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FORTIUS Media Group, LLC
2014 Spring Shoe Review
Welcome to the 2014 Spring Shoe Review from the FORTIUS Media Group, LLC partner publications and websites. Since 1998, we have been reviewing running footwear for you, our readers. The team of footwear reviewer Cregg Weinmann, designer Kristen Cerer, proofereader Marg Sumner, and project manager Christine Johnson, along with our many shoe weartesters, strives to provide clear, concise reviews of the best running products in the world. Our goal is simple: to help you find the perfect running shoe for you.
So, where should you go to try out and purchase your shoes? We strongly recommend a running specialty retailer. In other words, buy your shoes from one of your local running stores. If you want to buy online, go to the local running store’s website. Why do we encourage this? First, because we think that you get the proper fitting; and second, because you’re supporting the place that gives you information throughout the year and sponsors your local events and school teams. You may be wondering about FORTIUS Media Group, LLC. There have been some changes on the running scene, and it’s the name of our new company. Watch for some new social media options, digital video, and innovative training information that’ll be headed your way in the coming months. Our 22 publications and 29 websites are poised to help you continue to enjoy your running for many years into the future!
Larry Eder Publishing Director FORTIUS Media Group, LLC P.S. And as a reminder, we offer three—count ‘em 3!—ways for you to get regular information via the web. 1. Daily product reviews at www.runningproductreviews.com 2. Local running news and event info at the magazine websites (listed on the right) 3. The latest news and results at www.runblogrun.com
Newton Motion III
Nike Zoom Fly
Spring S pring g 2014 201 20 4
S i g 2014 Spring 2014
Mizuno Wave Paradox
New Balance Fresh Foam 980
American Track & Field www.american-trackandfield.com Athletes Only www.atf-athlete.com Austin Fit www.austinfitmagazine.com California Track & Running News www.caltrack.com Canadian Athletics www.athleticsontario.ca Club Running (RRCA) www.rrca.org/publications/ club-running Coaching Athletics Quarterly www.coachingathleticsq.com Colorado Runner www.coloradorunnermag.com Footnotes (Long Island, NY) www.glirc.org Get Active! www.healthclubs.com Latinos Corriendo www.latinoscorriendo.com Michigan Runner www.michiganrunner.net New England Exchange Zone www.usatfne.org RunMinnesota www.runmdra.org Running Journal & Racing South www.running.net RunOhio www.runohio.com Track & Field News www.trackandfieldnews.com Winged Foot (NYC) www.nyac.org Winged M (Portland, OR) www.themac.com Youth Runner www.youthrunner.com www.marathonguide.com www.runblogrun.com www.runningproductreviews.com Project Coordinator/Editor: Christine Johnson Reviewer: Cregg Weinmann Designer: Kristen Cerer Proofreader: Marg Sumner, Red Ink Editorial Services Shoe Photography: Daniel Saldaña, Cregg Weinmann Advertising Sales: FORTIUS Media Group, LLC Publishing Director: Larry Eder, 608.239.3785, firstname.lastname@example.org Legal Counsel: Perry F. Goldust This 2014 Spring Shoe Review is produced independently by FORTIUS Media Group, LLC for its partner publications. All shoes reviewed were tested by experienced, competitive runners who were matched to the biomechanical purpose of each shoe model.
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Spring S i 2014 4
Copyright © 2014 by FORTIUS Media Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be stored, copied, or reprinted without prior written permission of FORTIUS Media Group, LLC. FORTIUS Media Group, LLC and its partner publications suggest that, as with all fitness activities, you meet with a healthcare professional before beginning or changing your fitness regimen.
2014 Spring Shoe Review — 2 — FORTIUS Media Group, LLC
P E RF OR M A N CE Newton Motion III
RENOVATION S i g 2014 Spring 2014
Nike Zoom Fly
VALUE Spring 2014
Performance Spring S i 2014 4
Puma Faas 500 v3
Saucony Mirage 4
Newton is evolving, and that’s reflected in its shoes, with specific categories to address biomechanical and technical preferences. The Motion III is the first of Newton’s mainline shoes to be updated. The upper now features a full saddle—light but secure, thanks to nosew overlays—and somewhat forgiving with a closed stretch-mesh. The interior is smooth, with Lycra in the ankle collar and tongue, which offers good comfort while keeping it spare enough to save weight. The high-quality EVA midsole features a 3mm drop from heel to toe, a broader midfoot that’s now a full-contact bottom, and the Action/Reaction plate in a new five-lug configuration. Between the broader and flatter geometry and new lug spacing, the shoe is much more stable yet it still delivers the unique Newton feel. Keeping an eye on the scale, the outersole minimizes the rubber and uses it thinly where it’s placed: coverage that’s adequate and lightweight. The Motion III delivers lightweight performance with a touch of stability, earning it our Best Renovation Award.
