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Running Shoe Review: Columbia Montrail Caldorado II

The Columbia Montrail Caldorado II trail running shoe is said to be “a responsive varied trail running shoe” that offers “a responsive versatile blend of cushioning and traction to take on any surface” (Running Warehouse).  Does it deliver on these advertised promises?  See the verdict below.

CM Caldorado II

When I reviewed the Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. trail running shoe, I stated: “I would love to see a model from Columbia Montrail that offers additional firmness through the forefoot… twenty to thirty percent more than is present in the Fluidflex.”  Well, it appears that the company has produced such a shoe and it’s the Columbia Montrail Caldorado II.  This model offers plenty of firmness for those who worried that some of the FluidFoam cushioned shoes might be getting a bit too soft.

The Caldorado II is an attractive trail running shoe with an 8mm drop.  It weighs 10.2 ounces, slightly heavier than the 9.5 ounces of the Fluidflex F.K.T., but that’s not a difference you’ll feel on your feet.  One retailer has noted that the Caldorado II fits large.  I’m not in total agreement with this statement.  I think this shoe offers a comfortable fit with plenty of room up front for one’s toes – all 10 of them.  The fit is basically retro in nature – reminiscent of how running shoes fit from the late 70s to the early 90s.  (A few will recall the very generous fit of the original Adidas Supernova.)  However, the Caldorado II does fit snugly around the mid-foot.

Let me state early on that this is a hybrid running shoe.  Anyone who runs on city streets or sidewalks to get to a natural trail will appreciate the versatility of the Caldorado II.  The shoe is stable on asphalt and concrete, if not quite as stable as earlier Montrail Fluidflex and Fluidfeel models.  No worries, it does just fine in accommodating mild to moderate pronators.

On a dirt and gravel covered trail, the Caldorado II provides a secure feel.  The shoe gets a B+ grade on a hard-packed dirt trail.  It offers nimbleness and the FluidGlide technology – intended to provide “a smooth ride on uneven trail surfaces”, delivers exemplary side-to-side control.  (If this were an automobile, one would praise its drifting capacity.)

On a hard rock trail the Caldorado II’s studs produce great grip and the Forefoot Trail Shield rock plate means that one’s feet never undergo punishment.

Caldorado II

As good as the Caldorado II is on trails, is it also suitable as a trainer on hard city surfaces?  The short answer is “yes.”  On tough urban surfaces, the Caldorado II earns a solid B grade in terms of responsiveness.  It may not be as springy as some other running shoes but it comes through in terms of bounce back.

One can do some fast training runs in the shoe as it facilitates quick feet turnover and some high-stepping.  Unlike some other trail runners, the Caldorado II does not keep one’s feet glued to the ground.  This brings to mind something that can be said of all of Columbia Montrail’s models:  They may be labeled as trail running shoes, but each model possesses the soul of a racing flat.

The level of cushioning on the Caldorado II is excellent.  One’s feet are not going to feel beaten up after a short to mid-distance training or long slow distance run.  The key feature of the shoe is its supportive firmness.  Runners concerned about the growing reliance on compliant foam midsoles will experience peace of mind with the Caldorado II.

Caldorado II women's

Verdict

During my initial experiences in the Caldorado II, supplied by Columbia Montrail, I feared that the shoe would be too firm to provide relaxed training runs.  But that unique firmness though the mid-foot and forefoot – something I had wished for that was delivered – is the shoe’s best feature.  This is a model that can be used every day as a secure, supportive trainer and also as an endurance event shoe.

The Caldorado II, which retails for $120.00, will deliver the goods for runners seeking a reliable, durable daily trainer that can also be worn for a 10K or 10 miler, a half or full marathon, or an ultra.  I firmly believe this is the best shoe yet from Columbia Montrail.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-columbia-montrail-caldorado-ii/

 

 

 

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Running Shoe Review: Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T.

The Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. (F.K.T. stands for fastest known time) is an attractive, lightweight trail running shoe. Is it a shoe that also holds up as a daily trainer for those who run on hard city surfaces? See our verdict below.

columbia montrail fluidflex fkt running warehouse

One can almost tell by looking at a pair of the new Fluidflex F.K.T. that it has the soul of a fast shoe. It’s just 9.5 ounces in weight, and feels lighter on one’s feet. The shoe has a seamless upper and an outsole that is almost identical to the one on the bottom of the Montrail Fluidflex, circa 2013. According to Columbia Montrail – which provided a sample for review, the Fluidflex offers “enhanced mid-foot stability and a smooth ride on the trail.” Of this, there’s no doubt.

The Fluidflex has a minimal 4mm heel drop and a protective Trail (rock) Shield in the forefoot. The shoe appears to be semi-curved, is slip-lasted for comfort, and provides a snug fit. Notably, the shoe comes with a commercial grade, high quality, aftermarket-looking insole. It’s impressive and means that the runner who buys this shoe will not need to make a post-purchase drive to the local CVS or Walgreens.

The tongue on the Fluidflex is overly short, especially for a trail shoe, but this is a minor quibble. A second quibble has to do with the fit. My narrow feet wished for more headroom in the forefoot and a bit more space on the lateral side. My small toes were crying out for more space! Luckily, the upper loosens up with the passage of miles, so patience has its virtues with the Fluidflex.

columbia fluidflex fkt

On a dirt and rock covered trail one can feel the Fluidflex’s lugs dig in. These lugs may be relatively small but their strength becomes quite apparent on a newly mown grass trail. They dig in so well, so securely, that it feels like one’s running on clawed cat’s feet. Excellent!

