Tag Archives: trail running shoes

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Running Shoe Review: Montrail FluidFlex

Is the Montrail FluidFlex a WYSIWYG trail runner?

In the past, I had an interesting experience with the Montrail FluidFeel running shoe as it looked like one type of shoe (heavy and bulky) but ran like another type (light and nimble). So I was interested to see if this would be the case with Montrail’s FluidFlex model. Read on to see the verdict.

Montrail-FluidFlex1

I came across the FluidFlex at Fleet Feet in Davis, California. The shoe has a surprisingly racing flat-like look for a trail running shoe, but then it weighs only 7.6 ounces; it’s quite light. And it looks bold in coal with red Montrail side lettering and a yellow FluidFoam midsole. I wound up buying the FluidFlex hoping that the shoe might prove to be as light, fast and flexible as it appears to be.

I can say right off that the FluidFlex offers great cushioning in a lightweight shoe. It’s nice to walk in and only the asymmetrical lacing system lets others know that this is not a racing flat. The fit is narrow and secure but not tight because of the highly flexible upper. The fit at the rear of the shoe is exemplary; one’s heels and ankles are well surrounded and protected.

The FluidFlex fosters such a smooth ride while running that I began to think of it as the Montrail Glide runner. The shoe has a floating sock liner which adds to its uniqueness. On the road, the shoe’s high level of flexibility allows the feet to go through the proper landing cycle — heel, then mid-foot, then forefoot. The shoe does not interfere with one’s normal foot strike, and allows the feet to land flat.

The feel of the FluidFlex on roads and trails is quite similar to the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1 and the La Sportiva Helios. On asphalt it simply feels good to run in.

On a track the FluidFlex makes one feel like Steve Prefontaine, possessing the ability to put in some strong, fast laps. The heel padding is soft but the landing is secure and anything but mushy. The fast and steady nature of the shoe is maintained on a crushed gravel trail.

The FluidFlex has a flared sole that supports and reinforces a high level of lateral stability on a hard-packed dirt trail. The hybrid nature of the “town and country” sole underfoot provides just enough grip on a hard-rock trail to keep one traveling straight ahead rather than slipping and sliding. The sole also allows the feet to move sideways while in motion. It may be counter-intuitive but this provides a reassuring measure of stability control.

Montrail FluidFlex

The FluidFlex feels low-to-the-ground and it has a minimalistic 4mm heel drop. For some runners (especially long-term heel strikers), this will signal the need to break in the shoe slowly and carefully. In my case, I initially experienced some soreness in my calves and stinging in my heels. But this was only temporary.

The Montrail FluidFlex lives up to its name, providing fluid flexibility in a shoe that’s more protective than it’s looks would indicate. While it may be a lightweight shoe, it’s quite durable in use. My well-used pair has minimal signs of wear on its still vibrant black and yellow sole.

Verdict:

The Fluid Flex is a WYSIWYG trail running shoe. It is the shoe that it appears to be and more.

Runners, whether fast or slow, should be able to use this shoe as a trainer on a wide variety of surfaces. It will serve as a good marathon trainer and race day shoe for some competitors and as a fine 5K to half-marathon shoe for many. Joggers with inflexible feet and runners fast enough to chase cheetahs will benefit from the shoe’s ultra-flexible, blown-rubber cushioned forefoot.

The FluidFlex is an excellent trainer to run in even if you never go near a natural trail.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Montrail FluidFlex retails for $90.00.

This review initially appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-montrail-fluidflex/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.'”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

La Sportiva Helios (side)

A running shoe review! We take a look at the La Sportiva Helios running shoe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A running shoe review! We take a look at the TrekSta Sync mountain trail shoe.TrekSta Sync (300x182)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized