Tag Archives: protective running shoe

Running Shoe Review: Icebug Oribi M RB9X

Is the Icebug Oribi running shoe suitable for more than running on wet or slippery surfaces?

Icebug-Oribi-RB9X

On the box containing a pair of Icebug running shoes, you will find these words: “Safe grip, free mind.”  If this does not seem to be quite clear, the Swedish company also uses another motto: “The world leader for traction.”  Yes, this is the company that promises that on wet or slippery surfaces, its RB9X surface shoes grip “better than anything else on the market.”  You could walk across an ice rink in a pair of Iceburg shoes.  But how does one of their offerings work on the trails and roads of the U.S.?  See the verdict below.

icebug_OribiM small

The Oribi is named after an African antelope, an animal with “speed, grace and agility.”  This hybrid shoe weighs just 8.1 ounces – although one would think it was heavier due to the rather substantial rugged outsole, it offers a 7mm drop (versus a 4mm drop in the Icebug Acceleritas RB9X), and is said to to offer medium cushioning and flex.  The Oribi has a polyester mesh upper, a lightweight EVA midsole, a TPU mudguard upfront, and a rock plate in the center of the forefoot.  I ran in this striking beryl/cobalt colored shoe, provided by the company, on various surfaces.

The Icebug has a straight last and provides a snug fit.  However, there’s room on top of the foot – something I mention because several other trail shoes seem to be too low-cut these days.  Due to some toe issues, I requested a model one full size up.  This meant there was some initial space-caused slippage at the rear heel area of the shoe – a matter remedied by wearing a pair of mid-weight running socks.

On a dirt and gravel-covered trail, I quickly noticed that the Oribi delivers a straight-ahead ride.  This was made more evident when I ran on the same trail in another manufacturer’s shoe and found my feet moving around more than necessary.  The Oribi makes one feel like your feet are locked onto a rail.  This is good.  Less wasted movement equals less wasted energy.

On asphalt, the ride is surprisingly smooth and comfortable.  Not only is there no wasted energy, one feels the energy return from the responsive but not overly firm midsole.  One may look forward to mid-range and long training runs in the Oribi.

icebug oribi sole

The Oribi’s lugs allow one to dig in on a mowed grass trail.  There’s stability front and rear, as well as from side to side.  Because of these properties, I found myself running too fast and almost falling.  Thanks to the Oribi’s “torsional stability” system, I was able to remain upright.

The Oribi is 100% protective on concrete.  One can feel the ground but without punishment to the feet or sensitive metatarsals.  This model absolutely shines on a hard-packed dirt trail, offering – to use an automobile analogy – what feels like four-wheel drive.  For my feet, this felt like the best shoe ever on this type of surface!

On a trail loaded with large and small rocks, the Oribi offers just enough feel while protecting the feet from pain or discomfort.  Thanks, rock plate.  On a fire road, the shoe produced a B+ ride and offered some fun using the shoe’s moderate lugs to beat down high grass and brush to get there.

The clearest view of the Oribi’s nature came when I ran on the well-trampled down dirt and rock path around a city park.  This is when I realized that the Oribi allows the foot to move through its natural full range of motion – heel to midfoot to forefoot, on every step.  Initially in my mind, I thought that the Oribi provided the ride feel of a Nike trail shoe or of an early Asics Gel DS Trainer.  But then it hit me, “This feels like a Pearl Izumi trail shoe!”  Ah, yes, a number of movers loved the Pearl runners.  Sadly, Pearl Izumi withdrew from producing their running shoes at the end of 2016.  One can no longer purchase one of their exemplary models.  Fortunately, the Icebug Oribi is here to fill the void.

Verdict

At a list price of $149.95, the Icebug Oribi is not inexpensive.  But it’s a shoe that does everything well on almost every surface (including ice and snow), offers almost endless protection for tired and worn feet, and is durable enough to last for several hundred happy training miles on natural trails and city streets.  The Oribi will be a bargain for the runner who uses it to replace not one but two shoes in his or her rotation stable, as it can be used as both a trainer and race day shoe.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Note: Icebug USA is based in Bellingham, Washington.