“Smooth, snug, comfortable fit. The ride was light and responsive, great for my faster runs.”
The Zoom Fly is a bit of a sleeper: Don’t be fooled by its low price and seemingly simple design. Borrowing from the Bowerman heritage and mixing in a bit of its Lunar engineering, the result is a Performance shoe for this moment. The upper is open mesh in the forefoot with closed mesh in the mid- and rearfoot, and married together with no-sew overlays. The tapered toebox provides a good fit and retains its shape well, thanks to a synthetic leather toe cap. The toebox also includes a bunion window to accommodate the forefoot width. The midsole is a combination of Phylon and Cushlon, molded to provide support and protection. It’s got a Zoom Air bag in the forefoot and uses 8mm geometry. The outersole is BRS 1000 carbon rubber in the heel, with mini-waffles providing traction up front. The Zoom Fly is an effective Performance shoe for faster-paced runs and even for long races. And at $90, it’s an outstanding value—so good, in fact, that it won honors as our Best Value Shoe.
“Secure fit and a nice, low-to-the-ground feel. Protective and nimble. This has been a go-to shoe for fast running.”
The Cloud takes On technology a step beyond. The original outersole lugs, called clouds, were made of dense—and heavy—rubber. Thanks to a new process, On is now using road-grade EVA foam, a much lighter material that’s been engineered to achieve the same effect without the extra weight. The closed mesh upper has a partial gusset and an overlapping saddle to secure the midfoot. It comes with both traditional laces and a stretch lace, and the smooth interior is suitable for sockless wear—both nods to its triathlon roots. The midsole is a high-quality EVA blend, forming the clouds along its length, and divided by a longitudinal gap that allows the foot to flex more naturally throughout the gait. Its 6mm geometry supports greater gait efficiency. The outersole sports a few touches of rubber at the heel and toe for durability, with the clouds managing the rest of the cushioning duties. The fit, ride, and innovation earned the Cloud our Best Performance Shoe award.
“Smooth—even plush—interior. Flexes well, has an agile feel to it; light and smooth. For my fast runs, these were what I reached for.”
The Faas 500 is the taproot of the Faas series, with other models branching off to suit different needs. Round 3 makes changes to the upper, while maintaining the ride and feel of Round 2. The upper offers a closed mesh, as in v2, but the midfoot now features a saddle-like framework with synthetic leather stanchions that loop into the lacing, snugging the foot over the midsole. The ankle collar and interior have beefier layers of memory foam, achieved without adding much weight—a worthwhile trade-off. The midsole continues with the 4mm geometry, and the EVA blend of elastomers offers the resilient cushioning, flexibility, and comfort the model has been known for. The outersole remains substantially the same—good news, since it was already an effective set-up going into the update. The result is a familiar shoe that works well for faster runs, a share of your daily training, or—in a pinch—even the occasional race.
The Mirage has been the most versatile of Saucony’s Natural Motion Series shoes, nestled between the Kinvara and the Cortana. Round 4 focuses on the upper and midsole to raise the bar for excellence, but not at the expense of the expected performance. The upper is a closed mesh with the usual adjustments to overlays: here, lightweight Flexfilm that belies its strength and support. The midsole still sits on 4mm geometry, but the substitution of PowerGrid for Round 3’s ProGrid now provides a more responsive feel to the shoe’s ride. The outersole is unchanged: The XT-900 carbon rubber heel and iBR (injection blown rubber) of the forefoot provide traction, durability, and extra cushion. The Mirage 4 doesn’t disappoint. Its consistent nudge forward improves its quality and maintains its balance between high-mileage training and faster-paced runs.
