Footwear Reviews – TriSports University The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 08 Feb 2018 19:09:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Footwear Reviews – TriSports University 32 32 Product Review: Pierce Footwear T1 Triathlon Shoe Tue, 06 Jun 2017 21:39:07 +0000 Written by Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a family owned business in Tucson, Arizona which retails a wide range of products from athletes’ favorite brands. They provide personal service and recommendations for all levels of athletes as well as support the growth and quality of the sport across the country and in […]]]>

Written by Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a family owned business in Tucson, Arizona which retails a wide range of products from athletes’ favorite brands. They provide personal service and recommendations for all levels of athletes as well as support the growth and quality of the sport across the country and in their backyard.

Pierce Footwear is a newer company who entered the shoe domain a few years ago and they have gained traction in sections of the market due to the ease of donning the shoe. As a World Champion Duathlete it can be assured that the founder George Pierce knows something about getting in and out of shoes quickly. A fresh pair of Pierce T1 shoes arrived at my door mid-winter during my build for the Boston Marathon. Every athlete knows what that means! They need to be taken for a spin and the unique closure system needed to be tested. However, shoes cannot be judged by one run. During my review process, I took some time to try them in different places. Even in some races, terrain can be a combination of asphalt, concrete, dirt trail, grass, and track which is why these shoes required me to put them through the paces (pun intended) and to take some time for me to come to my final review.

First Impressions:
The T1 by Pierce are bright with a large one piece material cover and latch closure. Pierce has done away with a traditional tongue and lace system. These shoes have a side closure system that feels like a wide soft strap across the top of your foot with a latch you attach to the outside of your foot. The tension is adjustable at the top and bottom by adjusting which hole in the rubber latch you connect to the top or bottom hooks allowing individuals to set a personal tightness level that will stay the same each time the shoes are on. The shoe is light, with a neutral feel, does not heat up your foot, and goes on very easily.

The Running Tests:
Getting the shoe on:
  When placing a foot into the shoe it feels comfortable and roomy, adjusting the latch to hold your foot snugly and comfortably at the top is easy and works great.

  1. Hitting the Road: The T1 is light, grippy along the toe and heel in multiple conditions and feels responsive if not fast, but also a bit unyielding. My foot does not sink and settle into the midsole for the classic plush ride that I am accustomed to on my non-racing neutral training shoes. Due to the closure system and being a triathlon shoe, an athlete may be planning to only race and do workouts in these shoes which would limit the importance of the soft ride that may keep the foot comfortable for higher mileage weeks. These shoes have all the feeling of a specialized race shoe with a specific purpose, but may be suitable for certain runners for everyday training. With the closure system I was not worried about a shoe becoming untied or having to adjust tension as I ran which is a large plus.
  2. Adding on the miles: The shoes held up well as I mixed them into my rotation while training for the Boston Marathon; I usually rotate three pairs of shoes during marathon training so it was easy to get some miles in on the T1 shoes on multiple surfaces. The first difficulty I incurred when I ran farther was the shape of my foot and the shape of the shoe around the proximal metatarsal and navicular region of my feet. For me, that part of the shoe is too loose and it is non-adjustable, this required that I wear socks for all of my runs in the T1 which I do not do when racing in a triathlon. When I did try to run without socks, I quickly developed a hot spot on the inner arch. On a shoe with a lace system it is possible to snug up the arch while leaving the toe box wide; the T1 fit me fantastically on the top of the foot and the toe box is wide and comfortable, but my mid-foot did not have the same level of support. That being said, each foot is different and if you believe you have wide or normal-width feet the shoe will probably fit you well throughout.
  3. Triathlon specific: I was able to consistently get in and out of the shoes in less than 10 seconds with a transition run-up. See the video below for the display of the ease of getting into these shoes and getting them tightened.

The Fit:
To determine the size of Pierce T1’s that will fit you best, first select a current running shoe that you enjoy the fit, especially the inner length. More information is available on the Pierce website along with the chart. You will be measuring the length of the insole of the shoes you want to use to mimic sizing.

When you receive the shoes you can quickly adjust the strap on both ends to get a comfortable snug fit around the top of the foot and the rest of the shoe is there waiting for you. Nothing else to do then but run!

The Physical Therapy Perspective:
One thing to remember is that every athlete is different, thus, they have a different “normal.” If you are used to supportive pronation control shoes for all of your runs, then the T1 will feel very different under your foot and arch. A new shoe could require an athlete to adjust to the drop, the support, and the general fit. Anytime a runner attempts to make too many changes at once, there is risk that the stress may become too high for the body to adapt to which means there is potential for getting aches, or even worse, injuries. If you do not normally wear a neutral shoe, you should take your time to adjust and to build mileage slowly when switching to the Pierce T1 shoes. The T1 feels like a stiff neutral shoe in its ride, which means it compares well to many of my favorite shoes in ride but also requires a fresh foot to handle the underfoot stiffness. The snug fitting sock-like top takes pressure off an athlete’s tibialis anterior tendon, extensor tendons, extensor retinaculum, along with arteries and nerves that travel the path along the top of your foot compared to laces which can be stiffer and more restrictive, especially as your foot swells in the shoe during a run. Most of us have encountered the discomfort of going for a run with our laces accidentally tied too tight, but this will not be a problem with a pair of T1’s. Overall, the Pierce T1 shoes are unique, performance-specific footwear that provides a fast feel and would be easily favored by those who prefer a stiff, responsive, neutral ride after T2.

The Take-Aways:
Specialized triathlon shoe

  • Lace-less and tongue-less with fast and comfortable closure system
  • Fit is set throughout the mid-foot and toe due to the one piece construction which can leave some parts loose or tight without the ability to adjust as able with laces
  • Stiff mid-sole feels fast and responsive, less forgiving over long distances with decreased conformation to the foot

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About the Author: Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with Manual Therapy Certification and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Colorado Springs.  He works with athletes in their homes and in the field through Parton Physical Therapy (, spends his free time triathlon training with the support of, and enjoys getting lost in the mountains with his wife, Jessica.








Product Guide: Beginner’s Guide to Triathlon Shoes Fri, 05 Aug 2016 20:57:14 +0000 Tri ShoesWritten by Stefanie Peterson Triathlon is notorious for the breadth of equipment needed to compete in the many distances and environments across the globe. If the physical feat alone doesn’t provoke one’s judgment into question, the amount of gear required may cause the most eager athlete to second guess their chosen hobby. With each piece […]]]> Tri Shoes

Written by Stefanie Peterson

Line of Men's Tri ShoesTriathlon is notorious for the breadth of equipment needed to compete in the many distances and environments across the globe. If the physical feat alone doesn’t provoke one’s judgment into question, the amount of gear required may cause the most eager athlete to second guess their chosen hobby. With each piece of equipment comes a plethora of brands and models to choose from, each brand claiming to be even lighter and more aerodynamic than their competitors. It’s enough to make one’s head spin attempting to research and compare which products are not to be overlooked, and what features are most desirable for today’s triathlete.

Comparison Tri Shoe Chart
Check out our Triathlon Cycling Shoe Comparison Chart

The Birth of the Triathlon Shoe:
While it’s unclear which company debuted the first triathlon-specific bike shoe, SiDi was the first shoe to introduce Velcro to their cycling shoes in 1983. Modern cycling shoes found their beginning in 1984, when the French company LOOK transformed the cycling world with their clipless pedals instead of the usual toe clips. Carnac Cycling Shoes was a French company whose claim to fame was patenting the UCS Interchangeable Insert system in 1989, as well as variable sole stiffness using swappable bridges. Although very little can be found about the company now, some say that the Carnac TRS series were the first cycling shoes built and marketed specifically for triathletes.

Many of these advancements in footwear technology were not invented specifically for triathlon; however, in conjunction with the rapid growth of triathlon in the late 80’s and the International Triathlon Union’s start in 1989, these features were adopted by triathletes as necessities in cycling shoes, later giving birth to a new category.

Women's Tri Shoes
What Makes a Good Triathlon Shoe?

Triathlon specific cycling shoes were adapted from the road shoe, with key features that make them better suited for triathletes getting in and out of transitions as fast as possible. The features that differentiate a triathlon shoe from road shoe are:

  • ·         Ventilation and Drainage: Triathlon shoes are designed to allow athletes to ride without socks and have improved ventilation and drainage through vents in the toe of the shoe and holes found in the sole. These features deliver quick-drying breathability and aids in water dispersal from the swim to easily exit through these vents. Additionally, tri shoes tend to have more padding inside the shoe and fewer seams as many triathletes skip socks when competing to further save time in transition. Lightweight mesh and perforated material used in the shoe upper also helps to improve ventilation.

    Drainage and Ventilation on the Sole
    Drainage and Ventilation on the Sole
  •       Pull Tab: Typically, cycling shoes do not use pull tabs. In triathlon shoes, the pull tab is oversized to help triathletes hook their finger to pull the shoe on more easily while sitting on the bike.

    The Variety of Pull Tab Looks
    The Variety of Pull Tab Looks
  • Rubber Band Loop: It is becoming more common to see rubber band loops on a tri shoes to help keep the shoes upright when clipped into the pedals in T1 to make the flying mount execution a successful one. The rubber band loop may be a second loop on the pull tab for some models, or an additional loop on the side of the shoe.·        
    Rubber Band Double Loops
    Rubber Band Double Loops

    Rubber Band Double Loops
    Rubber Band Double Loops
  • Wide Foot Opening: A wide foot opening is a must for triathletes to promote ease for barefoot mounting at transition, reducing transition time.
  • Straps and Retention System: Most triathlon shoes have one or two straps, compared to the typical three-strap system seen in many road shoes. The straps are most often Velcro, providing fast fastening and, more commonly, offer straps that can be trimmed without fraying, as to not have excess material rubbing on the crank arm and interfering with the pedal stroke. A few shoes have wire retention in conjunction with the Velcro, as seen in many cycling shoes to provide a more secure fit, resulting in more efficient power transfer. These shoes are designed with the long course triathlete in mind.

    Tri Shoe Straps
    The Different Straps and Retention Systems Available for Tri Shoes

Choosing the Right Triathlon Shoe:
A good tri shoe must effectively blend features to enhance fast entry and exit, power transfer, and foot security, while providing elements to improve comfort. With all the brands and models to choose from, each additional feature will determine what price bracket the shoe falls into, so let’s examine what these features are and the benefits they deliver to the athlete. Things to consider when picking the perfect tri shoe:

Women's LG Tri X-Lite
Women’s LG Tri X-Lite, The Lightest Tri Shoe at 212g


A stiff sole is more efficient in transferring power, but may cause foot discomfort. A more flexible sole may compromise some efficiency for comfort, as energy from the pedal stroke is absorbed in the softer sole. The sole material used contributes to overall shoe weight and rigidity of its sole. Soles may be crafted from the following materials:

  • Nylon soles being the cheapest and heaviest, but durable; typically a good entry-level tri shoe.
  • Composite soles are mid-level shoes, offering more stiffness and durability with less weight than its nylon counterparts as it is typically blended with carbon among other materials.
  • Carbon soles provide the lightest and stiffest of all tri shoes, but also come with the heftiest price tag.
Pearl Izumi Men’s Tri Fly Octane 2 Cycling Shoes, the Lightest Men’s Tri Shoe weighing a mere 218g
The Lightest Men’s Tri Shoe: Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Octane II

Custom Fit:
Shoe manufacturers are doing their best to provide the most custom fit possible to triathletes. A proper bike fit will take shoes into consideration, as different shoes may affect saddle height, among other factors.

Adjustability: From arch supports to strap lengths, different shoes offer the ability to get the shoe customized to fit your unique foot. Some brands come with a variety of arch support heights, so whether you have flat or high arches, your shoes will fit like a glove. Heat molding for the insole can be found in high-end shoes, often using a microwave to heat the insole for a custom fit. Straps, as mentioned before, are seeing more and more models that offer trimmable straps to dial in the exact length without having the ends fray.

Proper Fit: Don’t look for triathlon shoes to fit like your running kicks. Tri shoes are meant to be snug with just enough room in the toe box to move your toes. Feet should not slip forward and backwards in the shoe; instead your foot should be cradled with enough room to wiggle your toes, keeping blood circulation moving. The heel cup should cradle the heel of your foot snuggly; the heel should not lift up and down while pedaling, causing blisters or hot spots- not good before starting the run leg of your triathlon.

Upper: Since many triathletes don their tri shoes sockless, the inside of the shoe is typically more padded and seamless to increase comfort and reduce the likelihood of blisters. The better the shoe, the more breathable, lighter, and suppler the upper material will be, adding to a more comfortable shoe fit.

Tri Shoe Upper and Vent Options
Variety of Upper and Vent Options

Strap Closure Direction: Most triathletes leave their shoes mounted to the pedals with straps undone for quick entry in T1. Triathletes have learned the hard way, straps that open inwards, towards the drivetrain, may be likely casualties of getting caught in the cassette. However, more triathlon shoes are mixing it up in which direction the strap closes. There is no right way a tri shoe strap should close; it comes down to preference and what is easiest to don.

There is no right or wrong direction for a tri shoe strap closure

Replaceable Heel Pads: Overtime, the foot you favor when unclipping at stops will see rapid wear and tear on the sole, as compared to your less dominant leg. Having replaceable heel pads is nice to extend the shelf life of your tri shoes.

Replace Heel Pads
Replace Heel Pads as seen on the SiDi Men’s T-4 Air Carbon Triathlon Cycling Shoes

Cleat Compatibility: Some shoes are only compatible with particular cleats. For some, this is fine in the road and tri cycling world, but for others that like to commute or use their shoes between a mountain bike and road bike, they will want compatibility with mountain bike cleats, often referred to as SPD, which really stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics. SPD, better referred to as mountain bike pedals, has become the “Kleenex of tissues,” and requires the narrower two-bolt system to fasten the cleat to the shoe. The three-bolt cleat system is used in road and tri shoes, such as SPD-SL, LOOK, and Time and are much more difficult for walking, but these are meant for cycling after all. Speedplay cleat systems employ the four-bolt system. With all road cleats, they protrude from the sole and are a larger cleat that offers greater force to spread over a wider area of the pedal, reducing stress on contact points throughout high pedal volume.

Vittoria Thl Evo
Vittoria Men’s THL EVO Tri Shoe weighing in at 274g

With the immense range of features a triathlon shoe may boast, such as rubber band loops, replaceable heel pads, the list goes on, the best shoes for your feet are the ones your feet like the best. Each foot is unique, and regardless of all the bells and whistles a tri shoe may contain, personal preference and comfort will trump any and all features…every single time.

Men's Tri Shoes
The many tri shoe features available come second to personal preference and comfort!

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About the Author: Stefanie Peterson is a former NCAA volleyball and 400meter athlete, who has transitioned to the world of endurance sports. She’s raced a variety of venues and distances, from Seward, Alaska’s infamous Mt. Marathon and the TransRockies Run, to the National 24 Hour Challenge and Ironman Wisconsin. Stefanie’s favorite place is on the trails, trail running and mountain biking. She served as a journalist for a magazine abroad and writes for a variety of publications.
























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!

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Hoka One One Bondi Speed – A New Direction In Natural Running Footwear. Mon, 06 May 2013 16:00:16 +0000 Natural running has been a hot topic the last few years. With the release of Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, the idea of natural running was unleashed on the masses and hit the ground running. Most companies scrambled to make a shoe that was thinner and lighter – one that would make the running experience feel more natural...]]>

Written by Eric Mellow for

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Natural running has been a hot topic the last few years. With the release of Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, the idea of natural running was unleashed on the masses and hit the ground running. Most companies scrambled to make a shoe that was thinner and lighter – one that would make the running experience feel more natural. Unfortunately, the romanticized idea of running dusty trails like the Tarahumara Indians isn’t the reality for most of us, and running on cement in incredibly thin shoes ended for many in discomfort and injury. Some of that had to do with jumping into shoes with a low heel-to-toe drop and no cushioning, and not allowing time for adaptation. While we’re here, I think now is an appropriate time to have a quick discussion about natural running and low drop shoes.

(Low) Drop It Like It’s Hot.

First and foremost, if you are going to switch to the Bondi Speed, or any low drop shoe for that matter, from a “regular” running shoe, you’re going to have to scale back your mileage so your body can adapt. This is no joke; if you change to low drop shoes and run your regular mileage, you’re just asking for an injury. With a lower heel height, a low drop shoe puts more stress on your Achilles tendons and calf muscles. Start with 20-30 minute runs and build up from there. If you feel especially sore the next day, don’t be afraid to switch back to your regular shoes for a couple runs, and make sure you’re stretching your calf muscles and keeping them loose.

Only Wizards With Guns Have Magic Bullets.

Second, will low drop shoes prevent injuries and make you faster? Just wearing low drop shoes won’t, but there’s a chance that running naturally (a more mid to forefoot strike under your body instead of heel striking out in front of your body) could do both of those things. So how do you know if you should switch to low drop shoes and try natural running? If you’re successfully running in “regular” running shoes with no recurring injuries, I’d say stick with what is working. If you seem to be plagued with injuries, you’re a good candidate to give low drop shoes and natural running a try. Although changing from your natural running form makes you less efficient, it has the potential to reduce your chance for injuries, thus allowing you to train more consistently and in turn become faster.

Are They Made In Texas? Everything’s Bigger!

OK, now that you know whether or not you should switch and how to adapt once you do, let’s talk about the Hoka One One Bondi Speed. The first thing you’ll notice about Hoka One One shoes is how big they are; I affectionately call them my moon boots. Their midsoles range from 1.8-2.5 times the volume of a “regular” shoe, apparently dissipating up to 80% of the shock. The midsole is also 25% wider in order to counterbalance the added height, but this added surface area means you’ll also have the benefit of an incredibly stable platform. Although they look big, they’re incredibly light. The Bondi Speed weighs in at just 9.5 ounces, making it lighter than many of the most popular “regular” training shoes.

