The Myth of Over-Pronation

by Chris McClung

For over 30 years, the running shoe industry has put you in shoes based almost exclusively on one single variable – pronation. We are here to say that the industry’s concept of pronation, the need to correct it, and therefore shoe fitting is utterly and completely wrong. Further, the resulting technologies, such as the “post,” designed to “correct” this mythical, biomechanical fault of over-pronation are unnatural, inefficient, and likely the cause of more issues than they were designed to fix.

In fact, there is no such thing as over-pronation.

There, I said it.

Pause. Breathe. [Duck].

Since some of you might be reacting as people did when Nietzsche declared, “God is dead,” I’ll take a minute while you compose yourself, change your pants, or unfurl yourself from the fetal position clutching your Runner’s World shoe guide.

First, a few disclaimers:

1. I am not a scientist and this is not intended to be a science paper. This is just a conversation starter designed to promote discussion and encourage change in the industry’s concept of fitting so that you end up happier in your shoes and therefore happier with your running.

2. We are still learning too. Even though the degree of pronation has only been a small part of our fitting philosophy, the term “over-pronation” has been and still is embedded in our vernacular. With this blog, we are taking a stand against the use of the word and making a shift in our philosophy. This updated perspective has been honed through the input of scientific studies and with the experience of collectively fitting thousands of runners in our store over the last 5+ years. Many of these runners also train with us, providing a feedback loop and level of accountability for perfecting the fit that few stores have. This is just the tip of the iceberg on this discussion, and I am happy to discuss further with anyone interested. My email is at the end of this blog. In addition, we are “putting our money where our mouth is” with the Rogue Shoe Challenge, discussed below.

But first, let’s back up.

What is pronation?

Pronation is essentially the rolling inward of the foot as it comes into contact with the ground through each step. Most runners (or about 98% of you) pronate, generally landing on the outside of the heel as the foot contacts the ground and then rolling inward from the heel strike to toe off. The other 2% of runners supinate, rolling from the inside/out instead of outside/in. Those of us who pronate all pronate to different degrees depending on how the feet, ankles and legs work together. Beyond the mechanics of it, pronation is simply the body’s way of dissipating the forces associated with each foot strike. Without pronation, which spreads the load of ground contact over many milliseconds (instead of one) and over more muscles and tendons and bones, you would likely break your ankle when you hit the ground with one an intense thud.

f132425For those not familiar with the term pronation, you might be familiar with terms related to shoes and pronation such as “motion control”, “stability,” and “neutral cushioned.” The terms motion control and stability are typically associated with the word “over-pronation” or a foot that is supposedly pronating too much and needs correction. According to the running shoe industry, “over-pronation” is a biomechanical affliction evident when the foot/ankle rolls inward past the vertical line created by your leg when standing.

Most of us have seen such “over-pronation” in action, likely played back to us in slow-motion after running on a fancy, camera-equipped treadmill at your local running store or marathon expo. When we see it, we tend to cringe because we love symmetry, and we can’t help but want to correct or align anything that’s not symmetric. And, in this case, because we also love and are enamored by technology, often at the expense of validity.

But, there are two problems here:

1. The term “over-pronating” implies that there is a standard line over which “normal” pronation becomes “over.” But, who created that standard? If you look, you won’t find an answer. I submit that the line was created in the 1970s by our need for visual symmetry and by what has become millions of marketing dollars spent to sell you shoes, not by any true scientific definition of how the foot and ankle should work. What if those who pronate more than average have a greater need for force dissipation than others, a need that shouldn’t be hindered but rather facilitated? What if there is nothing to correct at all?

2. There is no scientific link to so-called “over-pronation” and injury. You can find studies like this one or even this one from a running shoe company itself that dispel the myth that “over-pronation” causes injury. As a coach, I deal with injured runners daily, none of whom have had injuries caused by pronating too much. In fact, I challenge anyone to name one single injury caused by this “dreaded” affliction. Not Plantar Fasciitis… that’s caused by tight or weak lower legs/calves. Not Runner’s Knee…. weak hips/ankles. Not shin splits… overuse or tight/weak shins/calves. Not IT band syndrome… instability/weakness in the hips and core. And the list could go on. In fact, as this article from Running Times points out, most of the issues that keep you from running start well above the feet.

Now many of you might say “But Chris, if it wasn’t for my trusted, high stability Brooks Adrenalines, I wouldn’t be able to run.” That might be true. I submit, however, that one of two things is possible in your case. Either a) you are responding favorably to something in the shoe, such as it’s relatively stiffness, that has nothing to do with the “post” or the perceived correction of “over-pronation;” or, b) you would actually be happier in something else and just don’t know it.

Gayle-BarronSo, if there is no such thing as over-pronation and if excessive pronation doesn’t cause injury, then how did we get here? One word: marketing. In marketing, you simplify the world to tell a story, a story that is easy to understand and that ultimately sells the product you want to sell – lots of it. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, when running shoes were becoming a thing during the jogging boom, the shoe companies latched on to this singular variable because it was easy to understand, easy to develop a fitting philosophy around, and ultimately easy to sell. Then, an assault on “over-pronation” began as if it was an epidemic. Shoes were developed around it, the gloriously hard and dense foam “post” was invented to correct it, running stores were opened to preach it, and you were educated about it with everything from articles in Runner’s World to fun at-home wet-foot tests.

