Running Shoe Review: New Balance 1400v2

new-balance-rc1400-v2

Is the New Balance 1400v2 a fast and efficient training and racing flat?

The New Balance 1400v2 is a lightweight flat – only 6.3 ounces in the men’s edition, that looks fast and feels fast. I spent some time in this shoe provided by New Balance and found it to be intriguing. Is it a winner? Look for our verdict below.

They must be making the sidewalks softer; at least that’s what I thought while walking in this model. The 1400v2 offers the easy, comfortable feel of a bedroom slipper, something that’s typical of a racing flat. It’s remarkable that the shoe feels so well cushioned, coming in at under 6 and one-half ounces. But the REVlite midsole cushioning does its job and does it well.

The shoe is relatively narrow but offers multiple lacing options which can be used to either loosen or tighten the fit. There are two center eyelets which you can elect to use or not. I made use of the eyelet that keeps the tongue in place, but not the one further down.

NB 1400v2

New-Balance-1400v2_3

The four bold colorways on the 1400v2 ensure that you will at least look fast at the starting line of a race. No guarantees on whether you’ll finish fast. I received the blue with blue atoll and neon green combination – which I really like, but the sulphur yellow with blue and race red colorway is also striking. (The other two options are a relatively simple blue with green combo, and the comparatively dull olive with yellow. Your running buddies will not need to wear sunglasses if you choose the latter iteration.)

I initially ran in the shoe on a gravel covered track where it felt protective but yet, yes, fast. According to the manufacturer, this model is “designed for efficient, fast training runs.” You may feel like Meb Keflezighi at the 18th mile of the Boston Marathon while running laps in this flat.

Despite the 1400v2’s light stature, it is not overly flexible and it provides a noticeable amount of stability on a track as well as on concrete. One’s feet land straight and stay that way; yes, this is efficient. This shoe feels like a lighter, racing version of the New Balance 890 series; the shoes clearly compliment each other quite well.

There’s just a touch of heel cushioning in the 1400v2, enough to make it comfortable for heel strikers. There’s also a 10mm drop; another plus for heel pounders. While the well-cushioned feel was present on a track and on concrete, I found that the shoe feels less cushioned on asphalt. This is likely a result of a fully flat, somewhat minimalist, sole interacting with an inherently uneven surface.

The forefoot on the 1400v2 has a smidgen of flexibility, but it’s not overly flexible, to the benefit of forefoot runners and toe strikers. The built-in firmness up front makes for a shoe that will hold up quite well on longer training runs and races.

I’ve often longed for a time machine that I could use to return to the days when Nike was turning out exemplary racing flats like the Pegasus Racer, the Air Myriad, and the great, classic Ghost Racer. Having been introduced to the 1400v2, it may be time to let go of that wish.

Verdict:

The New Balance 1400v2 is a lightweight, versatile shoe that should work well for many runners as both a daily trainer and as a shoe to wear for a 5K or 10K race. The one exception would be those with wide feet. Most racing flats are built for narrow feet, after all.

Runners who currently train in the New Balance 890v3 or 890v4 neutral cushioning running shoe may elect to purchase the 1400v2 and use it as their race day shoe.

The 1400v2 may be a great half-marathon to marathon trainer-racer for those who are built sleek and run sleek. At a list price of $99.99 it’a a bargain (and it’s currently being sold for even less on the New Balance website.) You may want to pick up a pair before the 1400v3 is released.

Joseph Arellano

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-new-balance-1400v2/

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Running Shoe Review: New Balance 870v3 and 890v3

A look at two New Balance running trainers. Which model might be best for most runners?

NB 870v3

If you love the feel of the New Balance (NB) 880v3 neutral trainer but need a bit of support for your pronating feet you may want to consider the NB 870v3 model. This is a stability trainer with an 8mm heel offset. It weighs 9.8 ounces. The shoe has a friendly, slighter wider than average fit that does not require you to have the narrowest of feet.

The underfoot cushioning of the 870v3 is immediately apparent in part because the slip-lasted model has a flexible blown rubber forefoot. The shoe has a REVlite midsole that offers a fine amount of protection for one’s feet. Support for mild to moderate pronators is provided in the form of a relatively firm, but non-obtrusive, medial post (some efficient runners might not notice the post while running). There’s also a stability bar in the sole which well help keep your feet moving straight ahead.

The 870v3 should serve as a well cushioned and durable shoe for runners who train on a variety of surfaces, both hard and soft. But some runners will look for a lighter and perhaps more personally exciting shoe, and this brings us to the NB 890v3.