Like A Glove.

When I first slipped on the Bondi Speed I found them immediately to be very comfortable, with a great fit. The fit is a bit snug in the heel, with a more average fit through the arch and forefoot. Even with the quick lacing system I was able to snug them up to my liking, although I prefer the fit with the regular laces (the Bondi Speed comes with both). One thing I should mention about the quick lace system is that these are not the elastic laces that most aftermarket quick laces use, allowing you to set your fit and just slip your foot in and out of the shoe by pulling the tongue open. The Bondi Speed quick lace system can still be adjusted quickly and easily, but the laces have no stretch in them at all. Another thing of note is that you’ll have to cut the quick laces to get them off, so you can’t switch back to them after putting the regular laces in.

Like A Puppy Wrapped In Marshmallows – Now That’s Soft!

The Bondi Speed is extremely cushioned, and that became immediately apparent even when I just stood up in them. I’ve never experienced a shoe this soft and light. Honestly, it took me a little while to wrap my head around how cushioned they are, but I wasn’t imagining things – according to Hoka One One, their midsole foam is 30% softer than the material used in traditional running shoes. The real test, however, would be running in them.


As I’m primarily a road runner, the first test for the Bondi Speed was on one of my favorite paved loops. If you think you can notice the cushion when you first put them on, just wait until you start running, as that is where the cushion is really noticeable. Unfortunately, for me, it was too much; the feeling was just something I couldn’t get used to. My time for my loop wasn’t any different than it normally is, but I just felt like I was fighting the shoes – as if I was running in sand. When I put that personal feeling aside, I realized that I really like how stable the ride is. Also, you can really bomb the hills with them. Want to go full speed downhill without feeling the ill effects of that brutal eccentric loading? The Bondi Speed is your shoe. Although the Bondi Speed wouldn’t become my everyday running shoe, I could definitely see how great it would be for long runs…like, really long runs. I bet you’d feel wonderful after running a marathon or longer in them.

Take Two.

Since Hoka One One calls themselves, “The Ultra Running Company,” and most ultra marathons don’t take place on the road, I felt it was only fair to test them on the trail. Now, I know they have other styles that are made more specifically for trail running, but my gut feeling is that this is where the Hokas would really shine, and I was right. Coming from the Midwest, I feel like I should explain to everyone who doesn’t live in Arizona what the “trails” are like here. They’re not the dirt singletrack snaking through the beautiful grass and trees of some sunlit mountain that most people envision when they picture a trail. Arizona trails are lined with a variety of spikey plants and are littered with rocks – some small and sharp, some large enough that they’re affectionately called “baby heads,” but rarely is there just a flat, smooth section.

Running the trails in the Bondi Speed was like switching from a regular mountain bike to a 29er, or driving through the local Target parking lot in a monster truck – it didn’t matter what was in front of me, once it was underfoot it didn’t exist. Although the Hokas are taller, the wider outsole left me feeling as stable as I would in a shorter shoe. Again, the downhills were a breeze with all of that cushioning, and the only thing that slowed me down was the potential of losing control and ending up hugging a cactus. This time I didn’t have the feeling that the shoes were too soft; there was hardly any feeling of fighting the shoes or running through sand. I guess the varying (softer?) terrain and the fact that you’re not exactly running in a straight line makes all the difference?

The Lowdown.

To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve been running for roughly 18 years and I’m relatively fast, so I tend to lean towards shoes that are a little more performance oriented. I have a hard time trying to imagine using the Bondi Speed for my everyday training shoe, as I constantly feel like I want something harder, so I can feel the impact more. It may seem crazy to some of you, but personally, I need that feedback. Anyway, since this is my review, you’re going to get my opinion, but I’m sure there are others out there. So, here’s what I think. I think the Bondi Speed would be a great shoe for anything marathon distance or longer if you’re a faster runner, or maybe half marathon and up if you’re an average runner or are just looking for something that is extremely cushioned, stable, and will not leave you feeling beat up. I also think it would be good for Ironman races, since you’re already tired and beat up at that point. In addition, Hokas are a killer trail shoe, although you’d probably want to use one of their trail specific shoes instead of the Bondi Speed. Either way, I can guarantee you that you’ll never put a softer, more cushioned shoe on your feet than a Hoka One One.

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Asics Gel Lyte 33: A Different Kind of Asics. Thu, 19 Jul 2012 22:59:41 +0000 Tired of the same old shoe review with overused cliches? Me too. So instead of "reviewing" the new Gel Lyte 33 let me take you on a run with it. It's a different way to experience a new direction from an old company.]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Asics takes a new direction from previous designs with their innovative Gel Lyte 33.

A contributor on the forum opined that Asics shoe designs had gone “stale”. I gave a one word response: “Yup”.

The Gel Lyte 33 is a completely new direction for Asics, and a needed breath of fresh air.


While Asics is a brand leader in running I must concede that, had Asics released a shoe called the “Asics Gel Whatever 2,349”, the 2,349th version of the same shoe with minor changes, I would have reached for the thesaurus to figure out a way to say the same thing over again. Yawn. That’s notthe case with their new Gel Lyte 33. It’s a completely new design and direction for Asics, and a needed breath of fresh air.

Instead of a lot of stitching and metallic or polymer eyelets Asics streamlined and lightened the architechture of the Gel Lyte 33 with this molded polymer external structure or "exoskeleton".

My eyes lit up when I opened the new Asics Gel Lyte 33. This is a different kind of shoe, not just from Asics, but from most other brands. In reverence for their much-needed departure from a rather stale (albeit, still functional) norm, we’re doing a different review. Pull on a pair of these new Asics Gel Lyte 33’s and come for a run with me:

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 6:06 PM Mountain Time: “River Loop” Tucson, Arizona, Rillito River Multi-Use Path.

Deserts don’t have rivers. But it’s monsoon season so there is a trickle in the center of the sandy gash through North Tucson called the Rillito River.

I leave my house just south of the River Path and head north. It’s concrete and asphalt until the first delightful stretch of pea gravel where my knees get a break from the hard pavement. The Gel Lyte 33’s are on, and so is the Garmin 110. It’s 91 degrees, no wind, high, gray clouds broken off a grayer horizon. Maybe rain in the next hour, or after dark. Hopefully. There is a taste of humidity- odd for here.

Eric took the Gel Lyte 33 for a quick run for photos and came away saying, "These are light, but they feel great!". He just summarized a 1500 word review.

Pain is common with my first 200 steps. I’m 50. I’m 165 pounds and 5’9″. I’ve also had numerous knee surgeries. I’m not a “runner”, but I still run. Always have. My legs are throbbing from a fast 20 minute bike commute home. This is my daily “brick” training, and I can run as fast off my bike on tired legs, or faster, than I can on a stand alone run- which is to say, not all that fast. A 7:00 pace is almost flat-out.

The Gel Lyte 33 is lighter than advertised at only 8.1 ounces for our test shoes. Our measurement of the outside of the forefoot and heel (manufactuers usually measure from the inside) was done on the outside of the shoe sole and indicated less drop than a traditional trainer but more than newer "flat" shoes.

It’s nice to have a lighter shoe and the Gel Lyte 33 is light. My normal training shoes hold a Green Superfeet insole and are a half motion control/half cushion model, but I switch shoes a lot since I review them for a living. It’s nice to pull on something light, and these are light, Asics says 8.6 ounces but our actual average of three weigh-ins on a tared scale showed only 8.0 ounces measured weight in a size 9.5.

Here is your route in the new Asics Gel Lyte 33: It's a mixed bag of pavement, perfect hardpack, some loose stone surface, a few little rollers and some tight cornering. Do this 6 mile run about five times in a pair of shoes and you'll know how they work.

But light weight comes at a price, and that price is usually some surrender of cushion and/or stability. So far though, the Gel Lyte 33 doesn’t hammer me. In fact, it is luxurious. I’m wary of the wobble associated with a cushion shoe, and this shoe has the look of a mid-’80’s Nike Phylon padded shoe. You had to have good balance to run in those. This isn’t that shoe though, and the only thing it has in common are the sole slots and the white midsole color. So far, so good. I expect this honeymoon to end soon though. Part of the ride control comes from a groove in the midsole called the “Guidance Line”. We’ll see how long it works.

These shoes are light. Light is fast. The geometry on these strikes a balance.

Lightweight eyelets and an unstructured heel save weight but the polymer exo-skeleton over the mesh maintains great control.

Right hand turn on hard pack, big sweeper. Then up to the left and over the pedestrian bridge, a little rise but a nasty ten steps about half as steep as a staircase. These shoes arelight. Light is fast. Lively. OK, they’ll start to hurt soon. You give away weight, you give away cushion and stability. I hit the half mile mark. Quick, tight turn up to the right after the bridge and onto another hardpack gravel section. Perfection. I’m on top of these shoes and they are fast. Most people don’t run on such a perfect surface but this is a good first half mile to warm up. This route is ideal for shoe testing though, there is a little of everything, not all of it pretty.

The geometry on these strikes a balance. I am not looking forward to sore calves (again) from another low drop shoe, but I hope for something more than a full blown 11.5 ounce super-trainer. Can’t there be something tuned perfectly for my weight and speed, or maybe just a little faster?

The sole geometry on this shoe strikes a balance between low drop and big drop motion control trainers. It's a good middle ground.

I’m on the gas and these things are racing flat light. Fast turnover, high knees. Good day today. Mile 1: 7:37. I usually am pretty slow on the first mile off the bike but that split is sprightly. Down under the bridge. My feet keep up with my descent easily since these kicks are plenty responsive. I anticipate wincing with the added footstrike on the downhill. I don’t. BMW ride all the way down under the bridge, push easily like a horse up the other side. So far- excellent. Light, super soft, no rolly-polly. Unusual.

The lightweight construction and lack of medial posting or a hard heel counter didn't remove a stable ride from the Gel Lyte 33.

Right turn, hardpack. Picking up speed now. Five miles to go. It’s easy to run fast in these, well, easy right now. The last section is entirely concrete and blacktop into a headwind and over a highway bridge. I don’t anticipate these shoes will be as “sprightly” then since my legs will likely be hammered from an ambitious pace. Two mile mark. 7:03. Bam.

This is an entirely different Asics shoe.

The two biggest climbs are on highway bridges that cross the river gulch. First one. Hard concrete. Dig, dig, dig. It’s easy to bring my legs up in these and maintain turnover, even on an uphill like this bridge. Want a cliche’? Responsive. It’s easy to raise my feet since the shoe is lighter.

The interior is nearly seamless and barefoot friendly for triathlons. Since the forefoot is meshy and open it drains well and stays cool.

Big sweeper to downhill. I’ll likely “run off” the soles of these under hard cornering at the bottom of this hill so I am preemptively cutting it wide. The upper is bantam construction, almost no stitching. My feet have the top down and no seat belts. I turn left to line up with the trail. Laser guided. The shoes stay put, good alignment, good sole angle. Impressed again. This isn’t the old Asics- they are lighter and livelier. Keep the power on.

While the Gel Lyte 33 is decidedly a street shoe I picked up debris that didn't dislodge on pavement while running groomed hardpack. It didn't change the feel, but I could hear it. The SoLyte midsole provided very good ride and control, even at the heel.

Blasting off the downhill and onto the flats this is where it gets real. 3 miles. Last split, 7:11- the hill took a little off  the pace but damn, that was easy. Plenty of gas in the tank. Minor headwind here, there always is, except when its worse. There is no one to chase so just concentrate. I mimic the African runners from our neighborhood who are presumably in London now. They seem so light on their feet. They run in shoes that are like ballet slippers. These shoes make me feel like they look. Why do I wear heavier shoes? The ride stays guided, light. If this is the “new” Asics; light, cushioned and nimble, it’s an impressive change.

The shoe at the top (in a different color combination, but the same shoe) has 30 miles on it, the bottom shoe is out of the box. Despite a minimum of carbon rubber reinforcement on the outsole we didn't see rapid wear. They seem to wear well.

False flat through mile 4 and mile 5. I’m still on top of these shoes, still hitting sub 7:30’s. A lighter shoe, I’m convinced, is a faster shoe. These feel faster. My splits say they are faster. Last mile. My legs are fresh enough to still have a choice of how fast I’m going, and that is what a good shoe design is all about; choice. Knees are still coming up, still a lot of legs left. At the finish a block from my house I was close to a PR on this course without working all that hard. The shoes, I’ll say helped. Lighter than what I’m accustomed to but still absolutely enough control.

This morning I’m not sore. This shoe was enough for me, and no more, and in that it’s a great pick.

The morning after a run in a new shoe can be ugly, especially if it was a fast run. This morning I’m not sore. This shoe was enough for me, and no more, and in that it’s a great pick. The big bonus: I’m running in these again.

Asics took a new direction with the Gel Lyte 33 and it is a fresh one. Lighter, still stable, softer, much more advanced upper design. They did a good job pulling stuff off of this shoe- no plastic heel counter, no plastic eyelets, no multidensity midsole. It is just one simple heel to toe swath of great design. The interior is barefoot friendly and the ride easy on tired legs.Triathletes; you are a pair of speed laces away from a great pair of race day and Ironman shoes. The old Asics you know with a lot of trim and a heavily guided, admittedly “classic” (read: “dated”) design have nothing to do with this shoe. This is an entirely different Asics, and one I will keep running in.

The new Asics Gel Lyte 33 provides ride better than its light weight suggests. It's a fun shoe that is accessible to the average runner with entirely adequate ride and cushion but light weight.

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2012 Zoot Kiawe: London Calling? Mon, 11 Jun 2012 17:17:31 +0000 The new Zoot Kiawe is what happens when the leading triathlon running shoe innovator collaborates with top pros Jordan "Rappstar" Rapp and Olympian Javier Gomez as the sport prepares for London 2012. We run in their shoes here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Zoot Sports' new Kiawe in a collaboration between Jordan Rapp and World Champ Javier Gomez.


Zoot Sports has released their new Kiawe performance shoe with input from top pros Jordan Rapp and Javier Gomez. The shoe’s introduction ahead of the 2012 Olympic Triathlon in Hyde Park, London on August 7 is likely no coincidence. Gomez is best remembered for his 2008 ITU World Championship and, more sensationally, as a member of the final three men going into the dramatic sprint finish at the Men’s Olympic Triathlon in Beijing, 2008. Jordan Rapp is a top pro and active in triathlon media production with the website. Rapp and Gomez’s influence on the shoe was “substantial” according to Zoot, suggesting a new emphasis on race-inspired, triathlon specific design from a company already devoted to triathlon specific shoes.

Zoot athletes Javier Gomez (left) and Jordan "Rappstar" Rapp (right) consulted on the design of the Kiawe.

The Zoot Kiawe is a departure from the previous Swift FS and Ultra Speed 2.0 designs that use all-stretch uppers. The Kiawe uses a conventional lacing upper with 12 eyelets. The shoes came out of the box with standard tie laces and a bag containing a pair of stretch elastic speed laces. We ran with both lacing options finding that the stretch laces were shorter than expected on our test pair. The elastic speed laces include spring loaded cordlocks to make tying unnecessary. You simply pull them on with the speed laces installed. The speed laces were long enough, but only just, so you won’t need to cut any excess lace off when setting up the shoes with the stretch laces for rapid donning in T2.

The Kiawe came with two pairs of laces, a conventional tie shoelace and elastic stretch speed laces with cordlock closures. We had to stretch the elastic laces a bit to get everything to work.

Zoot retains the best of their quick-donning and “BareFit” barefoot features including the newer, lower heel tab that is comfortable and blister free on the Achilles and the tongue loop for aggressively pulling the shoe on. The interior uses Dri-Lex fabric in Zoot’s proven minimal seam construction. Zoot calls this interior design “BareFit”. I’ve run in Zoot’s barefoot designs since they were introduced, including sandy triathlons like the Super SEAL Triathlon in Coronado with its beach run. No problems with blisters or hotspots using their BareFit system. Zoot’s design of a truly barefoot triathlon shoe is my favorite.

A heel loop and tongue grab hole for quick donning along with the Dri-Lex fabric interior make the Kiawe another strong choice for running without socks from Zoot.

The upper uses an open mesh fabric and minimal stitching. The fabric breathed well for us even in the very warm conditions of Tucson but did not permit dust and dirt entry on the local running trails. This fabric is different from the power stretch upper on the Ultra Sped 2.0 shoe. It is more breathable and slightly less compressive. While we didn’t soak the shoe in our tests it likely may drain well also when pouring cups over your head in an aid station. The Zoot logos on the shoe are a printed applique that adds no weight, a thoughtful touch on a performance shoe.

Printed logos, not a heavier glued and stichted-on vinyl placard, reduce weight on the Kiawe. The open mesh upper provides plenty of stretch, ventilation and drainage.

The heel goes without a rigid counter. It uses a fabric outer spar/heel counter that lends stability to the heel without the weight of a more rigid polymer heel cup. While this is clearly a go-fast shoe stripped of major guidance features like a rigid heel counter I didn’t want for more stability at the back of this shoe. It rode very well at the heel. The geometry of the shoe also contributes to how it runs, it doesn’t require a lot of stability like a higher heeled shoe.

A clever, lightweight heel construction adds to the responsive feel while not giving away much ride control. Notice the ramped heel design also, which makes your shoe's transition through the gait a little less clunky feeling.

Zoot put much of their prior technology into the midsole and outsole design, and I’m a fan of these features. Their carbon fiber “CarbonSpan +” insert at the midfoot controls torsional flex (twisting) and adds a lot of stability and guidance for a little weight. Zoot actually uses different lay-ups of carbon fiber in different shoe models to dial in ride quality, a them borrowed from the carbon fiber bicycle world. The heel has a concave section that reduces weight and allows the heel material to expand inward as well as outward at heel strike to reduce shock. I like any designs that uses less maerial (lighter) to achieve better ride.