Now, I am embarrassed to say that you/I/we have been sold a truckload of bulls**t. I am embarrassed because I am the co-owner of a running store and am proud of the expertise that we provide. And, even though our fitting philosophy is different and our long-established ten commandments of shoe fitting mention nothing about pronation, our credibility is tied to the credibility of our peers and the shoe companies that work with us.

“Over-pronation” is not a thing and correcting it does more harm that good, inhibiting natural motion instead of facilitating it, like putting your foot into a cast with a brick underneath it. There are so many other variables that are important in shoe fitting – the relative flexibility/stiffness of the shoe, the cushioning, the weight, how it fits/feels, the way the upper hugs your foot, or the relative heel to toe differential (aka “drop”). I don’t even like to call it “shoe fitting” because that makes it about the shoe. It’s really about making your feet happy and allowing them, with your body, to move in a natural and efficient way so that you run free and effortlessly.

THE CHALLENGE

So, humbly, we take a stand for change by declaring, “over-pronation is dead” and by issuing a challenge to you. For anyone currently running in the chains of a posted shoe (see list below), we challenge you to let us fit you in a new, neutral shoe without the so-called correction.

If you aren’t happier and injury free with the new pair after 30 days (even if you run them ragged), come in for a full refund or exchange with no questions asked. And, on top of that, if you aren’t happy, we will throw in a $25 gift card to spend on anything else in the store as our way of putting our money where my mouth is. Take the Rogue Shoe Challenge. If you don’t live in Austin and can’t come see us in person, then we recommend shopping for “neutral” shoes with our online retail partner with a generous return policy: Road Runner Sports (Note: Use the link to the left for 10% off and free shipping). We dare you to be happier on your feet!

This challenge will run through June 30 at both Rogue Running locations. The shoes eligible for the challenge include:

Asics GT-2000

Asics Kayano

Asics DS-Trainer

Brooks Adrenaline

Brooks Transcend (sorry Brooks, but those “guiderails” are just a 360 degree post)

Brooks Ravenna

Brooks Beast

Saucony Guide

Saucony Hurricane

Saucony Omni

Nike Structure Triax

Nike Lunar Eclipse

Adidas Sequence

Adidas Salvation

New Balance 860

New Balance 1260

Mizuno Wave Nirvana

Mizuno Wave Alchemy

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BREAKING!
Dr. Spears and Sports Performance International (SPI), Austin Fit Magazine’s #1 Sports Doctor of 2013, are now putting their money and reputation on the line with us in the Rogue Shoe Challenge. For those who might be wary of injury, SPI is confident in our shoe fitting perspective and is now guaranteeing the challenge as well. If you get injured while attempting the Rogue Shoe Challenge, SPI will provide you with FREE injury consultation and physical therapy to resolve the issue. So, you are now officially out of excuses to drop the “post” and liberate your feet!
Here is the fine print for those who also want the injury guarantee:
– You must be fitted during the weekly injury clinic with Dr. Spears at Rogue DT (Wednesday from 4-6 pm) so that we can collaborate with him on any special issues to address with the fitting.
– You must check-in with us at the first sign of an issue, so that we can proactively manage it.
– The injury must clearly be tied to the change in shoes. For example, any injury gained from otherwise ill-advised moves like doubling your mileage from one week to the next or doing some fancy parkour trick off the Pfluger bridge is on you!

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Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike. He can be reached at chris@roguerunning.com.

Love has a new name: Adios Boost!

photo(2)by Chris McClung

My dog helps me decide what shoes I like.

She has a habit of taking them. And, no, she doesn’t eat them or chew them. She just likes to carry them off, cuddle with them, and leave them. It’s an odd ritual, but one that happens every night in our house. Shoes left in one place will find their way to another, separated from their partner, on the end of our bed, on her bed, balanced on the back of the couch, or hidden underneath the furniture. It would probably be fine if she had a preference for my dress shoes (all 3 pairs) or my sandals (2 pairs), but she has a penchant for taking my running shoes. And, I have 32 pairs at last count… I think.

Her habit is a mix of being a tiny bit endearing, very annoying when I’m searching for the left foot of my favorite training shoe… at 5 am… before a workout… and, in the case of writing reviews, actually very helpful.

If there is a pattern in her kleptomania, she most prefers the shoes I have recently worn. As disgusting as that sounds, it’s even more disgusting in reality when I wake up next to a still wet and sweaty size 12 at 3:16 am.

So, what does this have to do with the Adios Boost? Well, let’s just say I’ve been searching for them a lot since I bought by first pair nearly 2 weeks ago. Ultimately, I don’t waste time and energy (at 5 am) searching for the ones I don’t like. They end up in a pile of single shoes, lost without a partner, with the other half hidden away by Jasmine until my wife yells at me encourages me to corral them and clean up the pile.  Such is life for shoes in our house.