2014 Spring Shoe Review — 3 — FORTIUS Media Group, LLC
Sizes: Men 6–13,14,15; Women 5–12 Weight: 9.5 oz. (men’s 11); 7.7 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to mild overpronation, for faster-paced runs
Sizes: Men 7–13,14,15; Women 6–11 Weight: 9.8 oz. (men’s 11); 8.3 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to mild overpronation, for faster-paced runs
Sizes: Men 8–14; Women 6–10 Weight: 8.5 oz. (men’s 11); 7.2 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics, for faster-paced runs
“Snug fit and good ground feel. Decent cushioning with a bouncy feel, especially for a lighter shoe. I enjoyed running my midlength runs in them.” Sizes: Men 7–13,14; Women 6–12 Weight: 10.8 oz. (men’s 11); 9.0 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics
“Snug fit with better support than my other shoes. Responsive, but not super cushy. They are a little lighter and faster than my normal training shoes.” Sizes: Men: 7–13,14,15; Women: 5–12 Weight: 10.0 oz. (men’s size 11); 8.5 oz. (women’s size 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to mild overpronation, for faster paced runs
M O TI ON S T ABILIZIN G ASICS Gel-Kayano XX $160
ASICS GT-2000 2
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 $120
NEW SHOE Spring S pring g 201 20 2014 4
Mizuno Wave Paradox $135
Motion Stabilizing Spring 2014
The Kayano is ASICS’ iconic Motion Stabilizing shoe, now updated for a remarkable 19th time! Round 20 builds on the strengths of Round 19 by refining the interaction between the FluidRide and FluidFit systems to improve the comfort of the ride. The upper has a similar stretch mesh as in Round 19, but the stretchy BioMorphic panels have been replaced with a matrix of welded overlays and the traditional overlays making up the logo stripe, each contributing to midfoot support. The midsole has more exposed Gel, a reduced layer of Solyte, and more SpEVA. This results in a softer ride that increases the weight but adds a plush feel to the ride. Fair tradeoff? Yes. The outersole is substantially the same, just some minor differences in texture. The expected performance remains: stability and a plush ride for the 20th time. Very well done.
“Plush feel, good support. The ride was like a luxury car, but still pretty responsive and durable.”
Since its introduction in the 1990s, ASICS’ 2000 series has been a bestseller, thanks to its focus on stability and cushioning. They remain its focus in the second iteration of the 2000. The upper sports minimal changes: Tweaks to the combination of welded and traditional overlays have improved the lacing and support. The midsole retains the FluidRide setup of the previous round, with a little more Gel even though the shoe is a bit lighter. The outersole, which was effective the first time out, sports minor changes to the molding, perhaps improving traction incrementally. The GT–2000 2 continues to offer stability and cushioning that will satisfy the faithful and provides a solid option for those looking for an effective stability shoe.
“The fit is familiar, trusted like an old friend. The ride is dependable, stable, and comfortable.”
One measure of a brand’s success is sales volume, and Brooks has done well with the Adrenaline. Round 14 reflects the approach that has been key to its growth: Implement change slowly and don’t mess with what’s working. The upper now features a saddle that’s framed by traditional overlays with no-sew on the lateral side and synthetic leather shoring up the medial side. The entire upper is closed stretch mesh except for the lace throat, which is simple webbing to save weight while allowing the lacing to adapt to the foot. The ankle collar and tongue now feature two wicking fabrics: one striated for extra grip, the other with “pores” that allow moisture to escape. The midsole has been reshaped in the lateral midfoot—filled in to increase ground contact and stability—and the transition from heel to toe-off has been improved by extending the crashpad, which is worth the extra bit of weight. The outersole is much the same (carbon rubber in the heel and blown rubber in the forefoot) with minor changes to the molding. The result is a well-cushioned, stable, high-mileage running shoe, just as we’ve come to expect of the Adrenaline.
“Roomy and smooth interior. The base feels wide, but they aren’t sluggish.”
