A running shoe review! We take a look at the Scarpa Spark “Mountain Minimal” trail runner.
Tag Archives: running shoe review
Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1
Has Pearl Izumi produced a pearl in the Road N1 training shoe?
Pearl Izumi. It sounds like the name of a new toothpaste (“It will make your teeth shine pearly white!”). But Pearl Izumi means “fountain of pearls” in Japanese, and the company may have produced a pearl of a product in the Road N1.
This is a neutral running shoe with a unique appearance. When I opened the box supplied to me by the manufacturer, I noticed that the blue and yellow colorway Road N1 looks somewhat like a triathlon shoe and a bit like a skateboarder’s shoe. While it is built on a semi-curved last, it hits the eye as being semi-straight, a factor that brings to mind the skateboarding shoe analogy.
The Road N1 weighs 8.2 ounces and has a low heel drop in line with being a minimalist-style trainer-racer. One retailer lists the heel drop for this shoe as 7mm, but it may be irrelevant as the shoe is said to possess a variable depth midsole (a “dynamic chassis”) which permits it to be used by heel, mid-foot or forefoot strikers.
Pearl Izumi may have invented the seamless upper and it’s immediately clear that the Road N1 possesses an excellent fit. The shoe holds on snugly to the entire foot and especially so the top of the foot, yet it is anything but uncomfortable. The toe box is relatively low but it never rubs on the toes.
This shoe has a nicely padded heel counter and there’s an efficient lacing system which is slightly off-center. The manufacturer’s attention to detail is reflected in the simple fact that the shoe’s laces are neither too long nor too short. They’re just right!
Initially, as you hold on to the Road N1 and test its flexibility, it feels a bit stiff. But this is not a problem on roads; it feels flexible enough in action.
When you first walk in this shoe, it feels like you’re walking on top of an air cushion, nice and soft. Interestingly, there’s been some debate and confusion about the feel of the shoe on the run. Pearl Izumi states that its midsole “promotes a smooth and quick running sensation,” which is referenced elsewhere as an “ultra-smooth” ride. But one retailer’s website states that the shoe has minimal cushioning and a “semi-firm” ride. Which is it? I’d say the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I view the Road N1 as delivering a cushioned firm ride on a par with the feel of the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoe. Cushioned but firm is not a bad thing. In fact, it may offer the best of both worlds to a large number of runners.
I think that Pearl Izumi is correct when it highlights the shoe’s quick running sensation. When jogging on a crushed gravel trail, I felt I could run at a quick pace, especially because the midsole is highly, unexpectedly protective. Even though the Road N1 has no dedicated pad, the cushioning at its rear is mid-range, not too firm or too soft.
The Road N1 produces an agile and pleasingly bouncy ride on a hard-packed dirt trail; it allows the runner to move confidently, even as the trail twists and turns. The shoe is just competent on a natural trail since the sleek, flat sole cannot generate much grip.
This product also feels fast on urban and suburban sidewalks. Forefoot runners will find that they can get up on their toes in this shoe, taking advantage of the blown rubber outsole. What’s surprising about the N1 is that it possesses a good deal of inherent stability, more than one would expect from an “N” (neutral) series model. There’s a yellow colored support bar built into the outsole which works well.
On asphalt, it delivers a steady-paced, relaxing journey. This translates into a good choice for a race day 5K to half marathon shoe. One caution about the shoe is that it should not be used on rainy days, as the flat sole will produce a slippery ride.
The Road N1’s quick but shielding suspension makes it a natural choice for running training laps on a crushed gravel track.
Verdict: With the Road N1, Pearl Izumi has produced a shoe that’s light, fast and protective. It should serve quite well as a daily trainer for mid-foot and heel strikers. Some fleet-footed runners may place it at or near the top of their rotation when it comes to shoes they wear on critical training days.
A pair of Road N1s was provided by Pearl Izumi for review purposes. This shoe retails for $115.00.
This article first appeared on the Blogcritics website:
Running Shoe Review: Vasque Pendulum
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).
This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:
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.”
Running Shoe Review: La Sportiva Helios
Is the lightweight La Sportiva Helios running shoe fit for both trail and road?
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!
This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:
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.'”