Yes, Jasmine and I have both been spending a lot of QT with the Adios Boost in the last few weeks. I’ve done every kind of run in them so far, short and easy and long and hard and on every surface, including track, road, and trail. And, I like them. I like them a lot, which surprises me if I’m being honest.

I am an Adios lover to be sure. But, as someone who has logged many thousands of training and racing miles in the traditional Adios (the current Adios 2), I was skeptical of this new-fangled Boost stuff. As Rogue AC member Chris Gowell pointed out the other day, the Adios 2 is a shoe you can race a road mile or 5K in one day and then very happily log a 20-mile easy run in them the next day.

The Takumi Sen. Another one of our favorites.

The Takumi Sen. Another one of our favorites.

If there were a Hall of Fame of shoes, the Adios 2 would be enshrined there, likely next to shoes like the Asics Tarther and Brooks Launch. Actually, the Adios 1 would be there (as perhaps the greatest shoe ever created), with the Adios 2 mentioned on the plaque as its slightly inferior (but still ridiculously amazing) heir. That plaque might also mention that the Adios was/is the chosen shoe of Wilson Kipsang and Patrick Makau who are responsible for the 3 fastest marathon times ever run on this planet. So, yes, the Adios is a darn good shoe, not one that I like to see messed with.

Enter Boost. Boost is the new Adidas midsole material that they claim (and which has been independently confirmed by Runners World) has the most energy return of any midsole material ever tested.  It first appeared in the Energy Boost released in February, then the Adistar Boost in August, and now the Adios Boost, our favorite of the three. This Boost stuff has bounce, like a trampoline or moon boots. Though with less Boost material than the Energy or Adistar versions, you feel less likely to enter orbit in these, and for me that means it’s just about right.

The cool thing about Boost is the cushioning to weight ratio. The Adios Boost actually has less material underfoot (by ~2 mm from heel to toe) than the Adios 2, but it feels much more cushioned than the amount of material or weight would imply. Like its counterpart, it weighs in at less than 8 ounces for men and 6.5 ounces for women, and yet, I believe this shoe could be an accessible trainer or speed-workout shoe for almost anyone.

The Boost material, coupled with the Adidas torsion plate, gives you the energy return you want when it’s time to go fast, but with a softer step-in feel that you can’t get from the ultra-firm EVA of the Adios 2. Lovers of the original Adios will likely still prefer the pop they get from their old favorites, but this new Adios Boost should work for a much broader audience.

The upper is seamless, which is the cool new thing to do with uppers. Most of them, frankly, are poorly executed – too “baggy” or with extra material that might crease down onto the foot. This one is generally pretty good, assuming you re-lace the shoes to bring the laces up and under through the holes instead of over and around. The fit is also more accommodating in the toe box than other Adidas and Boost models. We have seen some durability issues with the upper on the special edition Adios Boost released at the Boston Marathon in April, but that varies significantly from person to person based on use and personal fit.

The Adios Boost is a shoe that now has a permanent spot in my rotation, when I can find them. As an Adios 2 fan, I will continue to wear that shoe on speed days, while working the Boost in on long run or recovery days. For others who might already be training in a more cushioned shoe, the Adios Boost could be the perfect, lightweight shoe for quality days with the cushioning you crave, but the responsiveness and lightweight feel you want to go fast.

And, if my endorsement isn’t enough, consider these cute little puppy dog eyes:

photo(4)—————–

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches half marathoners and those taking on the Austin Distance Challenge.

 

Want to check out the Adios Boost yourself? Stop by either Rogue Running location!

Austin: 500 San Marcos St. 78702 / 512.493.0920

Cedar Park: 2800 E. Whitestone Blvd. 78613 / 512.777.4467

NB Zero Drop Minimus: Ain’t no barbeque shoe

by John Schrup

New Balance is proving, at least in running specialty, that it ain’t your uncle’s New Balance.  The makers the most popular non-running shoes in backyards and fraternity houses across the country, New Balance are known mostly for making monochromatic footwear in a multitude of widths for the pudgy guy flipping your burgers on the Fourth of July and the scrawny kid with the bowl cut and the genetically attached beer can.

In running specialty, New Balance had fallen so far as to barely register on the radar.  Oh sure, there were a few die-hards who remember the 320 from back in the day, but for the most part, NB had little or no credibility in running.  Someone saw the writing on the wall–more than half of their customers would be, um, no longer purchasing barbeque shoes in 10 years–and recognized the need for a huge market about-face.  So NB went out and hired the best marketers and designers from the other running shoe companies, and in very little time began to produce some of the best shoes on the wall.

Take, for example, the 1400.  Technically a race flat, is serves well as a daily trainer for most of the population.  It is simple, lightweight, unencumbered by bells and whistles.  It is almost exactly what a running shoe should be.  So is cousin 890, the trainer version of the 1400.  Their Minimus series–Trail and Road–are some of the best available in those categories, the Trail 110 being arguably the best.  NB are firing on all cylinders, they are en fuego, they are bomb.com.  And now with the Zero Drop Minimus on the wall, NB are again proving to be the real deal.  They are making some of the best feeling, best fitting, most functional shoes on the wall, period.

