Pretty much everyone who’s followed running trends in recent years knows that minimalism – a movement inspired by barefoot running – has been as hot as an Alabama August. So the trend’s going to continue unabated in 2012, right?
Not so fast. We have no doubt that many die-hard minimalists will continue to keep this segment of the sport alive and well in 2012, and perhaps even a few more converts will learn about minimal principles and integrate minimalism into their running regimen. But a lot of runners who dabbled in minimalism are looking for something in between a minimal shoe and a traditional shoe, something that will give them a little more protection while still keeping them in touch with the asphalt or trail.
New Trend Alert: Elementalism
What we’re really excited about, and what we think will be the hot trend this year, is a new category of running known as elementalism. It has its roots in minimalism, but adds back in some elements of traditional running. The basic idea is that elemental running slots in between the minimal experience where your foot does most of the work and a more traditional approach where your shoe is loaded to the gills with the latest cushioning technologies.
Elemental Shoe Characteristics
- Mid-Tier Stack Height: The stack height of most elemental shoes slots in between a minimal shoe and traditional running shoe models, getting you closer to the ground for better feel while still providing protection and cushion.
- Low Heel-to-Toe Drop: A more level platform is a key characteristic of shoes in this category. The low heel-to-toe drop of between 0 to 8mm encourages a mid-foot strike.
- Sub-10 oz Weight: Men’s elemental shoes universally come in under the 10oz weight that arbitrarily defines a “light” shoe. Most elemental shoes clear this barrier by several ounces.
- Flexible Midsole: Elemental shoes are designed to let your foot do more of what it wants during the natural running gait. Flexibility, particularly in the forefoot, helps the foot transition and improves toe-off.
- Streamlined Upper: Reduced overlays help to reduce weight and allow the foot to move more freely.
Some Current and Upcoming Elemental Models
Will Your Next Shoe Be Elemental?
So, what do you think of this latest trend? Will 2012 really be the year of elementalism? Drop us a comment with your thoughts.
Saucony Kinvara 3 Women's Running Shoes (May '12 Colors)
You’re forgiven if you couldn’t tell much a difference between your original pair of Kinvaras and your latest pair of Kinvara 2′s. And Saucony is forgiven for making minimal changes to their most popular minimal shoe last time around – the shoe rocked it, right out of the gate. But to stay on top, it was time for a closer look at the Kinvara, and Saucony gave the Kinvara 3 a top-to-bottom refresh.
Get ready for a whole new look and improved technology in the Kinvara 3, which releases in May 2012. At the initial launch, there will be four Women’s colors (the two shown above, along with a Blue/White color and Grey/Purple color) and four Men’s colors (the three colors shown below, along with a Grey/Red color). Two more Men’s colors and two more Women’s colors will be available in July.
What to Watch For
- More Durable Sole: Saucony heard the feedback about the durability of prior Kinvara models and responded by adding XT-900 rubber where it counts. Added rubber on the lateral midfoot and forefoot means you can expect more mileage out of your Kinvara 3′s compared to previous pairs.
- Same Heel-to-Toe Drop: Though many other Saucony models are lowering their offsets, 4mm is still the name of the game for the Kinvara. You know it, you love it, and Saucony didn’t mess with it.
- Smoother Transition: Already known for its flexible, light, and comfortable midsole, the Kinvara series is now designed to move with your foot even better thanks to a de-coupled and beveled heel, along with added flex grooves in the heel. While the Kinvara remains geared toward a midfoot strike, these updates make the shoe a little more welcoming for heel strikers as well.
- Still Lightweight: Official weights from Saucony are 7.7 oz (Men’s size 9) and 6.7 oz (Women’s size 8). That’s a few tenths of an ounce heavier than our measurements for the Kinvara 2, but identical to the official weights for the Kinvara 2, so we’ll have to wait to see whether or not the shoe has really bulked up at all.
- Redesigned Upper: Look for a streamlined upper with improved fit thanks to the use of FlexFilm™, a thin material bonded to the upper to secure your foot to the sole a little better throughout your gait.
- Widths Now Available: For those of you with a wider foot, Saucony is producing 2E widths in the Men’s version and D widths in the Women’s version.
- Pricing Uptick: All these innovations come at a price, specifically: ten bucks. MSRP on the Kinvara 3 rises to $100.00. We still think that the Kinvara is a tremendous value, especially since we expect increased durability in the latest iteration.
Saucony Kinvara 3 Men's Running Shoes (May '12 Colors)
New Balance MT110 Men's Shoe
New Balance faced a daunting task when updating the MT101 and the women’s version, the WT101. Plenty of customers rave about this shoe, and for good reason. The 101 struck a near-perfect balance by providing protection from lumps and bumps on the trail while still being light and nimble enough to please many in the minimalist crowd.
We think it’s about to get even better with the MT110 and WT110 ($85.00 MSRP each), releasing in early January 2012.
- New Upper Construction: The innovative synthetic upper covering a soft, breathable lining is highly durable and ready to handle dirt, mud, water or any other elements you want to throw its way.
- Lower Heel Height: The MT110 and WT110 have dropped the heel from 26mm to 21mm while keeping a 17mm forefoot, giving these shoes a flatter 4mm heel-to-toe differential.
- More Flexible Midsole: Even with rock stop technology to protect from stone bruises, New Balance has added flexibility in the midsole for more natural heel-to-toe movement.
- Sticky, Lug-alicious Outsole: New Balance went with directional lugs from heel to toe on this update for better traction on uphill climbs and descents, and the sticky rubber will keep you planted.
- Still Staying Trim: At 7.75 ounces (men’s size 9) and 6.2 ounces (women’s size 8), the MT110 and WT110 continue to fall on the lighter end of the trail shoe spectrum while offering plenty of features.
