New for 2015, the Under Armour Speedform Gemini is a mouthful to say but worth a good look. The UA Gemini is soft like a Brooks Ghost or ASICS Nimbus, but flexible like a Nike FREE. Most heavily cushioned shoes seem to result in a runner’s forefoot moving as a single unit. In contrast, minimalist shoes (more minimal than Nike FREE) seem to create a sensation where each metatarsal head moves independently and thus creates a “natural” running sensation. Somehow, the Gemini combines plentiful cushioning and a natural forefoot feel.
The fit of the shoe is interesting. The Speedform upper provides a seamless wrap around the foot, which feels great, but the shallow toe-box has some runners going up a half size to relieve pressure on the top of the big toe. The heel lacks a padded collar found in many shoes and instead has a soft, minimalist, semi-stretch fit with no points of irritation. The heel feels sublime while walking, but lacks a snug feel while on the run. While heel slippage was not evident, there was a sense of a lack of security. There are no problems yet, but it has different feel.
By combining the cushioning of a plush training shoe with the foot-movement flexibility of a minimalist shoe and a streamlined upper, the Gemini stands out as a unique option for neutral runners.
• Available: Shop Men’s | Shop Women’s • MSRP: $130.00
• Weight: 10.1/8.5 oz (Men’s Size 9.0/Women’s Size 8.0)
• Stack Height: Medium (21mm Forefoot)
• Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (29mm Heel, 21mm Forefoot)
• Foot motion: Neutral
Saucony Zealot Men's Shoe (Sample Shown)
Available February 2015 – MSRP $130.00
The Saucony Zealot is a low weight, low offset, premium cushioned running shoe.
- Stack Height: 28mm Heel, 24mm Forefoot, 4mm offset
- Weight: 8.3 oz (Men’s size 9.0), 7.4 oz (Women’s size 8.0)
- HOKA ONE ONE Huaka – MSRP $150
- New Balance 980 – MSRP $110
What makes the Saucony Zealot relevant?
When the minimalist movement began to catch on, Saucony introduced the Kinvara, a not-quite-minimal shoe that weighed under 8.0 oz. Adopted by serious runners seeking a more natural foot position without the extreme nature of a true minimal shoe, the Kinvara delivered a rare combination of a lightweight, semi-soft ride with exceptional energy return. The Kinvara was arguably the first shoe to bring the 4mm offset to the masses, and while it could not be classified as a true minimal shoe, it found a very desirable niche and redefined the current lightweight/performance running shoe category.
More recently, there has been a movement toward maximal cushioning in running shoes. Simply look to the expanding line of Hoka One One (the creators of maximalist shoes), the recent success of the Altra Olympus and Altra Paradigm, and the upcoming 2015 release of the Asics 33-M as evidence to maximalism beginning to take hold. Just as with the Kinvara, where Saucony did not go to the extreme end of minimalism, the Zealot moves in the direction of maximalism without going to the end.
Saucony ISO-FIT: 2015 Saucony Triumph
For Spring 2015, Saucony is rolling out a premium fit construction for three shoe models in their new ISO-Series. With the goal of reducing points of pressure caused by interaction between the foot and the shoe’s upper, Saucony created ISO-FIT.
ISO-FIT technology virtually eliminates the bunching or creasing in the upper that results from the change in shape of the runner’s foot and shoe during the gait cycle. This should drastically reduce pressure points that cause blisters and other irritation. This is accomplished by what Saucony is calling a “floating support cage,” allowing supportive elements to react independently to foot movements rather than being influenced by other movements of the upper. In addition to the “floating support cage,” an “ultra-soft inner fit-sleeve,” creates a sock-like wrap around the top and sides of the foot.
So what does all this mean? Well, we had a chance to try on the new Saucony Triumph, and the initial step-in feel was very plush and while we cannot yet comment on how it feels on a long run, if the Saucony data is correct, long-term comfort should be outstanding. Look for ISO-FIT this November with the release of the new Triumph. The ISO-series Hurricane will hit the market January 2015 and a new shoe, the Zealot will follow in February.
Running Warehouse Shoe Tester
For the last two weeks I have been like Goldilocks looking for just the right trail running shoe. I love to run in lightweight, low-profile trail shoes that provide a great feel for the ground. The Salomon Sense Mantra has been a recent favorite, but for some reason I recently began to feel the need for a little more cushioning. So I moved on in search of a little more impact protection:
- Asics Gel Fuji Racer – First up was this light and low trail racer. Though it is super nimble and more flexible than the Sense Mantra, this shoe did not give me the extra padding I was looking for.
