Tag Archives: running shoe for heel strikers

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.

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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.

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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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Vasquely Superior

Running Shoe Review: Vasque Pendulum

Vasque Pendulum (pair)

Does the Pendulum trail running shoe from Vasque impress or depress?

The Pendulum is the lightest shoe in Vasque’s line-up of trail running shoes. At 10.6 ounces, most would consider it to be a medium weight shoe. I wear tested a pair provided by Vasque. Read on for the verdict.

The Pendulum I received had a calm and understated color scheme, namely Jet Black and Sodalite Blue. There’s an alternate Formula One/Solar Power version that’s a spicier combination of red, yellow and grey, but I found that the black and blue version looks great when paired with Jet Black bicycling socks!

The fit of the shoe is narrow, but it’s not overly snug or tight. The Pendulum has a squared off toe box that allows one’s toes to flex freely. The elastic laces on the shoe stay tied, and there’s an EVA midsole and a TPU plate to protect against rocks and other sharp objects.

When I first stood in the shoe, it felt high, although it feels lower in action. Walking in the shoe to a nearby trail, I felt like I had on a pair of Adidas trail runners. This was true for both the comfortable “feel” of the shoe and its appearance, with the flared out heel that Adidas has often featured.

The Pendulum has a “toothy outsole” which looks like a sparse waffle sole. What’s unique about the shoe, for both good and bad, is that it comes with a 3mm FluxFoam sole. This is a two-density sock liner that’s thick in the apparently EVA-padded rear (this is good) and shockingly thin up front (not so good).

I experienced a couple of issues with the insole. Firstly, the thin forefoot section is not built for runners whose metatarsals need a decent amount of protection underneath them. Secondly, there’s a section of thick foam rubber that rubs against one’s arches, something that becomes irritating as the miles go by.

The thin part of the sock liner promotes the feeling that the Pendulum’s rubber forefoot is more flexible that one would expect it to be. But anyone with metatarsals that become tender on occasion will want to consider substituting the Pendulum’s sock liner with a Dr. Scholl’s Sport insole. There’s a reason why most running shoe insoles are virtually uniform in depth from front to back.

On a trail, the supportive nature of the low-profile Pendulum (which has a 6mm heel drop) comes shining through. On crushed gravel, the shoe is fully protective while delivering a firm but reassuring heel plant. The shoe makes concrete surfaces feel smoother, while providing a pleasing amount of bounce and energy return on asphalt. Because the Pendulum’s lacing pattern holds the foot securely in place, runs on hard-packed dirt trails are something to enjoy and appreciate, as are runs on grass covered trails.

The Pendulum supplies excellent traction and protection on a hard rock trail. With this shoe, you can scramble wildly over rocks that would otherwise punish the feet. I found myself wanting to yell “Attack!” while running over a rough trail that usually beats me up rather than vice-versa.

The Pendulum is also a good walking shoe. It has a “roll through” forward motion that’s satisfying. Since the shoe has a relatively large heel pad for a trail shoe, heel striking runners can pound away on sidewalks, roads and tracks in the Pendulum. Further, it’s a shoe that will work well for mid-foot landers.

Verdict: The Vasque Pendulum is a midsized crossover vehicle for trails and roads. It works well as a trail shoe, a running trainer and as a walking shoe. While the shoe’s insole could use some improvement, this is a protective, highly performing shoe that can be purchased for a moderate price ($110).

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-vasque-pendulum/

Outside magazine had this to say about the Vasque Pendulum: “Vasque took a pliable, unpadded upper and mated it to a fat, off-terrain midsole with big, toothy lugs and a protective rock plate underfoot. Which is why one tester called it a ‘stripped down dune buggy with monster tires.’ Be sure to check the fit: some testers found the heel too wide.”

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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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Coming Up Next…

NB 880v2 (350)

A review of the New Balance 880 v2 cushioned running shoe!

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