Asics Fujitrabuco Trail Shoe

It seems nowadays that only the lure of a new pair of trainers can encourage me out of the house for a run. Fortunately Millet Sports decided it was time I laced up again as they sent me a jazzy pair of Asics trail shoes to trial. 

Asics Trail ShoesWithin moments of opening the box, to a new pair of Asics Gel Fujitrabuco, I’m a runner again. I was down on Mitcham Common bounding over the hillocks and tufts, putting the day-glo trail shoes through their paces. 

I’ve just about gone full circle with running shoes. I’ve tried some amazing extremes, like mattress sized Hoka and minimal Vibram FiveFingers but recently I’ve been looking back fondly at the relatively normal Asics trainers that I started out with many moons ago.

I still remember the joy of the early runs on new Gel Kayano trainers where I felt at one with my shoe. Body and sole gliding with grace. 

Obviously I’ve lost a few brain cells since I last ran properly as I’m sure I never trogged anywhere with grace and unfortunately nothing much has changed. I huffed and puffed around the common in my usual ungainly style but who cares? I loved it. 

Trail running can be so liberating and I think I will spend a bit more time in my oddly coloured pink and peach Asics trail shoes, trying to rediscover my running alter ego. 

A Sunburst of Runners

I was scouring Millets website for a new pair of Mizuno running shoes and was astounded by the splashes of colour that filled the page. I doubted that there could possibly be a demand for that much colour on the foot of a runner.

My post-run trip to Richmond Park caff, showed that I was wrong though. As a breed, we seem to be rather fond of gaudy design on our running shoes.

A Sunburst of Runners

I was rather happy to find a rather more subdued version of the Mizuno Wave Inspire.

Mizuno Wave

I’ve been a fan of Mizuno for a while, they have a wide fit and the perfect mix of cushion and stability which makes for a comfortable run. They stand out for me because of their sole, seemingly suited to most of the terrain I run on, from grass, dry trail and tarmac. I wouldn’t use them on an aggressively muddy trail but it is reassuring to have a shoe that can cope with a varied track.

The mizuno wave inspire 10 is a surprisingly light running shoe and despite having substantial cushioning, they are barely felt on the foot.

I’ve been a bit slack on the running front this month so as well as the occasional treadmill run, they’ve seen me through some high energy Insanity Max sessions which calls for a cushioned, non-slip shoe and they didn’t let me down.

Maxi-minimal Running Shoes – Can Altra replace Hoka

Having been a committed, t-shirt wearing, fan of Hoka ultra-cushioned running shoes for more than 2 years, I’ve recently started to consider the options and allowed my eyes to wander. It’s not that I’ve become disillusioned at all, in fact I want to find something very similar to a Hoka, just perhaps, a bit better.

Hoka Mafate 3

By better I mean:

1. Cheaper than a Hoka
2. More durable than a Hoka

But I want to keep the similarities, so they must be:

3. As cushioned as a Hoka
4. As comfortable as a Hoka

When I first came across the Hoka they were these uniquely outlandish clown shoes. They seemed to be completely against the trend for minimal barefoot shoes (even though they had minimal heel to toe drop) but now we have a host of thick soled running shoes to choose from. I call them maxi-minimal running shoes to describe the huge soles with barefoot style, minimal, heel drop.

Maxi-minimal running shoes

Ranking of cushion thickness

Maxi-Minimal Running Shoe Comparison

I’ve shown the RRP for each of these shoes but Hokas are increasingly available in the UK with good discounts available. I’ve been impressed with Millets who seem to stock the full range of Hoka Ultra running shoes.

Despite loving the feel of running in Hokas, I was becoming alarmed at the amount of money I was spending to accumulate a mound of worn out platform shoes. The Hokas are the most comfortable shoe I have ever run in and enabled me to run free of the fear of knee pain but they do have a tendency to wear out at a shocking pace. My first pair of Hokas had to be sent back within a month because I’d left half the sole on the streets of San Francisco – blog link and the while the later versions had more durable soles they started to wear very quickly on the heel tab and this resulted in heel blisters long before the shoe ought to need replacing.

