Tag Archives: recommended running shoes

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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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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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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Ready to Run

Zoot Banyan soleZoot Sports Banyan

Running Shoe Review: Zoot Banyan

A few weeks ago, I would have told you that I do not like running shoes with soft heel cushioning and a bouncy ride. That was true until I wear tested the Zoot Tempo Trainer model provided to me by Zoot Sports. That shoe is impressive, and so I decided to purchase another model from Zoot, via Road Runner Sports, to see if I would be equally impressed with it. I selected the Zoot Banyan. Read on to see the verdict.

The men’s version of the Banyan comes in a tri color scheme that Zoot describes as black, green flash and safety yellow. I would describe the colors as bold black, lime green and electric green but I’m color blind. The color scheme in the women’s version is so jumbled that I won’t even attempt to describe it. (My wife says the color mix on the women’s version reminds her of Disney toys.) You can look it up online at the Zoot Sports site.

The Banyan has a virtually straight last, which means this neutral trainer can be used by minimal to moderate pronators. The Banyan’s fit is excellent and the shoe is comfortable; neither tight nor loose. The lacing system is off-center to relieve top-of-the-foot pressure, and it has a secure gusseted tongue. The shoe has a firm heel counter, which is protective, but you will not feel it as there’s plenty of interior padding around the ankles. The Banyan’s soft heel padding carries on a family tradition.

The Banyan has a low to the ground feel but this is not a minimal shoe. After a number of runs in the shoe, I thought of a way to describe its ride. If you could breed a Mizuno shoe (with a traditional 12mm heel drop) with a current Asics running shoe (most of which have an 8mm heel drop), their offspring would feel like this. It may not be totally coincidental that the heel drop on the Banyan is right in between the Mizuno and Asics levels at 10mm. Heel strikers will feel right at home in this model.

The Banyan is lighter in weight than the Tempo Trainer (9.4 versus 10.3 ounces). You might think this difference cannot be felt on the road but it is most definitely noticeable. The Banyan has a blown rubber forefoot, a ZVA midsole and a set of durable rubber pads in the heel. There are a total of 8 pads or pods underfoot, five up front and three in the rear.

There is a concern about these pads/pods, which is that they are glued on the sole. Will they stay on for 300, 400 or 500 miles? I don’t know.

One consumer noted on the company’s website that the Banyan running shoe is “a bit stiff out of the box.” This is a statement I disagree with. I found the shoe to have an almost broken in feel right from the start. And the sock liner seemed to be perfectly matched to the shoe, something that’s increasingly rare these days.

The Banyan’s forefoot sole looks like those found on a more traditional running shoe as compared to the Tempo Trainer. The appearance and feel of the forefoot sole reminds me of early 90s running flats, and the shoe appears to be more flexible than the Tempo Trainer. The Banyan is a less expensive shoe, but for the savings, you get a reduced amount of protection for your feet.

The Banyan is well padded enough to provide an enjoyable and bouncy ride on concrete. On asphalt, the ride is comfortable and steady. This would be a fine shoe to use for a 5K or 10K organized run.

The Banyan feels competent on crushed gravel, but the features that make this shoe special do not stand out on this surface. Because of this, I would choose another shoe for long training runs on crushed gravel trails or tracks.

The Banyan shines on a hard-packed dirt trail, as it’s both flexible and stable enough to deliver a fun run. If this was a car, we would say that it has a great suspension. I’m looking forward to locating a grass-covered trail for a Sunday drive in the Banyan.

Verdict: The Zoot Banyan is a very good to excellent shoe for urban and suburban pathways. It will appeal to those who like a bouncy ride combined with a soft heel strike, and those who prefer a lighter, non-minimalist, shoe for fast paced training runs.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-zoot-banyan/

The Zoot Banyan retails for $110.00. Since writing this review, I have had feedback from two runners, each of whom has run 300 to 500 miles in their Banyans. They have experienced no material or construction flaws with the shoe.

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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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Keep On Running

Running Shoe Review: Asics GEL-Neo33 2

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 is a stealth running shoe in more ways than one. The model that I received from Asics arrived in a bold black/lightning/royal color combination that makes it appear more aggressively serious than a daily mid-weight (10.2 ounces) trainer. And then there’s the fact that there’s no visible medial post in this stability shoe — other than a few almost invisible dots in the midsole — but the Duo-Sole support is most definitely present.

