Friday, June 22, 2018

361 Spire 3 Review

361 has been unique when it comes to marketing.  Their recent campaign for the Spire 3 has been "Runners care about miles, not likes."  Which personally is true.  Perhaps it is my hipster-ish tendencies (I am originally from Portland, OR), but I tend to gravitate toward shoes that may not have a ton of hype around them (yet).  Why?   Because I like exploring different things.  Hence why you may see so many Japanese only racing shoes reviewed here.  The Spire 3 is different in that it is a neutral trainer with a carbon fiber plate in the midsole.  I enjoyed the previous version but felt like it was a little outdated due to the use of a very thick midfoot shank.  Seeing the full ground contact outsole got me very excited for the Spire 3.  And while it did deliver, there were some other interesting things that came up...


Specifications (per 361)
Weight: 10.4oz
Stack Height: Unknown at this time (will update)
Drop: 9mm
Classification: Neural Trainer


FIT

Like many 361 shoes, the Spire 3 fits on the narrow side.  There is a wide version available, but know that those with narrower feet will love this shoe.  I was sent a size 10 and that fit just slightly long.  Not enough that I would size down, but know you may have some slight extra length.  This did not bother me at all on runs as I forgot about it as soon as I started training in them. 


The heel and midfoot fit fairly normal, with a very solid heel counter present to hold the rearfoot.  Luckily there is some upper cushion between the heel and the heel counter, so those with haglund deformities shouldn't worry too much.  The midfoot has 361's Fitz-Rite, which does a decent job of holding the foot down if you snug down the laces.  The forefoot is definitely on the narrow side, but not to a terrible degree.  Many with narrow to normal width feet will do fine, but those with wider forefeet may have a little too much pressure on your toes.  The upper, especially at the front is mesh with minimal overlays, so there is some stretch and give.


There is a toe guard present but it is somewhat flexible.  I actually had more success with fit wearing these sockless, but would not suggest that for longer runs.


RIDE

Thanks to the large amount of QU!CKFOAM throughout the midsole combined with a carbon fiber plate, the Spire 3 is very responsive trainer.  It tends to shine best with uptempo running as the the cushioning is plentiful but very much on the firmer side.  It does ride more like a trainer thanks to the 9mm drop, which feels very much like what it is. 


The transition is where things get a bit rocky.  361 is slowly increasing their heel bevel, so rear landings are smoother than previous.  The forefoot has QU!K-Flex, meaning there are extensive flex grooves there, making for an incredibly smooth toe off.  There is some toe-spring present, which combined with the forefoot flexibility means you easily roll forward on the toes.  The midfoot now is full ground contact, which definitely improves the transition and stability now that the Spire 3's outsole is in complete contact with the ground.  However, it is still incredibly stiff thanks to the decent amount of midsole combined with the carbon fiber plate.  During fast paced fartleks or uptempo running this feels great, but for slower running the shoes feel a little too stiff. 

Again thanks to the carbon fiber plate, there is very good stability at the midfoot.  Mostly because there is almost zero midfoot mobility.  There is no posting as this is a neutral trainer, but for those with additional mobility in their midfeet, the carbon fiber plate may help add some rigidity for stabilization.


As I mentioned with the previous version, the Spire 3 is a GREAT shoe for forefoot strikers.  There is ample QU!CKFOAM in the forefoot, especially at the lateral side, for those that land hard in that area.  The forefoot flexibility also makes this a very smooth trainer for those that land up there.  Forefoot strikers will not have as many problems with the stiff plate and may find that it only adds to their speed as the pace picks up.  This is due to engaging more of the midsole with increased force from increased speed. 


SPEED

Speed wise the Spire 3 is on the higher end for a neutral trainer.  Not because of the 10.4 oz weight, but because of the carbon fiber plate.  Which is odd to have in a trainer.  However, the Spire 3 shines with fartleks, uptempo long runs, hill repeats and for those who need some extra cushion but want some speed, marathon distance races possibly.  For those who are too nervous to run in marathon racers (Adios, Streak, Vaporfly, Razor, Chaser, etc) or lightweight trainers (Razor, Boston, Zoom Elite, KgM2, etc), this would be a good shoe to use as it still gives you a hint of speed.  For slower runs, the midfoot is a bit stiff, but as mentioned earlier may provide some additional stability in a non-posted way for those who need it. 