- Merrell Mix Master 2 – Still light, low and fast, but I did not find the extra padding I have been seeking in forefoot. Next!
- Salomon Speedcross 3 – Plenty of cushion, but maybe a little too much. While it was comfy and great for an easy day, it was just too much shoe to run in the next time out.
- Asics Gel Scout – Funny thing about the Scout: while it provides great traction on the trails and good rock protection, I like the shoe better as a road shoe. I actually prefer the Scout for daily road use, to any current Asics road shoe. Alas, I wanted the Scout to be a svelte, yet protective trail shoe and it was just too much shoe for my current craving.
And after this shoe odyssey, I rediscovered the Inov-8 Trailroc 255. When I originally tested the Trailroc 255, I was testing the Trailroc 245 and Trailroc 235 at the same time. Since I am partial to lighter shoes, I ended up falling in love with the 235, liked the 245 and thought the 255 was a good shoe but in comparison to the lighter, lower versions it was not my preference.
But today, the Trailroc 255 hit the sweet spot. It was more flexible than the Sense Mantra and softer under the forefoot than both the Sense Mantra and Fuji Racer, while being way more streamlined, nimble and faster than the Speedcross 3 and Gel Scout.
For the time being, the Trailroc 255 is the trail shoe that is just right. But give me a few weeks or days . . . .
The North Face has been making trail running shoes since 2008. While their shoes have provided good traction on the trail, they haven’t gained much traction in the marketplace. For 2013, things might finally change. The North Face is introducing three new models: the Ultra Guide, Hyper-Track Guide, and Double-Track Guide. All three shoes will be built with 8mm heel-toe offsets and new platforms that stack a softer midsole foam on top of a firmer foam. This set-up should provide a comfortable, smooth ride.
We were pleased to see the Hyper-Track Guide and Ultra Guide come in under 10 ounces. A big departure from the original Rucky Chucky that tipped the scales at 14.5 ounces.
These new models launch February 2013. While the shoes look great and are lighter and lower, has The North Face made enough changes to be competitive in the trail running market (a market currently dominated by even lighter and lower shoes)? We think so. Want more info and pics? Check out our full The North Face Spring 2013 Sneak Peek.
Asics Gel-Fuji Racer (sample shown)
Not long ago, you couldn’t find a trail shoe under 10 oz. But in 2011, our trail shoe sales have been dominated by sub-10 oz models: New Balance MT101 and MT10 Minimus Trail, Saucony Peregrine, and Inov-8 f-lite 195 and f-lite 230. So it’s no wonder that Asics has come out with a trail shoe based on elements from its road racing line.
The Asics Gel-Fuji Racer weighs in at a reported 8.7 0z (men’s sample size 9.0) which includes a forefoot rock plate and looks to be a neutral hybrid of the Hyper Speed 5 and DS Racer 9 with trail components. The outsole pattern of the Fuji Racer follows the Magic sole pattern from the upcoming Gel-DS Racer 9 and Gel-Hyper Speed 5, but is more filled in and utilizes a more durable tread material. The midsole is composed of Solyte for a resilient ride and a Trusstic System helps maintain midfoot integrity and proper flex points. A thin rock plate is sandwiched above the outsole to help protect against stone bruising. A minimal upper takes advantage of welded overlays for lightweight support and delivers great breathability and drainage.
We are excited to see how this shoe runs, because, on paper, it looks dynamite. But like you, we have to wait for its February 2012 release date. The Asics Gel-Fuji Racer will have an MSRP of $110 and will be available in both men’s and women’s versions with the same colors and graphics. (Estimated stack height: 22mm heel, 16mm forefoot).
Asics Gel-DS Racer 9 Men's Shoe (sample shown)
Regardless of what is happening in the minimalist running movement, some runners still need racing shoes with support for over-pronation. Although the number of support racing shoes has been limited, the Asics Gel-DS Racer, and in its absence, the Asics Bandito, have been reliable go-to shoes for the speedier over-pronators among us.
The Gel-DS Racer 9 (MSRP $100), available in February 2012, carries on the tradition of being light, supportive and purpose-built for speed. The newest DS Racer will be more flexible than the DS Racer 8. The enhanced flexibility comes from deep forefoot notches and a new outsole that takes design cues from the Hyper Speed 4 and the old Magic Racer. As a result of integrated support elements, the new upper promises a secure fit that is ideal for speed.
