Shoe Review: ASICS GEL-Super J33

By Chris MacLeod

It’s officially fall! You know what that means: The leaves are turning (somewhere up north), there’s a chill in the air (according to people who live by the turning leaves), and there’s a pumpkin patch around every corner (of HEB).

Okay, so the leaves are still green, the air is still hot, and those plastic pumpkins get creepy after a while. But hey, it’s fall in Austin, and at least we have new shoes for the holidays!

Just in this week from ASICS – two shoes that couldn’t be more different. For the sake of instant gratification, let’s start with the new kid on the block.

Introducing the latest member of the Natural33 line: The GEL-Super J33.

About ASICS Natural33 Line

To me, the best way to describe the ASICS Natural33 line of shoes is…umm…how to be tactful here…

Oh, forget it.

These are ASICS modern shoes. The ones that would scare a runner who accidentally time-traveled here from 1994. They’re brightly-colored, lighter in weight, have lots of techy-sounding features, and are clearly the fun project to be on for anyone in ASICS R&D.

The 33 in “Natural33” represents the 33 joints in the human foot, with which these shoes are meant to interact in “a more natural biomechanical way”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but my take is this:

After years of success in the world of big, structured shoes, ASICS introduced this line in 2011 – roughly around the time Rogue’s “less is more” shoe philosophy took the running world by storm. (And not long after a little book called Born to Run came out.)

GEL-Super J33 Overview

The Women’s Shoe – Also available in a snazzy pink/yellow combo.

The Women’s Shoe – Also available in a snazzy pink/yellow combo.

The Dude’s Shoe – Also available in green/black/orange.

The Dude’s Shoe – Also available in green/black/orange.

shoe3First let’s admire the pretty colors. I think they ordered both the men’s and women’s in blue so they would be really easy for employees to confuse in the stockroom.

Like all shoes in the Natural33 line, the Super J is built around what ASICS refers to as FluidAxis technology, a pair of intersecting grooves that cut through the bottom of the shoe and allow it to flex in multiple directions and follow the rolling, lateral motion of the human foot.

If you’re having trouble picturing this, check out http://www.asicsamerica.com/natural33 for videos. (with very Tron-like soundtracks!)

The Super J, specifically, is marketed as a lightweight, short-distance trainer for mild to moderate overpronators. In its promo video, ASICS 800m athlete Alysia Montano touts the Super J as a go-to for tempo runs or even as a replacement for track spikes.

The official specs, for you tech geeks:

Weight:7.3oz (M) and 6.2oz (W)

 

Heel/Toe Drop: 6mm (M & W, 20/14mm & 19/13mm)

Design Features: GEL heel cushioning, Solyte Midsole, AHAR high-abrasion rubber for durability, seamless, one-piece upper with steamed-on decoration, FluidAxis groove system, Guidance Line

Available Sizes: 7-15 (M) and 5-12 (W)

Available Widths: Standard

MSRP: $100

My feet aren’t sensitive enough to notice all 33 joints moving around the FluidAxis, but given my general lack of flexibility, ASICS could probably design a Natural13 line and for me it would work just as well.

That said, I did notice this shoe felt very flexible as soon as I put it on, which is probably due to a combination of the FluidAxis, the Solyte Midsole (a lighter, slightly firmer material than their traditional EVA foam), and the super-soft upper.

Naturally, I immediately pulled the shoe back off and performed the patented squish-test. (Note: This is not an official test, nor is it patented. However, it’s effective for demonstrating shoe flexibility.)

Not quite pocket-sized, but I could stuff it in a large purse.

Not quite pocket-sized, but I could stuff it in a large purse.

As you can see, the heel is fairly stiff, but gives way to a very bendy forefoot, a combo I personally like in a shoe. Business in the heel, party in the toes!

How it Fits:

The Super J is only available in standard width, but like most ASICS, it felt a bit wide on my average-to-narrow foot. (When fitting customers, I often have success pulling ASICS for wider feet.)

The width wouldn’t have been an issue were it not for the super-soft upper, which turned into a bit of a “bunched-up upper” when I cinched the laces. The shoe also felt slightly long in my usual size 9, but not enough to go down to an 8.5.

shoe5Cedar Park’s resident shoe guru, Travis, asked if I felt the creasing on the tops of my toes. (Answer: “I didn’t before, but now that you mention it, it’s all I can think about.” So thank you, Travis.)

I certainly wouldn’t eliminate this shoe based on the bunching alone – a lot of shoes do this on my feet, I like to think it makes them look “delicate and feminine” – but check for any potential rubbing when you try the shoe.

How it Feels:

As a fairly severe overpronator, I’m always curious to try shoes that are both “lightweight” and “designed for stability”. Perhaps it shows a lack of imagination, but these two ideas just don’t gel in my head.

Perhaps I should have known something was up when I found the Super J in our “lightweight” section of the stockroom.

From the minute I slipped this shoe on, I felt very little in the way of support. That’s not a negative – this is Rogue, and we believe in fitting the least shoe that will keep you healthy and comfortable – but it does seem to contradict the marketing materials.

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After further research, I determined that the “support” features of this shoe are the Guidance Line, which I suppose does give your foot a vague suggestion of how to land, and the slightly denser foam on the medial (inner) side of the shoe.

However, since pretty much all shoe manufacturers are doing some form of guidance these days, you’re not likely to notice much impact if you’re coming from a traditional trainer.

