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Running Shoe Review: Topo Runventure

Topo-Athletic-Runventure

Is the Topo Runventure simply a trail running shoe or is it more?

Topo Athletic produces three types of shoes: for the road, for the gym, and for the trail. Topo makes three trail shoes: the MT (Mountain Trainer), the Oterro, and the Runventure. I decided to try out the Runventure, supplied by the company.

Topo Runventure-M-1

The Topo Runventure (sometimes listed online as the RunVenture or Run Venture) is a relatively lightweight minimalist-style trail runner. The shoe weighs 8.9 ounces and has a heel drop of only 2mm on a 19mm platform. What this means is that the shoe feels low to the ground, like a Merrell trail running shoe, and its structure encourages mid-foot landings: one actually lands on the lower forefoot or higher mid-foot.

When first putting on the shoe it feels comfortable to walk in, although the fit is a bit snug. A tight fit will likely be appreciated by the great majority of trail runners, although some, no doubt, will wish for a looser overall fit. The shoe is built on a semi-curved last, and presumably is slip-lasted although that’s not certain since the insole is glued onto the shoe’s base, racing-flat style.

Initially I was worried that the shoe looks short, a half-size up from walking shoe size, but there’s plenty of space upfront for toes – so much so that one’s toes may feel like they’re on vacation! Splay away at will. The minor downside of the Runventure’s somewhat unique experience is that the model has a quasi-Eskimo shoe appearance. Better this than black or lost toenails.

There’s a flex groove in the forefoot that provides a surprising amount of flexibility for a trail shoe. This will be appreciated by those with inflexible feet, and those whose toes like to grab – or attempt to grab, at the surface below.

The Runventure feels great when blasting away on a gravel-covered dirt trail. It’s not a quick-feeling shoe but it’s very steady and protective. If blindfolded, I would have guessed that I was wearing a Nike trail running shoe. That feel may be enhanced by the Nike-type one piece sole, meaning that the heel strike feels indistinct (although, interestingly, one feels the heel when walking in this shoe). The heel cushioning is not substantial but it is sufficient.

The shoe feels quicker on asphalt where it supplies an unexpected bounce and energy return dividend. It feels fast, like a typical lightweight trainer, on concrete. On a hard rock dirt trail, the Runventure is stable, secure and protective, thanks to having a molded full-length midsole rock plate – yes, that’s a thermoplastic urethane (TPU) plate – placed between the midsole and outsole.

On a hard-packed dirt trail, the shoe is an off-road version of a Mazda Miata/MX-5 – it will take you where you want to go, quickly and almost instinctively. The Runventure makes for a very confident striker on a track. While the shoe won’t let you bounce on your toes, you can land on your heels or on the mid-foot or on the balls of your feet. Thanks to the TPU plate, one’s metatarsals are well protected.

Topo Runventure sole

The success of the shoe in dealing with multiple surfaces is due in part to a hybrid “All Terrain Sole” that’s nubby enough for urban and country trails but flat enough for city surfaces. The Runventure shines on a fire road; in fact, it’s my all-time favorite fire road runner! While you may encounter a few big rocks or tree roots on such a trail, the shoe’s protective construction means that your feet will not wind up beaten up or bruised. This translates into piece of mind, and additional miles in the training log.

You may note that I moved back and forth between many types of surfaces in testing this shoe. That’s because its hybrid nature allows one to do so. It’s actually both a trail and road shoe; a town, country and city model.

Verdict:

The Topo Runventure will work well for runners who like a well-rounded, versatile shoe that they can use to walk, run or train in no matter where they are or where they’re headed. And this, undoubtedly, includes the gym.

If you’ve run in Merrell trail shoes but feel the need for more cushioning, protection and stability, the Runventure should do the trick. It’s a minimalist-style shoe that feels more mainstream and traditional in action. As a result, most runners should be able to use the Runventure as both a training shoe and a 5K to marathon distance shoe.

It should be kept in mind that the Runventure was produced for trail running. Those who attack their local nature trails, fire roads and dirt trails on weekends may find that it meets their needs quite well. And some who run ultramarathons may find that the shoe will comfortably transport them anywhere from 5K to 50 miles, or more.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-topo-runventure/

The Topo Runventure sells for $110.00.

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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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Coming Up Next…

Scarpa Spark 2

A running shoe review! We take a look at the Scarpa Spark “Mountain Minimal” trail runner.

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A music review! We take a look at the album Me by James McCartney.

James McCartney

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Zoot Your Own Horn

Running Shoe Review: Zoot Ovwa 2.0

Zoot Sports Ovwa 2.0

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.)