The release of the new Transcend has created a buzz. Technically, it’s a replacement for the Trance, but it’s actually quite different, even before you look at its new concepts and features. The upper is closed mesh with both traditional synthetic suede and no-sew overlays. The heel is supported by a TPU structure that connects to one of the shoe’s new concepts, the Guide Rails. The rails are plastic ridges that run the length of the shoe around the perimeter between the upper and midsole, keeping the foot aligned over the midsole without impinging on its natural movement. The midsole features new geometry for Brooks: a 10mm drop and a measured stack height of 35mm, maximizing the cushioning. The midsole shaping provides full contact to add stability and employs a compound called Super DNA, Brooks’ most resilient compound. The resulting ride is plush but not mushy. The outersole is HPR carbon rubber in the heel, rounded off to smooth the touchdown. Flextra blown rubber under the forefoot is segmented for good flexibility. The performance, innovation, and product execution earned the Transcend our award for Best New Shoe. With technological affinities to the Sayonara, the new Wave Paradox refines the Mizuno line by replacing the Nirvana and Alchemy as Mizuno’s premier Motion Stabilizing offering. The upper is closed mesh with a covering of rubbery TPU overlays that provide support while both reducing weight and providing a smooth interior. The midsole is U4ic polyolephin foam surrounding Mizuno’s asymmetrical Wave plate that extends and connects to an articulated forefoot plate to provide responsive cushioning and stability. The outersole is X-10 carbon rubber with a blown rubber forefoot, all in a full-contact bottom design. The combination of performance, technology, and effective support earned the Wave Paradox our award for Best Motion Stabilizing Shoe.
2014 Spring Shoe Review — 4 — FORTIUS Media Group, LLC
Sizes: Men 6–14,15,16 (D,2E,4E); Women 5–13 (2A,B,D) Weight: 11.9 oz. (men’s 11); 9.7 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with mild to moderate overpronation
Sizes: Men 6–14,15,16,17 (B,D,2E,4E); Women 5–13 (2A,B,D,2E) Weight: 12.0 oz. (men’s 11); 9.8 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with mild to moderate overpronation
Sizes: Men: 6–13,14,15; Women: 5–12 Weight: 12.4 oz. (men’s 11); 9.9 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: combination Strobel lasted, fiber board/EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with mild to moderate overpronation
“Looks spacey, but looks can be deceiving. The ride was well cushioned and pretty responsive. They fit well and were protective.” Sizes: Men: 7–13,14,15; Women: 5.5–12,13 Weight: 13.2 oz. (men’s 11); 10.5 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with mild to moderate overpronation
“I like the way Mizunos feel. These have a great fit, a snappy feel, and they were really stable.” Sizes: Men 8–14; Women 6–10 Weight: 12.2 oz. (men’s 11); 9.8 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted Recommended for: low- to medium-arched feet with moderate overpronation
MO TI ON S TA BILIZIN G Nike Lunar Eclipse 4
Saucony Guide 7
Long the showpiece for Nike’s Lunar technologies, the Eclipse continues that trend with significant changes in Round 4. As in Round 3, the upper is engineered mesh, but here it relies less on the Flywire strands for security. Instead, the Flywire has been placed within a saddle support of welded overlays covered with firm mesh and offset lacing to secure the foot. The thermoplastic heel counter has been modestly beefed up, primarily on the medial side. The midsole has been reshaped, narrowing the waist slightly and reducing the firm feeling of the carrier foam. The forefoot has a concentric tree-ring-like suspension that flexes to accommodate the foot’s forefoot motion, and reduced carbon rubber in the heel saves weight. The overall effect is a comfortable and efficient Motion Stabilizing shoe.
“Good heel lockdown with excellent toe room. Good responsive ride that I put a lot of miles on.”
The Guide is Saucony’s most versatile shoe, thanks to its stability and cushioning. In Round 7, Saucony has zeroed in on these aspects. The upper has a similar open mesh and traditional overlays, efficiently securing the foot over the sole. The midsole has been significantly retooled, keeping the 8mm geometry but engineering the segmentation and molding to optimize touchdown and transition. A full-length PowerGrid layer manages the kinetic energy and rests between the midsole and the Strobel board. The outersole continues with XT-900 carbon rubber and iBR blown rubber in the forefoot, though now the flex grooves follow the contours of the sole for better segmentation. The Guide 7 is truly performance for feet in need of a balance of cushioning and stability.
“Snug fit, but flexes well with my feet. Healthy chunk of foam underfoot, plenty of cushion and keeps things lined up.”
With its then-new midsole material that brought outstanding performance, the original Energy Boost created excitement. As good as the midsole material was, the importance of geometry and fit can’t be overemphasized, and the Energy Boost 2 focuses on dialing these in. The upper retains the stretchy fabric of the original, but adjustments in tailoring and additional structure in the saddle allow a more accommodating fit to the snugness, while effectively conforming to more feet. In some cases, sizing up is recommended, and the only way to know what works for you is to try it on. The midsole is unchanged, making the Boost a lightweight Neutral shoe that protects but also has a pretty snappy feel. The outersole features full-length Continental carbon rubber for more durability. With its cushy and responsive ride, the Boost continues to attract fans.