How it Feels Part II (The Interlude):

About halfway through my wear-test, I got distracted – some customers came in and I had to do my real job – and even after standing around (read: squashing down the cushion) in the Super J for 45 minutes, I still didn’t feel any true arch support. Different runners will argue different meanings for the word “support”. And yes, I’d rather stand around in the Super J than, say, a racing flat. BUT…if you’re looking for a shoe to literally hold your foot up, this one isn’t it.

Also, towards the end of the 45 minutes, I did start to feel my heel a bit. And then the joint behind my big toe. Though the GEL offers plenty of cushion for running, like most lightweight shoes, the Super J isn’t designed for standing around. In other words, save it for running, don’t wear it to Six Flags.

How it Runs:

If I’m starting to sound down on the Super J, here’s where I turn things around: This shoe runs fast!

At 6.2 oz in the women’s version, it’s extremely light, which makes quick turnover feel easy. The heel fits snug but not tight, so slippage is not an issue. The relative stiffness of the midsole makes the shoe feel anchored enough to change direction quickly in a pinch, while the GEL under foot provided adequate-but-not-distracting cushion.

I also found the (relatively) thick, firm heel did a bit of stabilization work for me in that I didn’t have to over-engage my calf to keep my foot aligned. That said, runners with stronger, more flexible feet might find the heel bulky for a racer. (In fact, one such runner flat out deemed it “too soft” for a racer – which I translated as meaning he wanted his foot doing more of the work.)

In contrast to the stiff heel, I found the high forefoot flexibility allowed for good ground-feel and encouraged a forefoot strike. In short, the balance of firm to flexible was right up my weak-footed alley!

shoe8Verdict:

I’m excited to see ASICS exploring more modern shoe design, and the Super J is a solid addition to that side of their product offering. This is a fast, lightweight shoe that could be a great trainer or racer for a runner with a neutral foot who wants a little bit more than zero support.

Let’s just not get too carried away by its marketing as a “supportive shoe for overpronators”…

Best Feature: The light weight! The Super J can take on some true racing flats in the heft department.

Other Pros: Support/cushion in the heel, flexibility up front.

Biggest Gripe: The bunching of the upper material.

Other Cons: Might have been my imagination, but all the decoration on this shoe made it feel slightly warm to me. As in temperature warm.

Will it Work for You? If you’re a neutral runner or mild pronator with good flexibility and foot strength, I’d say yes! Could also be a good option for those looking to transition from traditional trainers to lighter weight shoes.

Suggested Uses: Short to mid-distance runs, quality workouts, and races up to 10K.

 

An Open Letter: Lose the Shoe Finder!

by Chris McClung

I am hesitant to write this letter to you because of the storied history we have with open letters. The last one we wrote about Brooks and the demise of the Launch garnered more traffic to our blog than any previous post to date, but not all of the traffic was good. Some thought we came off as pompous know-it-alls attacking Brooks unfairly. While I happen to disagree with that assessment, I am also biased and perhaps a bit too results-oriented. After all, the Launch was happily saved this spring, returning from the dead with throwback colors. I would like to believe that our passionate plea for the Launch helped save it, but it doesn’t matter. I bought a pair last week and wore them on an 18-miler straight out of the box, enjoying every glorious step. Now, that’s what matters – finding shoes that disappear when you put them on…that have everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Back to the reason for this letter. To be clear, this isn’t about being pompous know-it-alls. This also isn’t about bashing Runner’s World, which seems to be a popular pastime in certain circles.  It’s about education and sharing expertise that will hopefully provide clarity in the midst of confusion and misinformation.

Two weeks ago, a gentleman came into the store with the June issue of Runner’s World, which contains the latest in RW shoe reviews and awards. As he entered, he opened the earmarked magazine to show me a fold out diagram labeled “RW Shoe Finder” and asked: “Can you help me figure this out?”

shoe finderAt first glance, the RW Shoe Finder resembles a bowl of spaghetti with meatballs (see the picture), and I think that is describing it politely. The diagram is confusing at best and completely wrong at worst. After reviewing it briefly, I told the man in front of me, in the nicest words I could muster, that the first step was simply to toss it aside. And, you should do the same. Now, I’m not talking about the whole magazine or even all of information in the reviews, as some of it is good and helpful. The Shoe Finder, however, is definite material for the recycle bin.

So what’s wrong with it? Where to start?

1. Runner’s World CANNOT provide objective reviews. Period. Full Stop. There is too much at stake for them. They collect millions in advertising dollars annually from the top shoe brands. Being overly critical or failing to select a certain shoe for a certain “award” could put those millions at stake. This is like listening to Fox News talk about politics and expecting an unbiased opinion. Not going to happen. Case in point: what’s on the back of the RW Shoe Finder? photoA 3-page fold-out Saucony ad for the new Kinvara 4. A shoe that happens to have been selected as this year’s “Best Update.” I don’t think I need to explain further (and for the record, we love the Kinvara). I personally believe that the reviews and even the shoes “selected” to be reviewed are more influenced by dollar signs than they are by any shoe expertise. Perhaps that is just the cynic in me, but until the editorial team at RW provides more transparency to their process, I will remain skeptical.

 

 

2. 15 shoe models are not enough. We carry over 100 models in our store, and there are still many more out there. The Shoe Finder says: “To find the best pair for you, answer the questions in this flowchart.” And, what if the best shoe for you, isn’t among the 15 they have “selected” to review? Then I guess you are out of luck. Now, I know what you might say. How could Runner’s World possibly review every shoe out there? They can’t, and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t pretend to have the ultimate shoe selector with 15 models in its database. And really, it’s 14 models, because you can’t count anything from Under Armour.

