After years of hit and miss in the racing flat arena, New Balance finally nails it with the RC 1400. Fresh looks, a no-sew seamless upper and a rev-lite midsole firmly place the 14oo in the “must be considered” category of neutral racing shoes that, based on the runner’s ability, can span distances from 5K to Marathon. At a reported 7.1 oz for a men’s 9.5 (5.7 oz for a women’s 7.0), the 1400 comes in lighter than The Asics Hyper Speed 4, adidas Adios and Mizuno Ronin 3. The Nike LunaRacer is still lighter, but the 1400 is clearly on target to take on the big guns in the elite marathon world. With the upcoming lightweight 890 and Minimus line set for release in February and March, respectively, and now the 1400 coming in July, New Balance appears to be in the middle of a revolution and the right guys are winning. The 1400 has a list price of $100 and will have men’s and women’s specific fits.
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.
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.
Adidas has garnered a great following with their adizero line of shoes. Light in weight and built following a philosophy of including only what is essential, the adizero shoes fit perfectly in the current trend of less is more. The line has had great success over the past several years, so this September adidas is introducing a special edition Ekiden series of adizero shoes that will be available at Running Warehouse.
An Ekiden is a long distance relay race popular in Japan. The adizero Ekiden series draws inspiration from Japanese culture and the result is a unique look that, in this writer’s opinion, is fantastic. The only difference between the adizero Ekiden shoes and the normal adizero shoes is the cosmetic appearance of the upper.
Covering a spectrum of neutral shoes, the Ekiden series will include versions of the adizero Pro (the high performance racer is back), adizero Adios (the marathon shoe of choice for Haile Gebrselassie), adizero Rocket (versatile flat) and adizero Boston (lightweight trainer). So if you want to stand out this Fall be sure to pick up a pair. View all the shoes after the jump. Read more…
In the realm of running products, it is common to hear a company’s sales representative describe a good, better, best story. The idea is that good suits the needs of the everyday runner, better adds a bit of a technological advantage for improved performance and best is hands down superior to anything else within a product line. With apparel, this is often easy to observe. The best top dries faster (stays drier longer) than the better top, which exceeds the good top. With shoes, it’s little harder to observe the difference. A technologically superior shoe does not necessarily translate to a better feeling shoe or a faster shoe, but the goal generally is for better technology to translate into an improved experience for the runner. So how do things shake out with the Asics Pulse 2 (“good”), Cumulus 12 (“better”) and Nimbus 12(“best”)?
What makes each shoe unique?
Taking advantage of trickle down technology, the Nimbus 12 incorporates the Guidance Line design that was first introduced in October 2009 with the Kinsei 3. Guidance Line is a groove that extends from heel to forefoot, which aids in the repeatability of each foot-strike along an efficient path throughout the gait cycle. At the time of this review, Guidance Line only exists in the Kinsei 3 and Kayano 16 and now the Nimbus 12.
Long known as an outdoor sportswear apparel company, Columbia began as a hat manufacturer in 1938. It wasn’t until 1960 that Columbia Hat Company became Columbia Sportswear. Then, back in 1993, Columbia begins producing outdoor footwear. Now in 2010, Columbia makes strides in the trail running category. This evidenced by the Trail Runner magazine’s designation of the Columbia Ravenous in men’s and women’s styles as an Editor’s Choice Best Debut award winner.
Salomon has three new trail running shoes for Spring 2010. Two shoes are updates, the XT Wings 2 and the XT Hawk 2, and the XA Pro 5 is a new introduction. Before we get into the specifics, let’s have a brief review of Salomon trail running footwear. Salomon designs trail running shoes to provide rugged trail performance over a vast variety of terrain. All Salomon shoes incorporate a Sensift upper design for a secure midfoot fit. This design keep your foot well grounded in the shoe and reduces slippage so that the foot and the shoe move as one entity. Another unilateral feature is the Quicklace sytem, which allows for easy-on, easy-off entry and egress of of the shoe. The Quicklace system is also easily stowed under a stretch mesh situated at the top of the tongue. This handy feature prevents the laces from getting caught on wayward branches or other trail debris. Each Salomon shoe uses a specific outsole and midosle combination to meet specific needs and well touch on these specifics as we discuss the new shoes below.