The Zero Drop Minimus is a true minimal running shoe.  You know how I dislike the word minimal when it comes to running shoes, but I’m far too lazy to come up with another, more appropriate word, and “biomechanically appropriate” is a hard sell.  But it is a true minimal shoe:  12mm forefoot and rearfoot, simple upper with overlays placed sparingly, light and flexible.  In an improvement over the original Minimus–which is thankfully still available–the fit is a little less roomy through the forefoot, while still allowing for plenty of toe splay.  Through the midfoot, the upper is just snug enough that you don’t need to really pull the strings tight.  When the shoe is laced to the foot it disappears, just as a good shoe should.

Underneath, the midsole foam is firm without being stiff.  The original Minimus was a bit too stiff for some, but here they’ve nailed both comfort and function.  There are a couple shoes in the minimal range–coughBrooksPureFlowcough–that are a wee bit too spongey-soft to really allow for a quick turnover.  All told, this is what a true minimal shoe should be.  And, for those of you who tuck your shirts in and match socks by color, the Zero Drop look cool too.

The Zero Drop will work well for those who are looking for a true minimalist shoe:  They’re going to run to feel the ground beneath them and enjoy the sensation of movement.  It will be a brilliant shoe for doing General Strength circuits.  It will function well as a daily shoe for kicking around the Central Market comparing olives and cheeses and shit, since the high flexibility and zero drop will strengthen the feet and lower leg while you shop.  I’m using it as a daily kick around shoe, though I don’t put in a lot of thought about olives and cheeses, and when I go over to the park to do strides or some GS stuff.  I’ve done three runs in them–35, 45 and 60 minutes–and each time I felt like I was barefoot while being very well protected against the rough and tumble bike lanes of Brentwood.  And the other day when I was in the Thunderbird on 2222, TWO people asked me what shoes I was wearing and where I got them.  Rogue, I said.  Rogue.

The best shoes on the wall.

by John Schrup

Often I am hesitant to use the word, “best” to describe something when comparing it to others, especially in a format such this.  There are too many variables to consider.  And we spend all our time—and your time–telling you, the customer, that we are looking for the best shoe for you.  What is best for you might not be the best for her, or for him.  To use similar adjectives would remove the personal attention, wouldn’t it?  Not at all.  If we set the parameters on which we are going to make this judgment (and if we cover our @$$es enough) we can actually use this space as a teaching mechanism.  We believe so strongly, so faithfully, in what we do that want to spread the running gospel, to proselytize, to engage in the Platonic running discussion so that we all are faster, more injury free, more nimble, healthier, happier.  And I can promise you that this is not about selling products.  If it were, then our list would include nothing but the most expensive shoes in the running specialty market.

So here we are going to use the word as only a Rogue would—to stir the pot a bit, to provoke, to create discussion.  As the sun rises in the east, this is word.

What makes a good running shoe?  A really good running shoe?  A little deeper now, what is the purpose of a running shoe?  First, a running shoe has to protect you from the surfaces on which you are doing your thing.  Asphalt, rock, crushed granite trails, grass, whatever.  Second, your running shoe has to allow you to run as naturally as possible—the way your body is designed to run—AND protect you from the surface on which you are doing your thing. Wait.  Schrup, you already said that. Repetitive, superfluous.  Yes, yes I did, but I would like to clarify so that you don’t forget that natural running does not always equate to barefoot running.  It is more about body awareness, functional strength and agility than an unshod jaunt through your leafy neighborhood streets.

But, but, what if I overpronate?  What if my feet are a 2E?  What if, what if, what if?  The answers to both those questions is that you are in the minority and we are speaking generally here.  We are addressing the vast majority of the running population.  (The answer to the first question is really, “Well, do some foot drills and general strength exercises every day, maybe pay attention to your form a little more to make sure that the overpronation that your podiatrist diagnosed no longer is of concern.  Make it a non-issue.”)

Is  each of the shoes we’ll list here perfect.  No.  Is each of these shoes we’ll list here the only shoes you should ever consider?  Nope.  Is each of these here shoes we’ll list the best shoes ever made and nothing else will ever compare so why even try?  Nopers.  Simply, these are the best shoes available in running specialty at this moment because they protect your foot from the surfaces you run on and allow you to run as naturally as possible.

So for the next few weeks, let’s discuss.

BROOKS LAUNCH

You knew this was coming.  If you’ve been around Rogue for the past couple of years, you knew this would be on here, dintcha?  Brooks steps back from its insistence on giving you “technology” to create an old school shoe that really should be the focal point of their entire line.  This shoe is so good that it is in the third color incarnation now, otherwise completely unchanged, and will remain otherwise completely unchanged through 2013.  They could offer more colorways, but that would be tacit admission that a basic $90 shoe is better than everything else they make.  The Brooks Launch is so smooth and functional that it makes the Adrenaline feel like the Beast, and the Beast feel like a German Panzer.

There are no “technologies” in the Launch.  No midfoot trusses, no proprietary cushioning systems or drop-ins.  No bells, no whistles, no bling—it is an EVA midsole shoe that is arguably the smoothest on the market.  Like butter.  It is a bit soft for my tastes, but you can’t have everything.  The heel isn’t particularly low, but the complete ground contact outsole, fat blown rubber forefoot (mmmmm, blown rubber) and absence of midfoot stablility features and cushioning devices makes you think it is lower than it actually is.  Super duper smooth.  It fits well; it is moderately durable; it is relatively light.  For a time around Rogue, we joked about opening a store that just sold the Launch.  For real.

