Category Archives: Shoes

Review: Topo Fli-Lyte

topo-flilyte-side2

Founded by the former CEO of Vibram, Tony Post, Topo Athletics is a portmanteau of his name. Keeping to his minimalist background, the company focuses on a range of athletic shoes catering to different sports from running to Cross-fit. They originally came out with a tabi, or split-toe design as shown below, but have now shifted to a more traditional shoe form. The Fli-Lytes are an example of these – a nice lightweight speedy trainer. They are spec’ed out to weigh 8.2 oz for size 9 and came in at 10.1 oz for my size 13.

topo-athletic

 Upper/Fit

topo-fli-lyte-top

I received the Black/Mango color way on my pair. Honestly, I think that they are one of the coolest looking pairs of shoes I have. They look both fast and aggressive, kind of reminding me of a muscle car.

The fit is very comfortable with a spacious toebox, without being too swimmy and I had no trouble feeling locked in at midfoot. I also like how they are using 3d printing to form the uppers, it’s definitely futuristic. Tony Post talks about this in the Gearist Podcast #3 which can be seen below:

Midsole

The Topo Fli-Lytes have a good firm ride, without being too stiff. They feel very similar to the ride of the Skechers GOrun 4s that I reviewed here. They are neutral with stack heights of 22mm at the rear to 19mm at the front putting them solidly in the minimalist category with a very small 3mm drop. I personally prefer drops right around the 4mm mark and I find them to be very comfortable. I definitely have solid proprioception when wearing them and that is very important to me.

topo-flilyte-side

Outsole

The traction on the Fli-Lytes is very solid. I feel like there is good grip without the shoes being sticky. I run roads and sidewalks primarily and they have a nice balanced feel.

I have over 40 miles in the shoes and don’t see any wear at all. They honestly don’t feel as if they have been broken in. I can see easily getting a good couple hundred miles in. With my weight of 200ish lbs, that is a good number for running shoes.

topo-flilyte-outsole

Conclusion

As a whole, the Topo Fli-lytes are really solid trainers. They are comfortably wide without being swimmy, light without being fragile, and tough without being clunky. Pretty solid all around. I personally feel comfortable with them from 10K – half marathon, but can see many wearing them all the way to marathon. They are one cool looking but solid all-around trainer.

You can find them at Amazon at our affiliate link below (the site gets a small commission if you buy through it at no cost to you).

Review: Skechers GoRun Ultra 2

The world is a buzz with the sport of trail running. Whether you are a 5k-trail speedster or a 100-mile ultra runner, big protective shoes have overshadowed the minimalist movement made popular by books such as “Born to Run.” The advent of maximalist shoes made trendy by Hoka One One were upon us a few years ago with companies such as Saucony, Nike, New Balance soon following suit. The big surprise to me is the addition that Sketchers brings to the table with the GoRun Ultra 2. Weighing in a 9.2 oz for a men’s size 9, it seems as though Sketchers was aiming to take a chunk out of Hoka’s extremely successful Clifton clientele. How does the model stack up? Read on to find out!

GoRun Ultra Upper

Upper/Fit

The upper for the GoRun Ultra 2 is a lightweight, breathable mesh in the toe box area that stretches well when running. If my toes jammed the front of my shoe on a long technical downhill on the trails, the material stretched enough to accommodate them resulting in no bruised toenails. Synthetic overlays around the mid-foot provide support for the upper so you can try to get a locked down fit. I say try because I have noticed that the overall fit is pretty large, almost a ½ size too big. While I like the loose fit for the eventual volume gaining swelling of feet at mile 20+, the beginning of the run can result in a sloppy fit. On a few occasions I hit an off-camber root and the shoe nearly slipped off my foot as if it wasn’t even tied. The fit problems could be alleviated by sizing down ½ size or wearing thicker socks (not a great idea in the Southern heat recently). The inside of the shoe is soft but not suitable for sockless wear because of the protruding overlay stitching within the shoe.