The name does not refer to 33 revolutions per minute. Instead it refers to the fact that Asics’s technology is intended to support the 33 bones in the human foot, and this is the second version of this model (thus, its replacement will be known as the GEL-Neo33 3). This shoe has a semi-curved last and a slip-lasted midsole, something that is almost standard on stability running shoes. The fit is narrow from the ankles to the arch of the foot (providing a secure fit), and allows plenty of room for the toes upfront.

The heel strike in this model is quite soft, but the cushioning is sterling and the ride is responsive. I encountered no issues with the lacing.

Experienced runners generally have one thing to say about Asics running shoes, “They require no break-in period.” Correct, and this is true of the GEL-Neo33 2. It’s comfortable as a runner from the very first steps and miles. It’s also a strikingly comfortable walking shoe — something that is not unprecedented. I’ve often used Asics 2000 series running shoes as my Friday and weekend walking shoes.

The GEL-Neo33 2 has an innovative 8mm heel-to-toe drop (the traditional standard is 12mm and minimalist shoes tend to have a 4mm or less drop). As such, it’s likely to assist someone intending to transition from a running shoe with a traditional heel height, like the Mizuno Wave Rider 16, to a minimalist-style shoe like the Skora Core.

The relatively flat sole and lowered heel results in mid-foot landings, and rules it out for sprinting. You’ll find your feet staying closer to the ground as you jog along. You may also find yourself running with smaller/shorter and quicker steps, something that’s actually quite efficient.

I found the support on the GEL-Neo33 2 to be more than minimal, in the mid-range stability category. It should work for anyone with pronation issues, which become more important as motion control shoes are being phased out of production.

So how does the current iteration of the Neo work on the roads? On crushed gravel it performs like a champ. The fully cushioned insole and the forefoot gel pad unit provide great protection, even on a day when one’s metatarsals are bruised and swollen. On concrete, the Neo delivers both a nice bounce and a satisfying energy return. The shoe does not feel as smooth on asphalt but it’s still a far-above-average performer on this surface.

One thing I almost never risk is taking a new running shoe onto a rock-filled trail but I decided to do this with the Neo. It worked perfectly well, remaining highly protective (no stone bruises) with minimal slippage — probably due to the unique multi-pod pattern on the sole. Just keep in mind that you’ll be pulling plenty of rocks out of the sole once your day is done!

The Neo should work well for flat-footed runners, because it has an atypically flexible forefoot for a stability shoe and the forefoot bed is flat — no raised areas to contend with.

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 displays multiple strengths, although those gifted runners unaffected by pronation issues may want to look instead at the sleeker GEL-Lyte33 2 model (8.4 ounces and with a 7mm drop). For many the Neo will serve as a protective and durable trainer, and a shoe that will maintain their running form on race day whether the distance to be completed is 3.1 or 26.2 miles.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Asics-Gel-Neo33-Dropped-HeelAsics GEL-Neo 33 2 (480 x 360)

The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 retails for $100.00.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-asics-gel-neo33/

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It Keeps You Running

Zoot Tempo Trainer 2Zoot Tempo Trainer 5

Running Shoe Review: Zoot Tempo Trainer

Does the Zoot Tempo Trainer work just as a running shoe, or does it succeed as an all-purpose shoe?

Last week I had the frustrating experience of stopping by a major outdoor goods retailer to try on some trail running shoes. Although I have narrow and thin feet, it was difficult to find a fit among many of the trail runners, even at a full size up. Several of the shoes — including those from Saucony and The North Face, felt quite tight and snug; even more so than racing flats.

Fortunately, fit is not a problem with the new Zoot Tempo Trainer, a stability running shoe with a comfortable medium-wide fit. I hadn’t previously run in a shoe from Zoot (“1983… Born in Kona.”), thus I had no preconceptions about this model that was provided to me by Zoot Sports. But then I have maintained a couple of preconceptions that were transformed into misconceptions by this virtually distinct running shoe.

I say virtually distinct, because as soon as I put on the Tempo Trainers and began jogging, I was reminded of the original Adidas Supernova trainer from the early 90s. This was true for both the fit and the feel. The classic Supernova, a bit wider than most running shoes of the time, provided a smooth ride and a bit of extra stability on rainy days.