When I looked at the alternatives the only real competition seemed to come from Altra. Sketchers and Adidas both do a highly cushioned model but the Sketchers has a massive heel to toe drop and the Adidas Boost was an entirely disappointing shoe that gave me none of the liberating joys associated with the Hoka range.

Looking at the price point of the Altra shoes, I’m surprised I went ahead and ordered them, they barely come in any cheaper than the Hoka. In fact when I opened the box with the Altra Olympus I nearly sent them straight back as they have a very cheap feel and at £125 I don’t think that’s warranted. The Altra Torin was much more pleasing from the outset, they didn’t necessarily look like Hoka competitors but they were cool looking.

Altra vs Hoka

Altra Torin Maxi-minimal running shoeAt the outset I said I was looking for a similar shoe to the Hoka (Mafate 3 for trail or Stinson for road use) that was preferably cheaper and more durable. The Altra Torin doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the similarity requirements, I don’t see it as a maximal shoe at all. It is however incredibly comfortable, it has a firm sole and a roomy toe box and its actually the shoe that I now spend the most time in. I don’t run in it very often though – it is too barefoot style for me nowadays but I do walk in it everywhere and its holding up remarkably well to the abuse of the daily commute. I pull them on and off without use of the laces and 4 months in, it is still showing no signs of wear.

Altra Olympus Maxi-minimal running shoeThe Altra Olympus ought to be a real competitor. The spec charts suggest that this model has a thicker sole than any of the Hoka range although it doesn’t feel like that on the foot. Like the Torin, the Olympus has an incredibly wide toe box which immediately makes you feel less constricted than in the Hoka range. I can’t say that it is a more comfortable shoe though. The sole seems to squirm underfoot in a quite a disturbing manner. You feel as though you are teetering on a mass of jelly and I can’t claim to have enjoyed my running experiences in it.

In terms of durability, I can’t yet call it. Despite having had both pairs of Altras for about 4 months I barely ever wear the Olympus – I’d much rather reach for any of my Hokas.

When they eventually wear out I will replace the Altra Torin as my near permanent walking and play shoe but I won’t be touching the Olympus again. The Hokas are still my number one choice of running shoe although I am still thinking about the perfect maxi-minimal running shoe that might have the sole of a Hoka Mafate but the toe box of an Altra Torin. I wonder if it exists?

For a great comparison of the Hoka range, showing cut away photos, see the excellent article on fellrnr.

FAAS 600S from Puma

Puma Faas 600S running shoe

I haven’t worn a standard running shoe in years. Nowadays I tend to favour the more extreme ends of the market, oscillating between the uber cushioned Hoka One One to the minimalist Vibram FiveFingers. The closest I come to normal is my current treadmill shoe of choice, the Cloudsurfer On but even these have a gimicky cachet.

In the old days when Asics Gel Kayano was my staple running shoe, I used to look forward to the new shoe high. I could rely on that first, out-of-the-box run to be a highlight of my running year, full of cloud hopping visualisations and moon bounding strides.

Puma Faas 600S running shoeI’m afraid to say, the Puma Faas 600S was an entirely underwhelming shoe. It may smack you in the face with its brassy colours but on the foot it was all a bit too meh. Neither cushioned, flat or minimally stylish it just sapped me of all new shoe joy.

It didn’t help that the fit was a little too snug for me. There is an extra padded strip around the heel which feels like you are being pinched between finger and thumb and while some may enjoy the structured feel, I just felt a bit trussed up and constrained. As Susan Partridge describes in the video, the Puma FAAS 600 are stability shoes, designed specifically for women who should have sleeker and slenderer feet than our male counterparts. I clearly have tomboy feet.

The Puma Faas range of running shoes have a sliding scale of structure and cushioning from the Faas 100 super minimal speed shoes to the Faas 900 aimed at those that seek comfort over speed. The Faas 600 are therefore in the middle ground, light, nippy and with a modicum of cushioning to remove the harsh ground feel so favoured by the barefoot types.

In summary, I think a narrow heeled speed demon with a penchant for bold colours would love these shoes, a more sturdy, back of the pack plodder would do well to hunt out a pair of Hoka One Ones.