The Carbon Span+ carbon fiber insert adds torsional stability and rebound making the shoe feel lively even when your feet are sore. A concave heel outsole allows for material expansioin inward as well as outward for balanced shock absoption and nice ride.

Another bonus of the CarbonSpan+ stability insert is that the shoe needs to carry less outsole to remain stable through the center. It’s great guidance that is highly tunable with minimal material.

If Zoot along with Rapp and Gomez were shooting for a light shoe with ride quality you’d expect from a heavier shoe they achieved this agenda. At only 7.3 ounces measured weight for our test size 9 shoes the shoe was more stable and reassuring than its weight suggests. This is a valuable feature when running off the bike on tired feet and legs.

The Zoot Kiawe weighs 7.3 ounces in a size 9 men's shoe. It provided the level of control and cushion of a heavier shoe largely due to clever use of carbon fiber and negative spaces to control ride and stability.

Running in the Kiawe is low and light owing to, by Zoot’s specifications, an 11 mm forefoot and 17 mm heel producing a claimed 6 mm of drop from heel to toe. It feels flat, stable and light at speed. If you feel this shoe runs differently than a 6 mm drop shoe you have likely picked up on the fact that the quoted geometry of the shoe is measured internally at its lowest points. Even then our measurements trended slightly greater than Zoot’s specs. One thing for certain, regardless of how you measure the geometry of this shoe it hits a sweet spot that will appeal to fit runners looking for a fast shoe off the bike. The shoe’s geometry combined with the speed it’s intended for means the Kiawe isn’t for everyone. This is a shoe you earn, just like an Olympic spot. If you can hold sub 8:00’s off the bike you’re a candidate. If you are a little slower and go longer than Olympic distance you may want something with a longer range ride like Zoot’s excellent ULTRA Race 3.0.

Zoot reduced drainage holes in the outsole on this model to two, which is probably enough. The outsole wore well in our tests so this is at least a season-long race and tempo shoe. Both of us at who ran in the shoe felt it was more stable than it looked. That’s a great feature in a light shoe. We may see athletes using the Kiawe in London depending more on the shifting tides of Olympic rules for logos and athlete sponsorships. We’ll also see it at local sprint and Olympic distance races and even 70.3’s for some athletes. With the only criticism being a slightly short pair of elastic laces the Kiawe is a stand-out in the niche category of tri specific race shoes.

Zoot's new Kiawe is more stable than its weight suggests and features all the sockless technology features Zoot triathlon running shoes are known for.

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Newton: The Most Innovative Running Brand? Fri, 08 Jun 2012 22:16:15 +0000 Newton's "Land, Lever, Lift" designs were the freshest technology in running during the past two decades. It is only a part of the Newton story though. We look at the evolution of the brand and their additional technologies that establish them as a running tech leader. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Newton is known for their "Land, Lever, Lift" approach to running shoe design. There is, however, so much more to know about Newton shoes.


It’s rare for a running shoe brand to cut a shoe in half to show us what’s really in their midsole. Most brands prefer we didn’t know.  Almost every Newton Dealer has a pair of Newton’s cut through the forefoot to demonstrate how their “Land, Lever, Lift” actuators work. The technology is so unique is patented.

The bottom line for most runners is, do Newton’s make you run faster? Fair question. Individual answer. And while that smacks of a cop-out the unique nature of their designs isn’t debatable. The cut-in-half shoe demo shows the Newton sole is tangibly different. The more you look at their cutaway shoe the more elegant the idea behind their designs become. It’s like Newton’s Third Law from which the inspiration came: elegant, simple, seemingly obvious.

Newton, however, is a victim of being pigeon-holed into a niche category. A big part of Newton Running’s notoriety was built by user generated banter on Internet forums. Any skilled forum user knows that media is double edged. Forums, by their nature, seek the long way to the short answer. As Newton has matured their story has become more significant than, “do they make you faster?” and their patented “Land, Lever, Lift” technology.

Newton got an early edge on market share when top regional athletes like's Leo Carrillo (left) became early adopters and media about more natural, forefoot running became popular.

As the “natural running” boom ignited Newton may have failed to grab customers by the throat the way trendy “minimal” shoes with individual toes did. Those shoes looked weird so they must do something different. Newton’s technology, while unique enough to earn patent protection and valid enough to win multiple Ironman World Championships, didn’t hunt as well as caveman-monkey shoes. But Newton remains utterly undaunted in pursuit of better running designs.

Industry insider Matt Steinmetz shows the shoes that won the Ford Ironman World Triathlon Championships on the feet of Craig Alexander. Photo: Courtesy Newton.

In many ways Newton is to running what Cervelo is to cycling; both companies are innovation driven. Both feel their best marketing is the validity of their products and race results, not necessarily sponsored athletes. Neither company employs a big-budget Madison Avenue approach to advertising. Both companies gained big market share in triathlon. Both companies were founded by a pair of complimentary personalities. And while Newton started as a set of technologies that founders Danny Abshire and Jerry Lee tried to license to a larger running brand, Abshire now asserts an acquisition isn’t part of the plan. Cervelo, however, was just acquired by PON Holdings. Will Newton’s Abshire change his tune about acquisitions? Only time will tell.

“The manufacturing processes aren’t simple. The midsole alone goes through more assembly processes, almost double that of a normal [running] shoe.”

Kara Henry, Newton Running.

Newton Running intends to remain positioned as a valid technology leader. Since it is more expensive to develop and implement valid technology than run a vigorous marketing campaign, Newton shoes aren’t cheap. I asked Kara Henry of Newton why the shoes are $150+; “The manufacturing processes aren’t simple. The midsole alone goes through more assembly processes, almost double that of a normal [running] shoe.” Henry also added, “Our shoes last longer, almost one and half times the lifespan of a conventional shoe.” My tests of Newton Running shoes confirm Henry’s claims. They do have a longer lifespan on the road and seem to “wear in” to the individual geometry of your stride then stay “tuned” for you.

Newton's unique sole technology takes longer to manufacture and is more expensive. A. Firm EVA midsole. B. Hollow space inside actuator. C. Engineered polymer laminate layer to manage deflection on footstrike. D. Flexible membrane to control response of actuators. E. Newton actuator.

Newton’s technology still speaks most prominently to the early adopter, the sideways thinker and the trend leader. That accounts for much of their success in triathlon. It’s an axiom that triathletes are rampant technology buyers and early adopters. Newton is a natural product for them. The bigger, future Newton market may reside with the middle of the pack injury frustrated runner who is tired of clunky, conventional training shoes in their fourteenth version. That runner is looking for something fresh, something that may help them go faster, even if the biggest change in their stride isn’t on their feet, but between their ears.

Not all of the Newton story is about laws of physics and patented technology. Over this last year Newton has added a “zero-pitch” geometry shoe called the MV2. The MV2 is also very light weight at only 6.4 ounces measured weight in a size 9.5. The shoe uses an unusual open mesh fabric over its entire upper. A series of anatomical wedges are supplied with the shoe to facilitate gradual acclimation to its level heel-toe geometry. The forward section of the actuators on the new MV2 are also radiused, a departure from the original Newton actuator tuned specifically for race speed.

It isn's just the actuators: Newton has designed their new MV2 for a level ride, ultra light weight, superior ventilation and drainage. Even if you removed any benefit from the actuators it would be a solid race shoe.

Newton continues offer new approaches to running shoe technology beyond their original Action/Reaction technology. While that technology is tangibly unique, it isn’t the entire story. The bulk of the Newton story has been rethinking the shoe for the way people actually do run, a larger amount of runners than most people may imagine. Newton Running’s Kara Henry drew a deep breath and said, “The truth is most people do run the way our shoes are built for, especially at first.”  Henry’s assertion got me thinking enough to put on a pair of Newtons and go for a run. It only took about seven minutes and one mile marker to understand she is probably right.

2012 Brooks PureConnect. Sat, 24 Mar 2012 19:52:08 +0000 The Brooks PureProject has provided a workable middle ground between zero-drop barefoot styles and shoes every runner needs to stay on the road. Their cushioned ride PureConnect adds luxurious ride to natural geometry. Take it running here. ]]>
By Tom Demerly for TriSports University.

Brooks Running continues their strong introductions with the 2012 PureConnect in the Brooks PureProject line.

Brooks continues their PureProject introductions with the new 2012 Brooks PureConnect. The Brooks PureProject is a shoe line that merges the gap between zero-drop “barefoot” minimalist styles and traditional running shoe designs allowing a more natural stride and feel. PureProject styles are the middle ground. For  runners who want a shift from traditional, built up training shoes the Brooks PureProject not only bridges the gap but makes a better landing point. You don’t have to learn how to run over again to run in PureProject shoes.

The Brooks PureConnect is differentiated from the PureCadence by its rounded outsole at the toe, heel and in the cross section and by a trimmer midsection on the outsole, skeletonized outsole and more medial position of the anchor for the NavBand.

The Brooks PureConnect is the cushioned ride relative to the PureCadence, also in the PureProject line. I reviewed both shoes simultaneously, switching back and forth between them to gain perspective on the difference between the two. The PureConnect has a distinctly different ride than the PureCadence. It’s more cushioned and provides less guidance of your foot’s geometry during contact with the ground. The first phrase I thought of to describe the ride of the PureConnect was “rolly polly”. The shoe has more radius-ed geometry than the PureCadence from every angle.

The round heel on the PureConnect (left) contrasts with the more squared heel on the PureCadence. This, along with other changes in the outsole, make the two shoes feel very different.

The natural, flexible ride of the PureConnect is accomplished with a number of clever design features. Most features remove material from the shoe, reducing weight and improving feel on the foot. The elegance of the PureConnect is how Brooks brought technologies together to influence ride quality. It isn’t one thing that makes the shoe work well, but the interaction of many different design features- some are subtle, some are radical.

“The PureConnect provides protection while allowing flexibility to naturally develop as a runner.”

Switching back and forth between the shoes emphasized how a less guided shoe benefits your workout by focusing on form and development of stabilizing muscles not used on a more stable shoe. A theme of minimal running is “injury-proofing”. The irony is that overzealous adaptation of minimal, “barefoot” shoes has led to a lot of injuries. It contradicts the reason to adopt the running philosophy. The PureConnect provides protection from impact while allowing the flexibility to naturally develop as a runner.

With its non-intrusive design and cushy ride this is the natural shoe you can use frequently.

From toe to heel the PureConnect begins with the “Ninja” style split toe seen on the other PureProject shoes. You see the radius-ed edges of the shoe when looking from the front and feel them on push-off when running. It’s delightfully reserved, allowing you to gently pad-off the ground when you stride. A weird impression I got running in this shoe was that I felt “lighter”, not just my feet- but my entire body. This is likely from the less clunky interaction with the ground. For a dramatic contrast I switched back quickly to a conventional motion control trainer from another brand. It’s amazing how much  more free these shoes feel.

A series of rounded features at the front of the shoe enable a natural geometry to your gait. Notice the open sections of the outsole that reduce weight and improve flexibility. The black carbon wear pads enhance durability.

The side view of the shoe reveals a lot of rocker, or curve to the shoe profile. This additional curvature of the shoe allows for your own natural stride to prevail over the shoe.  As you run in these you sort of “roll over” them during the stride cycle, a nice feeling that reduces your vertical oscillation. Fans of “Chi” running and Pose style running will recognize and  like this sensation. The outsoles are also slotted to increase flexibility.

You can see how rounded the entire profile of the shoe sole is in this side view.

The sole of a shoe won’t work well unless the upper is tuned to work with it. Brooks built the upper of the PureConnect with a gossamer mesh outer over a perforated cocoon inside the shoe. In addition to reducing weight, maxing ventilation and drainage it also makes the upper nearly sock-like. The lightweight polymer roll bar on the side of the PureCadence is gone on the PureConnect. There is still a heel bolster across the back to provide a modicum of guidance at the rear.

The open mesh outer fabric and perforated foam structure reduce weight and improve ventilation and drainage while keeping the shoe ultra-flexible.

 Fit on less structured shoes can be tricky but Brooks used a clever feature called the “NavBand” to anchor your foot to the shoe sole and tune fit in the upper. The NavBand is an elastic strap that runs over the saddle area of the shoe upper, wrapping the tongue and anchoring to the other side of the shoe sole like the main strap of a sandal. NavBand is used on both the PureConnect and the PureCadence but is a trifle more distinct on PureConnect because of the very thin tongue on the PureConnect.

Because the PureConnect uses such a thin tongue there are also anchor points for the tongue to the shoe upper that help donning so the tongue doesn’t push forward into the shoe. These also maintain the position of the tongue when running.

The NavBand wraps the entire upper for a secure fit and feel while the super thin tongue is held in place by little retainers at both sides.

 An interesting benefit to Brooks’ ingenious design of the entire PureProject line and especially the PureConnect is that, when you let the foot adopt its own geometry it needs less guidance features on the shoe. As long as cushioning and geometry are adequate and the design of the outsole and upper facilitate natural interaction with the ground the heavy, rigid heel counters can be removed. The shoe gets lighter, further facilitating a natural running experience. As a result you don’t see much heel in the PureConnect.

The radiused "Ideal Heel", minimal heel counter with the polymer heel strap.

The entire midsole on the PureConnect is Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA. There aren’t layers of different hardness EVA on this shoe as with a conventional shoe. The midsole uses a 4 millimeter drop from heel to toe, also a nice middle ground between a traditional trainer and a barefoot style. Overall the midsole is relatively thin, further influencing ride, feel and control.

With all its cleverly designed ride control features from removing (not installing) material the PureConnect is very light weight. My size 9.5 test shoes from a production run were a scant 7.5 ounces.

At only 7.5 ounces the Brooks PureConnect is bantam weight, improving its overall feel with great response.

Brooks Running created a great middle ground where most runners will land with the PureProject shoes. The PureConnect provides a unique ride within that category that is not only a nice training tool but is a viable everyday shoe even for big mileage runners. There is a lot to love about a new shoe with clever design and entertaining, animated ride that even improves your running form gradually. Brooks found a new category with these shoes that was missing from shoe shelves.

The Brooks PureConnect continues the great Brooks Running PureProject story.
Brooks PureCadence. Tue, 13 Mar 2012 01:28:59 +0000 The Brooks PureCadence joins the Brooks "Pure" project with a different approach to running shoe design. The result is a refreshing surprise against a jumble of polarized introductions from other running brands. See how Brooks nailed the sweet spot with the new PureCadence here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

The Brooks PureCadence provides unprecedented ride comfort with enough control for the middle 80%. Could this be the best riding shoe out now?

The Brooks PureCadence joins the Brooks PureProject (one word) lineup as a lightweight, “Pure” concept shoe with a degree of stability just above its lighter, less stable cousins in the PureProject line up.

The Brooks PureProject uses five technologies to make shoes feel lighter, more natural and provide adequate protection while helping your feet and gait adapt to a more natural running style. The PureCadence is the shoe many runners have been waiting for to bridge the gap from traditional shoes with high drop from heel to toe, motion control features and a less flexible last to minimal barefoot designs. PureCadence is not only the bridge between these polarized running styles, it is also enough shoe to fill in the middle gound as an everyday shoe for most runners. It is light enough for a zippy race day choice too. Brooks nailed a new sweet spot with the PureCadence.

“PureCadence is the shoe runners have been waiting for to bridge the gap from traditional designs to minimal barefoot designs.” 


With a subtle combination of cushion and stability features the Brooks PureCadence feels light, airy and natural underfoot. It's never clunky or harsh. Great design meets great ride.

First of the five technologies in the Brooks PureProject concept is the split toe. This “Ninja shoe” design is more a styling cue than a functional feature. This is the only window dressing on the shoe. I didn’t feel much difference in the split toe design in fit or function. Unlike other “toe shoes” the design does not extend to the inner of the shoe, just the outsole.

 Anatomical shape on the PureCadence contributes to its buttery ride. There is simply more outsole and less tooling away of material in the arch. The result is a subtle tendency toward less twisting. Stability without plastic add-ons. Another factor in the surefooted, comfortable feel is dialed-in fit with the Nav Band elastic band.  The Nav Band extends over the instep to pull the foot down to the sole of the shoe, like the strap on top of a sandal. An added benefit for triathletes is quick donning and an oddly secure feel with stretchy speed laces because of the Nav Band. The addition of the Nav Band, and a slightly heavier Nav Band on the PureCadence than other Pure shoe models, make the PureCadence a natural for triathlon use. Nav Band works great. I had no sensation of it being in the shoe except for its improvement on fit. While many people may not notice the Nav Band at first glance this is a key feature on this shoe.

The split toe in the PureCadence is likely more of a styling cue than a functional feature but the excellent heel construction provides noticeably great transitions and a buttery feel at the back of the shoe.

Brooks is advertising a 4mm difference between the height of the heel and the toe. That is minimal drop but this shoe does not feel “minimal”. I chalk that up to the Brooks BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning.  There is also the PDRB midsole on the PureCadence for a smooth transition around what motion control features do exist in the midsole.

“I’ve reviewed over a hundred shoes, nothing has nailed ride, cushion and comfort like the PureCadence.”

A long list of factors control the “ride” and feel of a running shoe. Some models use distinct structures built into the shoe with sharp transitions from control device to control device. These tend to produce a less elegant ride than the PureProject’s more subtle approach to ride control. The PureProject is a more “synergistic” approach to how the shoe feels while running. Every aspect of the shoe design works together to make transitions less apparent, ride softer and more natural and overall comfort and shock absorption better. I’ve reviewed well over a hundred shoes and nothing has nailed ride, cushion and comfort like the PureCadence.