Air Ghost Racer

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.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

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:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-zoot-ovwa-2-0/

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Zoot Ovwa 2

A running shoe review! We take a look at the Zoot Ovwa 2.0 trainer/racer.

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Going With the Flow

Running Shoe Review: Brooks PureFlow 2

Is the Brooks PureFlow 2 a running shoe that will make you take the long way home?

There are rest day running shoes and recovery day running shoes. The rest day shoes are worn on the days you’re cutting back on your mileage, running slower, and wearing heavier, protective shoes. Recovery day shoes allow you to cut loose, run long and fast. These tend to be lighter shoes.

The Brooks PureFlow 2 is a recovery shoe. When you’re ready to run, they’re as ready to go with you as a frisky new puppy. And they may be just as much fun.

Brooks PureFlow 2 (sharp - 480x355)Brooks PureFlow 2 sole (480x360)

I received a pair of these shoes from Brooks in the anthracite, green gecko and black color scheme. The shoe gets noticed for its striking appearance and they generate comments. The shoe weighs 8.8 ounces but, once on, it feels more like 10 ounces due to the MoGo midsole’s cushiony feeling. The PureFlow 2 has a minimalist 4mm heel drop, which can quickly turn heel strikers into mid-foot landing runners.

The feel is quite a bit like a shoe designed for triathlon runners, with a close fit in the rear and mid-foot but with a wide toe box. It takes a while to realize that the shoe has a split toe box, which we’ll go over in a bit. The lacing is asymmetric for comfort and the laces stay tied. (The owners of this shoe will learn that you do not need to untie the laces at the end of a run. The shoe airs out on its own.)

The PureFlow 2 arrives with 10 cushioning pads on its sole in a unique 7-1-2 pattern. That’s 7 pads up front, 1 that protects the central foot area, and 2 pads in the heel area. It does not appear that the design of the two split heel pads, which sit uniquely parallel to each other, will be sufficient to protect the heel, but it works. The pads provide for a smooth landing, although the low heel drop means that the role of the heel is minimized compared to runs in a traditional running shoe.

While this is a neutral shoe, its low profile provides stability which is enhanced by a flared-out sole. During the first few blocks of jogging in the PureFlow 2, it feels like you’re running in a bedroom slipper; which just happens to be a very comfortable slipper. The shoe feels fast on sidewalks although the flat sole can make it a bit slippery on concrete. One person has noted that the shoe loses traction on wet asphalt and concrete.

A number of minimalist shoes make for very good trail runners and that’s the case with this shoe from Brooks. The PureFlow 2 provides a nice bounce on crushed gravel roads, where it proves to be pretty protective. There’s a touch of slippage, but nothing major.

You wouldn’t think to take a shoe this minimal onto a hard rock trail, so naturally I did. Surprisingly, it works just fine. The rocks underneath the sole can be felt but not in a bad way. The non-aggressive sole lets you skip over rocks without fully engaging them. The pods are far enough apart that they do not pick up rocks.

The PureFlow 2 is highly competent on a hard-packed dirt trail. Your snugly covered feet stay securely placed in this shoe and the feet do not wobble. It’s straight ahead without any complications.

I began to see why one online reviewer called the Brooks PureGrit 2, a cousin of this shoe, the best trail running shoe he’s ever run in. Period.

Because this model delivers a very comfortable, smooth ride on asphalt, it would be a natural 5K to half marathon runner. The low profile, non-obtrusive insole allowed my toes to grab and attempt to grip the road with each step, something they do as a matter of feline-style instinct. And the split toe design permitted my big toes to move around freely, not scrunched up next to four smaller intruders. Neat!

If my experience is any indication at all, this is a shoe that will make most joggers add distance to their daily runs. It’s such an enjoyable shoe to run in that you may take the long way home, after adding on a few laps at the local school’s track.

Did I find any substantive weaknesses or issues with the PureFlow 2? No. This shoe promises to be many things for many runners and just happens to deliver on its promises.

In a day where running shoe prices are shooting far past the $100 range, the Brooks PureFlow 2 is a long run shoe, trail running shoe, fast paced lap running shoe, and everyday trainer all for a reasonable price ($100).

Highly recommended.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-brooks-pureflow-2/

Men’s Journal had these comments on the Brooks PureFlow 2: “Best for… runners looking for a supportive everyday trainer… it deftly (works) in the gray area between lightweight speed and durable support shoe. The cushy but lean midsole makes it a good high-mileage trainer, but it can be used for efforts on the track, too.”

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