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-icebug-oribi-m-rb9x/

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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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Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi EM Road N2

Has Pearl Izumi produced a well-balanced running shoe in the latest version of the EM Road N2?

Having had a positive experience running in the Pearl Izumi E:Motion (EM) Road N1 racer-trainer running shoe, I looked forward to having a go in another of their models. Fortunately, the company provided the EM Road N2 model – technically the second version of this shoe, the Road N2v2. For simplicity, I will refer to it as the Road N2.

Pearl Izumi states that this neutral model provides “the perfect balance of light and fast with just enough cushioning and durability.” Is this true? You can see the verdict below.

pearl-izumi-em-road-n2-14-men

The first thing noticeable about the EM Road N2 is the nice low-to-the-ground feel. As for the fit, while the shoe initially feels snug – a bit like a tennis shoe – it loosens up after some break-in miles. There’s enough room for the toes to splay naturally up front, but the forefoot appears to be a bit firmer than on the Road N1 model. In fact, the forefoot firmness seems to fall midway between that on the Road 1 (more flexible) and the Trail N2 (less flexible). For most, it should be just about right in terms of protecting sore toes and feet.

The Road N2 weighs 9.1 ounces, the same as the Trail N2, but it’s heavier than the N1’s 7.7 or so ounces (the forthcoming version of the N1 will weigh 8.6 ounces). In today’s running world, it’s a mid-weight shoe.

The fact that Pearl Izumi pays attention to the small details is reflected in the shoelaces. They’re just the right length, not too short or long.

pearl-n2-cover--640x330

Upon hitting asphalt and concrete roads in the Road N2, one feels a pleasing amount of spring and energy return. Although it’s a relatively low shoe, heel strikers can pound away at will thanks to the brand’s dynamic (variable) offset midsole. The dynamic offset midsole eliminates forefoot slap and provides a light rocker panel feel, which easily transitions the foot from heel to mid-foot and on to the forefoot. This is a shoe that can be used by any type of runner, but mid-foot strikers will likely feel the most at home in it.

The heel cushioning on the Road N2 is not too soft, nor hard (more New Balance than Mizuno). The overall underfoot cushioning is what I would describe as soft-landing but firm in movement. Had I been blindfolded, I might have guessed that I was running in either the New Balance 890v3 or a pair of Asics Gel-DS Trainers. The key point is that my feet never felt beat up after runs in the Road N2.

What’s quite impressive about the Road N2 is the shoe’s excellent directional stability. This is not a floppy, sloppy, running shoe. You need not worry about your feet hitting each other, and there’s no sense of wasted sideways motion. Although the Road N2 does not feel fast like the Road N1, it’s a great tempo trainer. Set a pace and the shoe lets you almost effortlessly lock onto it and stick with it. And there’s a comforting uniformity in that each footfall feels the same and the ride feels the same on both feet. (It’s sometimes disturbing to run in a pair of running shoes in which the left and right shoes seem to have been manufactured in different factories.)

On a gravel-covered dirt trail, the Road N2 feels protective like the Road N1, but is less slippery due to a more traditional sole pattern. Using this shoe on a rainy day would not be a problem – something that’s not necessarily true in the Road N1.

It’s off-road where one realizes that the Road N2 provides an excellent mid-foot fit and support. On a hard-packed dirt trail the shoe feels limber but stable – and it winds up being a fine runner on a hard rock trail. You don’t feel the rocks underfoot and there’s virtually no slippage.

The Road N2 is a hybrid running shoe that would be a good choice for travel, especially when the traveler does not know what type of surface her or she will be running on at his/her destination, or whether the surface will be wet or dry. This shoe will pretty much have things covered whether you’re landing in Milwaukee, Seattle, or San Diego.

Verdict:

The Pearl Izumi Road N2 should work well for the person seeking a durable, protective shoe that can be used for slow, moderate or aggressive training runs on roads and trails. The shoe may work especially well for those who prefer to put in their miles on tracks, running at a rock-steady pace. The Road N2 can serve as a type of metronome for those oval runners.