DURABILITY

While the carbon fiber plate and QU!CKFOAM definitely maintain the ride of the shoe, the outsole is wearing a bit faster than I would like.  After 50 miles, I am already starting to see some wear in the forefoot and posterior lateral heel, but not enough that concerns me.  It is enough that I would not expect to get any more than 300-500 miles out of the shoe.  However, thanks to what I mentioned above, I am fairly certain the ride and feel of the shoe would stay almost exactly the same over the lifetime of a pair of Spire 3s.  The cushioning still feels like it did on the very first day, which is very characteristic of QU!CKFOAM.  Seriously, that foam never seems to die and I have to retire shoes from 361 more because I am worried about possible biomechanical issues from excessive outsole wear patterns than I am from any change in the ride. 

Image from www.radiology.com

THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

I like carbon fiber plates.  I think they are cool and make me feel fast, especially as someone who used to run somewhat quickly around the track in spikes.  However, I think they are better placed in thinner soled shoes, where there is enough flexibility to actually engage the plate.  With the Spire 3, I notice that you have to put a decent amount of force through the sole to actually get the sole and plate to bend and give you that kick that these plates are known to give.  So heavier runners and those with very hard footstrikes may engage the plate much better than someone with a lighter footstrike. 

Image from www.studydroid.com

The midfoot does have an extensive number of ligaments both proximally between bones and over the entire area.  The larger ligaments include the spring, long and short plantar ligaments.  The largest being the long plantar ligament.  These are all covered by the plantar fascia, which is not considered a ligament but does provide a decent amount of passive (or active if you think about fascial lines and movement patterns through the gastrocsoleus connection) stability to the foot.  The thing about ligaments is that they do need to have some give.  If they are completely rigid, you have a rigid foot that does not pronate, which means you may have poor shock absorption.  This can put you at risk for bone related stress injuries due to the lack of mobility allowed for muscular loading via mobility of the midfoot.  So yes... you do need mobility of your foot and you do need to pronate a little.  It is natural.  Like anything in life, a mild to moderate amount is best, while too much or too little may cause problems (or may not depending on what research article you read).  So when it comes to carbon fibers plates in midsoles, yes you need some flexibility.  You need some flexibility for the foot to move and some flexibility to engage the plate.  With the Spire 3, I would suggest loosening up the plate a little smooth out the ride a little bit.  Or put a smaller one in there.  Better yet, take it out of the Spire 3 and put it in the KgM3 or Feisu 2.  Those shoes are already fast, but thanks to the thinner midsoles would engage the plate better.  Just food for thought if the footwear developers at 361 are reading this.


CONCLUSION

For those with narrower feet that land farther forward looking for a responsive trainer that works when you need an easy run or to pick up the pace, the Spire 3 is a great choice.  The QU!CKFOAM midsole combined with the carbon fiber plate definitely adds some speed to this shoe, but mostly at higher paces.  You could think of this as a Neutral Trainer with some long distance racing whispers.  The full ground contact outsole improves the transition of the ride, but the carbon fiber plate adds more rigidity to the sole that will work well for those that need a little extra midfoot stability without a post.  Overall this is a good update and demonstrates that 361 is heading in the right direction.  Now they just need to widen that toe box a bit.

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at 361 for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 52 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Adidas Solar Boost Review

I hated the original Energy Boost. The introduction of Boost was fantastic and I loved it in the Adios and Glide series.  The Energy Boost just did not work for me.  The Tech Fit upper was great but the excessive toe spring, the chunky heel and slightly unstable ride pushed me away.  Years later... I had the opportunity to try the Solar Boost due to the interest in the Solar Propulsion Rails and extended torsion system into the forefoot (which I loved in some of the original Adios series).  And I was blown away.  A completely different shoe that provides a great fit, very stable (without posting) and energetic ride.


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.6 oz
Stack Height: 28mm/18mm
Drop: 10mm
Classification: Neutral Road Trainer


FIT

The fit of the Solar Boost is spot on. The Tech fit upper in the forefoot provides a secure and snug fit.  Length wise the shoe fits true to size.  I typically wear a size 10 and that is exactly what fit me.  I would not suggest sizing up or down.  The fit will work best for those with medium to narrow feet.  While the Tech Fit upper stretches, it is still a bit more on traditional Adidas narrower fit


The Tailored Fiber Placement holds the midfoot well.  This is a fairly thick material around the middle part of the upper that does not allow for excessive movement.  It provides a snug and stable hold and responds to how tight you pull the laces.