The Tempo Trainer is a mid-weight shoe (10.3 ounces in the men’s version) with a two-density midsole. The firmness provided by the small second density post above the arch insert may be just enough to allow a runner to maintain his or her natural foot striking pattern when tired. It is not significant enough – and this is a positive – to force the feet either inward or outward.

My first preconception was that I do not favor running shoes that provide a bouncy feel. The Tempo Trainer’s Z-bound maximum cushioning midsole provides a bit of bounce over crushed gravel, something that’s appreciated by those whose feet regularly get beat up by this supposedly “softer” surface. The same minimal-to-moderate bounce cushioning feels like a protective force when jogging on both concrete and asphalt. The Tempo Trainer’s ride on asphalt is so pleasing that you might find yourself wondering when’s the next time you can sign up for a full or half marathon.

My second preconception was that as a heel striker I do not like soft heels. I’ve continually searched for running shoes with a firm or stiff heel plant. This shoe might have cured me of a strange obsession. The Tempo Trainer has a very soft heel which nevertheless provides a pleasingly smooth ride.

The Tempo Trainer arrives in a Graphite/Black/Blaze color scheme, which most of us would describe as orange and black with neon green laces. If you’re an introvert who disdains attention except when you’re out jogging, these shoes will get you noticed! If you’re on a Most Wanted list, substitute jet black laces for the neon green ones.

The forefoot of the Tempo Trainer is wide enough for your toes to splay at will, and forefoot runners will enjoy the sweet blown rubber section up front. Reflective materials are sown onto the forefoot for night running protection. And speaking of protection, I’ll reiterate that these trainers provide enough cushioning that even those with minimal padding on their feet and/or metatarsalgia will want to sing the Beatles song, “I Feel Fine.”

Well, no running shoe is perfect, so what issues cropped up with the Tempo Trainer? The first is that the sock liner is quite thick – mysteriously so (a friend mentioned that it looks like an aftermarket insole). This Bare Fit shoe was constructed to be run in without socks. Simply replace the provided insole with a standard one from another pair of running shoes — and add socks! — and presto, the fit reverts to feeling normal.

The second issue is that this trail runner feels only competent on a hard-packed dirt trail. The width of the shoe makes it feel more like a ride in a family sedan than in an exciting personal sports car. But the Tempo Trainer gets the job done, making this a bit of nit picking.

The Tempo Trainer is well named as it permits the runner to maintain a consistent running tempo in a style that favors mid-foot landings. The shoe makes for a relaxing walking shoe; it feels Asics-like at walking pace.

All in all, this trainer from Zoot presents a close-to-perfect blend of strengths that should overwhelm any minor weaknesses in it. It’s an all-purpose shoe that may eliminate the need to buy separate shoes for running, walking, visits to the gym and for casual wear. With the Zoot Tempo Trainer, it may be “one and done”!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Zoot Tempo Trainer retails for $120.00.

This article was first posted on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-zoot-tempo-trainer/

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Run To You

Skora CORE soleSKORA_SS13_CORE-mens-single_961

Running Shoe Review: Skora Core

Is the Skora Core simply a visual work of art, or a beauty on the feet and on the road?

Years ago at the Portland Marathon Expo, I found a pair of Puma Complete Aello II running shoes. This extremely lightweight radiant yellow running flat, with Goodyear tire rubber on the back, is a work of art. So much so that I’ve never had the heart to put them on my feet and run in them. They should be in a glass case in some type of industrial/manufacturing art and design museum.

I felt a sense of deja vu when I opened the box of new Core running shoes, provided by Skora of Portland, Oregon. These shoes are singularly beautiful in their design and manufacture. And, yes, they do look a bit like the classic flats from Puma. This time, however, I resolved to place the charcoal, black and green tinted shoes on my feet and run in them in order to produce this report.

Skora does not call the Core a minimalist running shoe, but it is a shoe that’s designed to facilitate a mid-foot/whole foot running style. When you first stand in the shoe, it feels quite flat, especially when compared to a standard American running shoe with a raised heel. On taking the initial steps in the Core, it literally feels like you’re walking in a pair of moccasin-style house slippers. This made me wonder, as an instinctive heel striker, whether the shoe would be able to provide enough support and cushioning on the streets and trails of suburbia.

