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Racer Reviews Designed

5/2/08

11:49 AM

Page 1

Racing Flats

by Cregg Weinmann

T

o achieve your racing goals, planning is critical and this includes choosing your racing shoes. Thinner and lighter than training shoes, racers must be chosen with care, since much of the protection in a training shoe has been pared away in a racer. In evaluating these shoes, we’ve looked at many factors and features, including fit, weight, cushioning, price, and range, or how far you can run in the shoe. Footstrike is the main consideration in range: heel strikers need more cushioning than more efficient midfoot or forefoot strikers. Some of the shoes here have features geared specifically to the sport of triathlon (quick transition elements, drainage holes, etc.). They’re important to a triathlete, but don’t detract if you’re not, so we’ve included them to broaden the options. Here are 10 new or updated racing shoes for Summer 2008, arranged from lightest to most substantial.

Saucony Type A2

Mizuno Wave Ronin

$90

$90

The Type A2 is a complete overhaul. The upper retool begins with an open, airy mesh that’s tailored for a closer fit, and is a bit better supported with a narrow rand encircling almost the entire shoe. The midsole has a lower profile, and is a bit more responsive. The outersole is a tough layer of carbon rubber that’s perforated in lower-wear areas to lighten it up. The medial shank is supported by a newly configured structure that unobtrusively keeps the arch from collapsing through transition. Overall, the weight has been reduced significantly.

The Wave Ronin features Mizuno’s best technologies, incorporated with an eye to keeping the shoe lightweight. The upper is AIRmesh with the stretchy Dynamotion fit inserts, which together secure the foot and let it breathe. The Wave plate offers sufficient cushioning without hindering the transition from heelstrike to toe-off. The outersole features G3 in the forefoot for traction and flexibility, with proven X10 in the heel for durability. Overall, racers will find a lot to like, especially if Mizuno’s fit has been to their liking.

“Very lightweight and fit snug; support my foot well. I’ve done long speed sessions on the track with them and they don’t tire my foot. Feel great in races. They’re probably my lightest racing flats and have very good cushion for as lightweight as they are.”

“Plenty of room for my toes. Very comfortable! Good, light racing shoe which doesn’t sacrifice anything,” and “Nice cushioning for a racer. Nice support, no overt sense of pounding, and good traction on the roads.”

Weight: 7.6 oz. (men’s 11); 5.7 oz. (women’s 8) Fit: snug fit throughout, semi-curved shape For: low- to medium–high arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to a marathon; heavy strikers–up to 10K or beyond

Weight: 7.8 oz. (men’s 11, unisex) Fit: close-fitting throughout, semi-curved shape For: low- to medium–high arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to a marathon; heavy strikers–up to 15K or beyond

adidas adiZero CS

$90

The adiZero CS is a substantial racer designed to provide better protection than its lighter adiZero siblings. The upper is a minimal, gauze-like mesh that is very breathable, with thin synthetic suede overlays at the eyestays and supportive synthetic leather at heel and toe. The tongue is mesh-covered, perforated EVA that’s comfortable on the top of the foot, even if you like your laces on the snug side. The outersole is durable adiWear in the heel with grippy blown rubber in the forefoot. The midsole features ClimaCool venting within the shank and a Torsion shank for support. “Snug and narrow fit with good balance and a smooth ride. Tough durability. A keeper worth the asking price.” Weight: 8.7 oz. (men’s 11); 6.9 oz. (women’s 8) Fit: snug fit throughout, semi-curved shape For: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to a marathon; heavy strikers–up to 15K or beyond

Zoot Ultra Racer

$130

The Zoot Ultra Racer is designed to meet the needs of triathletes: barefoot comfort, easy entry, and water evacuation. The upper has a plush interior that wicks moisture and works well for barefoot wear. It’s got rubbery tabs on the heel and tongue to improve the grip of wet hands, and stretchy laces on pulley-like eyelets for quick transitions. A perforated insole/midsole provides drainage. The midsole/outersole features a carbon fiber shank which works with the rubbery inserts of Z-bound to effectively cushion a midfoot strike, or improve transition if you’re a heel striker.

Avia Avi-Bolt

$90

The Avi-Bolt is a racer/lightweight trainer—the first for Avia in at least a decade. It’s a built-fromscratch racer with a very low profile, thinning out the midsole components to make it racing thin without removing all of the protection. Efficient midfoot strikers will find it sufficient for longer races, while heavier strikers will find it adequate for short to mid-range distances. The upper is thin but adequately supported mesh, and has less curve to its shape than the snuggest tailored racers, making it a better fit for more foot types.

“The fit was extremely good, fit like a glove with good toe room. I was concerned the tall back of the shoe would rub my heel, but it does not,” and “Very bouncy for a lightweight racing shoe. Overall, an excellent shoe for the job they are to do.”

“Fit well, nice and snug, but not too tight. Not much cushioning at all, probably okay for a 5K or a little farther,” and “The light weight of the shoe is great for fast runs, even when they are 13 miles or longer,” and “A no-frills shoe that gets the job done and offers light weight and good flexibility.”