The heel of the Solar Boost is one of my favorite parts.  The way the heel counter is designed reduces pressure on the achilles tendon and insertion while still providing a snug and stable fit to the medial and lateral sides.  I think this is a great way to reduce pressure on that area while still providing a stable hold.  For those with haglund deformities, this is a great shoe to consider.


COMFORT

The Adidas Solar Boost is a very comfortable shoe.  The lack of hard plastics or heel counters makes the against foot feel very smooth.  The Tech Fit upper gives an almost custom fit, while the solar propulsion rails actually give some stability to the Boost cushioning.  The Solar Boost can be worn sockless due to the smoothness of the upper.  Overall this is a comfortable training shoe.  It is not a racer or workout shoe, but one that protects and comforts your feet for easy or long runs.


RIDE

The Adidas Solar Boost has a stable and light feeling ride for a trainer.  I was impressed that while running in the shoe it felt fair lighter than expected.  This is partially due to the high amount of Boost combined with the solar propulsion rails.


The Solar Propulsion Rails are another thing that excited me about this shoe.  I loved the extended forefoot torsion systems in the older models of the Tempo, Boston, Adios and Takumi Sen/Ren.  To see these now in a trainer provides a better toe off and more stable ride.  This is not the fastest shoe due to the weight and high amount of boost, but it is cool to see Adidas do stability without posting.  The Solar Propulsion Rails act to guide the foot forward while the Tailored Fiber Placement in the midfoot holds the foot down well.


Although there is some posterior heel flare in the Solar Boost, Adidas typically bevels their heels quite a bit.  The Solar Boost is no exception as the soft boost and heel bevel allow for a smooth ride.  For forefoot strikers, the forefoot Propulsion Rails act to provide a stable place for landing and toe-off, so no major issues should occur.  The Solar Boost is listed at having a 10mm drop, but it feels far lower due to the Boost compression.  If I had to guess I would put it more in the 6-7mm drop range, but static measurements for drop are almost ALWAYS different than the dynamic measurements.


So overall the ride is a stable and smooth one.  I was impressed as most soft shoes do not work for me due to the instability, but Adidas managed to put enough things to stabilize the foot that I have been able to enjoy these without issue!


SPEED

The speed of the Adidas Solar Boost is decent for a trainer thanks to the aspects I mentioned above.  However this is not a shoe I would use for hard workouts as it is heavier and the high amount of Boost can feel a little sluggish.  However, for easy and moderate pace runs it shines.  This is a great, protective, stable shoe that works best during easier paces and long runs.  It has done well during strides, but again for any uptempo pace I would choose a lighter shoe like the Boston, Tempo or Adios. 


DURABILITY

Adidas uses their traditional Continental rubber outsole in the Solar Boost.  This usually leads to a fairly durable outsole, although mine have a little extra wear due to using these on some aggressive trails.  Combined with the Boost, the Solar Boost has retained a very similar ride throughout their 160 miles of use thus far.  I expect an above average number of miles from these (above 300-500) due to the durable qualities of the midsole and outsole.  I do not have enough experience with the Tech Fit uppers to know how long that will last, but so far I have not seen any additional wear.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT

As someone who has treated many people with achilles issues and suffered a few himself, I am happy to see a company looking to hold down the heel without placing undo stress there.  The Fit Counter method is a great way to still give a stable hold to each side of the heel without harsh plastic pressure digging into the posterior heel or achilles.  The mesh at the most posterior aspect provides a very comfortable materiel against the skin.  So again for those with Haglund deformities (bump pump), this is a great shoe to look at for running. 


The return of the extended forefoot torsion system, now called the Solar Propulsion Rail, is a great way to provide stability as mentioned earlier.  The bar system on each side of the midsole definitely helps guide the foot forward without being overly controlling.  This is a great addition to a soft and somewhat unstable midsole material like Boost.  Further, the fact that they are on both sides provides stability no matter which way you move excessively.



Initially when I saw the Solar Boost, I thought the Propulsion Rails were the raised parts of the midsole around the midfoot.  Although it turns out they are not, this is a great addition to further stabilize the foot.  The raised edges do help guide the foot through the gait cycle and due to their pliability, do not put excessive pressure into the medial or lateral aspects of the foot.  Brooks is doing something similar in their future shoes with the guide rails and I think this is a far better way of guiding the foot than trying to force it in a direction with posting.  Very excited to see companies move away from older, questionable methods of stability and start experimenting with new things like this!


