Footwear Reviews – TriSports University The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 10 May 2018 23:38:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Footwear Reviews – TriSports University 32 32 New Shoe Strut: Finding the Perfect Fit Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:28:07 +0000 Life is rough when your dogs are barking. In other words, when your feet suffer, you suffer. We all know the feeling we get from lacing up a brand new pair of sneakers – pristine exterior, zero olfactory offenses rising from the inner depths, and each step taken feels even better than the last when […]]]>


Life is rough when your dogs are barking. In other words, when your feet suffer, you suffer.

We all know the feeling we get from lacing up a brand new pair of sneakers – pristine exterior, zero olfactory offenses rising from the inner depths, and each step taken feels even better than the last when you’re doing the new shoe strut. New athletic shoes mysteriously channel lost motivation and muster a newfound desire for training.

It’s clear, new shoes feel good. However, finding the perfect fit can pose a challenge. Choosing the right shoe goes far beyond simply coordinating the shoe color to match your kit or selecting the style your favorite professional triathlete is sporting. You have to consider what purpose your new shoes will serve and what activities will be done in them. You also need to think about your foot type. Do you have flat feet or high arches? What about your foot strike?

The foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments; your feet make up a quarter of the total bones in the human body. With such complex tootsies, it’s no wonder why the search for the perfect fit is so important for performance and overall comfort. Consider the following things to find the perfect fit:

What is the purpose?
Are you an avid runner? Will these shoes be used for the trails or pavement? It’s best to buy particular shoes for particular activities. Cyclists have cycling shoes; triathletes have tri shoes, and so on..get it? Determine what activity you are planning to participate in and find a shoe cut out for the job. Running shoes are typically lighter than trail running shoes, while trail shoes often have more supportive soles and more aggressive tread to help with footing on rough terrain. Cross-trainers tend to be more supportive, offering greater stability for lateral movements and weight-bearing activities. Determine what your shoes will be used for and find the right shoe for the job.High-Arched-Feet-Wet-Footprint-Test

What is your foot type?
When examining your foot type, there are two things to consider: arch and foot strike. You can complete a simple test to identify if you have a flat foot, normal arch, or high arch. Simply dampen the soles of your feet and step onto a paper bag or piece of paper. Remove your feet and check out your footprint. Do you have a neutral, high, or flat arch? Compare your footprint to the picture above.


The next step is to ask yourself what part of the foot you strike the ground with as you run. Is your foot strike neutral, pronated, or a supinated? An easy way to determine your foot strike is to examine the soles of your old sneakers. What part of the tread is most worn out? Focus on the ball of the foot to see where the tread is most worn out. Depending on your arch and foot strike, you may be better suited for neutral cushioning, stability, or motion control shoes.


Some people tend to have a very neutral foot strike, dispersing weight throughout the middle of the foot and equally distributing weight to all toes. Those that find their arch and foot strike neutral would be best suited for neutral cushioning shoes for stiffer feet. Look for shoes that are less supportive and have cushioning on the heel and outside of the shoe.

The majority of feet fall into the pronation category. The fact is, everyone pronates somewhat, but the trouble is when you over-pronate. Pronation is when the foot rolls inward, with more weight on the inside of the foot, collapsing the arch with each step. Over time, over-pronation can cause arch issues and knee problems. The best fit for extreme over-pronation is a motion control shoe, offering lots of stability with very little flex. For mild over-pronation a stability shoe is ideal. Insoles will help control excessive pronation as well.

The least common of all foot types is supination, when the weight of the body rolls to the outer foot. Those who are bow-legged or have high arches tend to be supinators. Supination may cause shin splints and is more prone to ankle strains. The most important shoe feature to counter supination is a cushioned shoe, reducing the impact to the legs through major shock absorption. Neutral cushioning shoes offer a flexible sole, which is best for supination.


Shoe Lifetime:
How long do shoes typically last? Old shoes are probably doing more harm than you know. Old shoes may be the culprit to many chronic injuries you may be experiencing, as the support they once offered has deteriorated. The general rule of thumb: replace shoes every three to six months, or every 350 to 500 miles (560 to 800 kilometers), depending on your height, weight, and running terrain.


Your foot is just like you, unique. Identifying your foot specifics will help you to sort through the overwhelming plethora of athletic shoes available. Become your own shoe expert by following these tips and before you know it, you’ll be doing the new shoe strut.

Brands we love: Altra, Brooks, HOKA ONE ONE, Newton, Pearl Izumi, and Zoot Triathlon running shoes!

Buy This Product Now on


Beginner’s Guide to Clipless Pedals Sat, 10 Sep 2011 00:43:10 +0000 A clipless pedal system may be the best performance and safety upgrade a new rider can make. We take the new user to school here in “Clipless 101”. Clipless class is in session...]]>

By Tom Demerly

Clipless Pedal Guide
With a wide variety of models and features it’s worth doing some research before your buy your first pair of clipless pedals.

Clipless pedals, pedals that mechanically engage the shoe, may be the single largest upgrade a new rider can make.  This article will provide an overview of popular systems and insights into choosing a pedal system that is appropriate for you, along with tips on selecting the right pedal and avoiding bad choices.

Clipless pedals provide an enhanced margin of safety compared to toe clips and straps by allowing the rider’s foot to disengage from the pedal if the angle of the foot to the pedal exceeds a certain amount; as in a crash. With toe clips and straps your feet may come out of the pedals if you fall, but they may not. There is no designed-in escape mechanism in a toe clip but clipless pedals have a designed-in safety release.

Clipless pedals increase pedaling efficiency by transferring power from the leg to the bike more efficiently. The best orientation of your foot on the pedal changes slightly as your pedaling force and speed change. Pedals with “float” enable the rider’s foot to move naturally to the optimal orientation on the pedal for changing pedaling rates (cadence) and changing amounts of pedal force.

A Brief History of the Modern Clipless Pedal.

While crude examples existed since the early 1900’s, including the Cinelli “death pedal”, the modern clipless pedal was invented by the French inventor Jean Beyl, an early innovator of spring release ski bindings. In the early 1980’s Beyl designed an “automatic safety pedal” while working for the Look ski binding company. That pedal became the “Look” pedal.

Early white Look pedals and the later all black Look “Racing Pedal” were heavy and held the rider’s foot in static alignment with the pedal; your foot did not move. Beyl went on to develop a new technology that introduced lateral (side to side) and rotational movement, known as “float”. Beyl discovered that if the pedal allowed the foot to find its natural orientation performance was enhanced. He was also the first to formally acknowledge that the geometry of the foot changes on the pedal. The cleat/pedal interface ought to accommodate that for optimal performance and safety.

This famous Graham Watson image of Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond on L’Alpe d Huez in 1985 shows both men using the new clipless Look pedal, the beginning of a revolution.

Beyl attempted to convince Look to include rotational and lateral movement into their pedal designs, but business pressures prevented a change in design. Beyl left Look in the late 1980’s to partner with two French businessmen to start a company called “Time Sport”. He introduced the Time Pedal with rotational and lateral movement built in. Under the U.S. direction of the charismatic French businessman Jean-Pierre Pascal, Time Sport grew rapidly. In 1989 the majority of riders in the Tour de France, including winner Greg LeMond, were using Time pedals.  Top pro riders switched to Time pedals because they felt it extended their careers and limited exposure to knee injuries. Since Beyl introduced rotational movement in pedals with the first Time pedal, all pedals now incorporate some provision for rotational movement.

Picking Your Pedal: What Should You Buy?

Clipless pedal systems are commonly bought incorrectly. A search of forums like produces many stories from athletes who bought clipless pedal systems at local bike shops unfamiliar with triathlons. The most common mistake first time clipless pedal buyers make is to buy two-sided, “walkable” clipless pedals like Shimano SPD mountain bike pedals for use in triathlons. While their reasoning seems sound, you can clip into either side and walk through transition areas with the shoes on without slipping, the drawbacks of added weight, small cleats and difficulty clipping into a small pedal system (even with two sides to clip into) soon surface.

Most first time clipless buyers upgrade to a road specific system quickly. Some are so discouraged by the difficulty of getting into and out of small-cleat SPD systems that they give up on clipless pedals and consider them as “dangerous”. This is largely due to poor equipment choice and set up.

Walkable mountain bike style shoes and pedals can also be difficult to install since the tread of the shoe can interfere with the engagement of the cleat to the pedal. This makes clipping in- and out- very difficult since the tread on the shoe may actually interfere with how the pedal functions. Good bike fitters and mechanics will test and prevent this when they set your pedals up.

Installing Your Pedals and Setting Up your Shoes and Cleats.

No matter what clipless pedal you buy you must have the pedals, shoes and cleats set up correctly. If you are new to clipless pedals it is best to have an experienced mechanic install your pedals, cleats, and fit your shoes. Setting up clipless pedals involves installing the pedals on your bike, fitting you for shoes and then installing the pedal cleats onto your shoes. Each of these three tasks requires experience. The most common basic problems setting up a clipless pedal system are:

  • The left pedal is reverse thread so it does not loosen from pedaling forces. The installation of the left pedal is “Lefty Tighty”, not “Righty Tighty” as normal threads are.
  • New cycling shoe customers usually buy shoes too large. Cycling shoes need to fit snugly and precisely. Movement of the foot inside the shoe will create friction and localized hot spots. Never buy shoes with “room for your feet to swell”. That adjustment is made with the closures on the shoe once it is precisely fitted to a non-swollen foot.
  • Installing your cleats to an anatomically neutral position. The cleats are bolted to the bottom of your shoes and can be adjusted laterally (left to right), fore and aft and rotationally. If cleats are installed incorrectly they may position your foot at an uncomfortable and inefficient angle on the pedals. This could lead to injury and make using your pedals more difficult. An experienced and formally trained bike fitter can adjust your pedal cleats on your shoes to a neutral angle that does not place stress on your joints while pedaling.

Learning to Use Clipless Pedals.