DuoMax is included for reliable pronation control and a Solyte midsole is combined with Rearfoot Gel for light and resilient cushioning. At a reported 7.7 oz (men’s sample size 9.0), the DS Racer 9 is the lightest support racing flat on the market (see the Brooks Racer ST 5 at 8.6 oz and the adidas adiZero Mana 6 at 9.1 oz for comparison). And for the first time, the DS Racer will be available in a women’s version.
Asics Gel-Hyper Speed 5 (sample shown)
The ever-popular Asics Gel-Hyper Speed racing shoe is a favorite among marathoners Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor. So when runners shouted don’t mess with a good thing, Asics took heed of those words and developed the new Hyper Speed 5 with few changes.
The shoe carries over the same Wet Grip outsole and Speva midsole from the last few iterations. These aspects continue to be combined with a slightly wider than average forefoot base. The result is a racing shoe that offers a bit more of a cushioned ride than typically found at the reported 7.0 oz weight (men’s sample size 9.0) and 14mm forefoot stack height. Additionally, the 7mm heel-toe offset finds a sweet spot among many runners.
So what was changed? The Hyper Speed 5 sports a new upper that maintains the key fit aspects of the Hyper Speed 4 but delivers a fresh look and a weight reduction of a reported 0.2 oz. The shoe will be available February 2012 and although the price has increased by $5.00 to an MSRP of $80.00, the shoe is still a bargain.
Brooks PureFlow Men's Shoe April 2012 Color
The Saucony Kinvara 2 no longer stands alone. Prepared to duel, is the Brooks PureFlow. It is built with a 4mm heel-toe offset, just like the Kinvara 2, but sits an estimated 2mm higher off the ground (stack height: heel-23mm, forefoot-19mm). The extra 2mm mostly comes from the outsole, which should increase durability over the Kinvara 2. But that extra thickness, no matter how slight, does come with a weight increase. The PureFlow comes in an estimated 1.3 ounces heavier than the Kinvara 2 but is still quite light (men’s sample size 9.0=8.6 oz, women’s sample size 8.0=7.6 oz).
Comparisons with the Kinvara 2 do not end with the specifications. The PureFlow is similarly quite soft while standing or walking but more responsive while running. Whereas some customer feedback indicates the Kinvara 2 may be too soft at a quick pace, initial reports suggest the PureFlow to be more responsive at faster paces. This unique dynamic is the result of Brooks blending their DNA cushioning with their premium BioMoGo midsole foam.
As part of the Brooks PureProject line, the PureFlow comes with a set of standard features geared toward midfoot striking and a less-is-more philosophy. This shoe is for those who want a more “natural” experience but with cushioning not found in the near-barefoot type shoes (Altra Adam/Eve, Inov-8 Bare-X 200, Merrell Trail/Pace Glove, New Balance Minimus Trail, Saucony Hattori).
The PureFlow has an MRSP of $90 with a limited release in October 2011. A broader release with additional colors begins January 2012.
Brooks PureFlow Women's Shoe October 2011 color
Mizuno Inspire 8 Osaka Edition Men's Shoe (sample shown)
Long considered the performance runner’s support shoe of choice, the Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 will continue to deliver a smooth and responsive ride. And although the updates to the Inspire 8 are minor and focused primarily on fit, the weight is reportedly a half ounce lighter than the Wave Inspire 7.
The Fan Wave of the Inspire uses basic physics to distribute ground reaction forces in manner which slows the rate of pronation. What this means is the Inspire works with the foot in a non-obtrusive manner, yet delivers support for moderate over-pronation.
With the 8th edition of the Inspire, we get changes to the heel fit to resemble the 6th model and the addition of flex controllers to the forefoot outsole for a proclaimed more efficient toe-off. There is also a limited edition Osaka color, which celebrates Mizuno’s Partnership with the 2011 Osaka Marathon. Fortunately for us, this means we get some fun colors to go along with the status quo usually found in this shoe’s history.
The Osaka edition will be available mid October 2011, while the remaining two colors per gender will be released in December 2011. And, following the common trend for Spring 2012 model updates, the Inspire 8 will see a price increase to $115 MSRP.
Mizuno Inspire 8 Osaka Edition Women's Shoe (sample shown)