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Running Shoe Review: Vasque Pendulum

Vasque Pendulum (pair)

Does the Pendulum trail running shoe from Vasque impress or depress?

The Pendulum is the lightest shoe in Vasque’s line-up of trail running shoes. At 10.6 ounces, most would consider it to be a medium weight shoe. I wear tested a pair provided by Vasque. Read on for the verdict.

The Pendulum I received had a calm and understated color scheme, namely Jet Black and Sodalite Blue. There’s an alternate Formula One/Solar Power version that’s a spicier combination of red, yellow and grey, but I found that the black and blue version looks great when paired with Jet Black bicycling socks!

The fit of the shoe is narrow, but it’s not overly snug or tight. The Pendulum has a squared off toe box that allows one’s toes to flex freely. The elastic laces on the shoe stay tied, and there’s an EVA midsole and a TPU plate to protect against rocks and other sharp objects.

When I first stood in the shoe, it felt high, although it feels lower in action. Walking in the shoe to a nearby trail, I felt like I had on a pair of Adidas trail runners. This was true for both the comfortable “feel” of the shoe and its appearance, with the flared out heel that Adidas has often featured.

The Pendulum has a “toothy outsole” which looks like a sparse waffle sole. What’s unique about the shoe, for both good and bad, is that it comes with a 3mm FluxFoam sole. This is a two-density sock liner that’s thick in the apparently EVA-padded rear (this is good) and shockingly thin up front (not so good).

I experienced a couple of issues with the insole. Firstly, the thin forefoot section is not built for runners whose metatarsals need a decent amount of protection underneath them. Secondly, there’s a section of thick foam rubber that rubs against one’s arches, something that becomes irritating as the miles go by.

The thin part of the sock liner promotes the feeling that the Pendulum’s rubber forefoot is more flexible that one would expect it to be. But anyone with metatarsals that become tender on occasion will want to consider substituting the Pendulum’s sock liner with a Dr. Scholl’s Sport insole. There’s a reason why most running shoe insoles are virtually uniform in depth from front to back.

On a trail, the supportive nature of the low-profile Pendulum (which has a 6mm heel drop) comes shining through. On crushed gravel, the shoe is fully protective while delivering a firm but reassuring heel plant. The shoe makes concrete surfaces feel smoother, while providing a pleasing amount of bounce and energy return on asphalt. Because the Pendulum’s lacing pattern holds the foot securely in place, runs on hard-packed dirt trails are something to enjoy and appreciate, as are runs on grass covered trails.

The Pendulum supplies excellent traction and protection on a hard rock trail. With this shoe, you can scramble wildly over rocks that would otherwise punish the feet. I found myself wanting to yell “Attack!” while running over a rough trail that usually beats me up rather than vice-versa.

The Pendulum is also a good walking shoe. It has a “roll through” forward motion that’s satisfying. Since the shoe has a relatively large heel pad for a trail shoe, heel striking runners can pound away on sidewalks, roads and tracks in the Pendulum. Further, it’s a shoe that will work well for mid-foot landers.

Verdict: The Vasque Pendulum is a midsized crossover vehicle for trails and roads. It works well as a trail shoe, a running trainer and as a walking shoe. While the shoe’s insole could use some improvement, this is a protective, highly performing shoe that can be purchased for a moderate price ($110).

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-vasque-pendulum/

Outside magazine had this to say about the Vasque Pendulum: “Vasque took a pliable, unpadded upper and mated it to a fat, off-terrain midsole with big, toothy lugs and a protective rock plate underfoot. Which is why one tester called it a ‘stripped down dune buggy with monster tires.’ Be sure to check the fit: some testers found the heel too wide.”

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Running on Sunshine

Running Shoe Review: La Sportiva Helios

Is the lightweight La Sportiva Helios running shoe fit for both trail and road?

LS Helios (sole)La Sportiva Helios (side)

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!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-la-sportiva-helios/

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.'”

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Run With the Pack

Running Shoe Review: TrekSta Sync

Do you need to run on high mountain trails in order to appreciate the TrekSta Sync stability running shoe?

You may have had this experience: You test drive a new car and are not greatly impressed by it. But then subsequently you find yourself thinking about it, and a day or so later you’re back at the dealership asking a salesman if you can drive it off the lot. In some respects this parallels my experience with the TrekSta Sync, a mountain trail running shoe.

The Sync is a great looking shoe, especially in the lime and black color scheme on the model provided to me by TrekSta of Moscow, Idaho. It’s a mid-weight shoe (10.9 ounces in the men’s version, 9.5 ounces in the women’s version) with a medium fit. While it looks somewhat like a Skora running shoe, there’s an odd angle in the forefoot that reduces the space available for one’s smaller toes. I had to trim my nails close to provide enough space for my toes to fit in the Sync, a half-size up from my walking shoe size.

Standing in the Sync, the low profile shoe — with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop — feels quite flat. Walking in it is not very comfortable and jogging on crushed gravel provides a rough ride for sore feet. Had I been blindfolded in the first few miles, I would have guessed that this shoe was from Saucony — a brand that I’ve not had much luck with. Their running shoes tend to feel not quite soft enough or firm enough to provide a satisfying ride.

The arch feels a bit high in the Sync and the shoe has a distinct sock liner (which arrives with indentations in the insole, as if one had already worn the shoe). At first I didn’t like it. The curved ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) insole proves to be one of the durable components in the TrekSta NestFIT system that make the shoe what it is.

The Sync’s forefoot sole looks like it was modeled after a big cat’s paws, but I never felt the spring or cushioning supposedly provided by the individual forefoot pods — which I thought of as “paw pads.” The HyperGrip sole is said to provide superior traction, but I didn’t notice that.

The Sync is labeled as a stability trail running shoe, so there’s a small second-density medial post that sits underneath the front part of the heel. It’s a small stabilizing device and I never felt its impact while running. The good news began when I realized that my feet were landing perfectly straight with each set of strides. To use another automobile analogy, it’s like driving a car on the freeway and determining that it will travel straight even when you take your hands off the wheel. My confidence in the Sync was now enhanced.

Jogging on concrete and asphalt in the Sync was a more pleasant experience than I’d had on a crushed gravel trail. But the best was yet to come. Running on a hard-packed dirt trail allowed me to find the winning qualities of the Sync. It’s a virtually unbeatable type of shoe on this surface (and presumably on a high mountain trail). The aforementioned once-troubling insole keeps the feet securely cradled in place as your ankles twist and turn like crazy on the trail bends. The TrekSta NestFIT system meets its goal of providing nearly unrivaled support.

The laces on the Sync remain tied and the shoe seems to increase in comfort the more it is worn. Soft foam fabric padding surrounds the ankles, which makes one think of a deluxe racing flat.

Since the feet are riding on top of two layers of EVA, in the midsole and insole, this is a protective runner for road races and street training. I’d feel quite confident about using it in a 5K, 10K or half-marathon.

If you’re a runner who runs on city and suburban streets but would like a shoe that provides an attractive, unique and minimalistic appearance, the Sync should work for you. If you’re lucky enough to run on mountain trails or lowland dirt trails, this Town and Country shoe may be the next best thing to coming home from auto shopping with a new VW GTI.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The TrekSta Sync retails for $125.00.SONY DSC

TrekSta Sync 3

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-treksta-sync/

The Outside magazine Buyer’s Guide (Summer 2013) added these words about the TrekSta Sync: “(T)he Sync… (is) fast and fun, with a smooth enough gait for those who log just as many miles on-road as off.”

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