You may have heard of riders “tipping over” when using clipless pedals without being able to remove their feet from the pedals. This can be due to a lack of familiarity with the pedal system, less-than-optimal or incorrect pedal and cleat set up or a combination of both.

The best way to learn to use your new clipless pedals is to set aside time specifically for learning how to use them. In other words, don’t try to use new clipless pedals on a training  ride or race. Instead, set aside a specific time to learn how to put your shoes on correctly, mount the bicycle, clip in and begin pedaling without falling over.

An indoor trainer that holds your bike securely upright is a great tool for learning how to enter and exit clipless pedals in a controlled setting. You can’t fall over. You won’t run into something while you are looking down at your feet to learn how to clip in and out.

Once your mechanic and bike fitter has fitted you with shoes and installed your cleats and pedals they can provide an explanation of how your pedals and shoes work, give you a demonstration then you can have a practical application as you try the system yourself on the indoor trainer under your bike fitter/mechanic’s supervision and assistance.

For your first rides outdoors using clipless pedals find an area free of traffic with good pavement and no obstacles, such as a large empty parking lot, empty paved bike path without traffic or quiet subdivision where you can make right turns without having to stop frequently as your practice.

Clipless Pedals and Shoes: Two Basic Types.

Pedals and shoes can be broken down to two large categories: Three hole pattern pedals designed for road cycling and Two hole pattern pedals designed for mountain bike/off road riding and also some application in road touring.

Top: A road shoe has a rigid outsole designed predominantly for pedaling. Bottom: Mountain bike off-road and casual touring shoes have a “walkable” outsole with a recessed space for the cleat to fit into.

A common mistake new riders (and bike shops…) make is to sell entry level cyclists a “walkable” or two-hole pattern pedal system since they mistakenly believe it is easier to use. In general, buying a “walkable” shoe and pedal for triathletes and road riders is a mistake. The reasoning is the shoes are less slippery on pavement or floors to walk in. While this is true, remember that you are buying a shoe mainly to pedal your bike, not to walk in. Once new riders become accustomed to using clipless pedals they usually regret buying the heavier, lower performance “walkable” systems. Since pedal and shoe weight rotates and must be accelerated and decelerated every time you start and stop pedaling, a slightly lighter road specific shoe/pedal system will offer better performance (especially on hills) than a heavier “walkable” MTB style system.

If you buy a road cycling clipless system first it may take slightly longer to learn, but you will appreciate the performance and ease of pedaling quickly.

Left: A “3 Hole Pattern” or “Look Compatible” road shoe. Right: An “SPD Compatible” or “2 hole pattern” shoe for casual use and off road riding.

Pedal and Cleat Durability, Performance and Fitting.

Now that you know you need a road specific clipless pedal system and shoe if you are a road rider or triathlete it’s time to learn more about what factors influence pedal performance and safety.

Closer is Better. Simpler is Safer.

It’s a reality that we usually don’t maintain our equipment as often as we should. Clipless pedal systems-  pedals, shoes and cleats, require regular maintenance for performance and safety. The more complex the system becomes, the more maintenance it will require.

Inspect pedals and cleats frequently to be certain your cleats are tight on your shoes and your pedals are free from damage. Plastic and metal pedals seem to wear at about the same rate.

The most important clipless pedal maintenance is keeping the system clean and the cleat fasteners tight on the shoe. This requires frequent inspection and cleaning, and should not be ignored.

Since maintenance is important in clipless pedal use, the simpler the system is (cleats, pedals and shoes) the easier it will be to maintain and the more likely you will be to actually do it. You can wash your pedals off with a soft brush, soap and water- same for your cleats on the soles of your shoes.

Check your cleat wear often. Because riders tend to put one foot down more often that foot will wear more quickly. Worn cleats are a safety hazard.

Worn pedal cleats change the way your bike fits and may not release the way they are designed. They may release without warning, or they may not release when you need them to. Worn pedal cleats are also prone to breakage. This could contribute to a crash. Cleats often wear differently on each foot since we tend to put one foot down at stoplights over and over. That foot will wear faster. Again- inspect your pedals and cleats frequently for wear, dirt and damage. Check the pedals to be sure they do not have excessive “play” or movement at the axle. Pedals with worn bearing may fail suddenly and come off the crank arm entirely.

The distance from the center of the pedal axle to the ball of the foot inside the shoe influences pedal performance. Closer is generally better for more efficient power transfer and reduced angular torque.

With very few exceptions clipless pedals tend to work better when the pedal axle is closer to the ball of the foot, both front to rear and in height. For this reason pedal and shoe designers try to keep the sole of cycling shoes thin and stiff and the distance from the center of the pedal axle to the place where the ball of your foot is inside your shoe as minimal as possible. This reduces a phenomenon some pedal designers refer to as “rocking torque” and engineers sometimes call “angular torque”. If you think back to your first tricycle, which may have been equipped with wood pedal blocks so you could reach the pedals, it was difficult to keep the pedal under your foot when you pressed down hard. Unless the application of forces was in perfect vertical alignment with the pedal axle through its rotation, your foot tended to veer off the pedal. That is rocking torque- the bigger your pedals blocks the harder it is to apply pedal forces accurately.

Shims? Wedges?

There is a trend among some bike fitters to use “shims” or “wedges” to “tune” or “optimize” your pedaling and power transfer with clipless pedals. The logic is a straighter pedaling motion where the knee moves up, down and around the pedal circle is more efficient and anatomically correct. These wedges and shims attempt to align the movement of the knee and leg throughout the pedal stroke, making it appear straighter.

In general bike fitters- with very few exceptions- do not have the formal training in anatomy and physical therapy to competently administer shims and wedges. They often do more harm than good, “fixing” problems that sometimes don’t exist or are better addressed by a qualified physical therapist, more training or both.

Most joint alignment is facilitated by the normal physiological development of a new cyclist, and it changes as the cyclist develops. Very few professional cyclists use wedges or shims. As a cyclist trains their body acclimates to maintain an efficient pedal stroke- and that stroke may not necessarily be in perfect visual alignment. Some cyclists, including top professionals like Tour de France winner Jan Ulrich, pedal naturally with asymmetrical alignment. Ulrich’s knees move outward at the top of the pedal stroke to such a degree that Tour announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin described his style as “ungainly”. It didn’t keep him from winning the Tour de France.

Because a straighter pedaling alignment isn’t always optimal and bike fitters lack the diagnostic capability to determine what is optimal shims and wedges should be avoided. In medically verified instances such as a skeletal leg length discrepancy or other orthopedic indication verified by X-ray from a licensed physical therapist that specializes in sports and cycling, shims may provide a benefit- but leave the shims and wedges to the medical community, not the bike shop.

The Brands and Systems: A Thumbnail Guide.

Shimano: Road and Off Road “Walkable” MTB.

A. Shimano PD-6700 Ultegra pedal. B. Shimano PD-R540 pedal. C. Shimano PD-A530 pedal. D. Shimano PD-M540 MTB pedal.


Shimano makes a number of road and off road pedal systems that include “walkable” systems for casual, recreational and mountain bike use and dedicated road systems used by top professionals like Lance Armstrong.

The “walkable” Shimano SPD/MTB pedal systems work with a shoe that is easier to walk in than traditional road cycling shoes but not a good choice for triathlons or road riding due to the small cleat size and heavy weight. They are frequently bought by entry level cyclists and triathletes who soon realize they should have bought a dedicated road system such as the PD-6700 Ultegra or PR-R540 road pedal.

While Shimano supplies their mountain bike and touring pedals with the black, single release mode SM-SH71 cleat the SM-SH56 Multi Release cleat is a worthwhile upgrade since it enables to to clip in and out in a number of directions making the system safer and easier to use.

Here are a few of our favorites:

A. Shimano PD-6700 Ultegra pedals are a wide body, large platform pedal that is all alloy construction. The system uses a three-hole “Look compatible” cleat system. Two cleats are available for this syste m; a rarely used SM-SH10 red and black cleat with fixed position (no “float”) and the commonly used SM-SH11 yellow and black with 6 degrees of angular rotation. This pedal has a proven track record and is well suited for riders with larger feet above size 9 US

B. Shimano PD-R540 pedals are value priced, large platform, all alloy clipless pedals that use the three hole “Look compatible” mounting pattern. These are an excellent value and strong first time pedal choice. The pedal uses the SM-SH10 fixed and more commonly the SM-SH11 floating cleat with 6 degrees of angular rotation.

C. Shimano PD-A530 pedals are a dual use pedal with a mountain bike style SPD clipless pedal on one side and a large, flat platform on the other for use with normal street shoes. This is a casual/recreational use pedal good for short distance commuter bikes or coffee shop bikes. The pedal is heavy and not intended for triathlons or performance riding. Because it uses the smaller SPD MTB two-hole pattern metal cleats, SM-SH51 Single Release and SM-SH56 Multi Release.  SM-SH56 Multi Release is recommended for easy entry and exit. The PD-A530 works with “walkable” shoes but, due to the small cleat size, can be slightly tricky to get into for new users.

D. Shimano PD-M540 MTB pedals are a two sided, off road specific pedal for mountain bikes. The pedals use the smaller SPD MTB two-hole pattern metal cleats, SM-SH51 Single Release and SM-SH56 Multi Release. SM-SH56 is recommended for easy entry and exit. This is another pedal frequently bought by first time triathletes and road riders who want a “walkable” shoe but quickly find out there are performance compromises.

Very few cyclists would use the red SM-SH10 fixed mode cleat that does not allow the foot to “float” or rotate in the pedal. The yellow SM-SH-11 cleat is supplied with Shimano road clipless pedals and should be used as the replacement cleat also.

Look Keo Clipless Pedals.

Perhaps the most popular road pedal. Look invented the current version of the popular clipless pedal and has refined their designs consistently every since. There are many versions at widely varied prices.

Among many benefits to Look pedals is the easy availability of pedal cleats. Since the pedal is so popular almost every bike shop has replacement cleats in stock. This is a boon to the triathlete who travels frequently. The down side is the plymer cleats can wear quickly with frequent walking. These cleats need to be checked for wear regularly.