Hitting the Trails with Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS

Vibram FiveFingers SpyridonI’ve been meaning to review my new trail specific Vibram FiveFingers for some time now. Unfortunately my opportunities for trying out the Spyridon and putting them to the test have been seriously curtailed by the opprobrium with which they are viewed by the family. If I venture within 5 yards of the “frog shoes” I am met with screams of disgust and ultimatums are laid down which make it clear that if I dare put those on my feet, I will be going out alone.

I thought I was a little hard done to, in my mind the Spyridon has a fantastically exciting design, admittedly I would have preferred the orange version but the green camouflage styling has its merits.

Capturing the Vibram FiveFingers ZeitgeistI put it to the great zeitgeist monitor, Facebook, and was alarmed by the horror expressed in the comments. The world apparently shuns my new shoes.

As the summer holiday approached, I seized my opportunity and snuck them in the suitcase, I might not have been allowed to wear them in public but I thought if the public was entirely foreign and never to be seen again, I may just get away with it. Add to the fact that the only other shoes packed were the barefoot earthing sandles and a pair of hideous blue swim slippers, I was on to a winner.

I had intended to run while I was away but it was hot, hot beyond compare.
If I wasn’t moaning about the heat, I either had an ice cool Mythos in my hand or I was bathing up to my waist in the refreshing Aegean. There just didn’t seem to be a good time to jog off into the sunset.

We did walk though and I took the opportunity to try the Spyridon LS shoes in a mountain scramble to an isolated chapel. It was a good test for a trail shoe, it involved navigating the stony bottom of a desiccated river bed, tearing through savage, dehydrated monster thistles and scrabbling up scree and a sharp rock face. Not a typical terrain choice for a pair of barefoot shoes but they fared well.

As the only trail focussed shoe in the Vibram FiveFingers range there has been plenty of time to design and construct an outstanding model. To my mind Vibram have managed to deliver an excellent shoe with the Spyridon. The sole is thicker and grippier than my Vibram FiveFingers Speed and very importantly the sole moves up and over the tip of the toes, thereby providing toe stubbing protection which was really appreciated on my Greek scramble.

I’ve just noticed that at 3.5mm thick, the sole is only 0.5mm thicker than the sole on the Speed but they look far more aggressive. Despite the apparent thickness, I didn’t lose ground feel through the soles, I was very much aware of the terrain underfoot and although it didn’t exactly hurt I was quite careful about foot placement especially on the riverbed section. When we moved into the steeper climbs I felt much more comfortable and appreciated the freedom to grip the ground with my toes.

If you’re tempted to buy a pair I would recommend getting these and other Vibram FiveFingers properly sized up. Mine are a tiny bit too big which means that my little toe regularly pops out, especially on uphill climbs, which is a bit annoying, they were very snug on the way back down though and a snug pair feel so much more comfortable.

Overall I would happily recommend these to trail runners or walkers. You might find it easier if you were single or at least partnered up with someone with equally dubious taste in foot attire though.

Earth Runners Minimal Earthing Sandals

Flip flop sandals have always filled me with fear, particularly the thong style with inter-toe strap, which seems like an horrific big toe accident waiting to happen.

Obviously I’ve been intrigued by the huarache sandals made famous by the Tarahumara and the book, Born to run. Intrigued, but not even slightly interested in wearing them – far too hardcore for my barefoot dabblings.

Earth Runners CircadianHaving said that, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so when Mike offered me a sneak preview of the new Circadian Earth Runner I jumped at the opportunity to try them out for size. The Earth Runner series include copper studs and coils which are designed to conduct electricity and “ground” you to the earth. I was of course deeply sceptical about this “grounding” stuff but when my sandals arrived I was disappointed that the grounding studs seemed to be missing. I needn’t have worried, the conduction system is still there, just a little less conspicuous in the Circadian model.

I don’t know if I’m feeling the benefits of being earthed but I do enjoy wearing them. I’ve taken to wearing them around the house like slippers, I feel good in them. I don’t apparently, look good in them, so I won’t be bothering you with photos of my sandals in action – I was not blessed with photogenic feet.