Weight: 8.9 oz. (men’s 11); 6.8 oz. (women’s 8) Fit: snug fit through midfoot, roomier at toe, semi-curved shape For: low- to medium–high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to a marathon or beyond; heavy strikers–up to 25K or beyond

Weight: 9.0 oz. (men’s 11); 7.0 oz. (women’s 8) Fit: snug fit throughout, semi-curved shape For: low- to medium–high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to 25K, or a little farther; heavy strikers–up to 10K or beyond


Racer Reviews Designed

5/2/08

11:49 AM

Page 2

Racing Flats Puma Complete Road Racer II

(continued)

$90

ASICS GEL-Bandito

$100

The Complete Road Racer II has the same fit, same design, and same materials as the original, it’s just better executed. The upper features asymmetrical lacing and internal support which wraps the foot effectively over the midsole. The flatsoled design encourages stability by maintaining contact with the ground, and provides the same ride associated with the entire Complete line—stable, well cushioned, and consistent—only lighter. The outersole is a skeleton of EverTrack rubber with full-length polyester backing, allowing great flexibility and grippiness while saving weight.

The new GEL-Bandito taps into ASICS’ legacy of proven, versatile racers. Durable and supportive, it’s also quite light. The upper is airy open mesh that fits a bit closer than the typical ASICS, but is forgiving for medium- to higher-arched feet. The midsole is thin with flexible Solyte supported by Duomax through the arch. The outersole has minimal AHAR in the heel with a DuraSponge forefoot that’s vented for cooling. Roll together the best features of the Magic, the Ohana, and the DS Racer, and you’ll get a pretty good picture of the GELBandito.

“Very comfy, no slippage in racing, no hot spots. Moderate cushion for racer, probably up to a 10K to half-marathon range shoe at most. Good weight for racer without much loss in support and cushioning.”

“Good fit, though a little snug in the forefoot. Soft and breathable, almost a stretchy upper. For as light as the shoe is, it has a nice amount of support.”

Weight: 9.0 oz. (men’s size 11, unisex) Fit: snug-fitting through midfoot, roomier at toe, semi-curved shape For: low- to medium–high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to a marathon; heavy strikers–up to 20K or beyond

Weight: 9.3 oz. (men’s 11, unisex) Fit: snug-fitting throughout, semi-curved shape For: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to very mild overpronation Range: efficient runners—up to a marathon; heavy strikers—up to 20K or beyond

Reebok Kuai Racer

$85

The Kuai Racer—the Chinese word for “swift”—is the first new racing flat design from Reebok in more than five years. The upper is an open, breathable mesh in a Beijing Olympics–inspired color scheme and the midsole is a generous slab of EVA. The outersole features durable carbon rubber in the heel with a blown rubber/PU forefoot and well-placed flex grooves that greatly enhance the flexibility and responsiveness. The combination Stroebel lasting gives a touch more stability than most racers have. The fit is similar to Reebok’s recent racers: curvy enough for higher-arched feet and roomy enough for mediumarched feet. “The upper had a secure feel, though roomy enough in the toe. Nice cushioning for racing, equal to everything I raced. Quite durable. I’ll likely race in them all year.” Weight: 9.7 oz. (men’s 11, unisex) Fit: snug-fitting through midfoot, roomier at toe, semi-curved shape For: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics to very mild overpronation Range: efficient runners—up to a marathon; heavy strikers—up to 20K or beyond

Newton Distancia

$150

K-Swiss Ultra Natural Run

$80

Newton designs shoes that promote and enhance the efficient gait of midfoot and forefoot strikers. A key feature is its Active Membrane Technology, a thin, rubbery layer that stretches when the EVA actuators move up through the midsole as the forefoot strikes the ground, to cushion and propel the foot. The heel is a slab of EVA with a hollowed-out center section to provide cushioning when the heel touches down. The upper consists of high-quality airmeshes that effectively wrap the foot and keep it securely over the midsole. The ride takes a little getting used to, but it’s very responsive, making it especially suited to faster running. Visit them on the Web at www.newtonrunning.com for information about availability.

The Ultra Natural Run is the first of a new line aimed at serious runners and triathletes. It’s a lightweight trainer/racer with cushioning, flexibility, and some triathlon touches that make it stand out. The fit is close and supportive, and a midfoot saddle hints at the K-Swiss multi-striped aesthetic while anchoring the foot and reinforcing the upper. The midsole is a two-part, sculpted EVA with excellent forefoot flexibility, cushioning throughout, and perforations for drainage in the EVA Strobel board and sole. Heel and tongue tabs make them easy to put on. It’s well suited to efficient, longer racers, and comes with two lacing options: elastic with locking closures or traditional laces.

“They fit very well without crowding my toes. I really want to get up on my toes when I wear these. They have plenty of protection without feeling heavy at all.”

“The bouncy feel is really protective. Snug fit is secure without overly constricting the foot. Transitions are pretty quick with the lacing system, though it isn’t very adjustable.”

Weight: 10.0 oz. (men’s 11); 8.1 oz. (women’s 8) Fit: close fit in heel, roomy forefoot, semi-curved shape For: low- to medium–high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners–up to a marathon; heavy strikers–up to 25K or beyond

Weight: 10.9 oz. (men’s 11, unisex) Fit: snug-fitting throughout (w/speed laces), semi-curved shape For: medium- to high-arched feet with neutral biomechanics Range: efficient runners— up to a marathon; heavy strikers—up to 20K or beyond

CREGG WEINMANN is footwear and running products reviewer for the Running Network LLC. A competitive runner for the past 43 years, he also has coached runners at all levels for almost 30 years. He can be reached via e-mail at shuz2run@lightspeed.net. Copyright © 2008 by Running Network LLC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be stored, copied, or reprinted without prior written permission of the Running Network LLC. Reprinted here with permission.


Racing Flat Reviews