The Nav Band inside the PureCadence improves fit and feel and makes the shoe well suited for triathletes using speed laces.

 A key feature to the great feel of the PureCadence is the shape of the outsole, especially at the edges. I’ll often test a shoe by running with one model on one foot and a completely different shoe on the other foot to compare and contrast. With a traditionally designed outsole and heel there is a “slappy” feel to foot strike as the foot leverages onto the ground rolling forward. The radiused edges of the outsole and curve of the forefoot on the PureCadence remove that choppy feel. If there is one feature that contributes most significantly to the great feel of this shoe it is the shaping of the outsole. The first time you run in it you’ll be delighted with the smooth transition across the stride.

There are a number of unique and novel features that make the PureCadence ride great but the single most prominent is superb design of the outsole.

 Another strong design cue on the PureCadence is the overall flexibility of the shoe. With the combination of the curved edges of the outsole, the precise fit afforded by the Nav Band and a flexible overall architecture Brooks has found a novel set of ways to allow the shoe to move with your foot while still providing an adequate level of support and cushioning. Imagine the best feeling shoe but without the shoe.

The female specific version of the PureCadence has all the same features in a different colorway.

Fit on the PureCadence is trim and precise, a size 9.5 fitting me perfectly and the Nav Band keeping it snug. It harkens back to stretch upper designs from Zoot and even Nike before that (Sock Racer). The shoe is light at 9.4 ounces measured weight for a size 9.5. There is a gender-specific women’s model available in a different color way with the same features.

At 9.4 ounces for a size 9.5 the PureCadence is relatively light. It's nimble feel and precise fit add to the perception of quickness.

Brooks mentions on their website that the expected wear on this shoe is about 250-270 miles. For most runners that is about 12-14 weeks in the real world. While the shoe isn’t cheap at $119.95 the ride and handling are so luxurious they are a guilty and functional pleasure. I logged about 65 miles total in my test pair before beginning to write my review and more time in casual wear and in combination with other shoe use (different shoe on each foot). I run on asphalt, concrete and  easy desert groomed trail terrain. The shoes held up better than I expected.

Brooks is reserved about the lifespan of the PureCadence. According to their predicitions for wear life this pair would be one-third worn out, but they actually show little wear.

 It’s rare to find a shoe so tangibly different in the constant din of new model introductions. Brooks has introduced something truly unique in the PureCadence. It fits, feels and performs differently from any shoe I’ve run in from recent years. In many ways it harkens back to the luxurious ride of the late 1980’s Phylon cushioned shoes from Nike, but with better fit from the internal Nav Band and the radiused heel construction. Brooks deserves credit for this design. The next time you’re in a Brooks dealer make a point of running in this shoe. You’ll find a fun, new alternative to conventional shoes and a functional middle ground to barefoot styles.

The PureCadence fits and feels like no other shoe: precise control, elegant transition during the stride and light, snappy feel. Try them- I bet you'll want a pair.
2012 Saucony Hattori. Wed, 22 Feb 2012 19:33:51 +0000 It is one third the weight of a heavy trainer. It uses the latest zero-drop geometry but rides better than you may imagine. Saucony's 2012 Hattori is a better shoe than we expected. Take a test run here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Saucony's Hattori combines zero drop with a quick don upper for a unique combination of features.

Saucony’s Hattori merges barefoot running design with quick donning features for a unique interpretation of a classic from the 1980’s, the old Nike Sock Racer. The verdict: It works surprisingly well.

The Saucony Hattori uses a laceless,  all-stretch mesh upper with a clear polymer exoskeleton reinforcement across the top. The shoe is closed with two Velcro straps, one at the heel and one across the top of the shoe where you’d normally tie the laces. The rear quarter is synthetic flat-finished Lorica style fabric, an ultra-light artificial leather with good durability and water resistance. There is a medial bumper on the inside of the heel, likely more to resist wear than for stability. Donning tabs are sewn onto the front and back of the shoe so you can pull it on easier. A big benefit of this construction for triathletes is drainage. When you dump an aid station cup over your head your shoes don’t get waterlogged. It’s also a nice blister-resistant construction.

Only one-thrid the weight of a conventional training shoe, the Hattori feels so light you can;t help but imagine you may be faster.

Like the older Nike Sock Racer the Hattori uses a white EVA outsole that is also the midsole. The tread pattern in the outsole facilitates flexibility of the shoe, especially in the forefoot. Three areas on the outsole are reinforced with Saucony’s “XT-900” carbon rubber, the light green pads. This material “offers exceptional traction without sacrificing durability” according to Saucony. The material also seems to add a level of shock absorption to the areas where its located, especially the heel.

While the outsole is basically an exposed midsole the light green crash pads extend the life of the shoe and add to shock absorption.

The geometry of the shoe is no drop from toe to heel. Your foot relates to the ground the way it would if you weren’t wearing a shoe. The sole is effectively 11mm thick over its length. It tapers to thinner in front of the ball of your foot. If you are an old Nike Sock Racer user, this is where the two shoes part company. The old Sock Racer had a more built up heel and less sophisticated upper. Unlike Sock Racer the Hattori’s ride is board flat and the upper is very sophisticated.

The Hattori bares a resemblance to the Nike Sock Racer from the 1980's, worn by the author at the 1986 Bud Light USTS Triathlon Championships in Hilton Head, S.C.

We weighed a Hattori in size 9.5 US and got 4.3 ounces or 121 grams. To put that in perspective it’s about one third the weight of a conventional stability training shoe. The shoe is extremely light weight. Less weight is more speed and more than one tester felt they were faster in Hattoris. It stands to reason; if the geometry of this shoe works for you a 50% weight reduction compared to a lightweight training shoe is going to make running easier, that will make it faster.

At only 4.2 ounces measured weight in a size 9.5 US the Hattori is only one third the weight of a heavy trainer.

I’m not a devotee of the barefoot genre’, at least not exclusively. Barefoot shoe is an oxymoron. I’ll admit to donning the Hattori with a bit of attitude; “Another low drop shoe?”

I was wrong about these.

The Hattori's outsole, including the extra material in the medial arch, provide a ride better than you would expect in a no-drop, minimal running mocassin.

Hattori has a deceptive amount of shock absorption. The cushy built-in insole and cushioned outsole provide a very soft ride, much softer than its 11 millimeter sole thickness suggests. It’s as soft as some 13 mm shoes. I also suspect the XT-900 crash pads, the light green wear sections on the outsole, do more than their fair share of soaking up road shock. However it does it, it works- very, very well. If you’ve turned your nose up at zero drop shoes it’s worth taking a test run in this one. I wager you’ll like the way it feels.

The Hattori uses two Velcro closures to secure the fit of the shoe. It works, but it can slow donning for triathlon users. They are still faster to pull on than conventional shoes.

Because I raced in the old Nike Sock Racer in the 1980’s I carried that paradigm into my review of the Hattori. When I saw Hattori I thought, “Great! A quick donning, stretch upper shoe!” Maybe. Hattori’s front and rear strap prevent pulling the shoe on as quickly as some earlier stretch upper designs. The upside is much better fit and overall stability. The upper stays coupled to the midsole/outsole. Your foot doesn’t have a tendency to slide off this shoe when cornering, an annoying tendency of some early Zoot stretch upper models. The Hattoris fits and feels solid but isn’t made expressly for fast donning, although with practice I was pulling them on in only a couple of seconds, faster than conventional lace shoes equipped with speed laces.

There is no conventional, removable insole in the Hattori. It uses a plush, stitched down footbed.

How do They Feel Running?

You have to try these. I’ll be disappointed if you aren’t pleasantly surprised. The relative amount of cushion for a barefoot shoe felt fantastic.  When I think “minimal” I think painful. These shoes have a soft ride considering how little sole there is. Be sure to trim your toenails with these if running sockless. As with the older Sock Racers, long toenails can tear the stretch mesh upper on these. I ran both sockless and with socks in these. Both great.

The fit is even better. I read one review where a tester said they ran large. Disagree entirely. I say they are very precise. I take the same 9.5 as other sauconys. The Velcro closures on the forefoot and heel cinch things down securely. Another good ride feature is how the shoe transitions from footstrike to push off. It’s very flexible. The tooling on the back of the heel, the rounded back edge of the heel, make them feel very natural.

There is a hint of mo-co on the medial heel with this demi-heel counter. The radiused outsole at the heel made for excellent transitions on footstrike.

This is an ambitious design and Saucony did a lot right with the Hattori. I can’t find drawbacks with this little shoe. Even the $79.95 price is reasonable. It won’t be a long life span shoe due to the exposed outsole, but the XT-900 pads held up well in testing. The cushioning may wane before the outsole wears. Only time will tell. On the way to that time you’ll get a nice geometry, great riding shoe with unique design and features like quick donning and ultra-light weight.

With quick don features, a nice fit and better than expected ride the Hattori is worth a close look.
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.

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Light, Low and Fast: Newton MV2. Sat, 03 Sep 2011 00:40:00 +0000 Newton means innovative shoe design. Their new racing shoe merges Newton technology with low rise and light weight. The result is so fast you may need to keep your aero helmet for the run. ]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Newton's new MV2 merges the already popular Newton technologies with ultra light weight and zero drop geometry for a shoe that reflects all the current running trends in one.

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It’s pretty simple: Lighter shoes are faster. For 2012 Newton has released their new Newton MV2 racing flat, a shoe that merges the Newton Action/Reaction energy storage with ultra-lightweight and zero rise technology. The result is a specialty racing shoe that may make you faster if its design suits your build and running style.

Newton staged a bit of a revolution in running shoes in March of 2007 after developing their unique Action/Reaction technology. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that Newton espouses a “Land-Lever-Lift” natural running gait for midfoot running efficiency, speed and injury reduction. The timing of Newton’s introduction in 2007 was perfect. Triathlon was continuing to boom and athletes were hungry for new running technologies. Even with a brutal recession the $150+ price tag of Newton shoes was more of a calling card than a road block.

In addition to the unique technology there is the impressive Newton customer service, no doubt built into the price of the shoes, but this writer will argue it’s worth it. As a retail consumer I’ve used Newton’s customer service after I purchased a pair of shoes to test. They exceeded the level of service of every other shoe brand I’ve interacted with. They had no idea I write about triathlon companies for a living.

At the same time Newton was the buzz on running and triathlon forums the barefoot/minimalist/low drop running craze was growing faster than you can speed dial your podiatrist. It seemed like a moderated, low drop, minimalist introduction from Newton would merge every relevant trend in running technology. Enter the Newton MV2.

Nearly 3 ounces lighter than Newton's conventional trainers the MV2 is incredibly light at only 6.4 ounces for a size 10.

The official Newton sales literature says the Newton MV2 is “engineered to be the lightest and most efficient Natural Running shoe ever produced”. In reality Newton has likely come very close to that goal. If you want to split hairs the Newton MV2 is absolutely not the lightest running shoe. Some specialty shoes like Brooks’ “The Wire” are a full ounce lighter- but are specialty track spikes. The key disclaimer in Newton’s claim is the two words “Natural Running”. This is a no-drop shoe “born to run” differently than a traditional geometry shoe.

In the case of the Newton MV2 “Natural Running” refers to the level sole profile; the forefoot is the same height as the heel. Most running shoes have a higher heel than forefoot, and the resulting difference is referred to as “drop”. You’re either a disciple of the no-drop movement or you aren’t. Newton’s others shoes offer different geometry that still promotes their innovation forefoot/midfoot strike but do not embrace the zero-drop ethos.

Low rider: The geometry of the Newton MV2 is low to go. Comparison in heel lift between Asics and the motion control Newton.

A cornerstone of zero-drop running is acclimation; getting accustomed to running with flat shoes. This is a gradual process and there will be some aches and pains along the way. Advocates of zero-drop running believe there is a reduction in injuries in the long term and change in running stride that is more natural and less dependent on cushy shoes that alter our natural running style. Newton does a nice job of explain how to acclimate to the shoes by emphasizing the gradual nature of the adaptation. You have to take it slow.

With a zero drop geometry the Newton MV2 combines Newton's energy return with currently popular running geometries.

In addition to good advice on adapting to zero drop running Newton also included an interesting and simple way to help adapt to the MV2 zero drop shoe. A 3 millimeter closed cell foam lift is included with the MV2. You install the lift under the removable insole to raise the heel 3 millimeters. This is an acclimation tool and it appears to work well, gradually compressing over time as you adapt- then you remove it completely for the full zero drop geometry. How long does it take to adapt to an MV2? It depends on the runner. The closer your running style is to a higher turnover, natural gait the less time it will take. If you are 220 pounds and coming off the Brooks Beast, it will take longer.

Newton provides a 3mm heel pad shim to help get you accustomed to running at zero drop in the MV2. The heel shim installs with peel n' stick adhesive under the insole.

Minimalist, zero-drop shoe designs rely on your feet being relatively strong and stable on their own. The midsole architecture of the MV2 emphasizes that. There is very little to it. It is light, laterally flexible and it doesn’t absorb much shock. There is no motion control in the traditional sense. Oddly, this isn’t an issue. One of the benefits of minimalist running designs is increased proprioception- your foot goes naturally to the best place to interact with the ground. While this adaptation takes time a case has been made for benefits.

Since the geometry of the shoe and the forefoot lugs effectively put you forward on your feet during footstrike you don’t need the heel much, and you don’t need a constructed, motion control heel. If you take the acclimation gradually it may be a running style that works for you.

Newton's new MV2 incorporates all the Newton features with ultra light weight and zero drop geometry.

I’ve had one question since the barefoot craze began: What’s the benefit to the average runner? In the case of the Newton MV2 a tangible benefit is a lighter shoe that does feel faster. That I like.

Does the Newton MV2 feel different than a traditional running shoe? Oh yes. Is it better? Maybe. If you put the time into acclimation or, if you are already an experienced barefoot runner I think you’ll find the front end Action/Reaction  design a benefit- and Newton are the only guys doing it on a zero drop shoe. That could make this one of the best choices in a fast pace barefoot race shoe. Newton does point out that the MV2 can be used by acclimated runners as an everyday shoe, but I’ll suggest that would be for the very well acclimated barefoot runner who is also fit and not overweight.

Left: A comparison of Asics, Newton trainer and the MV2 outsole. Center: The fabric of the MV2 is a gossamer mesh that has fantastic drainage and ventilation. Right: The upper is open and airy.

Newton should be credited with a thorough design approach to their zero-drop offering since the MV2 required a redesign of their Action/Reaction forefoot construction. The MV2 uses second generation Action/Reaction lugs. These new lugs are more responsive for a quicker turnover and designed to operate at higher footstrike frequency. Their geometry is also beautifully tuned, with a rounded leading edge on the lugs as opposed to the squared off lugs on the other Newtons. If you have been a Newton runner from the beginning (I have, on and off…) you know the leading edge of the Newton lugs tends to “round out” or wear down after a couple weeks then achieve its own best geometry. Once you get the leading edge of the original Newton lugs rounded off, the shoes seem to run better. Newton did this for you on the MV2.

What is it like to run in the MV2? The shoe fits snug. Newton says you buy the same size in the MV2 as you would in other Newton models. I agree but you should expect a more moccasin-like fit, almost like a heavy sock. The shoes feel faster. Way faster. There simply isn’t much there. If you just put them on and go for a run they will feel oddly “bare” at first. Remember- you have to adjust to this design and it takes time. In previous Newton models I saw faster times at comparable heart rates using just the Action/Reaction technology. When you through in the zero drop geometry and the ultra light weight it’s easy to understand why you’ll likely have faster run splits in these. You do need to be aware of where you’re going in these shoes though, although they will work in a moderate tail setting.

The metatarsal energy storage devices on the MV2 are tuned for zero drop running and a livelier cadence by rouding the leading edge of the actuators. Notice how the orange actuators on the Newton trainer are squared off in the front. Interestingly, the squared off actuators on Newton shoes tend to wear to be shaped similar to the MV2's actuators with time.

If you are already a Newton customer and have also dabbled in zero drop running the Newton MV2 should be at the top of your shoe short list- take a run in it. I wager you’ll be impressed. Another incentive is a lower price for the MV2 than most other Newtons by about $30. Additionally, because the shoe does not rely on gas-filled foam for midsole cushioning and emphasizes a natural forward footstrike these won’t wear out in three months like a traditional running shoe.

I was a Newton believer from their introduction and the new MV2 merges running trends with proven Newton technology to provide something truly unique. If you like running fast and enjoy innovative running technology this shoe belongs in your quiver.

Newton's new MV2 with second generation Action/Reaction, zero drop and ultra lightweight construction.

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Zoot Ali’i 3.0 Limited Edition. Thu, 25 Aug 2011 20:34:05 +0000 Zoot releases their anticipated limited edition Kona 2011 shoe. We grab a pair and go for a run. It’s more than just a collector’s edition. See it here.]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Zoot's Ali'i 3.0 celebrates the greatest race in our sport and its island heritage with unique graphics and special construction.

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There aren’t many traditions in triathlon, but Zoot started a tradition three years ago in Kona, Hawaii. Each year Zoot releases a limited production race shoe timed for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Their third limited edition Kona shoe, the Ali’i 3.0, is out now.

Zoot is an authentic Hawaii and Ironman brand. As the commonly recognized inventors of the one piece triathlon suit they were one of the very first apparel manufacturers selling their wares in Kona during race week. The company got its name when European athletes began referring to their one piece race suits as “zooots” in their accented English. The name stuck.

Zoot’s history and authenticity lends some street cred to their latest release of the limited edition Ali’i 3.0. This is the third version of the shoe released in limited numbers around the world within a few months of Kona. For 2011 the shoe features a nod toward ancient Polynesian culture with a print that invokes the popular tribal pattern theme often seen in tattoos.

Graphics on the Ali'i 3.0 are inspired by Polynesian lore and art- a source of power among the island cultures.