CONCLUSION

For those looking for a stable, soft and comfortable daily trainer, take a look at the Adidas Solar Boost.  The Tech Fit upper and the Tailored Fiber Placement provide a snug hold on the foot while the solar propulsion rails and Boost provide a lively but stable ride.  The new heel counter also provides a snug hold without placing excessive pressure on the achilles!  For those that liked the Energy Boost and those wanting to try something new, I would definitely recommend trying the Solar Boost. 

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT 
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Adidas for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 156 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Like and Follow Doctors of Running
Facebook: Doctors of Running  Twitter: @kleinruns
Instagram: @kleinrunsdpt Direct Contact: doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Altra Golden Spike Review

Today's review comes from David Salas, a student physical therapist from my alma mater Western University of Health Sciences. David was (and is working his way back to being) a very fast collegiate runner and has a great interest and knowledge of running. He was kind enough to lend his thoughts on a pair of the Altra Golden Spikes. Read on for more!
-Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT
A true XC spike, the Altra Golden Spike is a shoe that has grown on me quite a bit after a few runs. Running through all terrains, it runs smooth as butter through grass or all-weather tracks, a firm road flat through dirt, and a super firm ride on concrete. The shoe almost seems to be best described as a natural feeling track spike that carries over grass and dirt incredibly well.


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 5.7 oz (size 9)
Stack Height: 15mm / 15mm
Drop: 0mm
Classification: Cross Country Racer, Minimal Trail Racer

UPPER/FIT

The Golden Spike takes a little different approach to a cross country spike.  With the zero drop, wide toe box, and a firm ride, it makes for a very natural feeling run.  The best that I can describe it to would be striding barefoot on a turf field. The shoe doesn’t have much cushion, but springs off of soft surfaces incredibly smooth.  

The shoe has a synthetic upper and fits a little wider than other spikes on the market. It breathes well and is built durably. This shoe is definitely a bottom heavy shoe (as are most XC spikes), for the upper hardly carries any weight at all.  The fit is very true to size as I typically wear a 9.5 and that is exactly where the shoe fits.  I would not suggest sizing up as this is a racing shoe meant to fit closely (but that will depend on how you like your shoes to fit).  The synthetic upper fits comfortable around the foot especially around the toes.  The Golden Spike fits narrower than most traditional Altra offerings but still allows for appropriate toe splay in a close fitting cross country spike.   


SOLE/RIDE

The Golden Spike, like all other Altra shoes, has a zero drop platform. Normally this feels a little off for me when combined with the softer high cushioned shoes that Altra normally has on the market, but this is not the case with this spike.  I really appreciate the zero drop in this situation.  Normally, spikes feel pretty darn aggressive with a negative heel approach (indirectly with a raised spike plate and spikes inserted).  The negative heel set up normally seen in spikes places a large demand on the calves.  I find that the Golden Spike still feels responsive and is a little less harsh on the legs with the zero drop approach. 

Different than many other spikes, the Golden Spike also has a wide toe box. Breaking it down mechanically, the little bit of extra room combined with zero drop provides a natural ride that dissipates forces a little better than other shoes on the market (to be discussed in more detail in the next section). For some, this could actually a be a deal breaker, but for people who naturally have more of a supinated running pattern this could prove to be quite comfortable.

The Golden Spike is more rigid anteriorly, hovering around the ball of the foot.  This provides a springy feeling when one runs in it.  The spike plate is also built into the sole of the shoe and isn’t raised, taking a non-aggressive approach.  The outsole combined with the spikes provide a ton of traction that allow for fantastic corning at high speed without any slippage.  This is rare for an Altra shoe as most of them are high volume in the upper, but the closer fit combined with the grip makes for a perfect fitting natural competition shoe.  

THOUGHTS AS AN SPT

For this section I will take a biomechanical look at the zero drop and wide toe box discussed earlier.
First, before any discussion: This shoe is not for everyone, but if you run like me you may also feel the benefits.  I run with a more supinated/inverted forefoot pattern, resulting in an already aggressive running form.  Now here is why I like this XC spike for a running pattern like mine.