The three easily identifiable versions of Look Keo cleats. The grey 4.5 degree version is supplied with Look Keo pedals.

Look has recently introduced their new Blade pedals but the Keo and Keo Max continue to be the most commonly used. Look Keo and Keo Max pedals can be used with either of three different Keo cleats that provide no rotational movement (black), 4.5 degrees of rotational movement (grey), or 9 degrees of rotation (red). The grey 4.5 degree version is supplied in the box with pedals and is the most commonly used.

There are two versions of Look Keo cleats, the normal version and the more recent “grip” version with grey polymer traction pads on the outside of the cleat to prevent you from slipping when walking on smooth surfaces. The grip version in grey 4.5 degrees rotational movement is supplied in the box with Look Keo and Keo Max pedals.

Look’s Keo pedals, including the new wide bodied version on the right, are popular choices and good for all ability levels.

AThe Keo Easy is the full size road clipless pedal specifically designed for first time clipless pedal users. This pedal come with a lower release tension spring for smaller riders. The light spring enables riders to clip out of the pedal easier. This pedal uses either of the three Keo cleats and is supplied with the grey 4.5 degree rotation cleat. It is a good choice for new users but second year athletes frequently want to upgrade.

B. The Keo Classic is extremely light considering its price which makes it an excellent value at under $120. This pedal uses adjustable binding release tension and comes with the grey 4.5 degree rotation cleat.  This is a pedal system most riders will never “outgrow”. It is a true performance oriented clipless road and triathlon pedal at a great price. Other than relying on a plastic cleat that tends to wear quickly with contact to pavement- as with walking and stopping- this pedal has very few drawbacks.

C. The Keo Carbon has recently been replaced by the Keo 2 Max Carbon. The original Keo Carbon is slightly narrower than the new version and is being phased out in favor of the new Keo 2 Max Carbon. It is a capable, lightweight professional pedal that includes a molded carbon fiber impregnated body for increased stiffness and a lightweight titanium axle.

D. Look’s newer Keo 2 Max pedals use a wider platform and brushed metal surface to facilitate better “Arc” or rotational movement on the pedal. These wider platforms may feel more stable underfoot to some riders, especially with inexpensive plastic, non-carbon fiber reinforced shoes. The pedal remains relatively light even in the wider width due to the molded polymer body which is incredible durable. There is adjustable binding tension and a sub $200 price tag making this a strong contender. This wider pedal body design is the direction most pedal users are trending toward. The pedal is sold in two colors, white and grey.

Speedplay X, Zero and Light Action Clipless Pedals.

Speedplay inventor and clipless pedal expert Richard Byrne is such an authority on clipless pedals he is actually the “curator” of a museum of clipless pedals at Speedplay’s headquarters.

Speedplay has a proven competitive record in the top races and triathlons, used in the Tour de France and the most popular pedal choice in races like the Ironman World Triathlon Championships.

There are many advantages to each of the Speedplay systems including light weight, rotational movement from the center of the pedal (as opposed to rotating from the toe on other popular systems) and a high degree of “fit-ability” to individual riders.

Speedplay’s method of clipping in is different from pedals such as Shimano road pedals, Look Keo and Time. The majority of road specific pedals clip-in by engaging the toe first in a forward sweeping motion, then clamping down the heel. This prevents the foot from slipping forward off the pedal platform. Speedplays seem to engage from the rear of the pedal more effectively, and this takes a little learning. Because the pedal is two-sided it can be clipped into from either side. You don’t have to worry about having the pedal right side up.

The system does use a lot of bits and pieces in the cleats. Since the system is so “fit-able” it works best for athletes who have ready access to mechanics and bike fitters. Speedplay pedals tend to work best when kept clean and the cleats lubricated. They rely on good quality shoes with relatively stiff soles for optimal performance. The systems should be checked for wear, as with any system, regularly. Speedplay has a tendency to develop a “rocking” action as viewed from the front or rear if your pedals or cleats are worn- like pronation or supination on a running shoe. On smaller shoe sizes compensation shims are used to moderate the curvature of sole of the shoe. It’s important to use Speedplay’s torque specifications when installing the cleats since over-tightening the cleats is easy and they require light torque.

Some rider’s describe the free rotation from the center of the pedal in Speedplay as odd initially, with comments like “standing on an ice cube” being common. This passes quickly as riders adapt.

The Speedplay system, beginning with “X” series pedals, have evolved into other versions but remain effectively a round pedal with refinements to the body and cleat for different features. In early 2011 rumors of a complete Speedplay redesign began to circulate as did mention of a Speedplay pedal with built-in power meter.

Speedplay’s retail distribution policy restricts mail order sales except from selected vendors, and unfortunately as of this date, is not one of those retailers.

Speedplay pedals are highly tunable for fit and performance but do require careful installation and maintenance.

AThe Speedplay Zero is the most commonly sold Speedplay pedal in triathlon. It features adjustable rotational movement and the new solid spring design to resist dirt-fouling. The pedal is sold in a dizzying assortment of colors and three different spindle materials including cro-moly, stainless steel and titanium.

B. The Speedplay X Series is the “original” Speedplay pedal, largely unchanged for more than a decade. It is still a good enough design to be used in the Tour de France and Ironman World Championships. This pedal has 14 degrees of “free rotation” that may take some riders a little getting used to. Once up to speed and pedaling the free rotation isn’t noticed. The X series uses the bar-type retention spring which needs to be kept clean. If you put your shoes on in T1, the swim to bike transition, and run across dirt or sand your cleats may “dirt foul” preventing you from clipping in until you spray the cleats with a water bottle to rinse them clean. Cleat covers called “Coffee Shop Caps” are a popular option to keep cleats clean but are inconvenient to remove and store during a race. This system works best when you keep your shoes clipped to your pedals in T1- then don your shoes while rolling after mounting your bike, a technique you must practice before race day to do safely.

C. Speedplay Light Action pedals are the “easy to use” Speedplay model aimed at entry level clipless users. These have full rotational movement and a lighter spring for entry and exit. This pedal uses the flat spring that resists dirt fouling. Sold in many colors. This is a great system since it incorporates all the features and benefits of the other Speedplays but in a model geared toward the new clipless pedal user.

The predominant difference in Speedplay pedal performance comes from the cleat, and much of the pedal’s integrity depends on the cleat as well.

Time Sport Clipless Pedals.

Time pedals were innovated by the popular inventor of the clipless pedal, Jean Beyl, in the late 1980’s. They have been used by the top competitive cyclists and triathletes around the world at Ironman and were the most commonly used pedals in the Tour de France when they were released. Now that other companies have incorporated rotational movement into their designs Time’s dominance has diminished, but not their performance.

The Time pedals were the first to incorporate rotational movement or “float” into a clipless pedal. They also have adjustable “Q Factor” or width and the ability of the foot to position itself laterally on the pedal.

Because so few bike shops and customers read the technical instructions they do not know how to correctly optimize Time cleat installations. The system is simple, elegant and provides many fit options. Here are the markings to indicate how to tune the “Q” factor or pedal stance by changing the left cleat over to the right, and vice versa.

Another unique feature of Time pedals is the concept of “Re-centering Force” or a moderate and adjustable amount of spring tension that supports the foot toward a neutral posture on the pedal while allowing it to move freely during forceful efforts.

Time has also designed their pedals to have optimum “Bioposition” or close proximity to the pedal axle to reduce rocking torque and improve pedal feel and efficiency.

Finally, the pedals are adjustable for “Q” factor or width by changing the cleats from one shoe to the other.

In general Time is an under rated and not entirely understood pedal system. Both the founder of, Seton Claggett, and this author use Time pedals.

Time’s new iClic and previsou RSX pedals provide a high degree of fit-ability and fine tuning in a simple and elegant package.

A. The new Time i-Clic is made in five versions with different pedal body materials and one version with a titanium spindle and carbon impregnated body for ultra-light weight. The i-Clic uses a more robust pedal body design and fortified cleat compared the earlier RXS. This makes both pedal and cleat more durable but slightly heavier.

B. The RXS is sold in three versions, the “First” and the “Speed” with very few functional differences between the two pedals except color. Both versions use a molded composite body with cro-moly steel axle and each has the full range of Time anatomical and bioposition features. With only a reported four gram weight difference between the two colors it is difficult to flush out any tangible difference between these two models other than appearance.  The third version is the 230 gram reported weight Time RXS Carbon. This pedal uses a lighter cro-moly steel hollow axle to reduce weight.

Buy This Product Now on

]]> 2
K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL Tech Wed, 20 Oct 2010 17:20:29 +0000 Can one running shoe fill several roles? Is a “tunable” running shoe a more versatile idea than separate training/racing/recovery shoes? K-Swiss continues their innovative development of running technology with another novel introduction. We run in it here.]]>

By Tom Demerly.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
The K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL Tech uses an innovative system of modular insoles to tune ride and performance.

Like all equipment geeks I’m rarely happy with the way something comes out of the box. I am always tweaking and tuning. Shoes are no exception: Different insoles, laces, lacing patterns, even grinding the outsoles to get a different “feel” or extract some elusive measure of performance. K-Swiss has acknowledged the opportunity to tune running shoes with their internal components in the new miSOUL Tech feature in their Run One-miSOUL Tech convertible running shoe.

What’s convertible? The K-Swiss miSOUL technology features a modular, interchangeable insole system (miSOUL) that can be exchanged to tune the feel- and maybe performance- of the shoe. This capability effectively makes the Run One more than one shoe. K-Swiss also has a miSOUL court shoe with similar interchangeable sole miSOUL technology.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
Run One-miSOUL Techs come with two pairs of elaborate insoles that change the characteristics of the shoe.

“Just how much tuning can changing the insole do?”