Initiallly I jogged in the Core on a crushed gravel road and felt the shoe to be firm — something I usually like — and supportive. After a few miles, running in this non-traditional runner felt almost innate. I think my running form, in response to the shoe, very quickly changed. In my mind’s eye, a video would have shown me adopting Deena Kastor’s flat, mid-foot, relaxed landing pattern. (The brain seems to readily determine that there’s no pay-off in this model for heel strikers, thus directing the feet to stay lower to the ground.)

On hard concrete, the Core’s ride is surprisingly cushioned. On asphalt, the Core feels like a pair of racing flats, meaning that you definitely feel the ground but on a short to moderate distance run it’s not going to punish the feet. I did not expect to feel any energy return while jogging in the Core, but found it to be a nice unexpected dividend; however, I ran with the floating sockliner in place and I think that helped. Some will choose to remove the sockliner.

The Core was truly impressive when I found a hard-packed natural dirt trail. It felt as if the shoes were anticipating my every move and turn — I can only compare it to driving a Mini Cooper, knowing that you can easily drive that automobile at close to its full capacity. “If you’ve got it, use it!” The Core’s an excellent trail runner that provides the confidence a runner needs to go virtually all out on a twisty trail. (What could be more fun than that?)

I would not run in the Core on a trail consisting of medium-sized and large rocks, but that’s the only surface I would avoid in this shoe. Fit wise, the Core is nice and narrow in the rear and in the mid-foot, while providing plenty of room up front. Some might find the length a bit too long — which matches up with the laces — but that’s better for retaining one’s toe nails than being too short.

I found the Core to fit a half-size larger than standard walking shoes, which is a true fit for most running shoes. The flexible and comfortable upper of the Core uses leather with sheepskin lining, so animal lovers and vegans will want to look instead at the Phase model which uses man-made materials. The men’s version of the Core weighs 8.1 ounces; the women’s version comes in at just 6.7 ounces.

The folks at Skora will urge you to transition gradually into their shoes, which is good advice. I felt a slight twinge in my dominant left heel and a bit of ankle soreness on that side after runs in the Core. But I had no signs of hip soreness, something that can crop up when using seemingly protective shoes that displace impact forces away from the feet and knees.

In the Core my feet felt released to work naturally. These running shoes allow one to run in style while enhancing an organic running style. (The company’s motto is Run Real.)

The Skora Core advances the notion of running real. As attractive and distinctive as they are, they should be used on roads and trails and not displayed in a museum case.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Skora Core retails for $155.00.

This article earlier appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-skora-core/

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Cloud Nine

ON Cloudrunner 2013 (4)

Running Shoe Review: On Cloudrunner 2013

Does the updated version of the On Cloudrunner provide a cloud-like ride, or does it offer other strengths?

Years ago a shoe was sold that was a delight for natural heel-strikers such as I am. That shoe was the classic Nike Air Pegasus with the rugged polyurethane heel. The “poly” heel was virtually indestructible and insured a solid heel plant with every step; it offered a consistent reward for a certain type of runner. That shoe was also blessed with an extremely flexible, blown rubber forefoot.

Running shoe construction is different these days and heel striking is something that is going out of favor. Thus, we have lowered heel running shoes and seemingly softer, and less durable, materials in the rear. Some running shoe companies seem to have adopted a goal of transforming heel strikers into mid-foot and forefoot landers.

With this as background, it was a surprise to run in this year’s edition of the On Cloudrunner, a shoe “engineered in Switzerland.” It’s a different type of running shoe, as is apparent when you look at the 15 Cloud Tec elements — or lugs, on the outsole. These lugs (smaller and softer in front, larger and firmer in the rear) are meant to absorb both vertical and horizontal shock. Despite the hollowness of the construction, the lugs offer Nike Air-like (or Zoom Air-like) protection against external forces — forces like concrete and asphalt.

My test pair, provided by On, came in an Anthracite and Methyl color combination, one that I would describe as dark gray and turquoise. Perhaps because of its Swiss roots, the shoe presents a message of being seriously functional rather than frivolous. No doubt some will find it to be too European/industrial looking — like an athletic shoe you would find at Ikea, if they sold such items; however, On does offer a striking 7.9 ounce Cloudracer flat for those who desire a flashy shoe.

