Tag Archives: recommended running shoe

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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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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I Know What I Like

Mizuno Wave Rider 16 (350x263)

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.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:
http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-mizuno-wave-rider/

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