Originally the production run of the Zoot Ali’i was 1800 pairs- the same number of people competing in the Ironman World Championships. The shoes sold out instantly, with e-Bay auctions pulling in three times their retail price among shoe collectors once they were gone. As the demand for the shoes increased so did production. Zoot also released a new female specific color scheme with the same pattern. Athletic shoe collections are an odd phenomenon, espeically in urban Asia, but also in the U.S. As a shoe reviewer I do have a small collection of limited edition release shoes so I see the value in this idea. Shoes are collectible too, since they are functional art and can be bought initially for a lot less than most “collectibles”. Clever buyers do a brisk business in the secondary market re-selling these limted editions from all brands.

More than just a limited release shoe collector’s item or a fashion piece, the Ali’i is a nice race day shoe that does go the distance on a 140.6 triathlon run. Built on the chassis of the Zoot Ultra TT, the Ali’i uses the same quick, secure closure system but improves ventilation and drainage in the upper for the heat in Kona and to drain the water from the aid station cups you’ll be dumping over your head running in the energy Lab.

Left: Carbon fiber stabilizers resist the twisting forces in the midsole and forefoot. The heel (right) offers a cushioned ride on a generous EVA midsole shod in carbon rubber for good wear.

A key technology is Zoot’s sockless “BareFit” construction on the inner. I haven’t run a marathon without socks in this shoe or its predecessor the Ultra TT, but I have done a half marathon sockless and had no issues with blisters or hotspots, even soaking wet.

Another Kona-friendly feature on the Ali’i 3.0 is the sole drainage. Zoot built five holes through the midsole and outsole to help water drain out of the shoe keeping it light and comfortable.

The women's colorway uses the identical pattern with different colors.

The amount of carbon rubber on the outsole has been marginally trimmed to shave a few grams while the entire nose cap is removed from the shoe making it a true race day hybrid. The missing nose cap also allowed Zoot to continue the color pattern down the front of the shoe, a racy touch.

Fit and feel mimic the previous Zoot shoes on which this limited edition version is based.

The chassis of the shoe uses Zoot’s CarbonSpan+ system, a layer of carbon fiber specifically laid-up for distance running that improves stability and alignment trhough the center of the shoe. This is particularly important for athletes going long in the heat who are running on tired legs. Rather than relying on muscular support to do allthe work of maintaining good running form the CarbonSpan+ system in the midsole helps keep the shoe stable even when the athlete has gotten a bit wobbly after eight hours on the course.

The Ali'i retains the higher heel tab from previous models, a throwback before the introduction of Zoot's Ultra Ovwa. The heel is rounded on the Ali'i 3.0 while the Ovwa features the chopped tail.

The heel on the Zoot Ali’i is the higher pull tab design. Some athletes report problems with this causing blisters- I have never experienced this. I’ve used the shoe without socks on beach runs in races and have not had any problems. It is worth noting that many new Zoot models have a lower heel tab as seen on the Zoot Ultra Ovwa. The heel on the Ali’i is also a traditional rounded outsole design while the Ultra Ovwa’s feature a squared off heel for a flatter transition during footstrike.

In T2 the Zoot Ali’i goes on like lightening. It is the quickest donning triathlon running shoe I’ve tried, as fast as the bantam weight, laceless Zoot Ultra Speed- their all stretch upper race shoe. If you are actually racing in thie shoe- not just collecting them as a limited edition, it is a great race day shoe with the improved ventilation, lighter weight and quick donning.

If you've got enough miles to be at Ironman you're acclimated enough to use a nice, light shoe with good cushion. With good drainage and cushioning the Ali'i may take a little bit of the edge off the run.

I’ve raced and trained in previous versions of this shoe and found it stable, light and comfortable. The sockless design is credible and worked for me without blisters. Road feel is good off the bike on tired legs partially due to shoe geometry tuned specifically for running when you are tired. Another feature that seems to help running comfort on tired feet is the asymmetrical bias cut of the shoe. The laces trend inward toward the big toe for a more tailored fit. Interestingly, at least one manufacturer, Brooks, builds their T7 racer where the laces are also asymmetrical but angle the opposite direction.

While Zoot has expanded production of the special edition Ali’i beyond the original 1800 pieces due to demand the shoes are still built only once in a limited production run. They do sell through quickly, mostly to athlete enthusiasts and athletic shoe collectors. In a way- it’s a shame the shoe is a limited edition since they are technically nicer than almost every other triathlon shoe in the market. Even without the cool graphics and exclusivity of the limited release this would be a great stand-alone, in line offering. Aloha!

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Zoot's limited editions are race tuned versions of their other successful shoes. It's tough to decide if I'd buy them as part of a shoe collection or as race day shoes- they are nice for both.

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Saucony Running Shoes 2011/12: Kinvara 2, Peregrine and Ride 4 Tue, 09 Aug 2011 22:32:33 +0000 With a century of experience Saucony isn’t showing new trends but is refining designs and building new models on previous success. See the new Saucony shoes here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly

Saucony's new introductions include an all new off road model and two refined previous models including one recent intro from last year and a time honored classic with modern day tweeks.

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Saucony’s line-up in the 2011/12 season is a broad assortment of running designs reflecting current low drop trends and traditional running shoe geometry. We’re reviewing three models here, the bantam weight ProGrid Kinvara 2, the new ProGrid Peregrine Trail Shoe and the traditional ProGrid Ride 4 training shoe.

You’re either a Saucony customer or you aren’t, and chances are – you are. The company has a penchant for making running shoes new runners buy on their first trip to the run specialty retailer, and keep buying if they stay with the sport. Saucony has also shown an impressive willingness to adapt for a company 111 years old. Nearly two decades ago Saucony was debuting triathlon specific running shoes with transition features and very light weight construction. Saucony interprets the low drop running shoe trend with moderate adaptations of low drop geometry combined with good control features so the rank n’ file runner has enough shoe to run in but still experiences the minimalist feel.

Saucony Men’s ProGrid Kinvara 2.

Kinvara 2 uses a slightly bolstered upper and a slightly narrower outsole to tune what was already a good shoe.

The 2011/12 Kinvara 2 is a reintroduction of the successful 2010 Kinvara with a re-tooled outsole profile and improved inner. The later feature is of particular interest to triathletes running sockless.

When I first reviewed the original Saucony Kinvara in August 2010 I was mightily impressed. The barefoot running trend has me yawning and another low slung “minimalist” moccasin would have left me uninspired. The original Kinvara, in its original form, provided enough cushioning to be a “real” running shoe but at much less weight. I was critical of some wobbly feeling suspension in the outsole and upper.

The Kinvara 2 acknowledges this with a narrower outsole that is more nimble and responsive. I don’t “run off” this outsole. It would appear Saucony has now matched the shape and performance of the outsole to the flexibility and light weight construction of the upper. Additionally, a mesh layer added to the shoe interior lends a hint of structure to the top of the shoe. This balance of taking away some width from the outsole and adding some structure to the upper was the tweak the shoe needed.

The only way to spot the design differences between Kinvara and Kinvara 2 are to compare the width of the heels side to side. The new Kinvara 2 colorway is as light and airy as the shoe itself.

The new Kinvara 2 runs and fits more precisely than before. My initial review bemoaned the upper as too flexible. It’s still very flexible, but has been shored up some. The narrower, more precisely tooled outsole compliments this. The result is a little more controlled feel. I’ve also lost weight since my first review and at about 160 pounds, at least 10-15 pounds lighter than when I ran in the original Kinvara. I’m probably a better Kinvara customer now. Merge the lighter version of me with the stiffer upper, trimmer lower version of the Saucony Kinvara and we’ve found our middle ground.

This update of Saucony’s Kinvara is particularly relevant to triathletes. Just add speed laces. I did try the shoe sockless for a short jog and I’d race in it.

A lower heel from the original 2010 Kinvara is executed on the Kinvara 2 and carried over to the off road evolution in the Peregrine (right).

I give this version of the new Saucony Kinvara 2 higher marks than its previous one with increased upper stiffness and a better overall outsole. This is a strong update on a bold introduction. If you liked the previous Kinvara I wager you’ll still like the Kinvara 2. If the first version of the Kinvara didn’t work for you this new version is worth a fresh look.

Saucony Men’s ProGrid Peregrine.

The Saucony ProGrid Peregrine strikes a realistic balance between heavy trail shoes from The North Face and Salomon and very light and low trail shoes such as INOV-8.

I love trail shoes and apparently I’m not alone. At a recent industry expo, Bike Dealer Camp in Park City, Utah, I did a 100-person shoe count of what people at the Expo were wearing. Trail shoes were the single largest category, followed by road running shoes, casual non-athletic shoes, athletic sandals and other footwear categories.

The bulk of trail running shoes aren’t worn for trail running. They are worn as casual use street shoes. As a result the category is laden with either shored up road running shoes with darker colors and toe bumpers or with lightened hiking shoes using fabric instead of leather and a more flexible outsole. Both are great for casual use, neither works optimally for real trail running.

This shoe only weighs 10 ounces in a size 9.5. Some comparable trail shoes with more bumpers and waterproof laminate uppers tipped the scales at 13 ounces for a size 9.5.

Another reality of the category is that most trail running athletes aren’t running super technical trails. For the bulk of trail runners a light and low runner with a toothy outsole and enough of an upper to hold it on the trail is the perfect mix. They don’t need an integrated gaiter, Gore-Tex liner and drawstring lacing system.

The new Saucony ProGrid Peregrine spins off the above-reviewed Kinvara with a beefed up outsole and robust saddle area stitched to a webbing lace system. The upper is tangible different but the geometry very similar. If you bought- and loved- Kinvaras for the road buy these for the trail.

Like everyone else, I love trail shoes and I have a pile of them. I’ve tried a collection of the in-vogue low-drop versions including INOV-8 and New Balance. They are a little too minimalist for me. The ProGrid Peregrine strikes the same balance in the trail running environment as its sister Kinvara strikes I the road: Just enough of everything you need in an off-road runner, not too much of what you don’t need.

The aggressive cleated outsole on the Peregrine grips like the talons of a Peregrine Falcon while the shoe feels light and responsive.

The ProGrid Peregrine isn’t just a Kinvara with lugs and different lacing though. It also does not run like a Kinvara. It’s amazing how much difference a full carbon outsole on the Peregrine makes in stiffening the overall chassis of the shoe. This shoe does have some tangible structure. It is less flexible and “rolly-polly” than the Kinvara 2 road shoe.

Left: You can see the road inspiration of the Kinvara and Kinvara 2 in the Peregrine. Notice the full carbon outsole on the Peregrine in the center of the Kinvara 2 and the ProGrid Ride 4.

On the shoe shelves the Saucony ProGrid Peregrine will go against the specialty trail running brands like The North Face and Salomon, at it will appeal to the true trail runner more than the casual user and light hiker. Since Saucony is largely a running brand that seems logical. The ProGrid Peregrine is a great Kinvara inspired trail runner. It’s just enough shoe without crossing the line to a light hiker.

Saucony Men’s ProGrid Ride 4.

Before their was barefoot there were real running shoes. The ProGrid Ride 4 is the cushioned trainer Saucony fans have come to know and love with some recent performance tweeks to lighten it and make it more responsive.

No minimalist trendiness, this is a real running shoe with full running shoe features. The cushioned-neutral ProGrid Ride 4 gets some tuning to make it more responsive and flexible for 2011/12 but retains the everyday ride and geometry from previous versions less 1 millimeter in heel height claimed change. If you don’t need a lot of motion control and you do like shock absorption this is a shoe to try.

A claimed advantage of this shoe over previous versions is lighter weight. I can’t verify that but I can attest to a more responsive feel than earlier versions.

Unlike the two ProGrid series shoes above, the ProGrid Kinvara 2 and ProGrid Peregrine, the Ride 4 uses the full external ProGrid exoskeleton for controlling the medial or center section of the shoe. I do notice this version of the exoskeleton feels like a more flexible polymer than previous versions. If you try to dig your fingernail into the older versions they felt like hard plastic. The new ProGrid exoskeleton in the midsole feels like very high durometer rubber rather than hard plastic.

The heavy posting on the medial midsole is gone from the Ride 4 but reasonable ride management is still built into this shoe with the roll-control midsole exoskeleton.

The outsole has some beef to it, with a liberal use of carbon rubber for good wear. This is built as a high mileage trainer and my experience with previous versions suggest good durability.

The shoe sits on top of a 36 millimeter high heel and a 25 millimeter high forefoot by our measurements, a drop of about 11 mm from heel to toe.
I often worry a bit when testing cushioned shoes since I generally run in a shoe with more medial posting for some motion control. This is the long mileage cushion trainer I could use all the time. There is enough control in the durometer or hardness of the midsole to provide adequate guidance. If you have trended toward some motion control and away from a cushioned shoe the ProGrid Ride 4 is worth a look since it provides adequate stability and luxurious cushioning.

At 11 ounces this isn't a light shoe but has a lot of cushioning for a shoe at this weight.

If you are a Saucony brand user and want to explore a lower drop shoe geometry adding a shoe like the Kinvara to your stable of Sauconys like the ProGrid Ride 4 provides an eclectic mix of shoe experiences- and one you can go back to if you start to get aches and pains from the minimalist shoes. On trail days a pair of ProGrid Peregrines will be a familiar fit with trail specific features.

With these introductions, two previous model updates and one new model (the Peregrine) Saucony continues a consistent and reliable story in running specialty that speaks to the middle 80% of runners. Saucony hasn’t re-written any books about running with these shoes, but over 100 years ago they did write a running shoe story that has become a true classic for fit and function.

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Saucony's recent introductions continue the themes of strong designs with existing updates and spin-offs into new models. It's a typically strong offering from Saucony.
Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel Fri, 01 Jul 2011 23:24:39 +0000 The Japanese brand with American roots stumbled when it started running but found its stride with the Syncro Fuel XC, the trail shoe for trails we really run. See it here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly

Pearli Izumi's Syncro Fuel is a pleasant surprise for a great multi-purpose runner for the roads we really run most often.

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Tucson is the perfect place for testing running shoes. We’ve got paved roads, flat packed-earth trails and some of the gnarliest technical trails on earth.  I have my favorite shoe for each.

My new packed trail favorite is Pearl Izumi’s Syncro Fuel . The Syncro Fuel is a “tweener” shoe that isn’t a Brooks Cascadia, Salomon or Montrail technical off road shoe. It isn’t at home on the craggy, broken rock, off angle ankle-twisters. It’s overkill for a tempo run on pavement. It is the perfect “park shoe”, a niche that probably describes the way most people run trails. This is a road shoe built for the street and hard packed trails that are mostly flat with good footing.

Pearl Izumi is, most prominently, an American brand of a Japanese company. Started in Tokyo and named for clear waters where pearls are harvested the company came out of its shell when “The Boulder Crew” of Davis Phinney, Andy Hampsten, Stan Mavis and Hugh Walton bought the trademark from Spyder Ski Company in the early 1980’s. You know Hampsten and Phinney are fathers of the American bike racing, especially in Europe. Phinney was the first American to win a stage in the Tour de France. Hampsten was the first American to win the Giro d’ Italia. The company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado as one of the original outdoor manufacturers that shaped Boulder as the outdoor endurance capital of the U.S.

With conventional drop and geometry the Syncro Fuel will suit the middle 80% of runners accustomed to conventional shoe geometries.

Pearl Izumi was known in the U.S. firstly for their cycling clothes. Their technical approach to fabric, pattern and fit lead the U.S. cycling world into the technical apparel age. Before Pearl Izumi it was wool jerseys and leather chamois.  In 2005 the brand went off the rails when Nautilus Fitness acquired Pearl Izumi and added it to their stable of fitness brands. The brand and distribution were diluted. Nautilus spun Pearl Izumi off in 2008 returning it to its earliest roots in Japan when Shimano bought Pearl. Pearl Izumi stumbled again when an ad campaign that championed their early running shoes featured the catch phrase “We Are Not Joggers” that many bloggers characterized as elitist.

Despite marketing and ownership speed bumps Pearl Izumi has consistently produced solid product in many of their categories. The Syncro Fuel is an example.

The significant curvature or "rocker" of the forefoot section makes for smooth transitions and nice push off. You don't spend energy deforming the shape of the forefoot of the shoe.

You can tell Pearl Izumi designs were influenced by the beautifully groomed trails around Boulder when you run in the Syncro Fuel. The magic of this shoe is the ride: There is just enough stability, just enough cushioning. Many shoes beef up guidance, traction, weather proofing and shock absorption for marketing purposes or the rare super-craggy off angle back country user. They become low top, light weight hiking shoes. They put on weight and lose “feel”. They aren’t running shoes anymore. That shoe has its place but not on the foot of most park-runners. There is a trail version of the Syncro Fuel, but this road version has all the features we needed to take the shoe off-pavement in the park- and it isn’t overkill on the road since it was born a road shoe.

Forefoot details include a demi-toe cap and flex-grooves in the forefoot so the shoe easily conforms over changing run styles and tempos.

The Syncro Fuel lands somewhere between a road shoe and a trail shoe by retaining the cushy midsole but building an upper that resists dust and dirt intrusion and having a lacing system and saddle area that really straps you in for the ride. Add a modest toe bumper and you have everything you need to run in the park off the pavement. They are like a nice looking Jeep Grand Cherokee with a cool stereo but no lift kit or monster mudders.

The first time you run in the Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel you immediately notice the fantastic forefoot cushioning. It’s a luxury ride. The forefoot has generous cushion and is built stable enough to hit the ground and come up relatively square. There is also a lot of rocker in the forefoot, easing transition off the toe. Pearl Izumi uses Skydex to absorb shock in the heel. Skydex is a patented material tailor made for specific applications. Common uses of Skydex are blast mitigation for military helmets and blast reduction and shock absorption in the floor of armored vehicles. The Skydex configuration for the Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel provides not only great cushioning but fantastic stability as well. Both the Skydex heel and the cushy forefoot contribute to the luxury ride.