The first thing I thought of when I heard of the K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL Tech (besides the name being too long) was, “Just how much tuning can changing the insole do?” K-Swiss marketing of the Run One-miSOUL Tech suggests it is one shoe that spans a spectrum of racing shoes and long distance training shoes. K-Swiss has also hinted about the development of an aftermarket additional insole for recovery.
Can one shoe be this versatile simply by changing the insole?

K-Swiss Sponsored Triathlete
K-Swiss athletes have been an integral part of K-Swiss' product development and refinement. Photo courtesy of K-Swiss.

The insoles in the K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL are more than simple insoles. They are as elaborate as the name of the shoe. The 61 gram “Light 1.0” insole wraps significantly up the lateral and medial heel and includes five different materials for cushion and stability. This is the performance oriented midsole intended for tempo training and race day. The “Cushion 1.0” is heavier at 82 grams, shares the same concave wrap and integrates Si-18 shock-absorptive gel with a stiff thermo-polymer arch laminated into the insole for additional stability and support. Each insole has a synthetic fabric inner that is sublimated with the K-Swiss logo. Both pairs of insoles are included in the box with the purchase of the shoes.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
The integral insoles have substantial "wrap" up the lateral and medial heel and form a secure concave footbed.

The interchangeable insoles co-locate within the shoe using a pin and hole alignment that precisely places the insole inside the footbed. It does not insure the sides of heel are wrinkle free and you need to double check that when you switch soles. The sides of the heel cup are thin and can wrinkle if you switch insoles too quickly.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
A "pin" locates and secures the insole into the footbed of the shoe. The two insoles supplied with the shoes provide either light weight performance or shock-absorbing ride. Note the hole in the heel of the shoe to secure the insoles (left).

The interchangeable insoles aren’t the only interesting feature/benefit set on the shoe. From the front of the shoe the toe box is perforated with ventilation holes that K-Swiss calls “Flow-Cool System”. These holes will also facilitate drainage when you dump an aid station cup over your head. The saddle and tongue area are conventional in configuration and performance with a good, tunable fit via the 14 eyelets in the upper. I’ll suggest these shoes are absolutely sock-less friendly for race day.

The K-Swiss Flow Cool System provides ventilation and drainage making this a good choice on a hot race day.

The heel counter includes a molded polymer material heel cup with perforations and a faux-carbon spar that stiffens up the heel counter. K-Swiss mimicked an air cushion system in appearance with two windows of firm polymer that provides roll control in the heel. As a result of these heel features the shoe has a very “guided” ride with either insole set. Additional stiffeners span the midsole adding stability and lateral roll control.

Forefoot flexibility is great since the midsole transitions to more flexible foam up front skinned in Aosta II wear resistant rubber in contact with the road. There is the traditional higher density wedge on the medial insole to prevent pronation.
At 12.3 ounces in a size 9.5 the shoe isn’t a lightweight, but there is a lot going on there in 12 ounces. The 12.3 ounce weight is with the heavier 82 gram cushion insole.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
There is plenty of roll-control and stability in the heel with the faux-carbon stability layer and perforated polymer heel counter.

The shoe geometry includes a 32.5 mm high heel and a 20.1 mm forefoot at the metatarsal for a drop of 12.4 mm from heel to toe. This is not a minimal shoe. For this tester that is good as minimal shoes haven’t been able to keep me on the road without aches and pains. I like the geometry of the K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL.
Fit on the K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL is true in length and roomy in the toe box with both insoles.

So- how much difference does changing the insoles make? The obvious test is to put one insole in one shoe and the other insole in the other shoe and take them for a spin or two. I had the strong notion that the Light 1.0 insole rode lower in the heel. As a result I stuck to the Cushion 1.0 insole and probably would even for racing in this shoe. The difference is noticeable, but insoles alone- even nice ones like these K-Swiss, don’t make a trainer a racer. This is a substantial shoe and will remain such- and I don’t mind that at all.
Having run in both insole configurations: There is a difference. Is it the difference between a racing shoe and a training shoe? No. Is the difference tangible? Yes. Does this one shoe replace multiple pairs of shoes? Probably, but ultra light racing shoes is not one of them. This shoe does not magically become a pair of K-Swiss’ excellent Blade Light Run racing shoes. That said the shoe does do double duty as more than one pair of shoes if you are going to actually swap out the insoles. I’ll suggest the real world tendency may to do what I did and simply pick the one you think feels best and stick with it.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
At 12.3 ounces with the heavier insole this isn't a bantam weight racer but is a good long distance option. Note the differences in the weight between the two insole types.

Overall the handling of the shoe- the way it goes onto and come off the ground at speed- is great. I’d run and race in these. It is apparent K-Swiss is listening to their athletes on fit, design and geometry by the way these shoes feel. No extraneous twisting and good ride quality. This is a solid Ironman shoe since it has good drainage features and is substantial enough to support tired, swollen, aching feet during that last, awful 10 miles of the Ironman Marathon.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
The good color ways and K-Swiss styling make it look like K-Swiss has been making running shoes for decades. It is a nicely finished and polished presentation.

K-Swiss has been ambitious about their running program from the start and have scored a couple major coups including their excellent Blade Light Run shoes. I’ll suggest the K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL Tech is a continuation of that ambition. While it doesn’t do everything you need in a running shoe- or claim to, it does have substantial versatility and the option to tune to your preference of insoles right out of the box. I put this shoe down as an interesting interpretation of a full-featured trainer and a supportive racer at long distance that comes with two insoles out of the box. If you do the math on a pair of nice trainers and an aftermarket pair of insoles the $124.95 price tag continues the K-Swiss legacy of a lot of technology at a good value price. I like the ride, fit and features of the K-Swiss Run One-miSOUL Tech and look forward to some great miles in these.

K-Swiss Run One miSOUL Tech Running Shoes
K-Swiss has suggested they may release more insole options for their modular miSOUL running shoe, potentially adding to the versatility of an already good system.
Zoot Ultra Kane: The Argument for Evolution Wed, 06 Oct 2010 00:11:44 +0000 It took Zoot three years to perfect the triathlon running shoe, but the new Zoot Ultra Kane truly rules like the Hawaiian King it is named for.]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
Zoot's new Ultra Kane is the latest running shoe evolution for Zoot and the best specialty triathlon running shoe in the category.

I love a good product story, especially one I got in on the ground floor of. The new Zoot Ultra Kane is a great product story with a fairy tale ending. Like all fairy tales there is one scary part though…

Zoot is an original triathlon brand, one of few authentic brands in the industry. The company got its start by sewing one piece tri suits sold on the pier in Kona during Ironman week. Crystal Miland, Zoot’s founder, noticed the one piece suits were particularly popular with German athletes who pronounced the word for the triathlon onesies as a “tria-tlon zoooot”. The name stuck and the company became “Zoot”.

Dave Scott and Mark Allen
Before there was Zoot: We changed into running shorts and singlets. Zoot changed the way triathletes dress with their original "triathlon zoooot". Photo courtesy Triathlete.

As a grass roots triathlon brand Zoot is one of few manufacturers who make an entire triathlon wardrobe: Footwear, technical race clothing in several levels, pre and après ensembles along with wetsuits.

When Zoot made the decision to enter footwear almost four years ago their goal was to build triathlon specific running shoes, not just a generic shoe design with a heel tab and elastic laces. As a result Zoot footwear incorporates numerous unique technologies specific to triathlon. No other footwear company offers the combination of optimal features specific to the triathlete.

Think about the requirements unique to a triathlete’s running shoe:

• It has to be easy to don at speed.
• It needs to have barefoot capability to facilitate running without socks, also for faster transitions.
• It needs to have adequate drainage so water from aid station cups poured over your head doesn’t add to shoe weight and collect inside the shoe potentially causing blisters.
• The geometry of the shoe has to facilitate the running gait of a fatigued athlete after a hard bike ride.
• The shoe should be washable and durable since triathlon race shoes frequently get dirty and have body lubricant, aid station and other smelly, offensive fluids deposited on them (peeing while running at Ironman distance).

I was a Zoot early adopter and used their very first running shoe. Zoot’s earliest running shoes did fulfill their goals but missed basics in running shoe construction. The shoes fit too loose and tended to cause blisters despite the smooth lining. There was minimal motion control in the early shoes. At 170 pounds I limited my use to shorter events up to Olympic distance. Early shoe efforts by Zoot got the bells and whistles, but missed the bread and butter.
The new Zoot Ultra Kane incorporates each of the unique technologies Zoot started with but added solid fit and performance improvements that make the Zoot Ultra Kane the single best triathlon running shoe this reviewer has trained and raced in.

“…the single best triathlon running shoe this reviewer has trained and raced in.”

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
A redesigned sole, new upper fabrics and improved fit are tangible improvements in Zoot's Ultra Kane over previous Zoot offerings.

Zoot labels the Ultra Kane as a “high mileage stability trainer”. I’ll suggest this may be the better choice than their ultra-light shoes for 70% of us: tri- guys built like me, 5’9”, 170 pounds, average build, neutral-ish foot. Zoot shoes are split into two categories on their product page: Tri Footwear and Run Footwear. The Ultra Kane lives in the Run Footwear tab. Shoes like the rocket-slipper Ultra Speed with its low slung 10mm drop from heel to toe and all stretch upper reside in the Tri Footwear category. The Zoot Ultra Kane has more traditional running shoe geometry with a 13mm forefoot and a 25mm heel for a 13mm drop.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
Five different materials are visible in this photo that enhance cushioning and stability in the Zoot Ultra Kane- four durometers of foam and one carbon fiber roll bar.

Zoot contends their 10mm drop Tri Footwear shoe design is configured for running off the bike. This reviewer likes the more traditional 13mm drop of the Zoot Ultra Kane likely because I am doing a 7:30-8:30 mile off the bike, not a 6:30 mile. Faster runners may like the low-riding 10mm drop shoes.
The Ultra Kane does lack some of the tri-specific features from the Tri Footwear category: There are no drain holes in the sole for water to leech out and the upper uses less obvious donning tabs. I would miss the drain holes if water ever made it to my feet, but here in Tucson you are literally dry by the time it gets there. For races in moderate climes the drain holes are a boon. The reduced donning tabs still work perfectly. I raced in the Ultra Kane this past weekend and had a lightning fast T2 and no problems with the shoe loading up with water.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
Quick don tabs on the Zoot Ultra Kane are smaller than on their pure triathlon shoes but are still entirely functional.