It is odd to feel the strap between your toes but I am getting used to it and the Earth Runners are amazingly customisable for such a simple product. The strap angle can be altered by shifting the buckle position and there are a few videos on the website to help with finding the perfect fit.

I’ve run with these on the treadmill but I’m taking it easy, I can’t shake off the vision of the big toe accident and so I’m nervous to take these out and run with abandon over trails where I risk snagging the sole and turning the lace into a cheese wire. Maybe I’ll get over this in time and relax into my Earth Runner, I hope so because they give a fabulous feeling of freedom. The underfoot experience is very similar to the RunAmoc Moc3 but the upper is more cabriolet style.

Earth Runners are currently running a kick starter campaign to send the Circadian into full production. It looks like they have hit their target so hopefully they will be available more widely soon but do check it out if you’d like to place an order and take advantage of the early adopter discount. I would strongly recommend the product quality and the comfort will only increase over the coming months as the footbed moulds to the shape of your foot.

I’ll be taking these on my summer holidays even if they do play havoc with my sex appeal.


Adidas Energy Boost Review

Adidas have created quite a stir with their latest shoe release. On launch date I walked past a substantial queue of eager runners outside the Oxford Street branch.

I may have been excited by the product but I was not tempted to camp out for running shoe even if they do promise a significant energy boost. I had to wait a couple of days for mine to be posted direct to home.

20130303-144452.jpgIf you’ve heard any of the hype you’ll know that the Adidas Energy Boost introduces the running world to a whole new kind of foam. The usual EVA foam is replaced by a substance that looks remarkably like polystyrene but is to be called “Boost”.

It’s bouncy.

Apparently dropped marbles bounce more on Boost than on EVA and it’s so technologically advanced that Haile Gebrselassie asked at the launch “is it legal?”

When I attempted to sell my rash purchase to “her indoors”, I had the comment:

“They’d have to be good to give you a boost”

and to be fair, having tried them on treadmill and trail, they just aren’t that good. I felt neither a spring nor a bounce. I suppose I was hoping for a new-fangled anti-gravity device or at least a Kangoo-jump style of rebound.

They just felt like shoes to me. Comfortable running shoes but still just shoes without any appreciable bounce or boost.

I think I may have been had by the marketeers and not for the first time.

20130303-144415.jpgThey are very comfortable in a Nike Free slipper kind of way. The sole is cushioned but with a firm after bite (perhaps the boost?) and the upper is soft and has the feel of a compression sock. I found them to be a tiny bit narrow and they came up relatively high around the heel.

I love the look of them. Running shoes have a tendency to be pretty garish at the moment and I think it’s interesting that Adidas were prepared to launch such an understated design with such fanfare.

So all in all I’m happy with the look and the comfort level but they didn’t deliver the performance boost I’d hoped for and when they compare so closely with the Nike Free on everything other than price, I wonder why I would I want to fork out another £30 over the Nike price tag.

I’m hardly Olympic standard though and maybe, if you’re a racing whippet in the market for marginal gains of even tiny proportions, you may be happy to fork out £110 for these trainers.

New Balance Minimus Zero

The New Balance Minimus Zero is a surprisingly light shoe, the shoe box was so light that I half expected it to be empty. I know it’s billed as a minimalist shoe so was hardly likely to be bulky but it has such an imposing sole that I was expecting it to feel slightly more substantial.

20130301-144901.jpgThe Vibram sole is fabulous.

It’s like a field of Eden projects – colourful geodesic bumps forming a flexible platform.

The pod design enables excess material to be cut away and explains why the shoe is so light. The dark pods have a firm and grippy layer to extend the life of the high impact areas.

20130301-144922.jpgThe rest of the shoe doesn’t excite me as much the sole. The upper is made from a lightweight, almost transparent mesh and I’m afraid when I put my feet inside the sight of my hairy toes just ruins the visual appeal. I don’t think it is entirely my toes fault – not many feet are attractive through semi-transparent mesh.

With the New Balance Minimus all the design efforts appear to have gone into the sole and the upper has been left rather stark. The mesh is both unattractive and feels a bit harsh. For a shoe designed to be worn without socks I would have preferred a softer fabric. The ankle opening has slight padding but it has no structure and gapes quite unpleasantly when I wear it. The tongue is made from a soft felt-like material but it isn’t firmly attached to the shoe which means that it is a faff to get it to lay flat when you’re wearing it. It’s very easy to create a fold that would create a blister after a few miles of running.