The unique Skydex crash pad is a staple in military applications including the seats of the light scout vehicle on the right and in the ballistic helmets of the operators inside.

Stability is also managed with the Pearl Izumi Syncro Stability Frame in the forefoot. This is a plastic exo-skeleton affair we’re used to seeing in many running brands such as Asics with their “Propulsion Trusstic”. These accessories on the midfoot do seem to resist twisting forces and provide guidance for a shoe. The Syncro Stability Frame extends well up the medial side of the shoe into the heel, offering a nice level of guidance to manage the shock absorption of the opposing Skydex crash pad on the lateral heel. At the back of the heel there is a clear polymer buttress that shores up the heel counter.

A hard polymer stability component/roll bar adds structure to the cushy medial heel. It's just enough ride control.

The outsole on this shoe has enough carbon rubber on it to make it last. Push-off is assisted by a set of grooves tooled into the midsole and outsole called, originally enough, “Forefoot Flex Grooves”.

Geometry of the shoe is a 10 millimeter drop from the 23 millimeter heel down to the 13 millimeter forefoot, a nice ramp and geometry. While designed as a road shoe, if you consider this shoe as a part time groomed trail runner (albeit a light duty one) this shoe runs light, 11.2 ounces measured weight compared to the 14.0 ounce weight of a full feature Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX and 10.4 ounces for an INOV-8 Roclite 295 at the opposite end of the weight spectrum.

The uppers are beautifully done inside and out. The saddle area takes a cue from Montrail and uses webbing as eyelets with a very wide lacing radius that covers a lot of the top of your foot. The advantage is the laces really control the volume through the forefoot, dialing in fit as you lace the shoes. The top two eyelets use a more conventional eyelet design. Fabric on the uppers resists sand and dust intrusion, a boon here in Arizona.

The interior is a seamless rear ¾ riding over a dual density removal insole. The seamless rear end of the shoe liner gives way to amore ventilated forefoot in the toe box keeping the shoe reasonably cool.

Almost the entire interior of the shoe is seamless for a delightful feel even with bare feet. The lining and outer resist intrusion of dust sand and debris.

The two overriding impressions running in the Pearl Izumi Syncro are cushion and ride. It’s a “floaty” shoe with a lightly armored uppers that strikes a nice balance between the ironclad off road shoes and the light weight, uber ventilated road shoes.

If your running on crushed stone or hard packed dirt park trails I doubt you’ll find a better ride or a more appropriately built upper. This is a great “park” shoe for the type of tame trail running most of us do most of the time. For the few speed bumps Pearl Izumi hit on the way to coming up with this shoe I’ll say it was worth it as this leads the narrow category of civilized trail shoes quite nicely.

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Pearli Izumi did a nice job of nailing a niche-of-a-niche with their light trail use/road shoe Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel, a great road and groomed trail runner shoe for moderate conditions.
Asics Men’s GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 Wed, 08 Jun 2011 19:34:19 +0000 Racing flat or training shoe? The Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 spans the gap between the categories to provide a lightweight trainer with enough support for the last ugly hours on an Ironman run. ]]>

By Tom Demerly.

The new Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is a light weight, full feature trainer for everyday use that crosses over to long distance triathlon runs very well due to its great stability and light weight.

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Once you go under 10 ounces in a running shoe you have to give something up. For most shoes, it is stability. For some shoes, you lose cushion. Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 manages to retain enough of both to make this a viable everyday shoe from a category usually reserved for race day and speed work. For runners this is interesting. For long distance triathletes it’s a secret weapon.

Triathletes run on tired legs. Not all of us are 130 pounds. Ultra-lightweight racing shoes designed for runners often fall short on motion control and cushioning we need to provide a soft, stable ride on tired legs. A few triathlon specific running shoes such as K-Swiss and Zoot have evolved to meet the rank n’ file triathletes’ needs.

until now the big running brands have missed the mark with a light weight shoe that runs well off the bike with enough cushioning and motion control for tired legs.

Asics has it right with their GEL-DS Sky Speed 2. The GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 provides enough cushion and stability to do Ironman distance races and retains light enough weight to provide an advantage over a 12 ounce shoe like the GEL-Cumulus 13 cushioned trainer.

The GEL-DS Sky Speed sits in Asics “Speed Collection- Training” that includes four shoes between 10 and 8.9 ounces advertised weight. The four shoes are tuned with uppers, midsoles and ride control features to produce an amazing variety of ride characteristics. The GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is the “down the middle” shoe with a long list of Asics buzz words to describe the technology that reduces weight and controls ride. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the GEL-Speedstar 5, a less structured upper and foam padded moccasin of a shoe that could work for everyday running, but not for me at 170 pounds and a list of knee surgeries and other orthopedic dings and dents. Sitting below the Speed Collection- Training is the Speed Collection- Racing. The Racing shoe line features the GEL-DS Racer 8 at only 7.6 ounces advertised weight. This isn’t an everyday shoe. The GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is an everyday shoe, and there is the niche for Asics- a light shoe that can go the distance on tired legs.

The suspension components are combined to form Asics I.G.S. or "Impact Guidance System. Notice the clear polymer Asics Propulsion Trusstic in the midfoot area that de-couples the performance of the front of the shoe from the heel. The APT also provides good lateral control making the medial forefoot feel level on footstrike. Similar weight shoes I've run in collapsed to the medial forefoot on footstrike.

The GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 uses a few other bells and whistles that create beautiful music for the triathlon runner. Asics uses the stretch fabric Biomorphic Fit Upper in the GEL-DS Sky Speed 2. This design feature allows a wrinkle free interior without socks by using stretch fabric to improve fit precision. There is a noticeable amount of give in the upper. This shoe is very quick to don with speed laces and once on your foot finds its “sweet spot” instantly. Asics also uses their version of anatomical lacing. The Asics version follows a different path across your upper than other anatomical lacing but facilitates great fit. Drainage on the shoe is so-so and this is one area where, if Asics decided to do a triathlon specific version, they could make changes.

The central feature to ride quality on the GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is the Asics Design Philosophy “I.G.S.” or Impact Guidance System. I.G.S. is the synergistic outcome of all the Asics ride control buzzwords. I’m buzzword-saturated when I review running shoes. I will suggest the missing ingredient is an adequate enough medial forefoot. As a runner in a long triathlon becomes fatigued they tend to lapse into the “Ironman shuffle” somewhere north of 9 or 10 minute mile pace. While the difference between one shoe or another won’t give you a 30 second advantage, it will make you more comfortable and less sore with lighter weight to lift on every stride.  That’s an advantage in the last four hours of a long race.

With traditional heel to toe drop and geometry the ride of the GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 should feel very familiar to most runners, but in a lighter weight package perfect for long distance triathlon.

Another interesting feature on the GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is the Asics Propulsion Trusstic, a plastic exoskeleton that acts like anti-sway bars on a car chassis. The Propulsion Trusstic resists twisting of the shoe at the narrowest point, the midsole, but allows the forefoot to hinge or “decouple” easily. Bending the shoe to run takes little energy- a good thing. Twisting the shoe to exert extra leverage on connective tissues is much more difficult- also a good thing. The net result of these features is a better ride than other 10 ounce shoes.

A close look at the mid and outsole tooling and the stability roll bar at the mid foot. Unlike many other lightweight shoes the GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 retains almost a complete outsole, making this shoe a true trainer and adding value with good durability.

A few nice details in the upper round out the weight saving features and make this shoe race- day friendly, especially with speed laces. The “Discrete Eyelets” are simply holes in the polymer fabric upper section that hold regular and speed laces well but add no weight. These work particularly well with speed laces like Easy Laces since you can adjust the “snug-ness” of the forefoot and not lose that adjustment since the sides of the lacing holes seem to grip the speed lace better than a plastic-glide type.

The upper negates any eyelets to save weight. This will benefit stretch speedlace users since these eyelets will grip your laces well maintaining tension in the forefoot even when slipping the shoes on quickly in T2.

The Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 seems to ride a little low-ish compared to a full-blown trainer. My measurements did not support this feeling though. I put this shoe at 28 millimeters high in the heel and 17 millimeters high in the toe for a drop of about 11-12 millimeters depending on where you measure. This is not a low drop shoe. This drop does mimic, in proportion, the drop of the Zoot Ultra Ovwa– a 10 mm drop shoe. Zoot feels this is a good drop for running out of T2 on tired legs and Asics does well to share this geometry.

An overview of the shoe's features reveals many of Asics' proven design ideas refined into a sportier, lighter weight package.

Running in the Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is reassuring for lightweight shoe- especially in forefoot stability. Most sub-10 ounce shoes cave in to the medial forefoot for me. Not this Asics. It has a steady, straight, level ride. The “decoupling” of the rear from the front via the Propulsion Trusstic actually works. That makes the shoe delightfully flexible.

The Achilles heel of most lightweight shoes is their heel. There is enough heel on the Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 for me to use it as an everyday runner. This shoe will go the distance at under 10 ounces in smaller (sub size 10) sizes for the Ironman distance runner. It will breathe fire at shorter distances.

This is a lot of shoe for only 10 ounces. In the closing hours of an Ironman distance triathlon the light weight will make doing the Ironman shuffle a little more tolerable.

Asics is a running footwear technical specialist, so I expect nothing less than great running shoes across their entire range, and the GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 is no exception. Now what I’d like to see from the Asics development sensei is a GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 with integrated speed laces, large drainage holes, a more ventilated upper and a pull tab on the heel for the tri-specific crowd. In the interim, it is worth the effort to retrofit speed laces to this shoe and hope for the best for drainage.

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The Asics GEL-DS Sky Speed 2 refines many of Asics training shoe features into a lightweight, race-ready package suitable for every day training as well.
Triathlon Bike Shoe Review Tue, 31 May 2011 20:14:43 +0000 Triathlon bike shoes are the vital link between your fitness and your bike performance. The best tri shoes feel good, transfer pedal forces efficiently and facilitate a fast transition. See our picks here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Triathlon specific cycling shoes are lightweight, have excellent ventilation and drainage and unique uppers built for fast doning and doffing to shave seconds from your T1 and T2 splits.

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The triathlon bike shoe is one of the things that sets the triathlete apart from the rest of the cycling world. Triathletes have unique shoe requirements because of the need for fast transitions and also because of factors like running on tired feet.

The advanced generation of triathlon bike shoes includes features, benefits and materials that didn’t exist when the category was invented years ago. New shoes use carbon fiber soles, enhanced high speed closure systems and have lighter weight than any previous generation of triathlon cycling shoes.

Understanding what differentiates a triathlon cycling shoe from a road cycling shoe is your first step in the shopping process.

Differences between Triathlon Cycling Shoes and Road Cycling Shoes:

* Triathlon cycling shoes use an upper with fewer closures for faster transitions and a more comfortable fit.

* Closures on triathlon shoes are all Velcro and use no mechanical buckles for speed in donning and doffing.

* Closures hinge to the outside of the foot when clipped in to your pedal system so straps don’t get caught in your bike drivetrain.

* Triathlon cycling shoes usually have lighter construction that most road cycling shoes.

* Triathlon cycling shoes generally have enhanced ventilation and drainage features compared to road shoes.

Left: Notice how the straps on the road cycling shoe (black, left foot) open inward where your bike would be, while the silver triathlon shoe on my right foot has straps that would open away from the chain of the bike. A heel strap enables you to pull your shoes on while already clipped into your pedals, a fast transition technique that requires practice.

If your first pair of cycling shoes is a triathlon specific cycling shoe the first issue to address is fit. Cycling shoes fit differently than running shoes and street shoes. The fit needs to be tighter and more precise with less movement of your foot inside the shoe. Movement of your foot inside a cycling shoe, whether it is a road shoe or a triathlon shoe, creates symptoms that may lead you to believe the shoes are too smallwhen they are actually too large. If you experience numbness, hot spots or even blisters in a triathlon cycling shoe the likely cause is the shoe not fitting precisely enough. Movement of your foot inside the shoe creates friction, friction creates heat and the accumulation of heat creates hot spots and blisters. Numbness is often caused by repeated low level impact of the forefoot with the toe box inside the shoe due to movement from a sloppy fit. The foot usually goes numb first, in the first 30-60 minutes of a ride, then becomes painful.

Left: Triathlon cycling shoes need to fit snug and precise to prevent swelling, hot spots and foot movement. Notice the difference in size between my running shoe and my cycling shoe. Right: Symptoms of a shoe that is too large- wrinkles in the toe area of the upper; excess straps hanging off the shoe.

Foot Numbness in Cycling Shoes.

In very long rides feet can become inflamed, changing your shoe fit. A shoe that feels great in the first two hours can be agonizing in the fourth and fifth hour of a long ride. If your shoe fits precisely,  the likelihood of your feet becoming inflamed is reduced. Precisely fitted triathlon cycling shoes perform the same role as compression garments – resisting inflammation of the feet through graduated compression. If you have foot inflammation you may need to adjust the fit of your shoes on the fly by loosening the closures. In extreme circumstances, removing the insoles is a viable emergency remedy, but suggests you may not have the optimal footwear or pedal cleat adjustment to begin with. As you become more fit, acclimated to warmer weather, and better at absorbing fluids during a long, hot ride you may experience less edema or swelling in your lower extremities.

How do you Know your Triathlon Cycling Shoes Fit Correctly?

A few quick tests reveal if your triathlon cycling shoes fit correctly.

Never try on cycling shoes while standing, and do not stand in them to evaluate the fit. Standing in cycling shoes spreads the entire weight of your body over the surface area of the shoe sole. This will never happen on the bike, even when pedaling out of the saddle. Always remain seated while evaluating cycling shoe fit and do not stand up. The shoes will not fit or feel right when you stand in them.

Never try on cycling shoes while standing”

Your shoes will appear smaller than a standard running shoe in length. Once you don your shoes wearing either thin cycling socks or no socks close the Velcro closures beginning at the toe if your shoe has two closures. The hook and loop should match up within a few millimeters if the volume of the shoe is a good match for the volume of your foot. If there is an excess of Velcro pile strap extending beyond the hook section the shoe may be too wide for your foot, or, with Shimano triathlon shoes, the strap may need to be trimmed to length at one of the recessed cutting points. Once the straps are cut, you cannot return the shoes, so be certain of fit prior to cutting.

When trying on a triathlon cycling shoe, cross one leg over the other and pull on the heel counter. If you have movement of the shoe on the heel, move to a smaller size.

Once the shoes are on and the Velcro is closed, observe the upper/toe box of the shoes: does it lay flat with ripples, wrinkles or any deformity? If you see wrinkles in the upper of your triathlon cycling shoes they may be too wide, too large or both.

Check the heel counter of the shoe for fit. Cross you left leg over your right leg and grab the left heel counter. If you use your hand to pull on the heel counter, is there any play or movement of the shoe? If there is, the shoes are too large.

Movement of the foot inside the shoe will create friction and heat, leading to numb toes, hot spots and discomfort. This may also allow your feet to swell from edema during a long ride. A precisely fitted shoe mounted to a well adjusted pedal system resists numbness, hotspots and swelling with a snug, precise fit free from movement and hot spots. If you have hotspots, numbness, swelling and other foot discomfort it is likely a result of your shoe size, selection and or pedal cleat adjustment.

Once you have verified that the shoes are reasonably snug, the upper does not wrinkle when closed, the straps line up correctly and your heel does not slip when pulled it is time to mount your cleats and try the shoes on the road.

Comparison of popular triathlon cycling shoes with price, weight, pedal system compatibility and other relevant comparison metrics.

The Triathlon Cycling Shoes:

Sidi T2 Carbon.

Sidi's shoes are functional art: hand crafted, well designed and proven in years of previous versions.

Handmade Sidi cycling shoes are true racing equipment. Sidi also makes high end motorcycle racing boots. Their only business is racing. As an Italian hand-builder of racing equipment the company is steeped in lore and tradition. And style. The Sidi T2 Carbon upper is made of Lorica synthetic leather that outperforms all natural hides in consistent density, stitching retention and water resistance. Sidi chose a flashy reptilian finish for this shoe that mimics the hide of a desert viper, albeit an Italian one with the small tricolor of the Italian banner. It’s pure Italian bling. Out of T1 the T2 is light and precise in fit, like dipping your foot in plaster. For sprint and Olympic distance events the snug, performance oriented fit of this shoe combined with the two strap upper and fast donning design is the best shoe in category. For longer events or wider feet it may be a bit too precise in fit for some athletes, especially those prone to foot swelling.

The sole of the Sidi T2 is tuned with carbon impregnated, injection molded polymer. This is light and somewhat pliable to relive foot fatigue from your pedal cleats. This sole is actually lighter weight than the stiffer, more expensive carbon fiber sole T2.6. For some triathletes, the T2 with its carbon reinforced polymer sole could be a better choice with large platform pedal systems such as the new Shimano SPD Road pedals used over longer distances.

These hand crafted shoes are the high water mark in design and performance. They won’t fit everyone, but they do fit most average feet and return exceptional performance. At 277 grams actual weight per shoe (554 grams per pair) in a size 42 this shoe is relatively light. This shoe is compatible with popular three hole pattern pedals systems such as Time RXS, Look Keo and Delta, Speedplay X, Zero and Light Action and Shimano SPD/R Road (not two hole MTB).  Women’s specific version available.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★★” 5 Stars of Five. Beautiful (if flashy) construction and precise fit. Proven durable over years of use even at Ironman distance. Expensive.

Sidi T2.6 Carbon Lite.

Sidi's T2.6 uses an enhanced stiffness carbon sole that adds a small amount of weight and noticeable stiffness.

