Archive for December, 2010

Saucony Kilkenny XC4 – First Look

December 30th, 2010

Saucony Kilkenny XC4 for Men

One of the nice bright spots for Saucony in the recent past has been the sales of their cross country racing flats and spikes, in particular the Saucony Kilkenny, which has been an industry sales leader the last two seasons.  Cross Country racing shoes don’t sell in particularly large numbers, but they do tend to show up on the feet of young high school runners and if your goal is to reinvent your brand to appeal not only to the traditional middle-aged jogger, but to their youngster as well, you need to get into this arena and make yourself relevant. This was an important step in Saucony’s plan to reinvent themselves several seasons ago.  Now a few short years later, they are one of the hippest brands in the industry.

The Kilkenny sells very well and has a solid following, but the shoe was getting stale. Since the Kilkenny has been so successful, any update has to deal with the challenge of not screwing up a good thing. The Kilkenny XC4 got it right. By leaving the midsole unchanged, the feel of the Kilkenny XC4 remains familiar. To freshen up the shoe, a lighter weight air mesh upper, similar to the Kinvara, has been used and synthetic suede overlays complete the new look. Both of changes should make the shoe more breathable and comfortable.  The plate switches from a 6 pin configuration to a 4 pin design which should offer similar levels of traction but increase flexibility and comfort.

Overall a nice update. The new Kilkenny XC4 should attract new fans with its bold colors.  The $55 MSRP flat is projected to come in for men at 6.4 oz (women 6.0 oz) while the $60 MSRP spike is at 6.7 oz (women 6.3 oz).  Expect to see men’s and women’s versions at Running Warehouse in June 2011.

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New Balance 1190 – First Look

December 29th, 2010

The Updated New Balance 1190 for Men

New Balance is getting serious about the running specialty channel again, in a big way.  The company has re-focused their energy on reestablishing the company as a serious running brand.  To this end, they are coming to market with model updates that are very much in tune with the trends currently happening in the industry.  The new 1190 is one such model that clearly shows the future direction of the brand.

The Updated New Balance 1190 for Women

The 1190 is the update to the current 905, a lightweight, slightly-posted, go-fast trainer. While the 905 is a nice shoe, it’s not keeping pace with the Asics DS Trainer, Mizuno Elixir and Nike Lunar Elite.  It’s stale look and vanilla feel is better suited to the masses, where the shoe should be targeting the niche.   The New Balance 1190 looks to correct this misdirection.

Starting with the graphics, the shoe now looks fast or at least different.  The 1190 removes the raised sidewalls of the 905, which gives the the shoe a much more competitive stance.  Add a new No-Sew welded and seamless upper that features soft suede overlays  and you are on your way to having a trainer that closely mimics the fit of a racing flat.

The midsole showcases the new REV-Lite Foam midsole material at 21mm/9mm heights to ensure the shoe is light and responsive.  Add a small Stability Post for the mild to moderate overpronator and you have a really nice shoe for faster paced training, tempo runs or an ideal option for the runner who doesn’t feel comfortable racing long distances in a minimal racer.  The outsole is made of blown rubber which provides great grip and added responsiveness.  A new shape should provide better support and help with the heel-toe transition. All of these changes contribute to one of the finest model updates of the season.

The 1190 has an MSRP of $115 and is projected to come in at a reported 9.2 oz in a men’s size 9.5.  The New Balance 1190 is scheduled to arrive at Running Warehouse in July 2011.

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Inov8 Road-X Lite 155 – First Look

December 28th, 2010

Inov8 Road-X Lite 155: final product may differ slightly from image

February 2011, Inov8 is coming to market with three minimalist road shoes all with a suggested retail price of $110. The three shoes will compose a line of “X” minimalist road shoes that will expand to five in Fall 2011. The initial three shoe offering will address runners of various needs who are seeking to transition from normal 12mm heel-toe drop running shoes to lower drop shoes. A 9mm drop, 6mm drop and 3mm drop model are scheduled to be available at first release.