Most runners will find the Road N2 to be a very competent 5K, 10K or half-marathon shoe, and some will find it protective and stable enough to run a full marathon. The Road N2 is not the flashiest shoe on the market – and perhaps not in Pearl Izumi’s own catalog – but it does most everything quite well.

Yes, this is a well-balanced shoe. All in all, it’s another clear water pearl from this brand.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N2v2 retails for $120.00.

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-pearl-izumi-em-road-n2/

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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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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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Run, Run, Run

Running Shoe Review: Reebok Zig Carbon

Reebok Men's Zig Carbon running (500x471)

Is the Reebok Zig Carbon simply a radical looking shoe or is it a true running performer?

“This is radical!” I found myself saying this right after opening the box of new Zig Carbon running shoes provided to me by Reebok. The sole of the ZigLite line of shoes was described by a magazine writer as looking like a Slinky. I think the Zig Carbon’s sole looks like toothpaste, newly released from a tube, that’s happened to freeze into a saw-tooth pattern.

The Zig Carbon comes in a color scheme described by the manufacturer as excellent red, black, tin grey and white. It’s snappy and can be made even more so by pulling out the standard black laces and substituting the alternate pair of red laces that are included in the box.

The fit of the shoe is awesome, at a half-size up it feels just right from back to front (the shoe’s rear snugly surrounds the ankles). The shoe is quite comfortable to walk or jog in, and this comfort is enhanced by the fact that the upper’s materials flex and “give” with every foot strike. The materials actually move away from the foot in motion. It’s a nice feature especially as a few other running shoes claim to offer a flexible upper but fail to deliver on the promise.

One of the key features on this limited edition shoe is a military grade carbon fiber plate. The plate acts as a full-sole rock and hazardous ground materials protector. And yet the shoe, in the men’s version, weighs just about 7.4 ounces.

This is not a minimalist shoe. When you first put the Zig Carbon on it feels high. I would guess that the heel drop runs somewhere between 9.5 to 12mm. It’s a shoe that will appeal to heel strikers and it should also work quite well for mid-foot landers.

The unique sole covers the entire bottom of the shoe and then some. It actually angles out from the edges like some trail shoes of a few years back. The insole fits well and provides a rubbery protective feel. It sits on top of the upper suface of the slip-lasted midsole which also feels rubbery. Working together, the two rubber-like surfaces provide a big measure of energy return for the wearer.

Although this is a neutral shoe the Zig Carbon provides more than a smidgen of stability. A number of minimal to moderate pronators should be able to jog in it. The nylon fused open mesh on the shoe’s forefoot provides breathability for runs in hot weather. The laces on this model stay tied and there are two flap covered eyelets that serve to keep the soft (dare I use the word rubberized?) tongue in place. The fit of the Zig Carbon is so snug and secure that it parallels the feeling of a slip on triathlon shoe.

Initial runs on concrete and asphalt street roads confirm that the ride of the Zig Carbon is ultra-smooth, bouncy and responsive. These shoes make you feel racing flat fast, and that feeling is furthered by the forefoot’s flexibility. There’s a grove in the forefoot that seems to snap, in a pleasant way, with every step. And as you’re moving forward in the Zig Carbon you can feel your toes splaying and griping in an almost feline fashion.

Running on a crushed gravel trail was painless and proved the worth of the carbon plate. There is some slippage since the sole is not designed for trail running but one’s feet are not punished. The protective aspects of the shoe are also felt on a rocky trail. The sole will, naturally, grab and retain some small rocks.

The Zig Carbon provides a very nice ride on a grass-covered trail, and it delivers a bouncy, fun ride on hard-packed dirt.

These shoes made me do something I usually avoid at all cost. They made me proceed to a crushed gravel track to run laps at a quicker pace. The shoe provides a sense of confidence which is no small thing.

The Reebok Zig Carbon is worth checking out if you’re in the market for a lightweight running shoe that does virtually everything well. It does most things well while protecting the feet at a level that’s almost above and beyond the call of duty.

There are said to be some 9,000 sensory nerve endings in the human foot. About 8,900 of them were happy in the innovative Zig Carbon running shoe. 8,900 nerves can’t be wrong.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Reebok Zig Carbon running shoe retails for $110.00.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-reebok-zig-carbon/

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