The difference between the Sidi T2 (above) and the T2.6 is the full carbon fiber outsole on the T2.6. This sole is stiffer and thicker in the arch. It is slightly heavier in actual weight also. If you are using a small platform pedal such as Speedplay and have feet larger than a size 45 this shoe provides the extra stiffness you may need.

Built with the same upper materials but with a white (blanco) saddle area, heel counter and Italian tricolor flourish, the fit is identical but feels more precise due to the stiffer sole.

I’ve done too many triathlons in Sidi triathlon shoes to count. They are accurate and trim in fit, relatively light, have graduated sole stiffness for comfort and superbly simple closures for fast donning and doffing while clipped to the pedals. I’ve used these shoes with Look Delta, Keo, Speedplay Zero and Time RXS pedals (my current choice). The Sidis are expensive as is most Italian flare technology and bling, but like Ferraris for feet, these deliver in the victory circle.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “ ★★★★” 4 Stars of Five. Every bit as nice as the previous T-2 version but slightly heavier due to stiffer sole. Additional $100 is hard to justify, hence the four stars instead of five.

Shimano TR-52.

Shimano's TR-52 may be the optimal convergence of value and performance for the average volume foot.

My pick of the litter from Shimano’s shoes for value and performance. The TR-52 uses a carbon fiber molded outsole and interfaces with the popular three hole pattern road pedal systems such as Look, Time RXS, Shimano SPD/R for road (not SPD MTB).

The upper closes with one wide Velcro strap leaving the toe box delightfully unconstrained. If the generous toe box fits you, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have forefoot numbness or hotspots with this shoe. A series of metal mesh vents allow great ventilation and drainage. This is a strong ultra distance shoe.

Straps on Shimano triathlon cycling shoes feature a simple, clever notch to hold the strap open for quick donning. (Right) The strap has molded perforations to facilitate custom sizing the length for optimal fit.

The straps on the TR-52, like all Shimano tri shoes, are meant to be cut to length buy the user. The strap has molded-in recesses to facilitate cutting to length. Be sure you have the correct length before cutting.

As with all tri shoes there is a heel tab for donning the shoes while clipped into your pedals, a skill that saves time out of T1 but must be practiced to master.

At 292 grams each in a size 42 (584 grams per pair) actual measured weight these aren’t bantam weight shoes, but the extra weight of the comfort features like the wide strap and ventilated upper may be worth the extra weight. I’ve done one Ironman distance triathlon in this shoe with no problems, either riding or running off the bike.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★★” 5 Stars of Five. A category killer. Reasonable price for high performance shoe with carbon fiber outsole. Great fit and ventilation. Heavy-ish, but carbon fiber outsoles tend to be heavier (and stiffer) than plastic.

Shimano SH-TR31.

Inexpensive and well designed for quick donning and doffing, Shimano's TR-31 entry level shoe is a great first tri shoe.

Shimano’s value-priced, molded polymer outsole shoe is a strong entry level contender for a first pair of clipless pedal cycling shoes. With that theme in mind the shoes have mounting points for three hole pattern systems such as Look Delta and Keo, Shimano SPD/R Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105 level road pedals, Time RSX and Speedplay X series and Zero along with two hole pattern pedal systems like Shimano SPD/MTB, Time ATAC and other two-hole pattern cleat pedal systems. This is a nice feature since you don’t have to switch pedals from a walkable MTB style clipless pedal to a higher performance shoe with the SH-TR31.

The TR-31 features reasonably light weight, an important factor considering this weight has to be rotated.

The fit is nice and a bit on the generous side, less intimidating to new clipless system users but also lowers performance. At only 269 grams for a size 42 actual measured weight the shoe is reasonably light despite the plastic molded outsole. The outsole is more flexible than a (more expensive) carbon fiber sole and may not be ideal above a size 45.

For a first pair of performance triathlon shoes at a reasonable price the Shimano SH-TR31 is a strong contender.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “ ★★★★” 4 Stars of Five. This is as much shoe as you can buy for just under $150 from Shimano, and it is a good basic shoe. Oddly light given the price. Compatible with a variety of pedal systems.

Shimano SH-TR71.

Shimano's flagship shoe is their TR-71. It features dual closures, a carbon fiber outsole and custom moldable capability.

Shimano rep Bill Rehor molded my first pair of Shimano Custom Moldable cycling shoes years ago and I am still wearing them. The SH-TR71 has the capability to be custom heat and vacuum molded using Shimano’s “oven” and vacuum molding apparatus. This process must be done at your trained Shimano footwear dealer. Once molded, the shoes are custom fit using flow-packs inside the shoe. The moldable feature adds weight to the shoe but is a viable option for people who experience chronic foot numbness or hot spots.

Unlike the other Shimano tri shoes, the SH-TR71 is a dual Velcro closure upper. You only use the rearward closure for donning and doffing. The extra strap facilitates some degree of forefoot width adjustment, meaning you can open these shoes up a bit in the fifth hour of a long, hot ride when your feet are tired.

There is a minor weight penalty associated with the custom moldable feature but oddly shaped feet will find comfort with this option.

Great ventilation and good drainage are also built into the shoe. The molded carbon fiber outsole is extremely stiff making this a great choice for triathletes with very large feet. The shoes are expensive but very durable. My Shimano custom molded shoes have outlived several pedals systems and many sets of cleats and are still a favorite of my cycling shoe wardrobe.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “ ★★★★” 4 Stars of Five. Good problem solver for hard to fit or oddly shaped feet. You need access to a dealer with the molding oven. Expensive. Heavy due to flo-packs for custom molding but custom fit makes up for weight if you need a moldable shoe.

Pearl Izumi Tri Fly III Carbon.

The Pearl Izumi Tri Fly is a very strong offering in this category on price, performance, fit and weight.

This is the sleeper slam-dunk of tri shoes in this review. The Pearl Izumi Tri Fly III Carbon is relatively light weight, has a carbon fiber, concave sole for minimal distance from foot to pedal axle (improves power transfer and lowers rocking torque), nice fit, an adjustable two strap upper and a moderate fit.

The shoe is used by Pearl Izumi sponsored athlete Tim DeBoom. If DeBoom contributed to the design of the shoe it is evident in the shoe performance.

Pearl Izumi has a long list of tag lines and buzz words to denote the shoe’s features and benefits but the bottom line is these shoes are a strong value at less than $200 MSRP and as the lightest weight shoe in our review, only 240 grams each actual measured weight in a size 42, 480 grams for the pair.

At 247 grams this shoe is exceptionally light, reducing rotating weight.

This is one of my favorite shoes in this review. It delivers on performance, comfort, light weight and fit. The shoe works with 3 hole patterns pedals. I’m impressed.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★★” 5 Stars of Five. Fantastic fit, value and performance with a carbon fiber outsole. Lightest shoe in test even at a reasonable price. Hard to find fault with this excellent offering.

Louis Garneau Tri-Lite.

Great ventilation, fit and outsole design and materials make Louis Garneau's Tri-Lite a strong design.

Louis Garneau has triathlon cycling shoe fit figured out. This shoe fits great and leaves your feet reasonably fresh for running off the bike if you are a moderate width athlete. The two strap system allows some adjustment in the forefoot and the carbon fiber outsole is relatively thin and not too stiff. You only need the larger, rearward strap to put the show on and take it off. The horizontal orientation of the heel strap is a great detail since other brands are vertically oriented and trifle trickier to grab while donning on the bike out of T1.

At 259 grams for a two strap shoe this is a well ventilated, light weight pick.

There is good ventilation and drainage on the Tri-Lite, but the claimed weight from Louis Garneau is not accurate according to our scale which tipped at a reasonable 260 grams for a size 42.

As a high performance shoe this is compatible with all the three hole pattern pedal systems but no two hole pattern cleats. At well below $200 this is a super shoe without the sticker shock. Bang for the buck it may be the top performer in this survey.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★★” 5 Stars of Five. My favorite of the Louis Garneau shoes, I like it better than their highest end shoe. Light weight with precise fit on most feet. Great ventilation.

Louis Garneau Tri-Speed.

The Louis Garneau price point shoe offers two hole and three hole pattern mounting options and a dual closure upper.

At less than $120 this is the best entry level shoe in category and a fine shoe even against the pricier offerings. The shoe is heavy at 343 grams, 686 grams for the pair. That is a factor when you consider your triathlon cycling shoes are rotating weight. However, the price, fit and function of these shoes temper the weight penalty.

At 343 grams this is a heavy shoe, but still a viable first tri shoe option especially for two-hole pattern pedal users such as Shimano SPD/MTB.

The upper design mimics the higher end Louis Garneau Tri-Lite with two opposing straps, the upper strap for donning and doffing in transition and forward strap nearest the toe for minor width adjustment, even on the fly. Garneau added a reinforced toe bumper on the Tri-Speed, although I’m not sure why- I’ve never perceived the need for this feature in a tri shoe.

A neoprene padded tongue is luxurious for barefoot users and the molded thermoplastic sole is stiff enough for larger pedal systems in moderate shoe sizes but might bite back above size 45 when using small pedals.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★” 3 Stars of Five. Least expensive (and heaviest) shoe in test. Serviceable starter shoe compatible with 2 hole and 3 hole pedal systems. You get what you pay for.

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Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride Thu, 26 May 2011 23:42:37 +0000 With a million conflicting running “philosophies” and novelty shoe designs finding a functional gem for the everyman runner is rare. Until I found Karhu. See the shoe that started in 1916 here.]]>
Our man Eric enjoys the low riding performance of the Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride on the hot Tucson streets.

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Barefoot, forefoot, zero rise, shape-up. Shoe technology is packed with more gimmickry and marketing hype now than any time in history. It’s hard to cut through the chatter to something meaningful. It’s even harder to find a gem when it is cryptically concealed behind the jargon of codified model names and features.

Karhu started in 1916 by making track and field equipment that went on to include shoes. The company has engineered great shoes, perhaps some of the very best in each category. The problem with Karhu is sifting through the technology that makes the shoes so great.

Karhu’s “Move Forward” philosophy is intended to produce less vertical movement of the runner using their patent-protected Fulcrum design. The idea is less vertical movement, more forward movement- and less road shock. That’s the Karhu marketing shtick. The reality is the shoes feel naturally soft and stable, with a “balanced” sensation I haven’t felt from any other shoe design with medial “plugs” to control ride and stability.

I test a lot of shoes, most of them entirely adequate for their purpose. But I wouldn’t train in all of them on a day-to-day basis. Those I do keep, with very few exceptions, wind up being modified with insoles to tune the ride. When I got my first Karhus a year ago I ran in them without an aftermarket insole. It was an epiphany: This shoe doesn’t need a $40 insole to tune the ride. It’s already tuned.

Karhu's unigue midsole construction and geometry reduces vertical oscillation and saves energy while running- a natural for triathletes running off the bike with tired legs.

Karhu uses a midsole construction technique designed to reduce how much you bounce up and down while running. Less bouncing up and down, or “vertical oscillation”, less shock from your feet hitting the ground. When Karhu came to clinic us on their shoes it was an endless PowerPoint presentation with charts and graphs that show force vectors, acceleration and G loads.  Frankly, it was lost on me. They gave us some shoes; I put them on the pile… I didn’t run in them until months later. I wished I hadn’t waited.

The Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride uses the Karhu Fulcrum concept to reduce energy used in vertical movement while running. This reduces footstrike as well. There are ideally configured for running on tired legs off the bike.

The Karhu Benefit for Triathletes:

I run in the evening after work, generally after commuting to and from work on a bike. My commute is about 20-25 minutes on the bike, and I usually ride it hard. Getting off the bike after commuting is great brick training since I am running off the bike nearly every day of the week. When I ran in Karhus I discovered something interesting: These shoes run better off the bike than anything I’ve tried except maybe Zoot’s transition-specific shoe geometry. In some ways the Karhus may be better off the bike over longer distances since they seem to have a softer, more shock mitigating ride than most Zoots. I think what I’ve found is the perfect 70.3 and 140.6 shoe, and a great shoe for the high frequency runner who does a lot of workouts, especially on tired legs.

The unique sonic welded upper construction is light and elegant. You can see the lime green Fulcrum molded into the yellow midsole.

I haven’t done an Ironman in Karhus. Yet. But one thing occurred to me while watching the endless PowerPoint slides on reducing vertical oscillation: Late in the run at Ironman your legs hurt. Every time your foot hits the ground it feels like it is doing so with the force of a sledge hammer. The pain seems to reverberate upward through your body. If a shoe reduced the up and down movement of the runner while improving shock absorption, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so badly. I wasn’t willing to ride 112 miles and run on tired legs to test my theory, so I did the next best thing. I took 10 days off running.

“This shoe doesn’t need a $40 insole to tune the ride. It’s already tuned.”

Coming back from a lay off means when I run I am going to be sore. Even with fresh shoes and good insoles I’m sore during the first few runs coming back after time off. On the 11th day of my running hiatus I put on a pair of Karhus and went 5.9 miles, settling in to a 7:30 pace after doing nothing for 10 days. I tried not to think about how bad my legs would hurt and how much aspirin I’d be swallowing over the next two days.

The shoes run with a distinctly different ride than conventional shoes. The heel feels softer- but it does not feel lower. This is not a low drop shoe. I measured the heel at 34 millimeters and the forefoot at 18 millimeters for a drop of about 16 mm. You come into the ground softly on this shoe, owing to a lot of cushion in the medial heel, where a lot of people tend to begin their foot contact with the ground during the gait cycle. Faster runners may land slightly farther forward moderating this soft sensation. The fulcrum design in each category of Karhu shoes is different depending on the application. The Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride has a more forward fulcrum and a firmer fulcrum than the Stable ride shoes. Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride would be my choice for a long run on tired legs at a 70.3 or 140.6 event.

Different Karhu shoes orient the Fulcrum in different locations for specific purposes. The Fast Fulcrum 2 is performance tuned for fast runners with a neutral gait.

Does the reduction in vertical movement idea work? My vote: Absolutely. So much so, that it feels a bit odd at first – you sort of skim a long- running low and soft. It takes some getting used to. When we put another test runner in the shoes, a better runner than I, he tended to “bound” upwards to try to defeat the shoe. It took a few minutes for him to settle into the geometry of the shoe and run “lower”. If you think about it, this is exactly how you tend to run off the bike at Ironman, your knees barely coming up as you try to resist descending into the “Ironman Shuffle”. Whether you’re running a 10K or a marathon after 112 miles on the bike running with less vertical movement takes less energy and is less painful.

“Does the reduction in vertical movement idea work? My vote: Absolutely.”

How did my legs feel the day after running following my 10-day layoff experiment? Well, my muscles were still a little tender, but less so than after any other period off the run. The big difference was reduction in joint pain. After three knee surgeries and even with a lot of glucosamine/chondroitin my knees are still a junk yard. Joint pain after returning to running from a lay off is normal for me. I had no joint pain after my first run in the Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride.

The Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride is 10 ounces exactly in a Men’s size 9 according to our scale, not a lightweight, but a reasonable weight for a luxury ride and the vertical mitigation features.

While the shoe looks like it has no structured heel counter, the counter is actually built under the mesh outer, presenting a clean appearance.

Fit on this shoe is generous, perhaps because of a lack of hard outer heel counter or toe box. The upper is delightfully unstructured, with a demi-heel counter molded into the back and a unique heel construction that covers the heel counter as viewed from the outside. I tested a size 9 after trying some 9.5’s that I’d usually wear- they felt large.

The beautifully molded and patterned upper is nearly devoid of stitching. The lacing eyelets are lightweight polymer.

The unstructured upper is achieved through extensive use of high frequency welding, a process of joining fabrics without stitching that enables shoe and clothing designers to do things with welded seams that are impossible with stitched seams. Welded seams are lighter weight too, since you aren’t adding thread to the seam. Arcteryx and Mountain Hardwear pioneered the use of welded seams in technical garments and Karhu does well to incorporate this technology into their uppers.

The Fulcrum component of the midsole is the green section (left) and (right). A seperate Fulcrum midsole component for a different model (right) shoes the difference in the design of the Fulcrums used in different shoes.

Karhu shoes in general are a fresh breath in a tired category. Their technology is easy to differentiate in just a short test run, and produces benefits for triathletes missing from most other shoes except perhaps Zoot, namely, benefits for running on tired legs. The Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride I ran in most recently were exceptionally tuned for a  comfortable, efficient run out of T2 on tired legs.

Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride Ratings:

Shoe fit: Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★” 4 Stars of Five. Runs slightly large due to relaxed upper construction.  Moderate width.

Shoe Stability: Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★4 Stars of Five. This isn’t intended to be a stability shoe, and it allows your foot to go where it will needs to on tired legs.

Shoe Cushion: Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★★” 5 Stars of Five. This may be the best in class cushion ride of the year. The cushion reduces vertical movement while absorbing shock. Perfect for running on tired legs, great Ironman or high mileage shoe.

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Karhu's Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride is a long name to remember but provides tangible benefits to the triathlete running on tired legs by conserving energy, reducing vertical movement and moderating road shock.
Zoot Ultra Ovwa Wed, 20 Apr 2011 00:21:51 +0000 Zoot combines some proven design themes to innovate a new triathlon specific, race day shoe for the middle 80% of us. See it here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Zoot's Ultra Ovwa combines technologies from Zoot's running and triathlon lines into a fine race day shoe for the everyman triathlete.

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In their fourth year of running shoe design Zoot has found a sweet spot no other running vendor shares. Good stability and neutral lace-up shoes for general running are so plentiful that the hardest part about shopping for them is making a decision. Zoot has not only built credibility in the stand-alone running mix over the last four years, they’ve innovated some relevant new categories in run.