The Road-X Lite 155 is the most minimal of this initial offering. It has a 3mm heel-toe drop and a simple upper with welded TPU overlays. By eliminating the use of a traditional outsole, Inov8 uses a Fusion midsole/outsole combination, the shoe should come in around 6.0 oz (US men’s size 9.0). Fusion consists of rubber and EVA blended together. This technique was first seen in mass distribution with the Reebok 3D Areeba, in the late Nineties, and is still applied today by various manufactures. Although this technique does not produce the most durable shoe, it has proven to hold up to daily use and provides a great feel for the road while still delivering some protection from ground reaction forces.

The other two shoes that will join the Road-X Lite 155 in the Fall of 2011 are the Road-X 233 and Road-X 255 and these shoes will incorporate very thin rubber outsoles that provide a bit more durability but still retain a minimalist approach. The Road-X 233 should come in under 8.3 oz and will have a heel-toe drop of 6mm and the Road-X 255 should come in around 9.0 oz with a heel-toe drop of 9mm. So the idea here is to start with the 255 and progress to the 233 and then finally get into the 155. By the time you are ready to progress to a zero drop shoe, Inov8 should have you covered with the Bare-X Lite 150 and Bare-X 200. Check back later to learn about the Bare-X Lite 150 and the Bare-X Lite 200 that are scheduled for a July release.

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Saucony PowerGrid Cortana – First Look

December 23rd, 2010

Saucony PowerGrid Cortana for Men

What happens when Saucony applies principles of minimalism to a shoe that ain’t so minimal? The world is about to find out this Summer with the introduction of the Saucony PowerGrid Cortana. Saucony clearly understands minimalism, when it is defined by the “less is more” concept and small heel-toe drops.  The Saucony Kinvara is a perfect example of this philosophy. With its light weight, simple upper and 4mm heel-toe drop, the Kinvara was the right product at the right time.  Sales have been terrific and the shoe has received rave reviews.  Saucony has decided to strike while the iron is hot and fill in available market niches with other low heel-toe drop shoes as evidenced by the upcoming Mirage (4mm heel-toe drop), which is basically a slightly supportive Kinvara and the Hattori (zero drop), which gets you close to being barefoot.

The new Cortana applies the 4mm heel-toe drop and light weight concept from the Kinvara, to the high-end, max feature, all the bells and whistles category of trainers.  It starts with a new midsole composition and features PowerGrid with PowerFoam, an injected molded, lighter and more responsive midsole than the SSL-EVA and ProGrid package that you’ll find in other Saucony models, such as the Triumph and Hurricane.  The Cortana also differs from the the other Saucony 4mm drop shoes by providing an additional SRC cushioning unit in the landing area of the heel that ties this shoe in with the more traditional shoes in the Saucony line.  Sauc-fit: replaces arch lock and improves midfoot and heel fit of the upper.  The outsole/midsole features a fairly built up area beneath the medial arch that looks to add pronation control to the shoe. However, Saucony labels the Cortana as Supportive Cushioning, which means it is likely to be best suited for neutral runners or slight over-pronators. The jury is still out on this, but we think it will likely be better for mild to moderate over-pronators.

The PowerGrid Cortana has a predicted weight under 11 oz in a men’s size 9.0 and is scheduled to arrive at Running Warehouse in July 2011 with a full retail price of $135.  Although not first to market, the Zoot Kane and Kalani are maximum featured shoes under 11. oz, the Cortana does add a new twist to the premium class of shoes by not only being light weight, but also having a low heel-toe drop. Will it be a success? Only time will tell, but if it feels anything like the Kinvara then Saucony is about to turn the industry on its ear.

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Nike Zoom 2011 Waffle Lineup – First Look

December 22nd, 2010

Nike Zoom Waffle XC 9 for Men

The legendary shoe Bill Bowerman destroyed his wife’s waffle iron to develop nearly 40 years ago and the shoe that helped launch the Nike empire is being updated again this coming Fall.  This latest update will no doubt be an athlete favorite.  All of the key elements of the shoe that help keep it an industry leader are present in this 2011 edition.  Featherweight, fantastic use of the latest upper materials, aggressive outsole and off the charts graphics make this a very sweet shoe.  Add a jaw dropping low price and you have a slam dunk.