3. Nearly every question in this alleged Shoe Finder is wrong or misleading. This is the crux of the issue. The methodology embedded within this Finder is based on a shoe fitting approach that was developed 20 years ago, and that has gradually proven dated, especially in the last five years. It is the same philosophy that the shoe companies would generally like you to believe because it sells shoes with more technology… more stuff to fix your supposed problems at higher prices. What we know from fitting thousands of people a year in shoes (and then coaching them in our training programs) is that more shoe is generally not better. More is less and less is more.

A few examples:

The RW Shoe Finder asks: “Is your BMI 27 or greater?” The answer takes you down distinct paths on the Shoe Finder, suggesting the bulky, higher-cushioned shoes for those of us who might exceed this “magical” 27 BMI threshold (that’s 200 pounds for a 6 foot male like myself or 168 for a 5’6” female). In fact, if your answer to this question is yes, you only have 2 options to choose from. The Finder says: “Generally, the higher your BMI, the more shoe you need.”

NO, NO, NO. In our experience, the weight of the runner is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT when it comes to shoe selection. Ignoring issues with the BMI metric itself, what matters is the biomechanics of each individual regardless of weight and what level of cushioning he or she needs to achieve his or her most efficient gait. Most of the time, a heavy, high-cushioned shoe causes you to land “heavier” on your feet and therefore put more impact into your joints than a lighter shoe with less cushioning, regardless of how much you weigh. To those who might be carrying extra pounds, don’t fret… you have as many shoe options as anyone else when you walk in our doors!

The Shoe Finder also asks: “What is your arch type? High, Normal, or Flat?” According to the Finder, anyone with flat arches is assumed to over-pronate severely enough to need shoes with more support or stability. Here we find one of the central fallacies of most shoe fitting philosophies: a flat (or low) arch = needs stability.

In our experience, the height of the arch is irrelevant; what matters is how your foot and arch move from the point of contact with the ground through to the toe-off. I have seen plenty of runners with low to flat arches who have no issues whatsoever with over-pronation. In fact, the vast majority have very normal interactions with the ground. Unfortunately, most have been misdiagnosed and are running in posted stability shoes that inhibit their movement and efficiency, like running with a concrete block under your arch.

We fit 85% of runners in neutral shoes, while the running specialty industry average is 30-35%. And, last I checked, we don’t have a line of runners queued up asking for their stability shoes back. This isn’t to say that we are definitively right and RW is wrong; it just tells me that there might be an alternative approach that works and merits exploration and discussion.

A recent study talks about the link between pronation, type of shoe, and injury. There are two very interesting points made within the study. First, the breakdown of pronated feet within the random sample – only 7.5% of the total – is a very low percentage, much lower than the shoe industry would lead us to believe. Secondly, the study found that pronated runners actually had lower injury risk when running in neutral shoes than even neutral runners. Certainly, we can debate the merits of any study, but our real-world experience says that it’s amazing what happens when you take the shoe out of the way and let the body do the work.

4. The awards are suspect at best. I already mentioned the bias issue above, but there is also the issue of how these “awards” are chosen. What makes a shoe the “Editor’s Choice?” And, more specifically, why have Asics shoes been chosen in 5 of the past 8 years in this category? Is it that Asics makes the best shoes? Or does it relate to Asics’ advertising dollars? Or, perhaps the fact that RW hosts an awards party every year in conjunction with the New York Marathon of which Asics is the shoe sponsor? RW always has plausible deniability because it tends to choose a core, popular, franchise model from one of the major brands (usually Asics). This time, however, they jumped the shark by selecting the Asics Gel-Cumulus 15.

If this shoe is worthy of an Editor’s Choice award, then I need to eat my shorts. To be fair, it isn’t a terrible shoe by itself. Lots of runners will buy it and probably be perfectly happy with it. Most of those runners will be repeat Cumulus customers who haven’t changed shoe models since Clinton was President. The problem is that the entire shoe industry has completely changed, while the Cumulus has not. It’s a dinosaur in its category of moderately cushioned, neutral shoes. It weighs in at an absurd 11.6 ounces for men or 9.5 ounces for women, while most of its peers in the category (like the Mizuno Wave Rider or Saucony Ride) are now at least 1 to 1.5 ounces lighter (without sacrificing a discernible amount of cushioning). If an Editor’s Choice is to be made from this category, then the Wave Rider 16 would be the choice (check out this review if you want to know why). Even Asics’ own Gel-Excel33 would be a better choice!

Modern technologies now allow the shoe companies to drop significant weight from your feet without changing any of the functionality, cushioning or support. I would challenge Cumulus wearers to come in for an alternative. I guarantee that they can find a lighter, leaner shoe with equivalent cushioning, and that their feet will happily demand that they never go back.

Again, my point is not to pick on Runner’s World. My primary beef is with the RW Shoe Finder, as the reviews themselves are generally very informative, and in recent years, have become increasingly balanced on discussing the pros/cons of the shoes reviewed. I simply believe that it’s important to question what you read, and to view it with the appropriate counter-perspective in mind. If nothing else, I hope that this letter sparks debate about shoes and fittings and reviews because we all learn in the midst of good discussion.

Happy running… to the recycle bin and beyond!