- For Wider Feet: For the first time in this series, widths are available. We will be carrying 2E widths in men’s sizes.
- Serious Style: For the footballers among us, you’ll be forgiven if you think this shoe looks a little bit like a soccer cleat. The shoe designers were inspired by the flexibility, low profile, and lateral support of soccer shoe uppers.
New Balance MT110 Men's Shoe (Outsole View)
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).
Brooks PureGrit Men's Shoe October 2011 Color
Runners seeking a more natural foot motion inevitably should find themselves running on trails. The natural terrain of the outdoors is more forgiving on the body compared to the paved world. As such, reductionist running shoes have taken hold of the trail running market. A reductionist shoe has at least one of the following attributes when compared to a traditional running shoe: sits lower to the ground, has smaller heel-toe offsets, greater flexibility or lower weight.
For Spring 2012, Brooks is providing a new trail shoe within the reductionist arena. The PureGrit has a 4mm heel-toe offset, is light weight (men’s size 9.0 is 8.9 oz, women’s size 7.0 is 7.6 oz), utilizes a split-toe outsole to better engage the stabilizing nature of the big toe at toe-off and has a round heel to promote a more forward landing position.
A unique feature of the PureGrit is the slightly concave shaped outsole, which splays out under ground contact for a stable and smooth ride. A broad base further promotes stability and the lug pattern keeps the runner connected to the ground. The PureGrit will compete directly with the Saucony Peregrine and New Balance MT110/WT110 (a January 2012 update to the MT101/WT101).
Brooks PureGrit Women's Shoe April 2011 Color
The Brooks PureGrit has an MSRP of $100 and is expected to be available in our Running Warehouse, San Luis Obispo retail store in October 2011, while the online release of the shoe, www.runningwarehouse.com, is January 2012.
Brooks PureConnect Men's Shoe April 2012 Color
To address the current trends toward “barefoot” and “minimalist” running, more and more shoe companies are providing options to meet the demand. Where on the barefoot-to-traditional shoe continuum product offerings fall varies from company to company. For Spring 2012, Brooks is introducing a line of shoes, under the heading PureProject, that slot between the midpoint of the continuum and the barefoot end. While the PureProject shoes may not be nearly barefoot (think Merrell Trail Glove or Saucony Hattori), they certainly reflect the less-is-more concept and provide a unique foot-fuction philosophy that should resonate with a lot of runners.
With the PureProject, Brooks brings forth 5 innovations to enhance the sensory aspect of running. 1. Ideal Heel uses a unique heel geometry, which reportedly results in the initial ground contact point occurring 2cm forward compared to traditional shoes. 2. Toe-flex utilizes a split-toe midsole/outsole configuration to better engage the big toe’s natural stability function at toe-off. 3. Nav Band hugs the midfoot with an elastic band for a secure fit. 4. Anatomical Last allows for the toes to splay during ground contact and allows the shoe to better follow the contours of the foot. 5. BioMogo DNA is a midsole blend that truly adapts to different ground forces, so the running experience is unique to the pace of the run; a softer feel exists at slower paces and a firmer feel is present at faster paces.
Leading the way in the PureProject is the PureConnect. This shoe is the most minimal of the shoes in the PureProject launch. With a 4mm heel-to-toe offset and a reported midsole height of 14:10 (14mm in the heel, 10mm in the forefoot), The PureConnect puts the runner close to the ground and delivers a great feel for the road. Specifications indicate a weight of 7.2 ounces for a men’s size 9.0 and 6.5 ounces for a women’s size 8.
The low weight, small heel-toe differential and adaptable midsole that firms up as the pace quickens combine to provide a unique sensory experience that is sure to hit the sweet spot for runners that seek a touch more protection than the nearly-barefoot shoes provide. If you love the Saucony Kinvara but find the Saucony Hattori to be too minimal, chances are good that the Brooks PureConnect will be in your closet next Spring.
The Brooks PureConnect has an MSRP of $90 and is expected to be available in our Running Warehouse, San Luis Obispo retail store in October 2011, while the online release of the shoe, www.runningwarehouse.com, is January 2012. Learn about the other shoes in the PureProject line (PureFlow, PureCadence, and PureGrit) in future blog posts.
Brooks PureConnect Women's Shoe October 2011 Color
Saucony Kinvara 2 for Women
The Saucony Kinvara was one of the hottest shoes in 2010, which normally is a very good thing. The problem comes around a year later when the updated version is due. Tradition dictates that you “improve” the model every 12-24 months, yet you have a shoe that is killing it, as it is. What do you do? If you’re smart, you make almost no changes, add the next numeral to the name and call it good. This is exactly what Saucony has done with the update to the wildly popular Saucony Kinvara. The Kinvara 2 is nearly identical to the original which should please all the current fans or at the very least, not upset many.
The Kinvara 2 sports updates to the upper only. The midsole, outsole, heel drop, all the good things that people have come to love about the current Kinvara remain unchanged. To improve the fit, the sub-epidermal skeleton overlay pattern, which primarily sits over the midfoot of the current Kinvara, has the most forward “arm” and lengthened it and moved forward, which should help secure the foot better. A new Monomesh replaces the current Open Mesh upper. The Monomesh should offer similar levels of breathability while keeping unwanted stuff out.
As easily seen, very little has been changed. A few upper tweaks, the number 2 added to the name, several new color combinations, the midsole, outsole and price unchanged and its all good. The Kinvara 2 should continue to please those who love the current model and attract legions of new ones as well. The Kinvara 2 comes in at a projected 7.7 oz for a men’s size 9.0 (6.7 oz for a women’s 8.0) and a suggested retail price of $90.00. Look for the Saucony Kinvara 2 to be available at Running Warehouse in May 2011.
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.
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.
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.