The Zoot Ultra Kane also uses enough stability and motion control to offer confidence on wobbly legs after a tough bike. I’m convinced after only one race that the stability mitigates fatigue off the bike. This was missing from the early generations of Zoot shoes.
Another significant improvement for Zoot has been a redesign of their uppers. Early (previous year) designs from Zoot donned quickly but did not fit securely. The fabric was too open-weave and did not fit precisely enough across the saddle area of the shoe. The toe box on early efforts felt non-existent. A new fabric identified by Zoot’s Kevin Hoard as “TekSheen” is used on the outside of the shoe upper. TekSheen is a 79% nylon, 21% Spandex power stretch fabric that is used in compression garments by Zoot. The powerful compression of the fabric provides a more precise, secure fit with better foot control. The fit is adaptable as your feet swell late in a race or during the bike before you don your running shoes. TekSheen in the upper of the Zoot Ultra Kane is a key technology that optimizes this shoe. I like the TekSheen upper more than the Air Mesh upper on other Zoot shoes for its snug fit and better compression.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
The lacing system uses lightweight fabric eyelets and performs little function once tied: The shoe can be slipped on at speed while tied for secure fit in T2.

Zoot uses a Dri-Lex fabric lining in the Ultra-Kane which manages moisture and provides a friction-reduced interior facilitating sockless running. In training I ran sockless with this shoe and no other treatments or additions to my foot- no foot powder or lubricant. Zero problems. On race day I put some Sportslick around the entrance to the shoe for fastest donning. Even though part of the run course was on sand I had no problems going sockless.
A key feature to the Ultra Kane is the stable ride. Part of the stable ride is from torsional rigidity. The Ultra Kane uses a CarbonSpan+ layer molded into the midsole and visible on the medial side of the shoe and through the outsole under the shoe. This carbon fiber roll control component looks just like a carbon fiber bike frame and performs a similar function: lightweight addition of stiffness.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
Like the chassis of a Formula 1 car the Zoot Ultra Kane uses a stiff carbon fiber roll control system to provide directional authority.

Other ride control and cushioning features include four separate densities of midsole material with the stiffest controlling pronation on the medial (inside) side of the shoe. Cushion on this shoe comes from Z-Bound material found throughout the sole length. Z-Bound is soft and the carbon is stiff. The combination of the two materials moderates the need for stability with the desire for cushioning. At my weight and size I’ll say this moderation is perfectly executed.
There is a rigid thermoplastic heel counter visible on the lateral heel and the heel stability is adequate without being heavy.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
A thermoplastic demi-cup controls the heel on the medial side.

A set of six “spars” cross the upper and thread the laces adding some degree of wrap to the shoe. Although I haven’t tried it, I wager you could run in these shoes without the laces installed as with the entirely lace-less racing moccasin, The Zoot Ultra Speed. I tied these shoes once and have slipped them on every since.
I trained on varied terrain in the Zoot Ultra Kane from groomed desert trails on loose gravel and solid hard pack to pavement including broken asphalt and concrete. In racing I ran on hard packed trails and a paved surface used for training law enforcement and military drivers. A key benefit to the powerful Tek-Sheen upper is a complete lack of foreign debris entry. It is almost like wearing a gaiter.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
Carbon fiber stiffeners run up the side of the midsole. The lacing spars add some stiffness to the side of the shoe improving ride and cornering.

The Zoot Ultra Kane is light also, tipping our scale at 10.2 ounces for a men’s 9. Our sample was .5 ounces lighter than Zoot’s 10.7 ounce claimed weight.
If there are two criticisms of the Ultra Kane one is price. At $150 this is an expensive shoe, on par with other premium kicks like Newton. I’ll argue the unique technologies and category-killing performance justify a premium. Ferraris are more than Fords. My other beef is the lackluster color. Zoot has produced some bilious colorways but the Ultra Kane is the opposite end of the spectrum; gray. Just plain gray. If you like low key then you’ve love it. For a race day shoe and a shoe with unique technologies I could do with some bling.
I test a lot of shoes but actually use few of them. The Zoot Ultra Kane now resides in my transition bag for race day and comes out a couple times a week for spritely runs. This is the best shoe offering Zoot has fielded and the best tri specific runner in the entire category. With this shoe, Zoot owns the tri specialty running market. I give the Zoot Ultra Kane “Best in Category” for triathlon running shoes.

Zoot Ultra Kane Running Shoe
Even though I would have picked a different color the Zoot Ultra Kane is my pick of the litter for a triathlon specialty running shoe.
]]> 2
Newton Terra Momentus Thu, 16 Sep 2010 20:11:06 +0000 Does harnessing physics make you faster? How will the Newton philosophy of storing and releasing energy work in an off road setting? We test Newton’s first trail shoe, the Terra Momentus here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly


Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Newton's new Terra Momentus Trail shoe may make some conventional trail shoes feel like a dinosaur...

Few running shoe companies can boast technology that dates back to the 1600’s, the era of Newton’s name sake, Sir Isaac Newton. Newton Running is founded on Newton’s third law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Think of a gun firing: The bullet discharges, the gun recoils. The bullet goes forward, the gun jumps back and up. In running, your foot hits the ground with significant force- the energy goes… where? With Newton the shoe hits the ground; the impact forces are re-vectored into forward movement via their patented sole technology. Energy can neither be destroyed nor created, only transformed into other forms of energy. How does Newton manage this impact energy? How is it transformed- converted- stored? Does it really work?

Newton claims their shoes use “Action/Reaction” patented technology to direct the flow of foot impact into forward motion through energy storage. They return that energy through use of a “lever” and “spring” of sorts over which the foot pivots during running. This technology is included on Newton’s new Terra Momentus, the first dedicated off road shoe from Newton.

Does it work? I say emphatically “Yes”.

And, while I am convinced that Newton’s unique sole configuration does result in measurably faster running, there are additional benefits to the Newton sole design in an off-road setting.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
The heart of the Newton technology: The energy storing, converting and returning "actuators"- the red lugs and hollow spaces above them- as seen in this midsole cut across its width.

The cornerstone of the Newton design is the four vaguely rectangular boxes under the ball of your foot: the actuators under the metatarsals. If you cut a pair of Newtons width wise (we did) you see how they collapse under footstrike and rebound during push off. The additional benefit in a trail setting, where you are running on irregular surfaces, is the segregation of the actuators provides the only truly independent suspension and shock absorption in a trail shoe. A rock strike under the sole doesn’t affect the entire shoe sole, only the area of impact absorbs (and rebounds) the energy. Additionally, the suspension is uni-directional: it works along the length and width of the shoe.
We may have evolved to run barefoot, but we’ve further evolved (or de-evolved) to need shoes for protection. Add to that an ingenious way to partially store and return footstrike energy for forward motion and the Newton shoe is a real world segue way between the physics of barefoot running and the realities and limitations of the everyman anatomy- combined with the need for protection.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Popular running literature suggests that a "barefoot" running style creates different foot geometry with the ground- with the forefoot oriented lower at foot-strike than the heel-leading style shown on the left. This forefoot or "barefoot" running style is claimed to require less energy, produce less impact and be more efficient. Newton shoes mimic this geometry but with the protection of a running shoe.

This reviewer was an early Newton adopter. I bought my first pair when they originally became available. Proving to myself the shoe worked took an inadvertent mistake- an example of learning through error. I bought a size too large. The actuators weren’t placed correctly under my foot – they didn’t work as designed and were quite unremarkable. I visited the Newton booth during Ford Ironman Wisconsin where I mentioned my experience. They promptly re-fit me for shoes- revealing my original purchase was a full size too large, and went on to replace the shoes with the correct size, one full size smaller.

The results were instant and measureable. At the same heart rate range I was between 15 and 20 seconds faster per mile. That is worth re-reading and I did verify it was accurate. I know of no other performance running product that can instantly produce these measureable results. My previous run pace at 160-170 BPM heart rate was a rather pedestrian 8:10-8:40 per mile depending on conditions- usually to the low end of that range. My Garmin heart monitor/GPS consistently showed sub 170 BPM readings at 7:50 to 8:10 pace in the Newtons. The shoes tested faster immediately. This trend of generally faster per-mile pace at a consistent relative effort continued. It was the elusive golden bullet. Free speed- well, at least speed without additional effort.

“At the same heart rate range I was between 15 and 20 seconds faster per mile.

 There is no such thing as a free lunch however and I, in my new found high(er) speed exuberance ran fast and hard in my Newtons every day. Until my calves started hurting. Bad. I ignored the Newton acclimation period that recommends gradual use of the shoe at first. It was just too much fun to be faster all at once. A trifle hamstrung I meekly returned to conventional shoes- and my more pedestrian pace. Until now. I’m back to occasional Newton use.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
These photos show the forefoot-high bias of the Terra Momentus, forcing the running forward on the shoe for a more forefoot interaction.

This reviewer will tell you Newtons are faster. Ford Ironman World Championship winner and Newton athlete Craig Alexander might suggest the same. But like anything faster- a disk wheel on your bike, a can of Red Bull before a workout, it works best when used with moderation- especially at first during the Newton-described “acclimation period”.
The Newton Terra Momentus is the first foray into off-road shoes for Newton. It is a refreshing slant on a trail shoe as it deviates significantly from other trail offerings that are effectively lightweight, low top hiking shoes. This is not a lightweight speed hiker, it is a running tool.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Designed and adapted from on-road Newtons, the new Newton Terra Momentus has a tread pattern and outsole that provides better traction on trails, sand and dirt/loose rock than the road shoe.