I’m not overly impressed with the New Balance Minimus. It looks great until you put it on and then the minimal design of the upper lets it down. I have no complaints at all with sole which performs well for a midfoot or barefoot running style but the Minimus won’t be tempting me away from my barefot stalwarts the Vibram Five Fingers or the Softstar Moc3.

Cloudtec On – The Cloudsurfer Review

On CloudsurferI’ve been sporting a trial pair of On Cloudsurfer running shoes for the duration of Janathon. They are the odd shoes with built in clouds, otherwise known as the CloudTec system, in the sole. You look at these shoes and either think fad or innovation. When they first came out I probably veered towards the former assessment but since my adoption of Vibram Fivefingers and then Hoka One One I’ve become accustomed to the more extreme end of the running shoe market. It’s interesting that the more innovative or trend bucking shoes seem to be associated with the ultra running scene.

20130106-175255.jpgI opted for the rather classy black and lime green version of the Cloudsurfer which inspired whoops of delight from one of the teenagers in the house who wanted to try them on immediately. My SoftStar RunAmocs did not generate the same level of response from the Yoof.

The On concept is fairly simple – the firm clouds deform or compress on impact thereby providing vertical and horizontal cushioning. The front pods compress fully for take off with the teeth meshing together to form a firm push off point. You can see this very well from the series of animations that On include on their homepage and On claim that their design ensures that you have cushioning only where required and full efficiency is maintained.

I was expecting them to be super bouncy but they have a relatively normal running sensation. I am probably far too heavy for the shoes and as they compress even when I’m standing as delicately as I can manage and as a result I will not experience the cushioning levels of a “standard” sized runner.

20130106-175531.jpgMy first impressions on the run were good, especially for steep downhills where I felt sure and steady. Then I went out one dreary damp night and felt very unsteady on my feet – the soles do not appear to have good wet weather grip. I didn’t exactly slip but I had the sense that I could. Yesterday I went for a 13k run in them along the Thames where they had a variety of surfaces to deal with from tarmac, cobbles, hard trails and thick, deep, gloopy mud.

They didn’t cope well with the ankle high mud but then not many shoes do and they weren’t as bad as I expected. They did attract an awful lot of mud into the pods which made a complete mess of the treadmill this morning but I stayed upright through it all.

I will be wearing these in the future but I’ll probably restrict them to dry conditions and treadmill running.

Other reviews from the blogosphere:

  • American Peyote, loves them but has concerns about long term durability of such an expensive shoe.
  • Ransacker also noticed the lack of traction in wet conditions.

Janathon update:

I had a pre-work trog on the treadmill to satisfy the Janathon gods and another 3k logged.

Stout-athlon update:

I was looking forward to the bottle of Marston’s Oyster Stout. I remember it as one of my all time favourite ales. It poured well with a deep, dark burgundy but the head disappeared before I had chance to take a snap. It turned out to be a one-dimensional brew, with a flat smell and more of a sensation than a taste. It wasn’t unpleasant by any means, it was just a very easy, if uninspiring tipple.


Soft Star Shoes – Moc3 Barefoot Running Shoe

Soft Star shoes are my guilty pleasure, the fashion habit that I feel somewhat obliged to hide from the family.

RunAmoc Moc3

I’m threatening to turn into one of those old biddies who wander round the streets in their slippers, but when shoes are this comfortable who really cares?

Soft Star shoes are as cutting edge and hip as elf made, barefoot shoes get. The original RunAmoc (reviewed here) was hard to beat but the elves have got a new recruit and he’s brought some tried and tested science to the shoe making table, resulting in the release of Moc3 RunAmoc. These are fantastically comfortable and have odour resistant properties that Vibram FiveFinger runners will envy.

I prefer the thicker sole option for trail running but they are also my gad about shoe of choice especially when camping.

Soft Star The RogueI’ve just discovered their latest casual shoe offering, The Rogue, and I’m wondering if I can get away with these combined with a suit for work?