I’m not light. At 175-180 pounds I’m a heefer. I can still get down the road at a sub 8:00 pace and even faster as the pounds melt from the upcoming season heat and increased training schedule. I do want a race shoe, but an emerging class of stability race shoe. Even more refined, I’d like a shoe with T2-tuned geometry for running well off the bike and with some guidance for a 50 year old set of bones with more than one knee surgery. That is a long shopping list, and the new Zoot Ultra Ovwa for 2011 ticks off every wish on the list.

Testing the Zoot Ultra Ovwa was a joy: The enhanced midsole construction moderates the low slung sole and makes for a great ride even for a beefy guy my size.

The new 2011 Zoot Ovwa is a stability race shoe with a triathlon specific upper, drainage features and the full catalog of proven Zoot tri-specific features like Tri-Dri and Bare Fit.

I got a chance to test Zoot’s new Ovwa on varied terrain over several runs. It’s my new race day shoe, and the shoe I’ll go to for a very fast tempo/threshold workout. I’m no stranger to Zoot shoes. When they made their first shoes four years ago I was on board. The shoes were good, but needed some improvement. The improvement came fast extrapolating on into hefty innovation. I’ve used Zoot racing shoes from sprint to half-Ironman distance. In each successive year the designs have become better and more refined as new models were introduced. In Zoot’s first year there were four models. Now there are 12 men’s footwear models and another 12 female specific run/triathlon models. Some shoes are a convergence of proven technologies and themes, others, like the recent addition of Zoot Running, are off the drawing board fresh.

The squared off heel helped me with a great transition onto the heel during downhill running.

Starting at the back/bottom of the new Zoot Ultra Ovwa the trailing edge of the heel is slightly squared. This is a great transition when a downward slope makes you into a heel striking human rockslide on the verge of careening out of control. We run a lot of hard-packed dirt surfaces here in the Winter Training Capital of Tucson, Arizona. The truncated heel shape makes running the down hills a little more controlled. A rounder heel is roly-poly on heel strike during descent. This one goes down smoothly.

On level ground the Zoot Ultra Ovwa has geometry and materials tuned for running on tired legs. This is a 10 millimeter drop shoe. It is built on a 19 mm heel and a 9 mm forefoot. I traditionally preferred a higher rear end 12 mm drop shoe, such as Zoot’s Ultra Kane from their run line. I’m beginning to think the reason I wasn’t a 10 mm drop shoe guy was not the geometry of the shoe, but the configuration of the midsole. I like this 10mm shoe, even more than my prior fave the Ultra Kane. Perhaps a lower slung shoe does work off the bike for me- I just needed a firmer chassis.

Zoot's new 2011 Ultra Ovwa Triathlon Running Shoe.

Speaking of the chassis on the Zoot Ultra Ovwa, there are substantial suspension benefits added to this geometry with the hefty medial posting and the great feel of Zoot’s proprietary Z-bound. Z-bound is a polymer with exceptional energy return characteristics and gives the shoes a zippy, responsive feel. As a result of the medial high durometer material the shoe hits the ground predictably and controls roll very well. At speed, (for most age groupers off the bike) at a sub 8:00 pace most of us tend to pitch slightly forward for footstrike and the distribution of the material reflects that. It is right where it needs to be.

Medial and fore foot stability features provide a level of ride control unusual in a race day tri shoe with quick donning features.

The uppers on Zoot shoes were an early criticism of mine and must have been for other reviewers, testers and athletes as well since Zoot has dialed their uppers in to the point where they went from marginal to industry best. As Zoot’s Kevin Hoard pointed out, “The upper is part of the ride of the shoe since it helps control the foot.” A talented age group distance runner, Hoard has pulled new Zoot shoes out of the box for 18 mile training runs without issues. Hoard mentioned the Zoot lacing pattern that follows the curve of the foot, making the stock elastic speed lacing system on the Zoot Ultra Ovwa even more comfortable, easy to don and effective.

The carbon fiber stability bar in the Zoot Ultra Ovwa is a different weave and lay up that is stiffer to control rotational flex in the midsole. It is a tangible difference over other Zoot shoes with the more flexible lay-up carbon sway bar.

Another fascinating technology that helps the new Zoot Ultra Ovwa ride well is the carbon fiber shank or “sway bar” built into the midsole. If you are familiar with carbon fiber bike technology you know the ride of a bike can be varied by changing the carbon fiber lay-up. The same is true of the carbon fiber stiffner/sway bar in the Zoot Ultra Ovwa. The carbon fiber in the Ultra Ovwa is stiffer carbon than other carbon spars in Zoot shoes, providing a greater degree of lateral control in the midsole.

All the ride and stability technologies on the Ultra Ovwa combine with the upper to make this shoe the high point in the triathlon line from Zoot. The shoe was a trifle above the claimed weight at 9.1 ounces in my size 9.5, but Zoot’s Kevin Hoard mentioned he thought the claimed shoe weight published on the Zoot website may have been transposed from another shoe model by accident, something I’m used to seeing on bike geometry charts. Zoot claimed 8.6 ounces. The 9.1 ounce actual weight still felt super responsive and zippy, and the precise fit only adds to that great feel.

Zoot's 2011 Ultra Ovwa is light at 9.1 ounces for a size 9.5 Men's for a shoe packed with so many ride control and fast-donning features.

Zoot also uses the BareFit sockless interior in the Ultra Ovwa, a good feature to prevent blisters and speed transitions. I run sockless in this shoe. An interior anti microbial treatment resists odor for sockless running and other things that make your shoes disgusting in a long race when every second counts. There are also drain holes in the outsole for aid station cups dumped over your head to drain out of your shoes. A pull tab heel and generous finger hole in the integrated tongue aids in donning.

On previous versions of some Zoot shoes the heel tab came up much higher. I had no issue with the higher heel tab design, but some people did experience achilles area rubbing. The Ultra Ovwa uses a lower profile heel tab that avoids this potential issue, a nice update.

A one-pull adjusting stretch speed lace upper is stock on this shoe along with the round donning hole seen in the integrated tongue. 3 great features in a triathlon specific run shoe: Integrated speed laces, quick donning hole and full-wrap tongue upper.

The Ultra Ovwa is $120 MSRP and a reasonable value at that price considering it just saved you a couple bucks with speed laces right out of the box. Zoot makes a complimentary training shoe called the Kapilani with a slightly higher chassis at 21 mm heel and 11 mm forefoot for the same 10 mm drop as the Ultra Ovwa but with a claimed 10% greater cushioning, more durable outsole along with a conventional lace upper. If you race and do speed work in the Ultra Ovwa you may like the Kapilani as a trainer.

When I do a shoe review I almost always have a nit-pick, and perhaps the miss-step on the quoted weight is my criticism here. From my perspective though, this is the reference triathlon running shoe now, and my favorite. After I ran in my test pair for this review a few times I wiped them off, wrote my last name on them in permanent marker and set them next to my transition bag. I’m racing in these.

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Zoot keeps getting better. The 2011 Ultra Ovwa is the new high bar in tri specific running shoes for the average age grouper.
Brooks 2011: T7 Racer, Green Silence, Racer ST 5 Wed, 02 Mar 2011 00:28:38 +0000 Brooks is to running in the 2010’s as Nike was in the 1970’s: Authentic, leading technology. See the new ideas from Brooks here.]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Brooks Racing Flats
The 2011 Brooks T5, Green Silence and T7 Racer each offer tangible benefits to a range of performance runners.

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Brooks Shoes: A Genuine Running Brand.
Brooks Sports was founded in 1914 but didn’t achieve main stream recognition until Warren Buffett’s involvement in 2006 through his Berkshire-Hathaway super-investment fund. Buffett’s vote of confidence and a funky little running shop from my home state of Michigan, Hanson’s, establish a level of legitimacy for Brooks missing from almost every other running brand. These influences are at opposite ends of the spectrum: Massive investment billionaire and corner store specialty retailer. The opposites meet in the middle to make Brooks the unique, credible running brand it is.

Brooks is valid running technology. They don’t make fashion shoes. They aren’t hustled by Kim Kardashian in Superbowl commercials. There are no springs, little “fluff” and a reasonable absence of marketing hyperbole except for their well intentioned “green” initiative.

Brooks uses solid design to make shoes fit better and feel faster. It’s a nice approach to running shoe design: It isn’t condescending. It also works.

For 2011 three unique shoes characterize the Brooks design ethos and showcase their approach to shoe design. These new Brooks shoes are tangibly unique and offer intrinsic performance features. Can a shoe make you run faster? It can. The new Brooks technologies for 2011 combined with basic lessons in running shoe design realize that goal.

3 Shoes: The Best for Last.

Brooks Green Silence Racing Flats
While the primary sales feature of the Brooks Green Silence is its eco-friendly construction it is a valid triathlon racing entry with solid features and benefits.

Green Silence: Shouting Sustainability.
Our first Core Value at is “sustainability”: Recycling. Water harvesting. Bicycle commuting. Our ecological footprint is as narrow as a snake’s trail in the Sonora Desert. The Brooks Green Silence is natural selection for us.

I am a cynic about the current trend of conspicuous environmentalism. The very first line in the Brooks Running website description of the Green Silence is, “Make an eco-statement with the Green Silence”. It irks me. “Hey, look at me, I just bought these shoes! I’m ‘green’!” To me a low environmental impact running shoe is one manufactured with responsibility to the social and natural environment that is durable enough to not have to be recycled in three months. The marketing pitch of the Green Silence made the eco-cynic hairs on the back of my neck go up.

Then I ran in them.

Green or not this shoe is a valid contender in the triathlon racing shoe category. The unique “wrap” tongue/upper construction facilitates fast donning when you install elastic speed laces such as Easy Laces or Xtenex. The shoe will drain well when dumping aid station cups over your body because the upper is so light and airy. The center of the upper is light mesh that ventilates and drains superbly. It is a cool shoe, feeling like a pair of socks with an outsole on the bottom.

Brooks Green Silence Racing Flats
Light weight, a comfortable inner for sockless running and good ride characteristics even for a lightweight shoe mean the Green Silence is a shoe well suited for the triathlon runner.

The shoe runs beautifully with no socks due to the “wrap” upper and lining along with good placement of seams. The tongue is integrated into the upper and the lace eyelets are actually fabric loops with no plastic anchors. The result is delightfully tailored. I’d race a 70.3 with no socks in this shoe.

Brooks claims a weight of 6.9 ounces and my test pair was overweight at 7.5 ounces in a size 9.5. That is a weight discrepancy of about 8%. That was enough to make me re-tare my scale. It was accurate. The weight claims for the shoe are not accurate.

The midsole is made of BioMoGo, a biodegradable midsole material. BioMoGo is single density foam used throughout the entire midsole and much of the outsole of the Green Silence. It rides great, providing not only adequate shock absorption but also enough roll and motion control for my 175 pound girth. A fair portion of the midsole is exposed on the bottom of the shoe as the outsole. This wears quickly, so not only is the shoe recycled, it will be recycled relatively quickly. This light construction means the $100 price tag got my attention.

Despite the inaccuracy in claimed shoe weight- or perhaps because of it- this shoe is remarkably “run-able” for a lightweight shoe. Other than the Strobel-board construction it does not have, nor does it need, any motion control support in the insole for a large-ish neutral runner like me. I’ll take the higher than claimed weight in exchange for this surprising level of stability, comfort, fit and performance.

The shoe geometry features a claimed heel to toe drop of 8 mm with a 13 mm forefoot and a 21 mm heel. I’m not on board with the barefoot running trend and I don’t like low slung shoes but this shoe ran great for me. The upper is asymmetric, following the curvature of the foot which also accounts for the delightfully tailored fit.

With its light weight and exposed outsole the Brooks Green Silence is best suited as a race day and tempo run shoe. It isn’t an everyday shoe owing to its tendency to wear rapidly and its light design. Colors are garish and shout the enviro-conspicuous marketing shtick. While I like the shoe Brooks missed the opportunity to do a “natural” all light brown/tan/earth color version and call the color something grungy like “earth”, “native” or “hemp”. Maybe next year.

I doubt Brooks designed this shoe specifically for the triathlon user. Enviro-bling aside, this is a very strong triathlon specific running shoe. Perhaps the best environmental responsibility is good design that doesn’t need to be constantly replaced with new designs. Even though it wears quickly the Green Silence fulfills that agenda.

Brooks Unisex T7 Racing Flats
The Brooks ST5 fills a niche for a performance racing shoe with good motion control features. It is a powerful performance combination.

Brooks Racer ST5: Refined Function for Real World Speed.
The colors of this shoe are ugly. And I like it. The orange, blue and silver Brooks Racer ST5 has a retro, collegiate look to it. Like a grumbly old college track coach, it delivers on performance using old school themes.

The central feature of the Brooks Racer ST5 is the Diagonal Roll Bar or “DRB”, a blue wedge of high density midsole material stabilized by the “DRB Accel” plastic roll bar at the aft section of the arch, visible from under the shoe. These suspension components provide a hefty level of guidance for heavier, long distance runners who still want a performance shoe. This technology is both old and proven. It works.

Shock absorption up to marathon distance is achieved with another proven technology, the Brooks Hydroflow fluid pockets in the forefoot and heel. These are firm and effective in soaking up the hits. Based on my experience with older Brooks models using the same technology this technology also wears well.

The shoe rides slightly low to the lateral toe, an odd tendency that moderated as the pace picked up. The heel feels markedly concave and, like all Brooks shoes, the fit on my down-the-middle width, utterly average size 9.5 foot was tailored and accurate. Heel is 34 mm high with the forefoot at 17 mm high for a drop of 17 mm, pretty traditional running shoe geometry. Brooks claimed 8.6 ounces on this shoe; our sample was exactly 9 ounces.

Brooks Unisex ST5 Racing Flats
The blue wedge of denser foam (left) and more conventional sole geometry give the ST5 plenty of ride control for athletes above 170 pounds but in a lightweight shoe.

The upper is meshy and open for ventilation and drainage. There is a minimalist saddle area on top with synthetic suede for lace retention and no plastic eyelets to keep the shoe light. The ST5 comes out of the box with unique ribbon-fabric laces that stayed tied better than I anticipated. These work fine but will likely be replaced with stretch speed laces for quick donning by triathletes.

For the average body type triathlete who is more than 8% body fat and taller than 5’7” this is a performance shoe worthy of race day that retains adequate motion control and cushion features. It is suitable for everyday use. It is well designed in material and execution with proven cushion and motion control themes. The ST5 proves a guidance shoe does not have to be festooned with plastic and heavy features. It’s an elegant design that contradicts the garish color scheme. At $90 this is also a strong value. It’s a racy sports car you can commute in and afford. I don’t find fault with this shoe- it uses proven design and refined technology to deliver great performance in all areas. There is no female specific version of this shoe and Brooks recommends women size down 1.5 sizes. I recommend any female user also check for width.

Brooks Unisex T7 Racing Flats
Brooks got it very right with the T7 Racer, a true performance racing shoe with low ride and even lighter than claimed weight.

Brooks T7 Racer. Strap Yourself In, We’re Going Fast.
I’ve always wanted a cool looking, low slung sports car. Now I’ve got two, one on each foot.

Red racing livery and all, these are Ferraris for your feet. The Brooks T7 Racer is a grand prix racing shoe. It’s pure racing. Low slung, light weight, comfortable and just enough “cush” and control below a 7:30 mile. You have to “earn” these shoes with good fitness and moderate to light body weight- and they are a tangible reward for building or maintaining your fitness.

Chrissie Wellington wears the T7 Racer. And while athlete endorsements carry dubious cred, Chrissie and the shoes are the real deal.

T7 begins with the most authentic performance feature a race shoe can have: light weight. Brooks claims 6.4 ounces for the T7, ours weighed only 5.9 ounces in a size 9.5- the only Brooks shoe that came in lighter than its claimed weight. As such, the shoe feels spritely and brisk. Moderate suspension features and good sole shape keep the outsole light. A bantam-weight skeletal saddle area of grey suede-like synthetic uses stitched in eyelets to stop the scale and the clock early. The upper fabric is oddly robust micro mesh. The heel counter is minimal but adequate. These materials and designs keep the shoe delightfully light.

Brooks Unisex T7 Racing Flats
As viewed from above the asymmetrical lacing of the Brooks T7 is easy to spot. This feature enhances fit and feel of the shoe.

What makes these shoes feel fast is light weight. What makes the shoes work are beautiful, unusual lines and design features. Just like the oddly swooping lines of a Formula 1 car the curvaceous alignment of the T7’s upper demand a second look. The upper is asymmetrical, following the contour of the foot as the lacing system curves slightly outboard, wrapping your foot over its highest anatomical point. They fit like paint. The shiny heel strap provides enough alignment without excess baggage on race day. The guys you’re passing have too much shoe. This shoe is low-to-go, with a racy 25 mm heel swooping down to a race car 15 mm forefoot. That makes about 10 mm of drop from heel to toe. The shoe feels flat-ish at cruise speed, but when you hit the throttle and the shoe “comes up on plane” I tended to shift forward in foot strike where the shoe ran great and the minimal heel was less important. For such a light shoe it is straight and stable.

I did some searches on a university study that may quantify the effect of shoe weight on running speed and only came up with an internet rule-of-thumb that suggested 1 ounce of shoe weight is worth about 1 second per mile. Is it true? I have nothing to verify that. My anecdotal hunch is a lighter shoe is faster. I am certain it feels faster- I don’t need a study to tell me that.

No women’s specific shoe in the Brooks T7 Racer so Chrissie sizes down about 1.5 sizes as recommended on the Brooks website. I took my requisite size 9.5 for the described precise fit.

Got a race bike, race wheels, aero helmet? The Brooks T7 Racer is another performance enhancing technology that will provide a tangible benefit in lighter weight and potentially higher performance.

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Brooks Racing Flats
Notice the green heel plug for shock absorption. The skeletonized saddle area on the upper saves weight and helps provide precise fit.