The upper is tightly woven, shark-skin ballistic fabric that won’t allow dust and sand to enter the shoes. Our test shoes were tortured in a desert environment with no debris entry. The first three lacing eyelets have an anti-debris gaiter sewn under them- a fine detail. The laces themselves feature a miniature ridge that makes accidental untying rare. A lime green synthetic “rand” or heel/midsole armor plate starts at the ball of the foot and wraps around the heel. This fortifies the upper and provides noticeable stability while tuning up the responsive foot-handling of the shoe: It goes where you want it.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
The Men's Terra Momentus features a catchy, "lizard green" color way.

There are typical layers of polymer material to prevent excessive roll in the midsole- and they work- along with various durometer EVA to absorb shock. This part of the shoe follows a conventional theme. The patented Newton actuators interrupt that theme and add the unique Newton running capability and a pleasant surprise: These shoes have independent suspension across their width. You don’t feel bumps underfoot and the entire sole of the shoe does not deform over small obstacles such as a rock- only the part that needs to moves, keeping the shoe level and sure-footed. This improves up hill traction and ride quality. Aggressive lugs that provide braking power aren’t as necessary, although our primary tester did report “thrilling” descents in the Newtons and would have liked better braking on descents. Other companies such as GoLite have taken a similar approach by using aggressive lugging to isolate the feeling of stepping on pointed rocks but only Newton helps store and return energy this way. The result is a smooth, stable, snappy ride even on rocky, sharp terrain. For the dedicated trail runner this may be one of the most tangible benefits.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Undiscovered benefit: On uneven and rocky terrain the independent suspension benefit of having seperate lugs provides shock absroption, stability and reduces ankle strain.


Our primary tester, Retail Manager Erik Jacobsen, reported greatly decreased impact in the Newton Terra Momentus. Footstrike, especially uphill, was greatly moderated. Erik rated the toe box fit as “excellent and accurate”. While ascending was above average our man Erik, a veteran of multiple off-road ultras, did say descending in the Newton needs your undivided attention. He reported little traction in the heel- not surprising since the emphasis on this shoe is forefoot foot strike. The word “skiing” was mentioned several times. Erik’s experience extended to over 50 miles of trail use including runs on Mt. Lemmon’s Red Ridge Trail, a 3 hour run in Molina Basin and two ascents to the Seven Falls up Bear Canyon. Erik also put in about 15 miles on the road in this shoe.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Left: Newton Terra Momentus after three runs (I washed the shoe sole for the photo). Right: Same shoe after 50-60 miles combined trail and road running. The leading edge of the actuators- the four "treads" or blocks on the bottom of the shoes- wears down to facilitate your stride. Once they wear to a workable level, the wear decelerates and the shoes are broken in to your individual stride length and geometry.

In the course of testing we sometimes discover a few things worth pointing out. For Erik, the midsole foam on the medial side of the heel tore and abraded rather quickly. In future versions a “wrap” of heavy wearing carbon rubber over this area would prolong shoe appearance- we’ll see if Newton notices. The fragmented EVA isn’t structural, but does make it look like the shoe is awfully torn up after 50-70 miles. If you don’t do rocky descents this won’t happen.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Our tester did experience "chipping" of the midsole from rocky off road terrain. This area of softer EVA may need covering by carbon rubber to increase cosmetic durability.

Wear on the actuators (the 4 forefoot lugs) is normal, especially on abrasive surfaces and at the leading edge of the actuators. It may actually help “tune” the shoes for better push-off. Once they wear in, with the leading edge of the lugs grinding down rather quickly, they seem to stay that way and not wear further. This is mostly a feature of the shoe breaking in.
The shoe is a competitive 12.9 ounces per foot in a size 10.5 on our scale. Compared to other trail shoes like popular “The North Face” Ultra 105 GTX XCR the Newton is lighter by over 2 ounces (reported 15 ounces for The North Face shoe). Some trail shoes are lighter, like Salomon’s Speedcross and Inov-8’s Roclite 312 GTX, but these shoes do not provide the energy return and performance of the Newton Terra Momentus.

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Left: The women's version of the Terra Momentus is light blue. Right: Our test shoes tipped the scale at a moderate to light 12.9 ounces in a size 10.

In general the Newton “Land, Lever, Lift” philosophy and the patented actuators are tangibly unique. I will tell you it makes you faster and have experienced it myself. I wager you will have a similar experience. As a trail shoe the Newton Terra Momentus is a very unique entry- more so than most in that it is actually a running shoe, not a light adventure/hiking shoe. Additionally, the “independent suspension” effect of the actuators on rocky surfaces moderates gnarly terrain with luxurious ride. Finally, nice details in the upper show that Newton is a company attendant to details and in touch with what a runner needs in the real world- on road and off.
This shoe is a credible offering with unique features and benefits. It is a worthy inclusion in any trail running shoe wardrobe

Newton Terra Momentus Guidance Trail Running Shoe
Combining unique Newton patented sole technology with a nicely made, off-road specific upper the Newton Terra Momentus is a valid trail running entry with all the energy return benefits of a Newton shoe.
]]> 1
Saucony ProGrid Kinvara Tue, 31 Aug 2010 18:42:01 +0000 Saucony ProGrid KinvaraSaucony interprets the trend in low-riding, lightweight minimalist shoes with their new Saucony ProGrid Kinvara. See the bantam weight mid-foot striker from Saucony here. ]]> Saucony ProGrid Kinvara

By Tom Demerly

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
Saucony's ProGrid Kinvara wins Runner's World Magazine's "Best Debut" shoe for 2010.

The latest trends in running shoes are “bare” and minimal. The ultra-light upper, minimalist sole and low-riding moccasin has become de rigueur in new product introductions as designers move toward a more “natural” interaction with the ground we run on. Saucony is part of the trend with their award winning Saucony ProGrid Kinvara.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara uses novel design to make it feel like a magic slipper. The shoe typifies the lightweight, low riding trend so well that Runner’s World Magazine named the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara “Best Debut” in June 2010, a clear acknowledgement that the ultra-light, unstructured shoe trend has arrived. Kinvara is a category killer in this new trend.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
Saucony included the trademark triangular tread blocks from their original Jazz shoe on the new Kinvara.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara features a minimal outsole, bantam weight perforated internal heel pad, low riding heel/toe orientation, bikini-top upper with airy fabric and an integrated saddle area “cartilage”. There are also interesting fit ques such as internal heel counter protuberances that hold your heel in place in lieu of a traditional, more rigid heel counter.

Starting at the bottom the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara feature/benefit menu is a heavy meal for a light shoe. Staying with the minimalist theme there is very little black carbon rubber on the outsole. The carbon rubber wear pads are oriented in 15 small forefoot triangles, a toe-nub and a horse shoe shaped heel. The black parts of the outsole are the parts that actually hit the ground as you run. This reduction in carbon rubber reduces both weight and lifespan. The triangular outsole lugs are a tribute to Saucony’s original Jazz shoes. The result is fantastic overall response- it’s like wearing a second pair of socks. They should offer a quarterly subscription for these shoes because you’ll wear through this outsole quickly with regular use. These shoes are well suited as foot-candy for twice a week runs and racing but not optimized for everyday heavy mileage on 170 pounders like me.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
The gossamer upper and low slung, cushy midsole make the Kinvara a novel and racy design excellent for high tempo workouts and race day. Triathletes: Just add speed laces!

Cushioning is from an EVA “ProGrid Light” perforated heel pad that provides good shock absorption in the heel- especially considering how low the shoe rides. The challenge for manufacturers building for the “low heel” trend is to get enough cushioning and roll control into these low-slung soles. Mizuno owns this technology with their patent protected “Wave” that synergizes stability and cushion. Saucony did a good job with cushioning in the heel of the ProGrid Kinvara and continued the midsole fabric across the arch for lip-service to stability. The result is good cushioning for such a light shoe but no real mid sole or forefoot stability.

I had a tendency to “run off” the lateral (outside) surface of the forefoot- maybe because the shoe does an effective job of transferring my footstrike slightly farther forward. The shoe weighs a gossamer 7.9 ounces according to our scale in a size 9.5., a trifle heavier than the claimed 7.7 ounces. I’d be interested to try an 8.9 ounce version with some roll control build into the midsole.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
Look how much lower the Kinvara rides than a traditional training shoe like the Saucony Guide 2. Also note the radiused heel at the back of the Kinvara versus the more square treatment on the more traditional Guide 2.

Geometry on the shoe acknowledges the trend toward midfoot/forefoot gaits. The heel is only 27 mm high by our measurement behind a forefoot of 16.5 mm for a heel to toe differential of 10.5 mm. For perspective the go-to traditional cushioned trainer from Saucony, the Saucony ProGrid Guide 2, has a 50 mm high heel and a 25 mm forefoot. The forefoot cushioning on the Saucony ProGrid Ride 2 is almost as high as the heel cushioning on the Kinvara. The differential or drop from heel to toe on the Saucony ProGrid Guides 2 is 25 mm while it is only 10.5 mm on the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara. Basically the Kinvara is half as high and twice as level as the Guide 2.

The fit trend is accurate in length and generous in the forefoot. The innovative internal heel-lumps do a perfect job of keeping the heel counter in place. Overall, fit on the shoe is great. The toe box is a trifle pointed as are several of the minimalist, bare foot running shoes.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
The heel on the Kinvara rides only 27mm off the ground whereas a traditional training shoe is as much as 50mm for the Saucony Guide 2.

The upper on the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara is absolutely beautiful. Form follows function and Saucony not only did a great job with styling but the lightweight theme produces a slipper like upper that feels more like something from Victoria’s Secret than a running shoe company. A sheer mesh upper belies a daringly perforated liner that breaths better than a sock. The low-cut toe box is knurled rubber that feels like a lightweight tubular racing tire. The saddle area uses small, sheer polymer reinforcement for the nylon eyelets that weigh nothing. Even the tongue is lingerie-like. The mid foot peeks out four spars of non-stretch cartilage that add some structure to the saddle area below the laces. This technology is borrowed from Saucony’s race-specific Endorphin LD2 track spikes. Small weight saving details are apparent when you notice the logo on the outside of the shoe is a polymer appliqué but the logo on the medial or inside facing side of the shoe is sublimated into the fabric to save weight. The gray decorative racing stripes are also sublimated into the upper adding no weight whatsoever.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
Beautiful details for saving weight: Sublimated logo on the medial side in the fabric and ultra-lightweight eyelets and reinforcement.

