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Running Shoe Review: New Balance 1400v2

new-balance-rc1400-v2

Is the New Balance 1400v2 a fast and efficient training and racing flat?

The New Balance 1400v2 is a lightweight flat – only 6.3 ounces in the men’s edition, that looks fast and feels fast. I spent some time in this shoe provided by New Balance and found it to be intriguing. Is it a winner? Look for our verdict below.

NB 1400v2

They must be making the sidewalks softer; at least that’s what I thought while walking in this model. The 1400v2 offers the easy comfortable feel of a bedroom slipper, something that’s typical of a racing flat. It’s remarkable that the shoe feels so well cushioned, coming in at under 6 and one-half ounces in weight. But the REVlite midsole cushioning does its job and does it well.

The shoe is relatively narrow but offers multiple lacing options which can be used to either loosen or tighten the fit. There are two center eyelets which you can elect to use or not. I made use of the eyelet that keeps the tongue in place, but not the one further down.

New-Balance-1400v2_3

The four bold colorways on the 1400v2 ensure that you will at least look fast at the starting line of a race. No guarantees on whether you’ll finish fast. I received the blue with blue atoll and neon green combination – which I really like, but the sulphur yellow with blue and race red colorway is also striking. (The other two options are a relatively simple blue with green combo, and the comparatively dull olive with yellow. Your running buddies will not need to wear sunglasses if you choose the latter iteration.)

I initially ran in the shoe on a gravel covered track where it felt protective but yet, yes, fast. According to the manufacturer, this model is “designed for efficient, fast training runs.” You may feel like Meb Keflezighi at the 18th mile of the Boston Marathon while running laps in this flat.

Despite the 1400v2’s light stature, it is not overly flexible and it provides a noticeable amount of stability on a track as well as on concrete. One’s feet land straight and stay that way; yes, this is efficient. This shoe feels like a lighter, racing version of the New Balance 890 series; the shoes clearly compliment each other quite well.

There’s just a touch of heel cushioning in the 1400v2, enough to make it comfortable for heel strikers. While the well-cushioned feel was present on a track and on concrete, I found that the shoe feels less cushioned on asphalt. This is likely a result of a fully flat, somewhat minimalist, sole interacting with an inherently uneven surface.

The forefoot on the 1400v2 has a smidgen of flexibility, but it’s not overly flexible, to the benefit of forefoot runners and toe strikers. The built-in firmness up front makes for a shoe that will hold up quite well on longer training runs and races.

I’ve often longed for a time machine that I could use to return to the days when Nike was turning out exemplary racing flats like the Pegasus Racer, the Air Myriad, and the great, classic Ghost Racer. Having been introduced to the 1400v2, it may be time to let go of that wish.

Verdict:

The New Balance 1400v2 is a lightweight, versatile shoe that should work well for many runners as both a daily trainer and as a shoe to wear for a 5K or 10K race. The one exception would be those with wide feet. Most racing flats are built for narrow feet, after all.

Runners who currently train in the New Balance 890v4 neutral cushioning running shoe may elect to purchase the 1400v2 and use it as their race day shoe.

The 1400v2 may be a great half-marathon to marathon trainer-racer for those who are built sleek and run sleek. At a list price of $99.99 it’s a bargain (and it’s currently being sold for even less on the New Balance website). You may want to pick up a pair before the 1400v3 is released.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Note: The 1400v2 has a 10mm drop (heel to toe drop).

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-new-balance-1400v2/

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A running shoe review! We take a look at the New Balance 1400v2 trainer/racing flat.

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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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Pearl Izumi Men's Road N1

A running shoe review! We take a look at the Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 trainer/racer.

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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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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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Running Down A Dream

Saucony Grid Fastwitch 6 (2)

Running Shoe Review: Saucony Fastwitch 6

Is the Saucony Fastwitch 6 the antidote to too much cushioning in a street racer?

I was hoping that the new version of this lightweight street racer would prove to be the brightly shining star in Saucony’s galaxy of running shoes. Well, sometimes dreams come true and sometimes they don’t.

On first impression, the Fastwitch 6 is a beautiful shoe with a stunning orange and black color scheme that will be especially pleasing to graduates of Princeton, the University of the Pacific and UTEP. It’s also quite protective for a shoe that weighs in at slightly less than 7 ounces. Some of us likely have some old wool socks that weigh more than that!

The Fastwitch is unique in delivering a firm ride for a racing flat, feeling more like a European model than an American runner. Pull out the supplied insole and you’ll see that the top of the midsole feels rock hard. This seemed promising for runners who have become weary of overly-cushioned models.

The Fastwitch provides more than a modicum of control – it’s a performance stability racer, perhaps too stable for most runners looking for a low-to-the-ground flat. (I found myself wishing that it was a bit more neutral.) One of the positives about this shoe is that its structure supports a mid-foot landing. The heel cushioning is fairly neutral – neither overly stiff or soft; it’s just “there.”

Unfortunately, the Fastwitch 6 seems to be afflicted with two quite serious flaws. The first is the fit problem. I had to order a full size up (since I had heard rumors that it ran unusually short), and yet the shoe barely fit. I have narrow feet. Still, I had to put on an old thin, ragged, worn-out pair of Buffalo Chips Running Club socks in order to manage to squeeze my feet into the ‘witch 6. But this is not the worst of it…

The second problem is the innovative, irritating Flex Film upper from Saucony that’s used to reduce weight. That it does but at quite a cost. The Flex Film material is of the non-stretch, unforgiving sort. There’s not a tenth of an inch of “give” in it – there’s apparently no way of reducing the grip of the material on the sensitive upper part of the runner’s foot. It becomes a bit torturous rather quickly, and my body began to repeatedly send my brain a single message, “Let’s take this shoe off as soon as possible!”

If I had to run a half-marathon in the Fastwitch 6, I imagine that the top of my feet would look like Tillamook shredded cheese after completing 13.1 miles. It’s not a pleasant thought.

There’s much that’s promising about this edition of Saucony’s attractive road racer. Let’s hope that the folks at Saucony get on the case and fix the two big flaws in the Fastwitch when they release version 7.0. With a couple of repairs in place, the next Fastwitch might be more than just a daydream.

Joseph Arellano

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-saucony-fastwitch-6/

Interestingly, these comments about the Fastwitch 6 appear in the current (March 2013) issue of Men’s Fitness magazine: “Road warriors get going with the supportive yet flexible Fastwitch 6. Its breathable upper and water-drainage ports make this Saucony one of the best all-rounders.” (Water-drainage ports? I didn’t see them on this shoe.)

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