The Cloudrunner is a mid-weight shoe at 11.5 ounces and despite being a neutral shoe, it offers some stability. I found it (a half-size up from walking shoe size) to be somewhere between medium and narrow with a uniquely-angled toe box that provides plenty of room for toe wiggling. The toe box is exemplary in being extremely flexible.

Two sets of laces, one in Anthracite and one in Methyl, come with the Cloudrunner. The laces stay tied. The wide-apart lacing pattern means that the shoe does not feel tight while you are jogging along. (I generally dislike running shoes with this type of lacing pattern but it did not present any issues this time around.)

This is not a shoe in which to spend much time walking. As with Newton running shoes, the outer sole lugs make walking feel quite awkward, and there are far more lugs on the Cloudrunner than on a pair of Newtons. To its credit, the Cloudrunner — the motto of which is, “I make concrete easy” — provides a good ride on concrete and an even better one on asphalt. This shoe, in fact, was seemingly made for running on asphalt; the Cloudrunner consistently maintains its stable and protective characteristics. I’m less sure of the notion that runners will experience the “running on a cloud” feeling with this model, instead they may find it to be firm.

The Cloudrunner midsole is built of a high quality EVA and it is likely to be extremely durable. Heel strikers will joyfully find that the heel — supported by the largest external lug — is firm and stiff. It may be the closest shoe to the classic Pegasus in terms of delivering a tenaciously solid heel plant.

The Cloudrunner is a trainer that would seem to be perfect for mid-range to long-distance runs, and it should perform quite competently as an event day racer, from a 5K to the half-marathon distance. I wish I had had these shoes on my feet when I ran my first half-marathon. And the second.

For most runners, these shoes should get the job done. For heel strikers, the party’s on at On!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The On Cloudrunner 2013 retails for $139.00. This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-on-cloudrunner-2013/

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Running Shoe Review: The New Balance 880 v2

New Balance 880v2

The New Balance (NB) 880 v2 (v2 stands for version two) is a modern classic cushioned running shoe that will help some avoid the agony of the feet. The shoe presents itself with a nice medium-wide fit, and a better fit in the arch area. Heel strikers will love the exemplary build-up of solid padding in the rear; more than a bit reminiscent of the Nike Air Max running shoes of the ’90s. The raised heel will please traditionalists who aren’t rushing out the door to pick up a pair of minimalist running shoes.

The NB 880 v2 forefoot is extremely flexible which can help to prevent toe cramping in some runners with relatively inflexible (read, flat) feet. The insole allows the toes to lie flat, and there’s no apparent metatarsal pad bump – something that can actually irritate those with existing metatarsal issues. And there’s a midfoot stability under arch wedge plate which fortunately does not interfere with one’s normal running style, neutral or otherwise.

The underfoot cushioning seems to be of the Goldilocks “just right” variety – enough to protect against rough road surfaces but not enough to deaden the enjoyment of the ride. Even better, while the sole returns some energy to the active runner it does not create a distracting bounce.

The lacing of the 880 v2 is off-center which reduces pressure on the sometimes sensitive upper-foot area.

This particular running shoe may be a bit hard to find as New Balance has begun to release some of its v3 (version three) models such as the NB 890 v3. I ordered my pair with the assistance of a local running store offering a discount on special orders. The good news is that once the NB 880 v3 is released, you should be able to order the 880 v2 – as an “endangered” shoe – via several discount online running shoe purveyors. However, you may want to order a pair right now to ensure that you can get it in your size.

The NB 880 v2 is a running shoe that provides a significant amount of protection for the feet while not attempting to modify one’s natural running style. This makes it a bit of a rarity these days. It’s also a running shoe that comes in nice, not garish, colors and it’s made in the U.S.A. (in either Boston or Lawrence, Massachusetts or Norridgewock, Maine).

If the NB 880 v2 was a car, it might well be a cozy, comfortable and smooth riding Nissan Ultima – an automobile that’s made in the U.S.A. (Smyrna, Tennessee). No complaints here.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

These shoes were purchased at The Running Zone in Elk Grove, California.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports website:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-the-new-balance/

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