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.

Ramblings, for your feet.

by John Schrup

I saw on Faceplant the other day some pictures of Bill Rodgers running in the Adios 2.  So, yeah, go getcher self some.  Win some Boston Marathons and stuff.

Watching the gang on the sales floor fit shoes is fun.  I participate here and there, but mostly I just mess things up, so I try to be invisible when people are fitting.  But the presentation has changed and I find that interesting.  Back in the day, when explaining the differences and similarities among shoes, we would reference cushioning systems, stability features, flex grooves, yaaaaaaaawn, etc., etc.  That was then and this is right, so we’re teaching now about things that make more sense to the individual who will purchase and run in the shoe, as opposed just selling some brand’s product because they came up with a more memorable acronym or some shit.  Now we teach about offset and stack height, flexibility and more importantly, how to make your body stronger, healthier and more athletic, so that what you wear on your feet is tertiary in importance, at best.

But let’s not get bogged down on offset, stack height and all those cool new things.  The tendency is to think that these numbers have magical properties that will make us better, more efficient runners.  If you were to wear only 4mm drop shoes, then no doubt you’d be all kinds of Kenyan in no time, wouldn’t you?  Just because you’ve wisely dumped your Kayano doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you’re landing midfoot and eating ugali and sukuma wiki.  It doesn’t work like that, though we keep looking for the elusive magical bullet.  I don’t know why, we just do.

When we tell you that the best shoe for you is the least amount of shoe you are comfortable with, we’re telling you that you are better than you think you are, that you simply do not “need” all the things you think you do.  I mean, it’s just running, man.  All that shit ain’t gonna make you cooler, faster, more African-er.  All the variables of the shoe—offset, flexibility, weight, fit, firmness—combine to make the shoe what it is.  You will know, intuitively, which is the right one for you.  Give yourself some credit.  Yes, you will.  We’re A.) not going to bring out something that wouldn’t work for you, once we know what to look for and 2.) not going to make the decision for you, unless there is something so glaringly obvious that we wouldn’t be doing our job to let you out of the store with an unwise choice.

You will know it is right because you won’t feel a thing.  Or, more likely, it will be the shoe that is the least noticeable on your foot.  If the fit is right, if the weight is right, if the firmness is good, if the offset is right—all of that—your interpretation of the feel will be that it disappears on your foot.  The proprioceptive response will be nothing, sort of.  It’ll be the closest feeling to nothing that you can get, wearing a pair of running shoes, that is.

I don’t know where that all came from.

A couple of you have asked me why I’m all obsessed with Newton.  I wouldn’t call it obsessed, exactly, it is just that I’m really enjoying learning some new stuff.  I mean, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?  There are times when the shoe reappears on my foot—going around corners faster than, say, easy—and I’ve been a little banged up lately, so admittedly there is some trepidation when I put them on, I don’t know why.  But they are much better than I’d ever have given them credit for.  The actuator lugs, as a technology, are much more valid than some crappy guide line flex groove or elastic arch band.  Anyway.  That’s that.

John Schrup is Rogue Running’s very own shoe guru, and has coached every age and every level of athlete in most every distance known to man … on planet earth! Including Team Rogue, currently. Don’t miss his Shoe Talk on Saturday, September 29, 9:45am at Rogue downtown (500 San Marcos St. 78702). Free and open to all!

The Rogue Way

by John Schrup

Keeping you healthy is pretty much all we think about here at Rogue.  Sure, we train people for a broad variety of running events and we sell running stuff for those people and those events, but often I think that we are in the health care business.  We don’t prescribe pharmaceuticals, we don’t diagnose diseases, but we are in the business of keeping people healthy.  And we do it in a way that goes against conventional wisdom.  Beg pardon? you ask.  Sit back, drink this here espresso with heavy whipping cream, and listen up, buttercup.

Please let me offer two examples.  Most people, when they go to the doctor for whatever the ailment (let’s say it’s back pain or strain) will return with some meds–some weapons grade ibuprofen or some other anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxer, an opioid if you’re lucky.  But almost certainly, you’ll get some sort of medication to mitigate the pain.  And that’s good, short term.  But the chances are that your doctor did not even begin to look at the root cause, the genesis of the pain.  He fixed the symptom, but not the real problem.  And so the chance that you will experience a related injury is high.  On the other side of the medical coin, the wisest doctors will find the root of the problem and offer suggestions on how to eliminate or reduce it.  It might be that your new job that requires you to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day has exacerbated already weak back muscles because you slouch, or your desk is too high, or whatever.   So from a competent PT you’ll get some exercises to strengthen the muscles and a lesson on structural alignment.

To bring it back to running, and with a congruent discussion, I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has come to us for shoes after having been to the podiatrist for, say, plantar fasciitis and was prescribed custom orthotics to correct the injury.  The fact is that most running stores (and doctors for that matter) don’t take the time to consider the source of the injury.  They are practiced in the quick fix so they can make money off you by selling you products, whether you need them or not.  And then most of the time, in a number of weeks, the pain from the PF (I won’t even get into that it probably isn’t really even PF) has gone, and the runner is again back to training.  But is the problem fixed?  Did the doctor (or running store) even address the tight calves or weak posterior tibialis?  Did the doctor address that a tight psoas or anteriorly rotated pelvis might be closer to the root cause?  Did the doctor ask about anything other than the specific discomfort?  The big picture is that they aren’t looking at the big picture and they aren’t looking at you as an individual.  They are trying to fit you into their model, rather than fitting a model to you.