“Really like the feel of these shoes, the combination of the toespring and the energy return of the Boost when running. No matter how far I run in them, my feet still feel good.”
Sizes: Men 6–13,14,15; Women 5–12 Weight: 12.7 oz. (men’s 11); 10.8 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with mild to moderate overpronation
Sizes: Men 7–13,14,15,16; Women 5–12 Weight: 10.9 oz. (men’s 11); 9.0 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with mild to moderate overpronation
N E UTR A L adidas Energy Boost 2 $160
adidas Supernova Glide Boost $130
Hoka One One Conquest
The Glide Boost replaces the Supernova Glide, becoming the second established adidas running shoe to be transformed by the new Boost Foam. The engineered mesh upper has no-sew overlays and a supportive saddle created from the logo stripes over the midfoot. The tongue is gusseted to improve and smooth the fit, and it can’t slip out of alignment. The midsole is Boost Foam topped by a layer of EVA that provides a familiar Glide feel and spreads the force more evenly across the bouncier Boost Foam. This gives a unique ride that’s firmer than the Energy Boost, while retaining its lively feel. The outersole is durable and grippy, thanks to a thin layer of Continental® carbon rubber that covers most of the forefoot, though there are slots that allow the foot to flex through the gait. All in all, the Glide Boost is a well-cushioned and responsive Neutral shoe with a traditional adidas fit and at a price that’s modestly more affordable.
Designed for the roads, the new Conquest sports some new solutions with a Hoka spin. The upper is two layers of mesh: open air mesh on the inside and stiff minimesh on top. The layers of mesh sandwich synthetic leather supports. No-sew overlays create a full rand that connects to the eyestay and is thin, light, and flexible. The midsole is a new design for Hoka: A cradle of foam is contoured under the foot and nestles into a second layer of R-Mat foam with vertical siping in the heel. The result is a more pliable material and a design that’s more flexible than previous Hoka midsoles. The toughened road-grade EVA outersole features a bit of carbon rubber at the toe and lateral heel to bolster the durability. Our verdict on the Conquest? A well-cushioned shoe that’ll keep you on the road for the long run.
2014 Spring Shoe Review — 5 — FORTIUS Media Group, LLC
Sizes: Men 6.5–13,14,15; Women 5–12 Weight: 12.2 oz. (men’s 11); 9.7 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics
“This shoe is an awesome, lightweight trainer fit for any length run. My toes like the wiggle room in the toebox.” Sizes: Men 6.5–13,14,15; Women 5–12 Weight: 11.5 oz. (men’s 11); 9.6 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics
“It takes a few runs to get used to the feel. There’s no feel through the soles, but the giant, squishy [mid]sole provides a stable platform on any surface and [makes them] fun to run [in] downhill.” Sizes: Men 7.5–14; Women 6–11 Weight: 12.8 oz. (men’s 11); 10.1 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics
N E U TR A L Karhu Fluid 3 Fulcrum
Mizuno Wave Rider 17
New Balance Fresh Foam 980 $110
Neutral S Spring g 2014 4
New Balance 890 v4
The North Face Ultra Smooth $120
Re-launched to the U.S. market in 2006, Karhu continues to adapt its Fulcrum technology. The Fluid 3 is the next iteration of Neutral shoes for Karhu, following on the success of the Trail, Road, and Race versions of the Flow. The Fluid 3’s upper is an open mesh with synthetic suede overlays and welded supports in key spots. A bit of structure comes via a small supporting saddle and a semi-rigid heel counter. Its key feature is a new Fulcrum configuration of the 2-density foam that’s offset medially/laterally to accommodate the neutral gait and sports 8mm geometry. The midsole is a new injection-molded EVA that has a firm feel and ride—definitely not for those who desire plush cushioning—and more of a feel for the road. The outersole is carbon rubber in the heel and blown rubber in the forefoot, offering the expected good traction and durability. The Fluid 3 Fulcrum is a solid training shoe aimed at more up-tempo paces.
“Good, smooth fit with decent support. The ride was responsive and very firm. They served well for longer runs, faster runs, and were surprisingly versatile.”