 

NEW BALANCE 1400

Beg pardon?

Yep.  New Balance.  Whoda thought that your uncle’s go-to barbeque shoe also made legit running shoes.  Well, for years they have, though always just under the radar as notable; and their marketing was for the most part non-existent, so you likely saw them only at the backyard barbeque or at a fraternity party, where the national shoe of Greek life is the 990 series, the ubiquitous grey leather clunker.

Anyway, the 1400 is technically a racing flat.  A marathon racer.  It is as simple and functional as a running shoe should be and nothing more.  Except it the fit is aaaalllmost perfect and it looks really cool, is super light and the perfect blend of the soft cushioning and firm responsiveness that you need in a running shoe.  Well fitting, lightweight upper that hugs the foot; a complete ground contact midsole with no drop-in cushioning pieces, and a cushioned but responsively smooth midsole.  We put the 1400 on people and the almost universal response is that they can’t believe how good it feels—for a New Balance!  The next almost universal response is that they buy it.  New Balance has recently refocused their design efforts (Trail Minimus, anyone?) and marketing efforts, and the resulting products are as good as they get.  I’d almost have to add parenthetically the updated 890 V2 here, but the overly padded heel collar is counter what they ought to have done with that—great shoe nonetheless.  The 1400 reminds me of some of my favorite shoes from the mid 80’s, well before running shoes became victims of the fashion market.  This shoe (and the big brother 890) is one of the best shoes on the wall.  Period.

ADIDAS ADIOS 2

I would tongue kiss this shoe if it weren’t socially unacceptable.

Before I get started, I’d like to begin by noting that I still think the previous version might be a nicer shoe—a hair lighter, a wee bit more flexible.  But when these bad girls are on, I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to time this.

The Adios 2 is a marathon racer, originally designed for the Emperor himself, Haile Gebrselassie.  But don’t be fooled, you don’t need to be a 119 lb. Ethiopian giant to wear these.  The last three men’s marathon world bests have been run wearing this shoe, the last of which by a Kenyan who isn’t even an Ethiopian. The Adios 2 is bomb proof and can take whatever you dish out.  It is, essentially a racer-weight trainer, in our opinion.  The midsole offset is almost standard—11mm from heel to forefoot—but the lightweight and uber-responsive ride allows forgiveness of that extravagance.  The midfoot Torsion piece is superfluous, and will likely soon be surgically removed when I get a spare 15 minutes and a Bennu quad Americano.  But that too is forgivable because the Adios 2 has Porschesque responsiveness and a shocking color palette that makes you think you are Michael Schumacher when you strap into your Yaris.  Formula I.  Marathon.  Same difference.  And praise be that adidas didn’t use that Formotion heel piece on the Adios 2, as it does on many of their trainers.  That thing is Prophecyesque.  Here nor there, the Adios 2 is one of the best shoes on the wall.  End of story.

Gifts, guided.

by John Schrup 

I’ve never really been a shopper.  Oh sure, back in high school or college, if someone I was interested in at the time said, “Hey, I want to go to such-and-such to get a little black dress or some Gloria Vanderbilts, and maybe do some other shopping, want to go?”  I’d say, of course, “Hell yes.”  My thinking was that if I could endure this, “shopping,” that she was so interested in, then maybe it would get me a bit closer to a little somethingsomething that I was interested in.  Wait.  Am I allowed to talk about this in a family setting?  Ask editors.

So I’ve never really liked shopping.  But, I’m not really into “things.”  If there is something I really want, and pretty much know that I’ll die a horrible, tragic death if I don’t get it, like, I don’t know, some Japan-only issue racing flats or something, I’ll go get them.  (Still don’t have them, because for me to buy those would be financially foolish, and the word is that they aren’t even made for US size 12.)  For the record, several of the shirts I own and wear regularly were purchased when I was in high school or college, which tells you how much I like to shop.  I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was so don’t even ask.  Duran Duran was big.

I do, however, like to shop for others.  One of the greatest pleasures is seeing people smile when they receive a gift.  I enjoy other people’s birthdays, loathe my own.  And so when it is time to buy things for others, I have no problem strolling around here and there looking for just that perfect thing, whatever it may be.

And I still don’t know nothing about no little black dresses, but I do know about running footwear, apparel and accessories, so let me be of some help to you with some things that I would buy for others, and that you might want to buy for your favorite people.  Who knows, there might be a little somethingsomething in it for you if you do.  Note:  Have to ask editors if this is ok to include before publishing.