Nike Jana Star Waffle 5 for Women

The entire Waffle lineup is actually 4 slightly different versions of the same basic shoe.  There are spiked and spikeless Waffle models with men’s and women’s versions of each.  The men’s is broken up into the spiked model named the Nike Zoom Waffle XC 9, while the spikeless model is called the Zoom Waffle Racer 8.  On the women’s side, the spiked version is dubbed the Nike Jana Star XC 5, while the spikeless version is named the Jana Star Waffle 5.

All models feature a lightweight, flexible tight mesh upper with 3D puffscreen overlays in key areas for added support.  The fit in the forefoot has been widened up slightly over the Zoom Victory XC to accommodate a wider cross section of athletes.  The midsole featured is Compression Molded Flashlon, the same material available on the Zoom Victory XC.  The updated Waffle line features a slightly more filled in midsole, under the arch area, which should feel better to a larger cross section of athletes that are not used to the extremely curved last of the Victory XC and past Waffles.

While not as ultra-light as the Zoom Victory XC, the new lineup of Waffles is certainly not heavy by any means.  The shoe is less than an ounce heavier than the Zoom Victory XC, has the same midsole material, similar upper treatment sans Flywire and a slightly more filled in arch at nearly half the price of the Zoom Victory XC.  The new Zoom Waffle lineup is an absolute bargain.  Expect it to arrive at Running Warehouse in July 2011 with a list price of $50 for the spikeless and $60 for the spiked models.

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Inov8 Bare-Grip 200 – First Look

December 21st, 2010

Inov8 Bare-Grip 200

Now available at Running Warehouse

Inov8 was making minimalist trail shoes before it was hip to be minimal. A UK company, Inov8 (pronounced: innovate) was founded on the principle of providing trail shoes that would be engineered to work in extreme conditions. Unhappy with the unstable, high-off-the-ground trail shoes that were available in the market, Inov8 set out to provide trail shoes that were close to the ground and thus inherently stable. Furthermore, trail shoes needed to be able to provide excellent traction and shed mud. Think about the damp landscape of Great Britain seen in the movie Braveheart, and you get a good idea of the conditions that Inov8 sought to conquer with its first trail shoe.

The first shoe produced by Inov8, was the Mudroc 290. This award wining shoe is known as the original Fell Racer. Fell racing involves racing from here to there, without a course, and undoubtedly over some hills (fell is a word used to describe a hilly landscape in parts of England). As such, Inov8 trail shoes were originally designed to provide supreme traction on steep climbs and descents, while also being able to shed mud. Inov8 now has a full spectrum of trail shoes designed to tackle a variety of terrain, ranging from hard packed ground, to loose covered trail and soft, mushy fields.

Read more…

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Saucony Hattori – First Look

December 20th, 2010

Saucony Hattori Men's Shoe

For Fall 2011 Saucony looks to build on the success of their minimal lineup of shoes, lead by the Kinvara, with the introduction of the Hattori.  The Hattori will be the most minimal shoe in the Saucony line and one that has its target squarely set on grabbing market share from various smaller shoe brands that have their own ideas on what constitutes a minimal shoe.

The new Hattori is a zero drop running shoe that sports a reported midsole height of 10 mm and weighs in at a reported 4.5 oz for a men’s size 9.0.  The upper features ultralite mesh with synthetic exoskeleton lockdowns and soft suede overlays.  A velcro closure replaces traditional laces and another velcro strap around the heel offers additional customized fit options.  The midsole is made up of compression molded EVA that features XT-900 outsole compounds in key wear areas.

Being very light, extremely flexible and while 10mm may sound thick, the shoe is indeed quite thin, and is thus a viable option to runners seeking a more “barefoot” running experience. Additionally, the Hattori should prove a compelling offer to runners looking to transition from the 4mm heel-toe drop of the Kinvara, Mirage and new Cortana or as a different option for fans of minimalist shoes that are currently in the market.  The release date for the Hattori has the shoes tentatively slated to be available at Running Warehouse on  May 1, 2011.  The new Hattori will have a list price of $80.

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