New Balance 890v3

Some will remember the NB 900 series of neutral training running shoes line. These were low-to-the-ground lightweight trainers that were great for running under all conditions and on almost all surfaces. I ran in most of those models and I sometimes still jog in a pair of the now-classic NB 903s from 2008. The NB 890v3 reminds me of the old 900s.

The third iteration of the 890 is a lightweight neutral trainer that weighs between 9.1 and 9.55 ounces (depending on the data source) and comes with a 8mm heel drop. It’s semi-curved and has a low toe-box, but enough room up front that it does not become an issue. The 890v3 has a unique fit and feel reminiscent of a late 80s/early 90s racing flat. The fit is snug and secure — with the added bonus of more than sufficient protective foam around the ankles — and this is achieved without having to overly tighten the laces. The colorful flat laces can be tied quickly and do not come loose or undone.

The 890v3 has a nicely cushioned insole and REVlite midsole; together these provide a bounce you can feel in the shoe’s ride. The fully blown rubber sole is ultra-flexible, a bit of good news for both forefoot strikers and those with inflexible feet. The sole is a hybrid-patterned one, flat enough to be used on roads and nubby enough for trail runs.

New-Balance-890V3-Sole-620x340

On sidewalks the shoe transforms heel strikers into mid-foot strikers, a positive thing, while providing protective cushioning. The 890v3 offers great energy return on asphalt; on this surface the shoe feels fast. The NB 890v3 would be a good choice for a 5K to half-marathon shoe for most runners, and it would clearly be a desirable marathon shoe for efficient runners.

I found this model to be near wondrous on a hard-packed dirt trail as the very flexible sole allows the feet to “ramble tamble” at will (whatever John Fogerty meant by that). The shoe may be wondrous enough to foster “wanderous” training runs.

On a crushed gravel track the 890v3 lets your foot dig in while providing an exemplary level of protection on what can be a wearing surface for tender feet and metatarsals. On an oval track the shoe seems to adjust to any foot landing pattern — forefoot, mid-foot or heel striking.

While the NB 890v3 is technically a neutral shoe, I suspect that a wide variety of runners could train and race in it (exempting Clydesdales and moderate-to-severe pronators).

The grippy sole on the NB 890v3 means that it’s a shoe I would choose and feel free to run in on a rainy, slick and slippery day. This model breathes confidence in its ability to come through under any conditions, something which breeds confidence in the person wearing the shoes.

If you’re headed to your local running store to try out models like the Mizuno Wave Sayonara and the Saucony Mirage 3, you may want to also do a trial (or trail) run in the New Balance 890v3. There’s a chance that your heart and/or your feet may fall in love with the shoe.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

These New Balance models were either manufactured or assembled in the United States.

The NB 870v3 is well recommended.

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-new-balance-870v3-and-890v3/

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Running Shoe Review: Brooks PureFlow 2

Is the Brooks PureFlow 2 a running shoe that will make you choose the long way home?

There are rest day running shoes and recovery day running shoes. The rest day shoes are worn on the days you’re cutting back your mileage, running slower, and wearing heavier, protective shoes. Recovery day shoes allow you to cut loose, run long and fast. These tend to be lighter shoes.

The Brooks PureFlow 2 is a recovery shoe. When you’re ready to run, they’re as ready to go with you as a frisky new puppy. And they may be just about as much fun.

Brooks PureFlow 2 (440x317)

I received a pair of these shoes from Brooks in the anthracite, green gecko and black color scheme. The shoe gets noticed for its unique appearance and they generate a lot of comments. The shoe weighs 8.8 ounces but, once on, it feels more like 10 ounces due to the midsole’s cushiony feeling. The PureFlow 2 has a minimalist 4mm heel drop, which can quickly turn heel strikers into mid-foot landing runners.

The shoe feels quite a bit like a shoe designed for triathlon runners, with a close fit in the rear and mid-foot but with a wide toe box. It takes a while to realize that the shoe has a split toe box, which we’ll mention again in a bit. The lacing is asymmetric for comfort and the laces stay well tied. (The owners of this shoe will learn that you do not need to untie the laces at the end of a run. The shoe airs out well on its own.)

Brooks PureFlow 2 sole (480x360)

The Brooks PureFlow 2 arrives with 10 cushioning pads on its sole in a unique 7-1-2 pattern. That’s 7 pads up front, 1 that protects the central foot area, and 2 pads in the heel area. It does not appear that the design of the two split heel pads, which sit uniquely parallel to each other, will be sufficient to protect the heel but it works. The pads provide for a smooth landing, although the low heel drop means that the role of the heel is minimized compared to runs in a traditional running shoe.

While this is a neutral shoe, its low profile provides stability which is enhanced by a flared-out sole. During the first few weeks of jogging in the PureFlow 2 it feels like you’re running in a bedroom slipper; which just happens to be a very comfortable slipper. The shoe feels fast on sidewalks although the flat sole can make it a bit slippery on concrete. One person has noted that the shoe loses traction on wet asphalt and concrete. (Be careful!)

A number of minimalist shoes make for very good trail runners and that’s the case with this shoe from Brooks. The PureFlow 2 provides a nice bounce on crushed gravel roads, where it proves to be pretty protective. There’s a touch of slippage, but nothing major.

You wouldn’t think to take a shoe this minimal onto a hard rock trail, so naturally I did so. Surprisingly, it works just fine. The rocks underneath the shoe can be felt but not in a bad way. The non-aggressive out-sole lets you skip over rocks without fully engaging them. The pods are far enough apart that they do not pick up rocks.

The PureFlow 2 is highly competent on a hard-packed dirt trail. The snugly covered feet stay securely placed in this shoe and the feet do not wobble. It’s straight ahead without any complications. I began to see why one online reviewer called the Brooks PureGrit 2, a cousin of this shoe, the best trail running shoe he’s ever run in. Period.

Because this model delivers a very comfortable, smooth ride on asphalt it would be a natural 5K to half marathon runner. The low profile, non-obtrusive insole allowed my toes to grab and attempt to grip the road with each step, something they instinctively attempt to do. And the split toe design permitted my big toes to move around freely, not scrunched up next to four smaller intruders. Neat!

If my experience is any indication at all, this is a shoe that will make most joggers add distance to their daily runs. It’s such an enjoyable shoe to run in that you may take the long way home, after adding on a few laps at the local school’s track.

Did I find any substantive weaknesses or issues with the PureFlow 2? No. This shoe promises to be many things for many runners and just happens to deliver on its promises.

In a day where running shoe prices are shooting up far past the $100 range, the Brooks PureFlow 2 is a long run shoe, trail running shoe, fast paced lap running shoe, and everyday trainer all for a reasonable price ($100).

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-brooks-pureflow-2/

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Running Shoe Review: Montrail FluidFlex

Is the Montrail FluidFlex a WYSIWYG trail runner?

In the past, I had an interesting experience with the Montrail FluidFeel running shoe as it looked like one type of shoe (heavy and bulky) but ran like another (light and nimble). So I was interested to see if this would be the case with Montrail’s FluidFlex model. Read on to see the verdict.

Montrail-FluidFlex1

I came across the FluidFlex at Fleet Feet in Davis, California. The shoe has a surprisingly racing flat-like look for a trail running shoe, but then it weighs only 7.6 ounces; it’s quite light. And it looks bold in coal with red Montrail side lettering and a FluidFoam yellow midsole. I wound up buying the FluidFlex hoping that the shoe might prove to be as light, fast and flexible as it appears to be.

I can say right off that the FluidFlex offers great cushioning in a lightweight shoe. It’s nice to walk in and only the asymmetrical lacing system lets others guess that this is not a racing flat. The fit is narrow and secure but not tight because of the highly flexible upper. The fit at the rear of the shoe is exemplary; one’s heels and ankles are well surrounded and protected.

The FluidFlex fosters such a smooth ride while running that I began to think of it as the Montrail Glide Runner. The shoe has a floating sock liner which adds to its uniqueness. On the road, the shoe’s high level of flexibility allows the feet to go through the proper landing cycle — heel, then mid-foot, then forefoot. The shoe does not interfere with one’s normal foot strike, and allows the feet to land flat.

The feel of the FluidFlex on roads and trails is quite similar to the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1 and the La Sportiva Helios. On asphalt it simply feels good to run in.

On a track the FluidFlex makes one feel like Steve Prefontaine, possessing the ability to put in some strong, fast laps. The heel padding is soft but the landing is secure and anything but mushy. The fast and steady nature of the shoe is maintained on a crushed gravel trail.

The FluidFlex has a flared sole that supports and reinforces a high level of lateral stability on a hard-packed dirt trail. The hybrid nature of the “town and country” sole underfoot provides just enough grip on a hard-rock trail to keep on traveling straight ahead rather than slipping and sliding. The sole also allows the feet to move sideways while in motion. It may seem counter-intuitive but this provides a reassuring measure of stability control.

The FluidFlex feels low-to-the-ground and it has a minimalistic 4mm heel drop. For some runners (especially long-term heel strikers), this will signal the need to break in the shoe slowly and carefully. In my case, I initially experienced some soreness in my calves and stinging in my heels. But this was only temporary.

The Montrail FluidFlex lives up to its name, providing fluid Flexibility in a shoe that’s more protective than it’s looks would indicate. While it may be a lightweight shoe, it’s quite durable in use. My well-used pair has minimal signs of wear on its still vibrant black and yellow sole.

Montrail-FluidFlex-outsole

Verdict:

The FluidFlex is a WYSIWYG trail running shoe. It is the shoe that it appears to be and more.

Runners, whether fast or slow, should be able to use this shoe as a trainer on a wide variety of surfaces. It will serve as a good marathon trainer and race day shoe for some competitors and as a fine 5K to half-marathon shoe for many. Joggers with inflexible feet and runners fast enough to chase cheetahs will benefit from the shoe’s ultra-flexible, blown-rubber cushioned forefoot.

The FluidFlex is an excellent trainer to run in even if you never go near a natural trail.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Montrail FluidFlex retails for $90.00.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-montrail-fluidflex/

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Running Shoe Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 16

Has firmness found a home in a trainer from Mizuno?

The Mizuno Wave Rider is something of a throwback at a time when running shoe companies are caught up in a battle between lightweight minimalist shoes and overly cushioned, and expensive, trainers. Version 16 of the Wave Rider arrives with a standard 12mm heel drop, and it’s blissful in that it is neither too light nor too heavy. This moderately neutral/normal pronation shoe weighs just about 10 ounces in the men’s version.

Mizuno Wave Rider 16 (350x263)

The Rider has an almost-straight last that provides inherent stability, and it allows for a “straight ahead” running style. The blown rubber forefoot on the Rider provides for luxurious cushioning, while the heel offers mid-range firmness. Although I wish the heel was a bit stiffer, no doubt most running enthusiasts will find it to be just fine as is.

Mizuno describes the Rider’s ride as uniquely “harmonious,” and they may have fashioned the right label. Neil Diamond’s phrase “beautiful noise” also comes to mind.

I found that the shoe’s high and snug heel collar can irritate the ankle. This is especially noticeable when walking in the Rider; fortunately, it’s not as much of an issue while one is jogging. The extended — longer than usual — wave plate device in the shoe’s midsole gives it an increased level of firmness compared to most other Mizuno runners. For me, this provides some relief from the high level of cushioning found in so many conventional trainers these days — cushioning that often takes away more from the running experience than it adds.

The shoe’s upper is extremely flexible and comfortable. Let’s hope that you don’t mind seeing the color of your socks through the fabric if you run in the unique white-Chinese red-black color scheme that I selected. (It looks like you’re running in a contemporary tennis shoe.)

The Rider is quite functional as an everyday trainer and occasional road racer. For the majority of runners, the shoe should be supportive and protective enough for runs ranging from a 5K to the half marathon distance. Having said this, runners who prefer a softer and more cushioned ride will likely gravitate to the Mizuno Wave Precision 13. Those who run like gazelles or cheetahs will be drawn to the green apple colored Mizuno Musha racing flat, which offers a touch of stability for distances up to the marathon. Not being part of one of these groupings, the Rider literally strikes the almost-perfect middle ground for me as both a trainer and event day racer. Two pairs might be as essential as one.

If you do pick up a pair or two of the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoe, you won’t need to catch the last train to Clarksville — or Clarksburg. You’ll be able to run there on your own well-covered feet.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-mizuno-wave-rider/

Note: The Wave Rider model is being discontinued in favor of the Mizuno Wave Sayonara, which comes with a 10mm heel drop. However, the shoe can be ordered via online sites such as Road Runner Sports and Running Warehouse. In addition, Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) is currently selling the shoe as a discounted close-out shoe.

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Running Shoe Review: Scarpa Spark

Will Scarpa’s Mountain Minimal running shoe put a spark in your step?

The Scarpa Spark is an attractive and clearly well designed and manufactured trail running shoe. According to Scarpa North America, this shoe is a “Mountain Minimal trail running shoe designed for moving fast and confidently on rugged terrain.” Does the Spark fulfill this goal? Read on to see my verdict.

Scarpa Spark (sharp)

I received the Spark in the ocean and lime color way (it’s also available in black and green apple). My first impression was that the shoe looks more expensive than its list price ($119). The Spark weighs 9.2 ounces and has a 6mm heel drop. The shoe has an EVA midsole of impressive size, which promised a good measure of protection for sore feet.

The Spark has a gusseted tongue and a lacing system that securely holds the feet in place. The shoe fits comfortably a half-size up from walking shoe size. The Spark is narrow in the back and in the mid-foot, while providing plenty of room up front for one’s toes. The heel counter is low and there’s plenty of cushioning around the ankles.

The Spark’s insole fit well and did not present any issues. The laces stay tied.

I could feel the Spark’s great cushioning the second that I stepped out of my front door. The first trail I encountered was a crushed gravel one, and the toothy, rugged Speed Lite outsole provided good traction on this surface. (The Spark’s feel on the trail reminded me of a pair of Nike trail running shoes that I once owned, the Nike Air Terra Kimbia.)

As I moved on to an asphalt road, I found that this model provides a stable ride. Neutral runners and minimal-to-moderate pronators should be able to use it as a road trainer.

The Spark’s strengths make themselves known on two surfaces. On hard-packed dirt trails it’s as if a stability control system was turned to “on,” keeping all the yaws in check. On hard rock trails, the toothy sole grabs and controls the rocks and keeps them from moving you sideways.

On sidewalks, the Spark is likely best for mid-foot strikers. There’s not much forefoot flexibility, and the shoe is not built for natural heel striking. The relative lack of energy return and bounce on concrete results in one’s feet staying close to the surface (as with the Asics GEL Neo33 2), but this means that for some it will make a good mid-distance training shoe.

On a crushed gravel track, the shoe felt protective with one exception. My sensitive metatarsals sometimes complained when I was running laps in the Spark. It may be that this model could use some additional metatarsal area padding.

The Spark proved to be a very good fire trail road runner. The outside lugs provide just enough surface grip to make a runner’s feet feel safe and secure. I would have no hesitation about wearing this shoe on wet weather days.

The Scarpa Spark is a highly protective shoe considering its weight and price range. While the shoe does not feel “fast” in use, it nevertheless never feels like a boot. The outsole looks like it will hold up for hundreds of miles of wear and tear. All in all, it is a pretty impressive package.

Verdict: The Spark is a trail running shoe that allows one to move confidently on mild, moderate and rugged, challenging terrain. It also performs well off the trail. While it’s best suited for mid-foot runners, runners of every ilk should be able to use the Spark as a safe, well-constructed and highly durable trainer.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article was originally published on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-scarpa-spark/

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Running Shoe Review: The New Balance 880v2

The New Balance (NB) 880v2 (v2 stands for version two) is a modern classic cushioned running shoe that will help some avoid the agony of the feet. The shoe presents itself with a nice medium-wide fit (my saleswoman wrongly presumed that it would be too wide for my very narrow feet), and a better fit in the arch area. Heel strikers will love the exemplary build-up of solid cushioning in the rear; more than a bit reminiscent of the Nike Air Max running shoes of the ’90s. The raised heel will please traditionalists who are not rushing out the door to pick up a pair of minimalist running shoes.

NB 880v2 (350)New Balance 880v2

The NB 880v2 is extremely flexible which can help to prevent toe cramping in some runners with relatively inflexible (read, flat) feet. The insole allows the toes to lie flat, and there’s no apparent metatarsal pad bump — something that can actually irritate those with existing metatarsal issues. And there’s a mid-foot stability under arch wedge plate which fortunately does not interfere with one’s normal running style, neutral or otherwise.

The underfoot cushioning seems to be of the Goldilocks “just right” variety — enough to protect against rough road surfaces but not enough to deaden the enjoyment of the ride. Even better, while the sole returns some energy to the active runner it does not create a distracting bouncy ride.

The lacing system of the 880v2 is off-center which reduces pressure on the sometimes sensitive upper-foot area.

This particular running shoe may be a bit hard to find as NB has begun to release some of its v3 (version three) models — such as the NB 890v3 and the NB Minimus 10v3 Road. I ordered my pair with the assistance of a local running store offering a discount on special orders. The good news is that once the 880v3 is released, you should be able to order the 880v2 — as an “endangered” shoe — via several discount online running shoe purveyors. However, you may want to order a pair right now to ensure that you can it in your particular size. (Order a size up from your normal walking shoe size.)

The NB 880v2 is a running shoe that provides a significant amount of protection for the feet while not attempting to modify one’s natural running style. This makes it a bit of a rarity these days. It’s also a running shoe that comes in nice, not garish, colors and it’s made in the U.S.A. (in either Boston or Lawrence, Massachusetts or Norridgewock, Maine).

If the NB 880v2 was a car, it might well be a cozy, comfortable and smooth riding new Nissan Ultima — an automobile that’s made in the U.S.A. (Smyrna, Tennessee). No complaints here.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-the-new-balance/

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