Soleus GPS 1.0  $100  Several years ago I had a Garmin, one of the first incarnations of the runner-friendly GPS thingys.  Yeah, I liked it.  Yeah, it was techy, but it weighed almost 9 lbs and it felt like I was wearing a deck of cards on my wrist.  But I’m also a cheap sumbitch, and when the Garmin went dodo, I wasn’t about to shell out money for something like that again.  Mostly, however, I’m a believer that too many people rely too heavily on their GPS devices to tell them how to run.  And so when Soleus introduced the 1.0 a few months back, at only $100, I thought, “Hell yes GPS!”  It is as simple and as functional as I want.  Real time pace function is accurate enough to reinforce what I already know; distance is spot on.  I can set the unit function for Km splits, since I have to do less math that way (metric FTW!) and makes me feel so Euro.  You can’t upload the data to the computer, which sucks if you’re into that kinda thing, but all I want is simple reinforcement of the effort anyway.  And I like Soleus because they are local (local FTW!) and if anything were to go wrong with it, it is much easier to get it replaced.  (We’ve had people from Soleus hand deliver our orders for us!)  GPS for Luddites, or something.

Saucony Women’s Strataflex Full Zip Hoody  $75  Saucony’s apparel is really coming around, and like their shoes, they are quietly making some of the most functional, most fashionable stuff around.  They make some men’s and women’s shorts that I would say are among the best, period.  This hoody has some horizontal texture to add a level to the hipness factor, and the cut of is snug and slimming.  It could be worn either as a completely functional yet hip running jacket, or as a simply hip zip up hoody when you want the fine folks at Whole Foods to know that your workout gear does probably not include jorts.

Brooks Men’s Essential Run Vest $55  Simple, functional.  In Austin, because of the humidity and wide-ranging temps, it is possible to begin the run at 35 degrees and finish it at almost 60.  I know.  So when you start, the air is biting and the lungs burn; as you finish, you are a sweaty, steamy dynamic furnace.  This is exactly why I go for a vest on most mornings when the temperature requires layers.  On really, really cold mornings, if I’m going a bit longer, I’ll do a short sleeve with arm warmers under a long sleeve, under the vest.  When it warms up to just really cold, the arm warmers come off for the last hour and I don’t feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust whilst on the corner waiting for the light.  360 degree reflectivity assures me that when I get hit by the car in the dark, the driver will know that I had on a really cool, functional vest from Brooks.

Manzella Hatchback Glove $30  For a while, I lived at altitude, where in winter the mornings could be the kind of cold that shatters yourself worth as a runner and makes you believe, if even for a moment, that treadmills are not such a bad thing.  But because it was a dry cold, as soon as the sun rose over the mountain, it got a might warm to be all bundled up.  About that time I got some of these here convertible running gloves.  Brilliant.  When you walk out the door, the windproof shell pulls over the fingers , keeping your ego intact and frostbite at bay.   And as soon as it warms up, you stuff the retractable shell in the pocket on the back of the glove, and your are still as warm as you need to be without your hands swimming in sweat.  I was afraid that when I moved here, I would no longer be able to sport these bad girls, but our varied temperatures and humidity-heavy cold makes them perfect for here too.  Start warm, finish comfortable.

Nike Women’s Therma Fit Mid Layer Jacket $65  Yeah, so this isn’t really a running jacket, but it is exactly what you need for post-run, while waiting for your double dirty chai or comparing splits from the progression run on your Soleus GPS 1.0.  It’s a light fleece zip with a hip faux down collar, to keep the neckal region cozy and warm.  It is at once really dépêche mode and entirely functional, which is always a plus if you’re going straight from a workout to the Symphony Ball, or whatever it is you hoity toity people do.  Nike apparel is arguably the best when it comes to that combination of things, so you really can’t go wrong with it.   Well, if you went pantsless, that would be wrong.

Nike Women’s Thermal Full Zip Jacket $85  If I were a woman, I would wear this jacket, like, forever.  Seriously, it is like a comfortably worn denim jacket or familiarly broken-in boots, maybe that perfectly soft t-shirt that you’ve had for 5 years.  It is one of those pieces that you could wear every day if you didn’t have friends who would acknowledge it publicly.  You can run in it.  You can hang out in it.  You could talk to that guy you see at Book People always reading the Paleo diet books in it.  You could pick up your kids in it.  You could do interpretive dance in it.  You could get arrested in it.  So what I’m saying is that the versatility is really high with this one.   I’m not a woman, but I’m going to buy one, because I’m ok with that.  And it’s Austin, so no one will notice.

VESPA   $6.75   Those of you who are around Rogue for any continuous length of time know how I feel about carbohydrate intake.  I’m not going to go into that here, but suffice it to say that I switched to VESPA a few years back and the only gels I’ve eaten since were as taste tests only so I can make flavor recommendations to customers.  VESPA is an all-natural amino acid complex that enhances fat metabolism.  English, per favore! you say.  Well, you’ve got enough fat stores in your body to last you well beyond what it will take you to run a marathon, Rogue trained and with appropriate CHO supplementation.  But if you’re doing anything two hours or less, I don’t wanna see a gel anywhere.  If you eat the typical, carb-heavy American diet, VESPA won’t work as well, since your bloodstream is already overflowing with sugars and insulin, but if you eat a reasonable, food-based diet (rather than food products), VESPA is the shizz.