The Wave Rider is like a sports sedan: plenty of horsepower, but with some creature comforts. Version 17 pares some excess, improves the fit, and addresses the ride. The upper is a closed mesh with minimal no-sew overlays (similar to its predecessor), but is a nice step up in fit and feel. The interior is smooth enough to make socks optional. The midsole is effectively sculpted to flex well and cradle the foot from touchdown through toe-off. Lateral lugs beveled from the heel into the forefoot accommodate a variety of footstrikes. The outersole is X-10 carbon rubber in the heel with a swirled pattern of blown rubber lugs in the forefoot that provides improved grip and a little extra cushion. The long and short of it is, this Wave Rider is protective, nimble, and versatile.
“Comfortable fit with plenty of toe-room. Well cushioned and stable. A versatile, all-around shoe that is ready for whatever awaits out your door.”
The 980 is new to the New Balance line, but much of the interest generated is attributable to its use of Fresh Foam. The upper is a closed minimesh with minimal no-sew overlays. The ankle collar has a generous layer of memory foam to accommodate a variety of feet, and the interior is smooth and comfortable. The midsole employs a new polyethylene formulation called Fresh Foam that’s lightweight and cushiony. The geometry is a bit taller than in other New Balance shoes—a measured stack height of 28mm—and it features a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. The full-contact outersole has a grippy, low-profile, lug-like pattern of variously sized hexagons. The heel is beveled slightly and decoupled to even out the touchdown. The fit, ride, and innovation of the Fresh Foam 980 earned it our award for Best Shoe in the Neutral category.
“Secure but roomy fit; smooth and seamless. Really well-cushioned, but not too soft. Really well done.”
By redefining what a Neutral shoe is, the 890 has been a game-changer for New Balance. Version 4 has undergone a transformation, both visually and structurally, along with a few updates. The upper is a closed mesh, with most of the fabric supported by no-sew overlays. Synthetic suede overlays at the heel, archband, and toe lend additional support. Much of the old structure has been removed so the shoe conforms better to the foot. A bit more memory foam in the ankle collar ensures an excellent fit. The upgraded midsole geometry has more toespring to roll better with the foot, while keeping the 8mm heelto-toe drop, which has been one of its strengths. A thermoplastic plate under the Strobel board distributes the forces more evenly throughout the sole, and a two-part design of pods under the heel adapts to varying footstrikes, effectively smoothing the touchdown. The outersole makes liberal use of blown rubber, which encircles a core of more durable rubber in the highest-wear portions.
The Ultra Smooth is The North Face’s first running shoe designed specifically for the roads. The upper is a closed mesh with no-sew overlays, which results in a smooth interior. The ankle collar is a smooth-but-thin polyester fabric called FlashDry over relatively little foam that cups the heel effectively, thanks to a Pebax nylon cradle. The thin tongue and flat laces secure the foot well without adding weight. The midsole is injectionmolded EVA, a rubbery blend that provides a resilient, though firm and responsive ride. The lateral portion of the midsole’s forefoot also constitutes the outersole. (Don’t worry, its toughened surface is equal to the task.) The outersole is a durable Vibram rubber compound, set into the midsole for a smooth transition. The effective Ultra Smooth earns a hearty “well done” and has us hoping that it hints at a broader series of road shoes from The North Face.
2014 Spring Shoe Review — 6 — FORTIUS Media Group, LLC
Sizes: Men 8–13; Women 6–11 Weight: 11.1 oz. (men’s 11); 8.2 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to very mild overpronation
Sizes: Men 7–13,14,15,16; Women 6–12 Weight: 10.1 oz. (men’s 11); 8.4 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to very mild overpronation
Sizes: Men 7–13,14,15 (D,2E,4E); Women 5–11,12 (2A,B,D) Weight: 10.2 oz. (men’s 11); 8.0 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to mild overpronation
“This shoe looks fun with its bright color, but it also delivers a cushiony ride, low weight for a training shoe, and great feel of what is underfoot, thanks to the modular sole.” Sizes: Men 7–13,14,15 (B,D,2E,4E); Women 5–11,12 (2A,B,D) Weight: 9.6 oz. (men’s 11); 8.0 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, EVA Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics
“Really good-fitting shoe with a nice, smooth interior. Lightweight, but with a substantial underfoot feel. They managed plenty of good miles for me.” Sizes: Men 7–13,14,15,16; Women 5–12 Weight: 10.8 oz. (men’s 11); 8.9 oz. (women’s 8) Shape: semicurved Construction: Strobel slip-lasted, polyurethane Strobel board Recommended for: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to mild overpronation