Air Myriad and Air Ghost Racer). The shoe is cushioned but not overly soft.
Most will be able to use the Ovwa for competitive runs ranging from a 5K to a half-marathon. It should make a fine marathon shoe for small, lightweight individuals who need a smidgen of support underfoot for the 26.2 miles. The Ovwa is also a pretty good trail runner. It allows for controlled lateral movements on a hard-packed dirt trail, which supports fast-paced running on this type of surface.
The Ovwa makes for a comfortable walking shoe, so much so that I found myself keeping the pair on even for Plebian-style trips to grocery and hardware stores. If I rode a bike, I’d likely keep these on when doing so. (The shoe can, of course, be used if you suddenly decide to compete in a triathlon.)
I felt like these shoes were made for me. Maybe you’ll feel the same way.
Verdict: The Zoot Ovwa 2.0 is a shoe that’s light but very well cushioned for training runs on almost any surface. It’s a great shoe for mid-foot and heel strikers opting for fast-paced training and racing. The Ovwa should serve as a more than competent marathon shoe for mildly pronating, efficient runners.
The Zoot Ovwa 2.0 retails for $120.
Note: The Sneaker Report website selected the Nike (Air) Ghost Racer as one of the 100 best running shoes of all time. The “Ghost” came in at number 75.
This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics site:
Running Shoe Review: La Sportiva Helios
Is the lightweight La Sportiva Helios running shoe fit for both trail and road?
At first glance the Helios trail running shoe looks more like a racing flat than a shoe built to take you bounding and pounding over mountain and urban trails. It is heavier than it looks (8.1 ounces) but it is bold in appearance, at least in the grey and orange color combination. The Helios is also available in a more conservative, tamer grey and red color scheme.
La Sportiva describes the fit of the Helios as medium/wide but, trust me, it’s anything but that. I could only get my narrow feet into the shoe — a half-size up from my walking shoe size — by removing the provided insole, substituting it with a thinner sock liner from another trail shoe, and wearing a very thin pair of socks. I would label the fit as narrow/tight.
Although the Helios is a neutral shoe, it’s built on an almost straight last which provides some low-to-the-ground stability. It is a minimalistic shoe with a 4mm heel drop, but with a good sized EVA midsole. The shoe has a two-piece upper and comes with a gusseted and highly padded tongue which does not move around. I changed the lacing pattern on the pair provided to me by La Sportiva, eliminating the use of the extra eyelet which sits a full inch in front of the standard eyelets. This made the shoe feel more flexible up front.
The sole of the Helios looks like nine ocean waves headed toward shore. It is most definitely a wave patterned sole.
There’s a blue rubbery surface on the top of the slip-lasted midsole which implies a softer ride than the shoe actually delivers. The Helios’s cushioning was initially unimpressive on crushed gravel. This changes when one speeds up the pace and then the sui generis soft rubber underfoot seems to take hold. According to the manufacturer, the orange Frixion AT sole is “soft, resilient and lightweight rubber… for road and trail.” One immediately gets the feeling that this is a shoe designed and built for those who prefer to put in relatively fast training runs.
I found that the Helios absolutely comes alive on concrete. Suddenly, you can feel the bounce from the soft rubber which makes it easy to lift one’s feet higher for a quicker ride. Since the Helios is heavier than it appears to be, I think it may be durable enough for more than the occasional run on roads. Warning: Your actual mileage on concrete may vary.
The heel cushioning on the shoe is more soft than firm but it gets the job done. The heel pad looks awfully small, but this is not something you’ll notice while running.
The shoe’s inherent stability kicks in on asphalt when, again, a quicker pace is rewarded with a smooth ride. The Helios should perform well on any organized run from a 5K to a half-marathon.
On a hard-packed dirt trail, the Helios provides a good but not a great ride. Luckily, I happened to find a grass-covered trail on which this model’s pliable sole delivered a blissfully enjoyable run.
I think the biggest issue for many with the Helios will be the fit. You may want to consider a full size up if you try this shoe and note that the toe box is lower than most in height. The shoe is simply snug from back to front, something that a certain number of trail runners will prefer as opposed to a wide, loose-fitting shoe.
The La Sportiva Helios is a hybrid shoe to consider if you train on city or suburban sidewalks or run on minimal to moderately punishing trails at whatever altitude. Just don’t be surprised if someone asks you if you’re wearing racing flats!
This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:
Outside magazine’s Buyer’s Guide supplied this verdict on the La Sportiva Helios: “Our favorite shoe for guys with consistent, midfoot-striking, form who want a really natural feeling, slipper-like fit without getting all caveman about it.” (Well, that’s clear.) And Running Times added these comments: “Some testers had a hard time getting into the Helios, which runs significantly short (try them on in a shop and consider sizing up). Once fitted, however, the Helios brought wide grins to our test team members, because of its light weight, outstanding security, conforming tongue, comfortable upper, strong traction and smooth cushioning. As one tester said, ‘The extra ounce over the weight of the La Sportiva Vertical K was a small price to pay for the added protection and all-day wearability.’ The responsive performance and feel of the Helios were enough to inspire confidence on most surfaces and, one tester commented, it ‘excels as conditions deteriorate.'”
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.
This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site: