Aspen Times Weekly: Test run, 2015
Running on roads and trails remains my primary method to stay in shape. As such, I go through a lot of footwear each year, pounding out hundreds of miles through rain, snow, and summer heat.
Here are four pairs of running shoes I have been testing this spring. Each is distinct and appropriate for its venue, from soft ground to hard pavement in an urban core.
A wild upper made of thin, welded mesh panels has no stitching but hugs the feet. Underfoot are foam modules made to absorb impact but not interfere with a natural stride. I found all that to be true in my test; the Tempos have a “barefoot” feel with a zero-drop build, meaning the heel is the same height as the front of the foot. But the 22mm of foam dampens the blow as you stride and land flat-footed or, when sprinting, up on your toes. Lightweight at about 8 ounces per shoe.
Pearl Izumi E:MOTION
With a flexible and slightly convex outsole, these made-for-pavement shoes became a go-to this spring. I like the forgiveness of the build — you can land on your foot most any way, from heel to forefoot, and the shoe absorbs and directs you onward into the next stride. But these are not lazy, padded sneakers. The shoes were fast in my test as trainers (however not so fast I would take them to a race). They weigh about 10.5 ounces apiece. The company touts the “smoothest running experience possible” with the E:MOTION, and I am close to saying I agree.
Inov-8 Race Ultra
Long a favorite brand of mine, U.K.-based Inov-8 makes shoes for tough trails and off-trail pursuits like orienteering and adventure racing. This new model is aimed at the ultra-running crowd who run 30, 50, or 100 miles at a time. It weighs 10 ounces (per shoe), which is a bit heavier than minimalist models I have long loved from the company. But here you get a wider toe box and more protection underfoot — both requisite upgrades for anyone running ultra distances without losing Inov-8’s signature flexible, nimble feel.
The North Face Ultra TR II
Made with a unique ripstop “tent fabric” upper that includes protective suede overlays, the Ultra TR is something different. It is the fastest shoe in this review, weighing about 9 ounces and built with a low-to-the-ground sole that demands reaction. On the foot the fabric feels stiff, and it also crinkles when you bend up the heel. But while running it fits close and breathes well. If you want cushion, look elsewhere. This is a minimally-padded shoe that lets you feel the terrain. The sole is made of sticky rubber, giving good traction despite minimal lugs. I wear this shoe for fast training days and for footraces, on road and on the trail.
Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at http://www.gearjunkie.com.
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