Brooks Pure Flow $90  This is the go-to from the new Brooks line of biomechanically appropriate footwear.  If you wanted to, you could say it is the Brooks version of the Saucony Kinvara, both with 4mm differentials.  But whereas I think the Kinvara is closer to a really well cushioned racer, the Flow is definitely a trainer.  Sure, it’s lighter than most trainers so some will look at it as race worthy, but the Flow is a much more solid, durable, protective shoe, and one could expect many, many more miles out of it than the Kinvara.  Plus, when jogging in the Kinvara, it feels much more cumbersome than the weight would suggest.  Not until I really get rolling does it disappear on the foot.  No matter the pace, the Flow feels clean on the foot, though I really think that they could do a bit better in making the shoe a bit smoother.  A little more ground contact on the outsole, perhaps.  This shoe should really become the go-to from Brooks.  Ghost?  Pffft!  A little tweaking, and they could build a whole line around it.  It’s that good.

The hype vs the shoe: part II


A Brooks Pure Flow review by John Schrup

Last week, or at some time in recent history, I wrote about the new Brooks Pure Connect, the lightweight, go-fast shoe from the Pure Project line.  In essence, it is a really nice shoe, let’s say with great potential and surrounded by a silly marketing presentation.  Now that I’ve been running in the shoe for more than a month, my feeling is that it is a nice shoe, but that they are placing focus on the wrong shoe.  The Connect is the shoe you see in all the ads, yet it will work for the smallest range of people along the footwear spectrum.  For one, it is far too narrow for the average foot (though it fits me just fine) and it because the platform is so narrow that there is an inherent instability that many will find a little unnerving.

The shoe that Brooks ought to highlight is the Pure Flow.  It is the everyday, neutral model in the Pure Project line.  And, in my opinion, it is the one that most people could wear.  Brooks would be wise to take note from the Mizuno texts when they introduced the Wave Rider back in the late 90’s.  Mizuno identified the Wave Rider as the cornerstone of the line, and built other models around it.  In the Pure Project line, the Flow is that shoe.

The Pure Flow is “minimal” in the same way that the Saucony Kinvara is “minimal.”  Each has a differential of 4mm; 18mm in the heel, 14mm in the forefoot, and is at once cushioned like a trainer and as light as a racer.  This is the new breed of shoe, and it was a long time coming.  They feel unlike anything you’ve worn, yet are as familiar as your favorite trainer.  Brooks has created a shoe that is biomechanically appropriate for almost the entire spectrum of runners, and it is on this shoe that they should put their money.

The fit is noticeably higher volume than the Connect.  Thankfully.  On my foot is is aaaalmost a bit too roomy, but for most of you, the fit will be right on.  There was a visible buckle in the excess fabric on the top of my foot, but after running in it I can say that it caused no worries.  The materials are soft enough that there was no blistering or irritation whatsoever.  And I was surprised that the roomier fit did not detract from the overall feel of the shoe.  Often, if the shoe tends to be higher volume, we of the narrower feet will have the sense that the shoe feels bulkier and less connected to the foot.  Not so here, thankfully.  The Nav Band, that silly little elastic strap designed to help hold the foot in the shoe, would flop around unnecessarily if it weren’t anchored down by the laces–it is entirely negligible as a component of the shoe.  But when laced it feels to me like it not-quite disappears on the foot, which is what you’re looking for in the fit and feel in any running shoe.

The feel is similar to the Connect’s, only a big more sugary sweet and nearly as responsive.  A little more marshmallow, though it is still bouncier than most in recent memory.  Because of the lower offset, you’ll feel faster than you would in, say, the Ghost, but it retains that familiar padding that so many people are used to.  It is protective, moderately flexible and quick.  To be entirely honest, when first we received the Pure Project line, I felt like the hype let me down.  But as I spend more time in them, my thoughts congeal and I’m liking them more and more.

And now I’m going to get snarky up in here:  Brooks needs to pay more attention to design, to aesthetics.  Normally, I really could not care less about the look of the shoe, and often raise an eyebrow to those who do, but really, there is work to be done.  Running shoe design has gone largely unchanged for the last decade and a half or more.  There is an obvious shift in that, but creativity here is less of a concern to the shoe companies than “technologies”–the Nav Band, a technology?–which are little more than branded components.  Of the four in the Pure line, the Grit (for you trailheads) is the only one that really reflects a contemporary design aesthetic.  The Green Silence?  Good.  The Ghost?  Not good.  And the Pure Flow, a shoe that uses contemporary biomechanical ideals in the foundation, looks as if it was created in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, save for the fashionably green paint scheme.  It’s like combining a Prius with a late 80’s Camry body.  Ok, disregard that.  Form follows function.  Which is exactly why I’m thankful for the Pure line, and others like it.

I’ve had only positive feedback with this shoe, save for our initial (and snarky) thoughts.  But our customers have been unanimously approving.  This morning I ran with my good friend Trey Bob.  He wore his Pure Flow for the first time as he, our fearless leader Jessica and I blasted through Hyde Park before sunrise, alternately jogging and trying to see who would throw up first.  Says Trey Bob:  “I like ’em.”  Yep.

The hype vs the shoe: part I

by John Schrup

This is the first of a four part series that will cover the much anticipated release of the Brooks Pure Project line.  The first will cover the background of the Pure Project and we will wear test the Pure Connect.