The heel on the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara has a low rise vinyl demi-counter that is so flexible it feels like a slipper when you are donning the shoe. As you inspect the inside of the shoe you will see two lumps on either side of the inside of the heel counter. These two internal ridges act as a structured heel counter to retain the heel in the counter. The insole has drainage and ventilation holes but there are no corresponding holes in the outsole such as K-Swiss and Zoot. It’s a curious omission.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
A bantam weight, unstructured heel counter continues the natural running theme but the internal "lumps" provide secure heel fit: Ingenius.

Because of the unstructured heel putting the shoe on feels like putting on a moccasin- there isn’t much shape built into the back of the shoe. An added benefit to the minimal upper is great ventilation; it’s a great hot weather shoe, as breezy as the Irish sea port that shares the same name.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
Claimed running shoe weights are rarely accurate but the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara is very close to the claimed 7.7 ounce weight at 7.9 ounces for a size 9.5 US.

Running in the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara is like putting the top down. The breeze moves over your foot and your foot comes away from the pavement with new found zeal. The fore foot is remarkably responsive and flexible. When it all comes back to the pavement again there is enough cushioning but only hope-for-the-best stability. If you need guidance this shoe and this trend isn’t for you. If you’re an old war-horse Ironman veteran north of the 45+ age category this shoe might be better suited for the Spring Break crowd. If you want race-day speed and nimble foot work the light weight response and spritely feel of this shoe will deliver.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara
Beautiful details and innovative weight saving and anatomical features make the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara a truly unique and worthwhile shoe entry.
]]> 2
Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 Tue, 17 Aug 2010 23:23:11 +0000 It’s hard to find anything truly unique in running shoe design. It’s takes a fresh approach and some vastly different technology to produce a truly interesting shoe. Mizuno found the secret formula to mix up their new Wave Elixir 5. ]]>

By Tom Demerly

Mizuno's Wave Elixir 5 is unique in appearance, design and feel.

There is a lot of monotony to writing shoe reviews since so many shoes are similar. Finding a gem- a shoe with tangibly different design, features and benefits, is refreshing. That’s the new Mizuno Wave Elixir 5. It’s a fresh approach to running shoe design with a fresh outcome.

The Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 uses unique technologies to control motion, roll and provide cushioning. The result is a shoe that threads between categories for something really unique in ride and features. It is a firm-ish ride since the shoe rolls like Katy Perry’s jeans; tight and low. And just like the pop star’s hit there are some catchy colors and unique riffs to the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5.
We see a lot of similar running shoe technologies because we see a lot of similar running shoe companies. Mizuno is a tangibly different company with a unique approach to shoe design- born from a unique history.

Mizuno started in Osaka, Japan in 1906 when Rihachi and Rizo Mizuno opened a sporting goods store. The company itself, and the personalities of Rihachi and Rizo, are deeply rooted with the Japanese work and quality ethic- a sacred devotion to servitude, honor and integrity.

Mizuno Running Shoe History
Founded in Osaka, Japan in 1906, Mizuno has a rich history of innovation and involvement in sport that includes an early employee profit sharing plan for Mizuno workers. Mizuno's founders and leadership have won numerous awards for civic contributions and commerce.

Mizuno designed and distributed team sports gear in 1906 and moved into tennis, ski and later golf, where they remain a powerhouse. Mizuno earned numerous medals for philanthropy in Japanese sports programs. In 1964 Mizuno became one of the first to award company stock to all employees, returning a share of profits to workers. Mizuno co-branded with Speedo of Australia in 1966. Rihachi Mizuno was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and signed sponsorship agreements with Pete Rose. Mizuno also signed a technical agreement with Russell USA. Their golf clubs were inducted into the U.S. Golf Hall of Fame. In 1989 Mizuno formed Mizuno Corporation of America and the modern U.S. Mizuno was born. In the late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s Mizuno shoes were seen on the feet of elite triathletes like Scott Molina.

It may be the depth of this legacy that helped Mizuno chart a fresh course in shoe design. That course brought them to the current Mizuno Wave configuration. The design is so unique it is protected under US Patent Number 620568. This is worth knowing because it accounts for why these shoes are tangibly different from others you’ve run in.

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
What sets them apart: This is the patent-protected "Wave" system that reduces road shock with none of the drawbacks of gas or gel shock absorption systems.

There is a stiff plastic layer- the “Wave”- that is molded into the insole. The Wave provides the unique characteristics of the shoe. The wave deforms vertically under footstrike- the way a leaf spring under vertical compression distributes energy. This “Wave” of relatively rigid plastic is, in effect, a spring- or series of springs. This design absorbs energy vertically (shock at footstrike) but offers superior roll-control compared to foam cushioned, encapsulated gas or liquid gel cushioned shoes. I pulled the patent reference from the U.S. Patent Office on the unique Mizuno technology and the abstract for US Patent Number 620568 nailed it:

“transverse deformation [twisting] of the heel portion of the midsole can be prevented by the wave configuration of the corrugated sheet and running stability of the shoe can be ensured.”

The cushioning in this shoe is mechanical- and directional. You can’t do that will gel, foam, air or fluid. It may not sound feasible that a piece of stiff plastic can provide adequate shock absorption, but it does. When you try it, you’ll be impressed. The Wave energy management idea isn’t a gimmick. It provides several tangible benefits:

Benefit 1: The shoe feels solid and stable but offers excellent cushion- a tough combination to achieve.

Benefit 2: The shock absorption is accomplished with less material, making the shoe lighter than most gel, foam and gas cushioned shoes and providing a lower ride than higher-heel cushion shoes, further mitigating heel strike through shoe geometry.

Benefit 3: Because the absorption is “mechanical” it will not leach out of the midsole like encapsulated gas or gel resulting in greater durability.

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
The color schemes of the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 are as distinctive as the shoe's technology.

The Wave is sandwiched in fairly traditional EVA foam and skinned in Mizuno’s X10 outsole material- the black stuff that hits the ground and keeps the shoe from wearing out. Previous Mizuno designs were criticized for low wear but the introduction of the Wave patented design will likely extend wear life. The more generous application of X10 rubber to the outsole on the new Wave Elixir 5 will likely improve wear also.

As part of my research on any shoe I read the other reviewer’s comments on the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5. As with many shoes, the comments were all over the map but did tend to follow a theme: Testers above 175 pounds detected little change from the previous version. Lighter testers (140 lb.s +/-) reported enhanced stiffness to the Wave Elixir 5 over the previous Wave Elixir 4. Runner’s World magazine felt the transition from the previous version, the Wave Elixir 4 to the new (current) Wave Elixir 5 was significant enough to warrant a “Best Update” award for 2010. Having only run in our test shoe, the Wave Elixir 5, I can only offer that the shoe does have truly excellent roll control. It also has slightly better shock damping that you would imagine. The plastic, EVA layered “Wave” does its job on foot strike. It’s the cushion shoe that isn’t blubbery. Think BMW “5” series ride quality: Sporty and luxurious.

And how does it wear, run and fit?

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
Considering the degree of shock absorption the Wave system provides the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 rides relatively low- another benefit of the Wave technology.


These shoes are relatively tailored and straight. They fit me with precision and my feet are down-the-middle average (size 9 to 9.5 average width, average arch: a shoe tester’s foot). I landed in the size 9.5 with a light sock. The fit is tailored- there isn’t any slop. I tried the 9, 9.5 and 10. Width is average or “tailored average”. I read one review that suggested this forefoot fit wide- what shoe was he testing? It isn’t excessively wide. That reviewer must have feet like a hen.

“The Wave provides so much roll control it is like meeting a fellow with a really large nose- it takes a while to notice anything but the nose…”

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
Fit on the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 is trim and tailored, without excess width. I measure a size 9 and tested a 9.5 shoe after trying on 9, 9.5 and 10.

Running in the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5.

The roll control feature of the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 and the hollow space in the center of the heel mean this shoe looks- and works- like a new horseshoe. Your feet want to engage the ground squarely. To some people that might feel odd- having your foot corrected to level as your heel strikes. If you’re a mid-foot striker or a neutral runner, no problem.

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
The horse-shoe shaped heel provides substantial guidance if you are a heel striker.

The forefoot is very flexible, pushing off is light and quick. My overall impression is of the roll control afforded by the Wave and of the heel, even though this shoe does not ride high. The Wave provides so much roll control it is like meeting a fellow with a really large nose- it takes a while to notice anything but the nose. I did notice that at higher speeds (under 8:30 pace) the notion of the heel stability kind of “melds” into the rest of the shoe- probably because the geometry of a footstrike changes at faster speeds. The faster you go, the better The Wave Elixir 5 gets. The overall impression of this shoe is straight, low and fast. The ride is sporty. It is a shoe for a moderate pronator since there is more “shoe” in the horse shoe/heel section of the medial sole of the shoe- more shoe toward the center preventing it from rolling in.

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
The light and airy acid green color scheme with the black wave sole is distinctive.

With a pair of speed laces for fast donning in T2 you have a pair of race cars on your feet. The colorways on the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 are contrasty and bold, with a hot silver/acid green upper riding on a low slung black chassis and a sinister black with orange rally accents. They look different- they run different.

There are thousands of running shoes but almost none like the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5. Mizuno has achieved something difficult in the crowded running shoe industry- a tangibly different technology that works and feels great. Before you buy a sporty trainer with good guidance and fast foot feel it is worth seeking out the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5, I think you’ll be glad you did.