Award winning shoe gets a new midsole material.
When the XT Wings debuted in January 2008, Runner’s World designated the shoe as a Best Debut and for good reason. The XT Wings delivered a superb, snug fit for great control on the trail. Yet as good as this shoes was on the trail, it provided superb comfort for road running. The versatility of the XT Wings is no accident. From the outset, the XT Wings was designed to address the needs of runners who love the trails but live in environments where roads are unavoidable. Instead of having to drive to the trail, Salomon felt you should be able to run to the trail and keep going with just one shoe. Hence, the XT Wings was born.
Built on the concept of a human body analogy, the XT Wings consisted of skeleton, muscle and tendon components. The skeleton is Salomon’s Agile Chasis System (ACS). Structural integrity and stability are afforded by the ACS. Just as muscles contract to initiate or resist movement, the AC midsole flexes to absorb impact. To aid in energy return, the AC Tendon outsole elongates and snaps back to its original shape. The resulting combination of all three components is an enjoyable ride quality that is adaptive to varied terrain.
With the XT Wings 2, little has changed. The upper lines have not changed, so the XT Wings 2 provides the same great fit as its predecessor. A slight modification the to mud guard that reduced weight and increased flexibility without sacrificing protection is the only significant upper change. AC2 replaces the original AC midsole. AC2 provides greater resiliency relative to weight. Thus the XT Wings 2 weighs 0.3 ounces less than the original, but has greater cushioning durability. No changes were made to the outsole.
Coming out December 2010, the Nike Structure Triax 14+ continues along the path of its predecessors. Using the same tooling as the Structure Triax+ 13, which means the midsole has not changed (still uses Zoom Air for added cushioning), the latest version makes minor tweaks to the upper. Since the ride quality of the 13 is well liked, maintaining the midsole/outsole configuration on the new version is a good thing. This continuity allows past users a greater chance for success with the update.
In October, for the last several years, Nike has been producing winterized versions of two of their best selling running shoes: the Nike Air Pegasus and Nike Zoom Structure Triax. What Nike does is they take the normal road versions, add a GoreTex membrane (waterproof/breathable) with minor tweaks to the upper and poof, you get shoes ready to take on the wet and cold of winter. The only drawback in the past has been a slight change in fit, which was the result of a stiffer upper that changed the toe-box shape compared to the supple mesh used in the regular versions. For October 2010 that all changes. Thanks to a new toe-lasting process and material improvements, the Nike Air Pegasus+ 27 GTX and Nike Zoom Structure Triax+ 13 GTX are intended to provide the same fit of the mesh versions. We will have to wait and see if this holds true once the production versions arrive, but the samples looked good.
To be a serious player in the running shoe market it is essential to have a good selling neutral shoe and support shoe at or around $100 MSRP. In 2009, Zoot attempted to accomplish this with the introduction of the Energy (neutral) and Advantage (support) at $110 MSRP. While the shoes were decent performers, they had no wow factor. They were often see as a more affordable alternative to the go-fast TT and Tempo. Well, that has now changed.
Noticeable improvements without a price increase.
From the initial step-in, the improvements made to the Energy 2.0 and Advantage 2.0 are apparent. Caressing the foot in a glove-like manner the two shoes just ooze refinement. The feel underfoot is has been greatly enhanced. Although the midsole materials have not changed, the distribution of the shock absorbing Z-Bound material has been separated into two distinct zones. A resdesigned outsole is a bit thicker and aids in providing better cushioning. The result of these changes is a ride quality that is much more lively than last year’s shoes. Reminds us a bit of the Brooks Launch, which has been selling in huge numbers.
Why all this talk of the two shoes together?
The Energy 2.0 and Advatnage 2.0 share the same tooling (chasis) and have nearly identical uppers. Some may be wondering if it makes sense to build a neutral shoe and support shoe from the same mold. Well this is not new. The first Asics Landreth was a neutral version of the popular Asics GT-2000 series. The Brooks Defyance is a neutral version of the preceding year’s Brooks Adrenline GTS and until recently the Saucony Ride and Guide shared the same tooling. Although the level of success of these different models has varied, runners have certainly found a favorite in a shoe that may otherwise not have existed.