The Hype:

Back in April, Ruth and I were invited to Brooks HQ to spend time with the Brooks family and to learn of the new line of footwear they would introduce in October.  There were all sorts of pomp and circumstance, cleverly masked as a sales symposium, designed to make us all drink the Brooks koolaid and get all kinds of excited for the Pure Project introduction.

And for many of us in attendance, it worked.  The Brooks marketing machine is quite adept, and while not on the scale of Nike, it is obviously doing something right.   Brooks is the number one brand in running specialty, and they didn’t get there on their product alone.  The product is just about as good as it gets, but without proper marketing, even the best product is overlooked.

I had been to similar presentations from other companies, and so took it all with a grain of salt, and tried as best I could to read between the lines, to see what it was they were really doing, rather than what they were telling us they were doing.

Without going into all the gory details, Brooks took a different path in the marketing of this new “minimalist” or “natural running” line.  Whereas Saucony and New Balance introduced their new lines of footwear as something more biomechanically sound or appropriate, the Pure Project marketing was focused on lifestyle choices.  Obviously, the differences in marketing strategies are rooted in the company outlook, market-wise.  Brooks is number one in the industry, and to suggest that a lower profile, lower offset shoe is biomechanically more appropriate for the human body than, say, the Adrenaline—the best selling shoe in the country–would be to shoot themselves in the foot.  They have to play it safe.  On the other side, Saucony and New Balance can afford to be more aggressive with their marketing, as they hold considerably smaller market shares and to take risks is much more attractive to them.

The Pure Project line is designed for those who would rather “feel” their runs than “float” through them.  Ok.  Whatever.  The idea being that on one particular day, you might want to float through your run, unconnected to the moment, lost in your i-Pod world and protected by your Adrenalines and Ghosts from all that is running.  On another day, you want to get down and dirty with your run, feel it, taste it, your Pure Connects helping you dive through corners and spring up hills, and to paraphrase one of the 20th century’s great philosophers, Ty Webb, “Be the run.”

Again, whatever.  The idea behind lowering the heel of a shoe relative to the forefoot is all about allowing the body to run in a more natural position, and not about warm, fuzzy, feel-good unicorns and rainbows running vs. sweat and spit, nimble, heart thumping, aerobic engine block running.  Just ain’t so.  But Brooks wants you to believe that so that you’ll buy both an Adrenaline and a Pure Cadence.

The Shoe (Pure Connect)

And so, on October 1, to much fanfare, the Pure Project line was introduced.  By most accounts, sales are going very well, and by our accounts, sales are going very, very well.  Personally, I was caught up in the hoopla, and so the fires of my expectations were doused when I was able to wear each of the four models.  I was seeded a pair of the Connect, the most “feel” of the line, the lowest profile, the lightest.  Even for the most “minimalist” of the line, you can’t feel a dang thing under your foot.  The cushioning is a wonderful combination of soft and responsive, and the feel is Super Ball bouncy, but there is no earthly feel.  There is definite “pop” off the ground, which I’ll happily take.  The bouncy feel does give me a very slight hint of instability, but nothing that is really all that bothersome.  The T7 has more road feel, if you’re interested.  They do feel fast, and there is no argument there.

Of the four—Connect, Pure, Cadence and Grit—the Connect is the fastest feeling.  An almost track spike-like fit, the upper wraps the foot very cleanly and there is almost no extra material to be found.  I’ve run in it about every other day since I first wore them three plus weeks ago, and the fit is the best part.  The Nav-Band, an elastic band that wraps the foot and is used in the design of each of the four models, is in these incarnations, entirely worthless.  The Nav-Band on the Connect is just snug enough to engage the foot, not so on the other three models, where it lies loose on the shoe and foot and is thus a waste of a perfectly good elastic strap.  The midfoot wrap of the Connect is quite snug, and for many will be a bit aggressive.  I really like the way it feels, because it leaves no room for separation between the foot and the shoe.

The forefoot of the upper in each of the Pure Project line is supposed to have a more anatomically correct, more natural fit, one that follows the contours of an actual foot and allows the metatarsals to splay.  I’ll give it to Brooks that there is a small difference in the shape of the toe area of the shoe, but certainly not nearly as visible as in, say, the Minimus Road from New Balance.

The midsole and outsole are low profile (14 heel/10 forefoot) and they are separated between the first and second to ensure proper toe off.  I can’t say that it will do that for everyone, but when I’m walking around, I can feel my foot drop medially over the big toe.  When I run, there is no such sensation.  At most, there might be the feel of a quicker roll off the toes, which is a good thing, but if that was the intended result, I can’t say.  I like the shoe and like the direction that Brooks is taking with design (the marketing is goofy, but again, whatever) and I expect that the next generations of the Pure Project line will be even nicer.  Brooks is really good at that.

In the next three weeks, I’ll wear test each of the other three Pure Project models.  But for now, I’ll leave you with a shoe that is arguably of a better design than any of the core Brooks models (yeah, I said it; because they’re actually designing something for the human body and not for some focus group) but not…quite…there…yet.  Would I buy a pair?  Absolutely!  Would I change things if I could?  Absolutely.