These differences in how you, the patient, are treated is not dissimilar to how we, Rogue, look at running injuries and footwear.

Let’s not let logic and reason get in the way of a good discussion, so let’s consider a couple of things.  Since the early- to mid-70’s, when the running boom began (thank you, Mr. Shorter), and as the numbers of runners has increased exponentially, both the general population and the specialty running shoe have become bigger, heavier, less flexible and bulkier.   The revisionist argument is that running shoes became more cushioned and bulkier because we became bulkier, so we needed more shoe, more cushioning, more stability.  That argument is, to me, similar to the argument that someone who is diagnosed with, say, high cholesterol or high blood pressure should be prescribed medications to lower those numbers but not asked to change his or her diet and/or lifestyle first.  The medications can provide quick reduction in those numbers, but if the patient doesn’t change his or her diet from eating processed and sugary foods, add even light exercise to a sedentary lifestyle or adopt some semblance of play into an over-booked existence, then the problem is never actually addressed.  The symptoms have been corrected, but the real problem still exists.

The same goes for running shoes.  A customer comes in with shin splints or some other, generic syndrome.  In the antiquated model of shoe fitting that 95% of the running stores in the country use, they plug a stability shoe or an over-the-counter orthotic under your foot and, voila!, problem corrected.  With the new model of shoe fitting, we have seen, through years of observation, experimentation and implementation, a reduction in running related injury rates from treating the problem and not the symptom.  We found that, almost universally, a combination of increased general fitness and a reduced reliance on footwear as a corrective implement, runners will remain injury free longer and in turn, enjoy running more.  The fundamental thing to remember is that if connective tissues are weak, they can be made stronger.  Most running stores don’t consider this, so it doesn’t even cross their minds that the little injury that is bugging you can be remedied without changing your shoes.

It should seem a bit strange that a running specialty store would recommend that you, the runner, rely less on your running shoes.  We make money selling running shoes.  But we recognize that the products we sell are only a part of the equation.  Our first job, our primary concern, is to help you enjoy your running, to get your daily endorphines.  We can sell you a metric ton of products to make your running more enjoyable (more funner!), but we are doing you a disservice if we don’t address the fundamental issues that will help you become a happier runner.

And so we have determined that the least amount of shoe that you are comfortable wearing is the right shoe for you.  Even the major shoe companies now admit that conventional running shoes are over-built and over-engineered and obstruct the natural mechanical function of the body.  It is our belief that a running shoe that fits and feels in such a way that it almost disappears on the foot, that it feels like an extension of your foot or that is intuitively most comfortable will be the shoe that benefits you the most.  But that is not the entire solution.  Because we train thousands of people each year, we know that spending 3 minutes per day on foot drills, seven minutes per day on general, functional strength, and a focused change in nutrition intake will make you a better runner and a healthier, happier person.

So why does most of the running shoe industry continue to push heavy, bulky, overly cushioned and stability shoes?  Jack, Jack.  Money.  The number one selling running shoe is the Brooks Adrenaline, a moderate to high stability shoe.  Brooks ain’t about to tell you that, really, you don’t need the one thing that makes them the most money.  They won’t say, oops, we were mistaken.  Our number one selling shoe alternates between the Brooks Launch and the Brooks Ghost, a lightweight neutral and a neutral model respectively.  It is true that the sales of neutral and lightweight shoes is increasing across the country, but still the great majority of running shoes sold are stability shoes.  Wisdom travels slowly, apparently.  Less that 20% of the shoes we sell are stability shoes, and most often those are sold because people ask for them.

3 out of 5 of our best selling shoes are what are marketed as lightweight or performance shoes.  50% of the shoes we sell are lightweight, performance or minimalist (I #@%$ing really dislike that term). We are not chasing your dollars, because the average cost of these models is a little more than $90.  Only one in ten shoes will sell are high priced, high end, luxury shoes.  Why?  Because you just don’t need them.  If you want that, I am more than happy to sell that to you.  If you really, truly believe that if you don’t wear the ASICS Kayano, you will cease to exist as a runner, then I need you to have that shoe.  I am of the belief that there are some situations in which if it isn’t absolutely necessary, then it is absolutely necessary not to have it.

I can count on one hand the number of times in the past year I have seen a customer who really, truly NEEDS a stability shoe.  The number of people who come in the store and who have been told by other running stores that they over-pronate or require stability shoes is absurdly high.  A customer will come in and tell me that they are an over pronator and then when we look at the movement in the lower leg and foot, we see ab.so.lute.ly nothing that could be, by any stretch of the imagination considered over pronation.  Nothing.  Yet someone well versed in such diagnoses at another running store tells them so.  Buy, you say, they put me on a treadmill and videotaped me running and, etc., etc.  Well that treadmill they put you on is one of the least efficient ways to monitor mechanics.  Several years ago I spoke with the head of the Nike lab, arguably the best in the world.  He said that they don’t use treadmills because they don’t give an accurate representation of a runner’s mechanics.  The top independent labs don’t use treadmills, they watch people run across the ground, over force plates.  So why do running stores continue to use treadmills?  Two words:  Marketing.  Tool.  Say it with me…WTF?

So we’re calling bullshit.  Bullshit on the idea that you need more shoe, that you need more cushioning, more stability.  Bullshit on running stores that that follow conventional wisdom, that don’t believe you can do it unless you have a certain type of shoe.  Bullshit on the belief that need and want are the same thing.

That is not to say that a lower profile, more flexible, lighter shoe is your magic bullet.  It isn’t.  You are the magic bullet.  You must make yourself structurally stronger and lighter if you are really going to make headway in reducing the risk of injury.  And a lighter, more flexible shoe can be a tool in allowing you to do that.  You must begin to look at your running shoes as tools that allow you to do something, and are not necessary for you to do something.  You must recalibrate your idea of fitness.  You must resist the urge to blame your injuries on a product.  You must be wise in your approach to your training.  You must allow your body to function as it was designed to function.  You must nourish your body and mind with food, not food products.  You must defy conventional wisdom.  You must take responsibility for your own body.   And no matter that you’ve never even walked around your block or jumped rope, you must have the unshatterable belief in yourself as an athletic being.

Dear Schrup…

We call him our Gear Savant for a reason. If you want to know the lineage of every aspect of a shoe, he knows it. If you want to know exactly how the Nike Pegasus 11 is different from the Nike Pegasus 28, he knows it. If you are the person who can never find the right shoe, then you haven’t met our very own Mr. John Schrup. Starting this week, we are beginning a new, weekly blog series – Dear Schrup – where John will answer you tech questions about running shoes, apparel, and other gear. Any question is fair game. We will choose from the questions weekly, and John will respond via the blog on Wednesdays. Submit your questions via email to John (john@roguequipment.com) or post them on our Facebook wall.

Kicking things off with The Rogue Way…

So I just poured a double dirty chai directly onto my corneas and I’ve been thinking…

Keeping you healthy is pretty much all we think about here at the Rogue.  Sure, we train people for a broad variety of running events and we sell running stuff for those people and those events, but often I think that we are in the health care business.  We don’t prescribe pharmaceuticals, we don’t diagnose diseases, but we are in the business of keeping people healthy.  And we do it in a way that goes against conventional wisdom.  Beg pardon? you ask.  Sit back, drink this here espresso with heavy whipping cream, and listen up, buttercup.

Please let me offer two examples.  Most people, when they go to the doctor for whatever the ailment (let’s say it’s back pain or strain) will return with some meds–some weapons grade ibuprofen or some other anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxer, an opioid if you’re lucky.  But almost certainly, you’ll get some sort of medication to mitigate the pain.  And that’s good, short term.  But the chances are that your doctor did not even begin to look at the root cause, the genesis of the pain.  He fixed the symptom, but not the real problem.  And so the chance that you will experience a related injury is high.  On the other side of the medical coin, the wisest doctors will find the root of the problem and offer suggestions on how to eliminate or reduce it.  It might be that your new job that requires you to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day has exacerbated already weak back muscles because you slouch, or your desk is too high, or whatever.   So from a competent PT you’ll get some exercises to strengthen the muscles and a lesson on structural alignment.

To bring it back to running, and with a congruent discussion, I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has come to us for shoes after having been to the podiatrist for, say, plantar fasciitis and was prescribed custom orthotics to correct the injury.  The fact is that most running stores (and doctors for that matter) don’t take the time to consider the source of the injury.  They are practiced in the quick fix so they can make money off you by selling you products, whether you need them or not.  And then most of the time, in a number of weeks, the pain from the PF (I won’t even get into that it probably isn’t really even PF) has gone, and the runner is again back to training.  But is the problem fixed?  Did the doctor (or running store) even address the tight calves or weak posterior tibialis?  Did the doctor address that a tight psoas or anteriorly rotated pelvis might be closer to the root cause?  Did the doctor ask about anything other than the specific discomfort?  The big picture is that they aren’t looking at the big picture and they aren’t looking at you as an individual.  They are trying to fit you into their model, rather than fitting a model to you.

These differences in how you, the patient, are treated is not dissimilar to how we, Rogue, look at running injuries and footwear.

Let’s not let logic and reason get in the way of a good discussion, so let’s consider a couple of things.  Since the early- to mid-70’s, when the running boom began (thank you, Mr. Shorter), and as the numbers of runners has increased exponentially, both the general population and the specialty running shoe have become bigger, heavier, less flexible and bulkier.   The revisionist argument is that running shoes became more cushioned and bulkier because we became bulkier, so we needed more shoe, more cushioning, more stability.  That argument is, to me, similar to the argument that someone who is diagnosed with, say, high cholesterol or high blood pressure should be prescribed medications to lower those numbers but not asked to change his or her diet and/or lifestyle first.  The medications can provide quick reduction in those numbers, but if the patient doesn’t change his or her diet from eating processed and sugary foods, add even light exercise to a sedentary lifestyle or adopt some semblance of play into an over-booked existence, then the problem is never actually addressed.  The symptoms have been corrected, but the real problem still exists.

The same goes for running shoes.  A customer comes in with shin splints or some other, generic syndrome.  In the antiquated model of shoe fitting that 95% of the running stores in the country use, they plug a stability shoe or an over-the-counter orthotic under your foot and, voila!, problem corrected.  With the new model of shoe fitting, we have seen, through years of observation, experimentation and implementation, a reduction in running related injury rates from treating the problem and not the symptom.  We found that, almost universally, a combination of increased general fitness and a reduced reliance on footwear as a corrective implement, runners will remain injury free longer and in turn, enjoy running more.  The fundamental thing to remember is that if connective tissues are weak, they can be made stronger.  Most running stores don’t consider this, so it doesn’t even cross their minds that the little injury that is bugging you can be remedied without changing your shoes.

It should seem a bit strange that a running specialty store would recommend that you, the runner, rely less on your running shoes.  We make money selling running shoes.  But we recognize that the products we sell are only a part of the equation.  Our first job, our primary concern, is to help you enjoy your running, to get your daily endorphines.  We can sell you a metric ton of products to make your running more enjoyable (more funner!), but we are doing you a disservice if we don’t address the fundamental issues that will help you become a happier runner.

And so we have determined that the least amount of shoe that you are comfortable wearing is the right shoe for you.  Even the major shoe companies now admit that conventional running shoes are over-built and over-engineered and obstruct the natural mechanical function of the body.  It is our belief that a running shoe that fits and feels in such a way that it almost disappears on the foot, that it feels like an extension of your foot or that is intuitively most comfortable will be the shoe that benefits you the most.  But that is not the entire solution.  Because we train thousands of people each year, we know that spending 3 minutes per day on foot drills, seven minutes per day on general, functional strength, and a focused change in nutrition intake will make you a better runner and a healthier, happier person.

So why does most of the running shoe industry continue to push heavy, bulky, overly cushioned and stability shoes?  Jack, Jack.  Money.  The number one selling running shoe is the Brooks Adrenaline, a moderate to high stability shoe.  Brooks ain’t about to tell you that, really, you don’t need the one thing that makes them the most money.  They won’t say, oops, we were mistaken.  Our number one selling shoe alternates between the Brooks Launch and the Brooks Ghost, a lightweight neutral and a neutral model respectively.  It is true that the sales of neutral and lightweight shoes is increasing across the country, but still the great majority of running shoes sold are stability shoes.  Wisdom travels slowly, apparently.  Less that 20% of the shoes we sell are stability shoes, and most often those are sold because people ask for them.

3 out of 5 of our best selling shoes are what are marketed as lightweight or performance shoes.  50% of the shoes we sell are lightweight, performance or minimalist (I #@%$ing really dislike that term). We are not chasing your dollars, because the average cost of these models is a little more than $90.  Only one in ten shoes will sell are high priced, high end, luxury shoes.  Why?  Because you just don’t need them.  If you want that, I am more than happy to sell that to you.  If you really, truly believe that if you don’t wear the ASICS Kayano, you will cease to exist as a runner, then I need you to have that shoe.  I am of the belief that there are some situations in which if it isn’t absolutely necessary, then it is absolutely necessary not to have it.

I can count on one hand the number of times in the past year I have seen a customer who really, truly NEEDS a stability shoe.  The number of people who come in the store and who have been told by other running stores that they over-pronate or require stability shoes is absurdly high.  A customer will come in and tell me that they are an over pronator and then when we look at the movement in the lower leg and foot, we see ab.so.lute.ly nothing that could be, by any stretch of the imagination considered over pronation.  Nothing.  Yet someone well versed in such diagnoses at another running store tells them so.  But, you say, they put me on a treadmill and videotaped me running and, etc., etc.  Well that treadmill they put you on is one of the least efficient ways to monitor mechanics.  Several years ago I spoke with the head of the Nike lab, arguably the best in the world.  He said that they don’t use treadmills because they don’t give an accurate representation of a runner’s mechanics.  The top independent labs don’t use treadmills, they watch people run across the ground, over force plates.  So why do running stores continue to use treadmills?  Two words:  Marketing.  Tool.  Say it with me…WTF?

So we’re calling bullshit.  Bullshit on the idea that you need more shoe, that you need more cushioning, more stability.  Bullshit on running stores that that follow conventional wisdom, that don’t believe you can do it unless you have a certain type of shoe.  Bullshit on the belief that need and want are the same thing.

That is not to say that a lower profile, more flexible, lighter shoe is your magic bullet.  It isn’t.  You are the magic bullet.  You must make yourself structurally stronger and lighter if you are really going to make headway in reducing the risk of injury.  And a lighter, more flexible shoe can be a tool in allowing you to do that.  You must begin to look at your running shoes as tools that allow you to do something, and are not necessary for you to do something.  You must recalibrate your idea of fitness.  You must resist the urge to blame your injuries on a product.  You must be wise in your approach to your training.  You must allow your body to function as it was designed to function.  You must nourish your body and mind with food, not food products.  You must defy conventional wisdom.  You must take responsibility for your own body.   And no matter that you’ve never even walked around your block or jumped rope, you must have the unshatterable belief in yourself as an athletic being.

New Balance Minimus Road and Minimus Trail


In the not-too-distant future, the running shoes you have on your feet right now will be obsolete. No, not updated. Obsolete. They’ll be relics. More likely they’ll be considered “fashion” or “retro”, whatever that means.

Each of the big 7–adidas, ASICS, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike and Saucony–and myriad smaller, niche brands will have completely shifted focus to footwear that is biomechanically appropriate. That is, footwear that works with an individual’s natural running biomechanics, rather than against it. It might take a few years, maybe ten, but it will happen.

Probably already you’ve seen some of these newfangled kicks, either here at Rogue, out on the trails or roads. Maybe you read Born to Run. As much as I hate the label, minimalist is what’s happening.

The first introductions—not fringe, not the far side of the pendulum, like Five Fingers—have been well received and are already taking traction. For historical purposes, we won’t go too deep, but let’s say that the Saucony Kinvara was the first one on the wall. The next offering, New Balance’s Minimus line, is thus far the most pared down and focused of the options available now.