On a hard-packed dirt trail, the shoe offers a B to B+ ride. The Fluidflex is just nimble enough to bring out the mountain goat in a runner. On a trail made up of large and small hard rocks the Fluidflex provides all gain and no pain.

Switching to an urban surface of concrete, the Fluidflex delivers straight ahead foot strikes with some bounce but not too much. It’s clear that this is a highly protective shoe, something that’s also apparent on asphalt. And this is a great tempo trainer; lock onto a pace and the shoe will stick to it like an auto set to cruise control. Nice.

The two flex grooves cut into the forefoot of the Fluidflex do indeed provide for a substantial amount of flexibility. This makes it a joy to use as an urban trainer. Whether you are a midfoot or forefoot striker, this shoe will accommodate your style. One caveat about this model is addressed to mild to moderate pronators: the current Fluidflex does not appear to be quite as stable as the earlier Fluidflex and Fluidfeel models – both of which I’ve run in.

This Fluidflex is consistent with earlier offerings from Montrail in terms of delivering on its promised smooth ride. If you ran in the La Sportiva Helios trail shoe, for example, and are looking for a similarly comfortable non-jarring ride, the Fluidflex is one to take out for a test spin.

One final and additional quibble before we arrive at the verdict. Because of the use of foam insoles, city and trail shoes are becoming increasingly soft. I would love to see a model from Columbia Montrail that offers additional firmness from the midfoot through the forefoot. Not a tremendous amount of firmness, but perhaps twenty to thirty percent more than is present in the current Fluidflex.

Verdict

At a price of $110, the Columbia Montrail Fluidflex F.K.T. is a high value shoe. Its build quality is clear and the company has gone above and beyond in terms of details like providing an upgraded insole. While the shoe works well on both country trails and city streets, I believe its pluses are most readily apparent when it is used as a daily townie trainer.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-columbia-montrail-fluidflex-f-k-t/

Image credits: Running Warehouse; Road Trail Run

 

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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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Coming Up Next…

new-balance-rc1400-v2

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

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Running Shoe Review: New Balance 870v3 and 890v3

A look at two New Balance running trainers. Which model might be best for most runners?

NB 870v3

If you love the feel of the New Balance (NB) 880v3 neutral trainer but need a bit of support you may want to consider the NB 870v3 model. This is a stability trainer with an 8mm heel offset. It weighs 9.8 ounces. The shoe has a friendly, slightly wider than average fit that does not require you to have the narrowest of feet.

The underfoot cushioning of the 870v3 is immediately apparent in part because the slip-lasted model has a flexible blown rubber forefoot. The shoe has a REVlite midsole that offers a fine amount of protection for one’s feet. Support for mild to moderate pronators is provided in the form of a relatively firm, but non-obtrusive, medial post (some efficient runners might not notice the post while running).

The 870v3 should serve as a well cushioned and durable shoe for runners who train on a variety of surfaces, both hard and soft. But some runners will look for a lighter and perhaps more personally exciting shoe, and this brings us to the NB 890v3.

New Balance 890v3

Some will remember the NB 900 neutral training running shoes line. These were low-to-the-ground lightweight trainers that were great for running under all conditions and on almost all surfaces. I ran in most of these models and I sometimes still jog in a pair of the now-classic NB 903s from 2008. The NB 890v3 reminds me of the old 900s.

The third iteration of the 890 is a lightweight neutral trainer that weighs between 9.1 and 9.55 ounces (depending on the data source) and comes with a 8mm heel drop. It’s semi-curved and has a low toe-box, but enough room up front that it does not become an issue. The 890v3 has a unique fit and feel reminiscent of a late 80s/early 90s racing flat. The fit is snug and secure — with the added bonus of more than sufficient protective foam around the ankles — and this is achieved without tight lacing. The colorful flat laces can be tied quickly and do not come loose or undone.

The 890v3 has a nicely cushioned insole and REVlite midsole; together these provide a bounce you can feel in the shoe’s ride. The fully blown rubber sole is ultra-flexible, a bit of good news for both forefoot strikers and those with inflexible feet. The sole is a hybrid-patterned one, flat enough to be used on roads and nubby enough for trail runs.

On sidewalks the shoe transforms heel strikers into mid-foot strikers, a positive thing, while providing protective cushioning. The NB 890v3 offers great energy return on asphalt; on this surface the shoe feels fast. The NB 890v3 would be a good choice for a 5K to a half-marathon shoe for most runners, and it would clearly be a desirable marathon shoe for efficient runners.

I found this model to be near wondrous on a hard-packed dirt trail as the very flexible sole allows the feet to “ramble tamble” at will (whatever John Fogerty meant by that). The shoe may be wondrous enough to foster “wanderous” training runs.

On a crushed gravel track the 890v3 lets your foot dig in while providing an exemplary level of protection on what can be a wearing surface for tender feet and metatarsals. On an oval track the shoe seems to adjust to any foot landing pattern — forefoot, mid-foot or heel striking.

While the NB 890v3 is technically a neutral shoe, I suspect that a wide variety of runners could train and race in it (exempting Clydesdales and moderate-to-severe pronators).

New-Balance-890V3-Sole-620x340

The grippy sole on the NB 890v3 means that it’s a shoe I would choose and feel free to run in on a rainy, slick and slippery day. This model breathes confidence in its apparent ability to come through under any conditions, something which breeds confidence in the person wearing the shoes.

If you’re headed to your local running store to try out models like the Mizuno Wave Sayonara and the Saucony Mirage 3, you may want to also do a trial run in the New Balance 890v3. There’s a chance that your heart and/or your feet may fall in love with the shoe.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

These New Balance models were either manufactured or assembled in the United States.

The 870v3 is well recommended.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-new-balance-870v3-and-890v3/

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