GoRun Ultra Side

Midsole

The midsole is where this shoe shines most! The 34mm heel to 30mm forefoot drop is very comfortable and the shoe has a mild rocker feel in the forefoot to aid in forward progression. The Resalyte foam is Sketchers’ lightweight, injection-molded compound that feels good on the roads but better on the trails. It is fairly responsive giving more “pop” than a Hoka Stinson ATR and has a softer underfoot feel than the Hoka Challenger ATR. In other words it is a perfect combination to provide plenty of protection on the trails but without feeling sluggish.

GoRun Ultra Sole

Outsole

The outsole consists of a high-density foam material called Resagrip. There is no rubber on the outsole. Because of this, the overall weight is low and the flexibility is very good for such a large shoe. Unfortunately because there is no rubber on the outsole, the life of the shoe will be significantly lower than most shoes. My pair of GoRun Ultra 2’s has barely 70 miles on them and the midsole wear is very noticeable. I haven’t lost any of the foam traction lugs yet but I have worn some down to half their original size as well as torn a couple.

GoRun Ultra 2 wear

Conclusion

Sketchers has come out with a shoe package that is comfortable, lightweight and available for the Average Joe costing only $90 MSRP. The only real issue I see with the GoRun Ultra 2 is the outsole life. If in their next iteration of the shoe they include some rubber pods to take the stress of traction off the foam, then I will be first in line to get a pair. If you want to make the leap into maximalist shoes but don’t want to throw down a hefty amount of money because you are unsure what the hype is about, try out the Sketchers GoRun Ultra 2. Your feet (and wallet) will thank you!

You can find Skechers for even less than MSRP at Amazon with our affiliate link below (we get a small commission to help support the site at no cost to you).

Review: New Balance Zante

I was in the market for a shoe that was lightweight but had a good tread pattern for both roads and trails. While shopping in the New Balance store, the salesman explained that they have a new shoe that is named “2015 Shoe of the Year” by Competitor Magazine. Could this be the “Saucony Kinvara Killer” so many companies have tried to make? I was a bit skeptic since the Zante was only on the market for 2 days but I decided to check out what all the hype was all about.

Overview

The New Balance Fresh Foam category got a nice facelift this year coming out with two new Fresh Foam models: the Boracay, which basically a revamped Fresh Foam 980, and the lighter, more race-friendly Zante. Measuring 23mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot making for a killer 6mm drop half-marathon, marathon and possibly beyond shoe! Weighing in at 8.1 ounces (men’s size 9) the neutral support Zante is a great option for a lightweight shoe that can go the distance without weighing you down. Is it the right shoe for you? Continue reading to find out!

zante-worn

Upper and Fit

My immediate reaction upon sliding my foot into the shoe was, “Holy smokes this upper mesh is soft!” The no-sew upper truly wraps around your foot, hugging it snug while leaving plenty of room for your toes to splay in the toe-box while running on technical terrain or roads.

The upper breathed well in both humid East Coast heat and dry California heat. My only concern is that the upper is so minimal that your feet would not be too happy in the winter months in the more frigid temperatures.

zante-heelcup

Midsole and Ride

My experience with Fresh Foam midsole material began with the 980 last year. They marketed the shoe as a highly cushioned, soft shoe but yet this was not the case. The Zante feels more cushioned than the 980 with a more supple and responsive ride making for a great race or up-tempo shoe.

Overall the midsole is softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot to create a more responsive ride. When I run I usually am a midfoot strike and there was plenty of cushion to support a runner wanting to use these in marathon distances.