The Minimus line—Road, Trail and Wellness (the Minimi?)—began to show up in viral marketing campaings last year, creating a positive buzz well before the shoes were available in store. The timing was right—Born to Run was already a hit, inside and outside of the running community—and the marketing was honest and directed. New Balance has never been a solid marketing company, certainly not to the extent that a Nike or even a Brooks has been, so this was refreshing to say the least.

The goal was to make biomechanically appropriate running footwear, simple in design and function. The Minimus trio is, so far, at the top of the heap. Free of the mucky-muck-bling-bells and whistles that we had grown to know and loathe, the Minimus is really, simply, what a real running shoe should be. Of course, there are variations on every theme, but this is a really solid introduction.

The upper is about as basic as it gets. It is one piece, with no restrictive overlays or seams. Drawn, apparently, by someone who understands design (form follows function!) and not someone who is just really adept at repackaging the same old, same old. The fit is comfortably snug from hind foot through the mid foot, where it needs to be; and broad and roomy from the metatarsals forward to allow the feet to splay, as any self-respecting biomechanically appropriate footwear should.

The midsole and outsole offer the (apparently) minimalist standard 4mm heel/toe differential, giving the feeling of being almost flat footed when standing and farther forward on impact when running. Moderately firm and responsive, the Minimus Road feels not unlike a roomier version of some old school racing flats, with durability added. The Trail is much firmer, fits a hair snugger and feels lower and less protective, which is perhaps a bit strange initially to think about when thinking about our rocky Texas trails. But two one hour runs on the Greenbelt were fine, though I would imagine that 100K over some really gnarly, technical rocky stuff might leave your feet a bit abused.

Both the Road and the Trail would make really nice additions to the weekly rotation. I have find each on my doorstep, drying from the last run more often that not, and have used them almost interchangeably on road or off-road. The only way I can see either being bumped from the rotation is when next year’s updates are presented. A zero-drop Minimus Road makes me salivate, and the new Trail looks like it could become the go to trail shoe for the next years.

At the moment, the Minimus options from New Balance are as good as it gets, and the gettin’s pretty good right now.

Meet INOV-8


by John Schrup

INOV-8 is not a company with which many people are familiar. Originally a trail running company from the UK, they have recently entered into the road market. The initial response is very, very positive.

My first pair of INOV-8 (you never forget your first, um, pair) was back in late ’03 or early ’04 (don’t remember exactly as I was touring with the Dead or something, and those years are a little, like, you know) I’d already had a sip of the minimalism Kool-aid in my road footwear, back when minimalism was generally referenced when talking about Donald Judd and not Anton Krupicka, I found them in an outdoor retailer in Taos (RIP, TMO), I was all over that like flies on rice. Wait. White on $#!t? I liked that they were low profile and fit like socks. And it helped that no one had heard of them, save for the real trail heads. They were, arguably, the first company to promote minimalism in running footwear.

My first run in them was on a cold, wet day, through the dog-and-rabbit trails on the mesa south of Taos. The snow melt had mixed with the dirt and formed this Vaseline-like glop that stuck to everything it touched and splattered. My INOV-8s were brilliant. I couldn’t fall down with them on. It was as if there had been no rain, no snow, no melt. What was supposed to have been a nice, leisurely hour long roll through the trails ended up being a quick, strong tempo over the roller coaster hills. No other shoe in my quiver at that time could have done that. They were brilliant! And they weren’t even designed for the wet. The out sole was INOV-8s out sole designed for hard pack. They were that good.

The out sole lugging will keep you upright in the nastiest of the nasty, and rolling comfortably over the hard Texas dirt and rock. The simple strapped upper holds onto the foot in any and every direction They still are that good. They were the Terroc 330. We have them now, here at Rogue. And for the women, the Terroc 308, equally as brilliant.

You might have seen the F-lite 230. Probably not so much on the Scenic Loop or on Lady Bird, but if you spend any amount of time around anyone in the Crossfit world, likely you’ve seen the electric blue or fire red low profile kicks on their feet. Maybe the hot pink, maybe the kelly green, I don’t know. The black. The 230 is the (official?) shoe of Crossfit. Seriously, they have an official shoe. I know. But they do know their footwear, because not only will the 230 make you crave lean meats and veggies only, it will carry you through some seriously fast and efficient runs.

A month or two ago, Lori, the hyperkinetic INOV-8 sales rep, sent me a pair to try, knowing that I like ’em light and low. Daaaaaamn, that is a smooth shoe. With a lightly snug upper that is becoming very familiar across many brands, the 230 is a flat designed for road or trail, and begs you to run on either. The heel/toe differential is 3mm, according to the website, so the shoe feels fast before you get out the door. I’ve done tempo runs, fartlek on the trail and a two hour run on the roads in them, and noticed them only when I tried to take them off after the long run and was so tired and sweaty that I couldn’t unlace one shoe, having triple knotted the extra long laces, preventatively. They are protective when they need to be, and unrestrictive at all times. It is not a stretch to say that this shoe, or variations of it, is what a running shoe really should be.

INOV-8 was once a (small) player in the trail market and is now a (small) player in the road market. But they are worth a run or several, because they appear to be true to their roots and honest in their presentation and marketing, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the others. The 230, too, will bring together, at least in matching footwear, the often antithetical approaches of distance running and Crossfit.