Mizuno Wave Elixir 5
With features as unique as its appearance the new version of the Mizuno Wave Elixir 5 creates its own shoe category.
]]> 1
K-Swiss Blade Light Running Shoes Mon, 09 Aug 2010 23:11:21 +0000 K-Swiss Blade Light RaceK-Swiss continues a legacy of innovation and valid design with their refreshing new, gossamer weight Blade Light shoes- the Race and the Run. We take both for a test run and discover some interesting characteristics from the valid new design, and a criticism as well…]]> K-Swiss Blade Light Race

By Tom Demerly.

K-Swiss Blade Running Shoes
The new K-Swiss Blade Light Race and Blade Light Run use interesting new sole designs to provide a dreamy ride.

There is a Zen axiom that having a “beginner’s mind” is the best place to start any new endeavor. K-Swiss believed that when they began their triathlon running shoe program. As a result the new K-Swiss Blade Light Run and Blade Light Race both have tangibly different- and noteworthy- distinctions from the vanilla assortment of generic running and racing shoes. In terms of ride quality- both these shoes are a homerun, the new high bar in tri-specific road feel.

Despite the name, K-Swiss is inexorably an American company. The company logo is patterned after the U.S. Route 101 sign, the longest highway in California. The “K” refers to a common European adaptation of the “C” in California as interpreted by the two Swiss brothers who founded the company in 1966 after immigrating to the U.S. and becoming enamored with the “Kalifornia” lifestyle.
In a typically American way K-Swiss began as an innovator, the same ethos that pervades the new K-Swiss Blade Light Run and Blade Light Race. K-Swiss built the first all leather tennis shoe, designed for additional traction, motion control and durability.

Another uniquely American twist was a boost to K-Swiss brand visibility when rapper Ice-T wore K-Swiss shoes on the Arsenio Hall show in the early ‘90’s. The iconic rapper put his right foot up when a cameraman zoomed in on his shoe. Ice-T mentioned he had been wearing the K-Swiss “for years”. The result was an overnight brand explosion in a completely new, albeit fashion oriented, market category. Ice-T later told interviewer Henry Rollins, “I was on Arsenio, so I had them on. I walked on the stage, blah, blah, blah. The next day, like boom, kids just went for it…” Tennis darling and cover girl Anna Kournikova is another K-Swiss brand ambassador on and off the court.

K-Swiss Brand Ambassador
Athlete celebrity Anna Kournikova is a fashion and technical sport K-Swiss athlete, and a recreational triathlete.

The explosion in brand identity, but not necessarily technical validity, created a launch pad for K-Swiss to explore new markets and fund research into technically valid designs. Triathlon was one of their emerging markets. Fat with capital from their fashion/lifestyle successes K-Swiss went long and deep into technical Triathlon shoes, signing a 5 year contract with Ironman as the “Official” Ironman shoe. In addition to the marketing K-Swiss built the underpinnings of a technically valid triathlon specific running shoe line through valid sports testing, research and development.

K-Swiss started a top professional triathlon team of 22 athlete, testers-ambassadors including Norwegian uberbiker Bjorn Andersson, Amanda Balding, home grown Ironman sensation Hilary Biscay, swarthy New Zealand heart throb and 70.3 World Champ Terenzo Bozzone, local girl Leanda Cave, the hard working 5- time Ironman winner Heather Golnick, Belinda Granger, Ironman World Champion 2nd place and 3 time Ironman winner Chris Lieto, Olympic triathlete Matt Reed, 4-Time Ironman Champion Luke McKenzie and Katja Meyers. This cadre of athletes has direct input with product development specific to the triathlon market. K-Swiss athlete Chris Lieto told

“K-Swiss is new to this market but they are here for the long haul and they are committed to the sport. It has truly been an exciting process to be part of their product development team for this market segment. You will start to see K-Swiss everywhere in the sport of triathlon. They are committed. They are here to stay…”

K-Swiss Pro Athletes
K-Swiss uses their athletes for development as well as branding and marketing. Their 41 sponsored pros have garnered at least 41 major race titles and over 89 major race podiums. A running tally is available at www.kswiss/andcounting/

K-Swiss’ latest introductions are the Blade Light series. The two shoes in the series, Blade Light Run and Blade Light Race, use the same outsole and midsole featuring unique Superfoam energy return foam that K-Swiss claims lasts longer than other energy return foams in running shoes and the serrated energy return outsole design. The uppers on the two shoes are completely different: The Blade Light Run has a conventionally configured upper using 14 eyelets and shoe laces. The Blade Race uses a triathlon specific upper with a reduced toe box, stretch upper and single Velcro wrap closure.

K-Swiss Blade Light and Blade Light Race Running Shoes
The K-Swiss Blade Light Run (Left) and Blade Light Race (Right) Both shoes use the same sole design.

The shoes are both light, weighing exactly 9.5 ounces for the K-Swiss Blade Light Run and only 8.8 ounces for the gossamer K-Swiss Blade Light Race. We weighed each shoe in a size 9.5 U.S.

K-Swiss Blade Light Race Weight
At only 8.8 ounces actual measured weight the K-Swiss Blade Light Race is the same weight as 5 energy gels- for a shoe!

How They Run.
The heel and forefoot on both these shoes has sports car handling and overall ride. They are fun to run in. Both shoes have a surprising amount of guidance for a cushion shoe. They are feather light and sporty underfoot. You feel fast. The ventilation is amazing- you can actually feel air coming through the bottom of the shoe. Normally a lightweight bikini-bottom shoe like this gives away motion control and guidance, and these are not motion control shoes- but they are reassuringly stable.

K-Swiss uses low density EVA shock absorbing foam configured in their “Guide Glide” orientation that gives the shoes an oddly stable ride. Cushioned? Absolutely. Motion control? This shoe tester weighs 170 pounds, is 5’9” tall and wore a size 9.5 for the test in both shoes. While K-Swiss doesn’t mention motion control I found this shoe oddly stable for something so light. Under hard cornering the Blade Light Race seemed to “run off” their forefoot a trifle for me. I noticed it, but it doesn’t worry me. Another tester, Matt Simons, is 20 pounds lighter than me and the same height. Matt felt they cornered with precision.

K-Swiss Blade Light Detail
These are the innovative K-Swiss shock absorbing "blades" that provide tangible cushioning and great ride at minimal weight.

The overwhelming impression of both shoes is their balanced guidance, great cushioning from the serrated outsole “blades” and absolutely airy feel. I felt light and fast in these- and I am neither. I’ve raced in Zoot race specific shoes and even the ancient Nike Sock Racer stretch upper shoes. The K-Swiss interpretation of sole construction for an ultra light triathlon racer is the best so far in this reviewer’s opinion. These are a high water mark in triathlon race shoes.

I love both suspension systems on the shoes- since they are the same. The traditional upper on the Blade Light Run is predictably more secure feeling than the transition optimized, stretch upper Blade Light Race.

K-Swiss Blade Light 360 View
The K-Swiss Blade Light Run uses a traditionally configured upper with laces and a speed-donning loop on the tongue. This would be a fantastic race shoe when combined with elsatic speed laces. Note the drainage holes in the sole.

I couldn’t get the Velcro closure to line up on the Blade Light Race very precisely on my foot or any of our fit testers, with a healthy amount of hook showing below the closure and a big flap of pile above the closure over the tongue. We tried the shoes on different fit testers- 2 females and 4 males, and found the same thing. The Velcro didn’t align on the closure. When I asked K-Swiss Director of Performance Footwear, Mark Sheehan, about it he said, “We suggest people align the strap cosmetically and then make adjustments based on feel. “ The Velcro does needs to be open during high speed donning of the shoe, and then manually closed- I couldn’t get my foot in the shoe with the Velcro already closed.

K-Swiss Blade Light Race Shoe
Our testers didn't get good alignment with the velcro closure on the K-Swiss Blade Light Race as you can see in these photos. The shoe still fastened securely, but the velcro didn't line up well on most of our testers. K-Swiss suggested this fit would be different on individual athletes.

Another feature I thought was oddly absent on the Blade Light Race was a grip-loop on the tongue for quick donning. I presume K-Swiss intends we grab the tongue for quick donning, but a loop would have been nicer. There is one on the Blade Light Run.

K-Swiss Blade Light Detail
The speed doning loop on the K-Swiss Blade Light Run is conspicuously absent on the Blade Light Race- perhaps as a weight saving measure.

I could actually get the conventionally configured Blade Light Run (the shoe with laces) on faster with stretch speed laces installed than I could pull the Blade Light Race on and close the Velcro upper. As a result, I would use the Blade Light Run for training days and also race with it using speed laces. On super hot race days in shorter events the Blade Light Race shoe is a fine choice. K-Swiss shows photos of a different closure/tongue design on the K-Swiss website, so the closure on the newest version shoe has already been re-worked to allow a degree of latitude in fit. Try the shoe on; if it works for you while simulating a quick transition- you have a match. If not, buy the Blade Light Run instead and install speed laces. Ultimately what you’re buying is the great ventilation, feather weight response and comfy ride from the novel outsole design. K-Swiss was smart to built two different uppers on this sole platform.

K-Swiss Blade Light Race
The K-Swiss Blade Light Race is a fantastic looking, racy styled shoe with the single velcro closure speed-doning feature.

With its gossamer weight, screen door ventilation and performance tuned ride the K-Swiss Blade Light Run is one of the most valid entries to the triathlon race shoe category ever. I like the concept of the Blade Light Race in its current version but look forward to some updates including a donning loop on the tongue and better alignment of the Velcro wrap- or a robust stretch closure that eliminates the Velcro closure altogether along with the extra step of reaching for the Velcro during donning. In the mean time, I’d still race in it at shorter distances. My pick of the litter from this duo is the K-Swiss Blade Light Run combined with stretch speed laces as the current high water mark for tri specific race shoes.

K-Swiss Blade Running Shoes
K-Swiss has done a fine job with their new Blade Light shoes. The novel outsole design provides better ride and guidance than any lightweight tri-specific run shoe I've tried going way back to the first examples such as the Nike Sock Racer from the late 1980's. This is the new standard for tri-specific race shoes.
]]> 2