One word of caution: there is a very distinct bump, called the Toe Spring by New Balance, near the forefoot. This bump feels like your foot is hanging off a ledge and does not feel natural but the feeling dissipates while you run. The bump put my foot in a mid-foot gait more naturally than with other shoes.

zante-side

Outsole

A fascinating feature of the Zante is how the weight can be 8.1 ounces yet have a full outsole. Many shoes in this category feature little pods of rubber for traction and the rest of the outsole is EVA foam like in the Saucony Kinvara and Hoka One One Clifton.
The full outsole is a low profile tread that can take the abuse from many road and trail miles. I ran a lot of trail miles in this shoe both in dry, dusty and sandy California as well as muddy Virginia trails after a fresh thunderstorm and the shoe gripped very well in all conditions for a road shoe.

zante-outsole

Conclusion

I bought this shoe as a “door-to-trail” shoe meaning I can run on the road to the trails and back all in the same shoe. I decided to wear this shoe at my last trail 50k while visiting family in California and the shoe held up wonderfully. The lightweight upper allowed my feet to stay cool and the full tread gave me plenty of confidence on the fast and steep downhills. The Fresh Foam midsole was protective enough on the rocks and roots to not leave my feet feel banged up after so many miles. It passed my final test with flying colors.

Is this the right shoe for you? The answer is yes if you are looking for a shoe with:

-A soft yet responsive neutral ride that can double as a daily trainer and race-flat.

-Has an upper that is sock-like.

-Has enough room in the toe-box for good toe-splay.

-You can run on the road or the trails with a full tread that will protect your feet through the miles but only weighing in the low 8-ounce mark.

This new lightweight cushioned option is what I believe to be the “Saucony Kinvara Killer” that New Balance needed to produce to stay relevant in today’s competitive shoe market.

Mitch-Purisma Crossover-452

You can find the New Balance Zante at our affiliate Amazon link below:

Review: Skechers GOrun 4

It has been a trend over the last couple years for everyone to have a double-take about Skechers making running shoes. Then the shoes test well and they are shocked. These were fun to read and I was definitely cheering to see the underdog American Meb Keflezighi, sponsored by the underdog shoe company Skechers, win the 2014 Boston Marathon. But it’s time for that to end. I think that Skechers is a serious competitor releasing shoes on an equal standing of more well known companies like Brooks or Saucony.

The Sole

The sole of the GOrun 4 like previous editions is made up of their own proprietary material Resalyte™. There are strategically placed discs called GOimpulse sensors. These are to provide a little more wear resistance on the sole and add a little traction and guidance.

GoRun 4 Sole

 

There is   good tread on the bottom of the shoe. It has a good depth without promoting pebble collection.

GoRun 4 Tread

 

The MStrike technology (Skechers likes marketing terms) is a slight rocker formed at the midsole. You can see it in the below picture with the Kinvara 5s on the right. Notice how the front and back of the GOrun 4 have definite clearance. I seemed to run comfortably with a mid/forefoot strike, but I didn’t really notice the rocker as I went.
GoRun 4 Kinvara 5

 

GoRun 4 Back

 

The Upper

The Upper of the shoe is very smooth and comfortable. It is made up of two layers of fine mesh and thin welded overlays. It is very flexible and has a nice look about it as well.
The back of the shoe has a really interesting feature. Yep, that’s a hole. I really appreciate the attention to detail here. I am one who double-knots his laces and it is really a convenient feature to be able to just pull the shoe up using the hole on the back like a handle.

This attention to detail along with things like an extra set of laces are nice unexpected touches. I really appreciate the little things. If they pay attention to such details, it bodes well for the rest of the design and durability. I expect to get a good couple hundred miles out of the shoes.

The Fit

Skechers GOrun 4 has a fairly roomy toe box – almost too roomy. I found that I was able to lock things down using the laces and the tongue was padded enough that I didn’t lose circulation. You may want to consider getting a half size down along with your normal size if you have normal width feet.

Performance

It feels very comfortable with a moderately firm ride. Comparing it to other shoes I am used to, it is firmer than both the Saucony Kinvara 4 and 5 as well as the Brooks PureCadence 2. But it is not as firm as a racing flat like the Saucony A5. This makes the shoe fit in a really interesting place. It has a really nice ground feel and makes you want to go fast. I can see this being a strong contender for my next half-marathon in February.

Conclusion

The Skechers GOrun 4 is a solid shoe that can be considered a great all-around trainer with a touch of speed. I comfortable alternate it with another favorite shoe the Saucony Kinvara 5.

The GOrun 4 can be bought from Skechers.com.