Editor's Note: From observing David's running pattern, he lands in a very inverted (sole of the foot pointing in) foot position and rolls inward (aka pronates)... sometimes.  He also at times actually rolls outwards and stays supinated from heel to toe or toe to toe (instead of resupinating AFTER pronating to absorb shock).  So his gait adapts to changes in terrain and whatever is going on biomechanically up above.  We worked on some hip weakness early that seemed to reduce some excessive loading issues toward the feet.  The important note is that you should never just look at the foot.  Often what happens there is a result of mechanics and movement up higher. 

The Altra Golden Spike facilitates a more shock absorbing friendly pattern: I have had two tibial stress fractures over my running career.  In large part, this is due to my aggressive running pattern.  When running, it is natural to have an eversion and pronation moment in the initial and mid stance phases of running (yes, I just said it is natural to have a pronation moment, as long as it resupinates in the “spring off phase”). This eversion and pronation moment unlocks the foot, resulting in increased force dissipation across all of the bones of the foot before climbing up the kinetic chain (helping out our poor navicular and tibia!). If you don’t pronate much at all when you run, you lock in the sub talar joints and send the landing and pushing off forces to the navicular and tibia. The Altra Golden Spike facilitates a little eversion moment at the stance phase to help with that force dissipation.

Why am I talking about all of this? It is because of the clever zero drop and wide toe box addition to a spike. First, the zero drop places a little less strain on the calves than other spikes, which could be really nice in the latter parts of an XC race if one does not have sufficient calf strength built up. The way the sole is built incorporates a little more upper kinetic chain activity in the glutes and quads than the normal negative heel approach. 

The wide toe box is what helps with that eversion moment (mostly indirectly and more of a facilitation than anything). Most spikes are narrow upfront and promote a locked foot position. You can generate a lot of power with this build yes, but it tears up your calves and can leave your feet really uncomfortable, especially if you already run that way without spikes on. The wide toe box allows for just a little more movement up at that mid and forefoot and doesn’t press on against your toes and feet the moment you begin to pronate.  Instead, it lets that pronation moment go for a little bit, and then presses against the toes to facilitate that resupination moment.  This is nearly identical to how the foot is naturally designed and doesn’t sacrifice any force or power generation when running fast.

Editor's Note:  As David is saying, the wider toe box and true zero drop platform (not negative drop as often happens with the raise spike plate in many competition shoes) may promote more natural pronation and foot mechanics.  Your feet will spread a bit upon impact, which is an important method of shock absorption.  Further freeing up the forefoot allows for a better positioning of the first toe, which is crucial for the resupination moment as you progress forward to toe off.  The peroneus longus anchors there and helps facilitate the normal function of that area along with the powerful calves and posterior tibialis resupinating the foot.  Narrow spikes can definitely squish the feet and limit the function of the the hallux (big toe) in some people, while others may be able to get away with this.  Why not design a natural fitting spike that allows all the parts to work correctly?  I for one am happy to see a more comfortable fitting and naturally designed spike.  I look forward to the evolution of this shoe and hope to see a pure track spike version at some point.  Although the Vanish-R may have that spot now.  


CONCLUSION

For those looking for a XC spike that feels like a track spike over grass and dirt, you found it. The Altra Golden Spike is a great option that is responsive and light (5.7 oz.).  It isn’t the most comfortable over concrete, but it is tolerable. I would further like to add that I would especially recommend this spike to people who run with a more aggressive forefoot strike and supinated pattern, for this shoe facilitates just a little bit of eversion/pronation, resulting in a more natural and shock happy ride.  If you already have pronation when you run, this shoe may come off a little unsupportive but should still have some spring in the step. With how firm this shoe is, it should definitely be used for faster training and races. 

Thanks for reading!

-David Salas, SPT

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT 
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Kaiser SoCal Clinical Specialist Fellow - Manual Therapy and Sport

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased for their full retail price.   This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently David has 34 miles on his pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Like and Follow Doctors of Running
Facebook: Doctors of Running  Twitter: @kleinruns
Instagram: @kleinrunsdpt Direct Contact: doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!


Friday, June 8, 2018

Mizuno Waveknit R1 Review

I have had mixed experiences with knit uppers.  My first one was with the Nike Flyknit Trainer, which took a significant amount of skin off my achilles area.  I had some success with Skechers knit uppers (great with the Ride 7, not so good with the GOrun 6).  Mizuno tends to either be the OG or waits to get things done right.  They had one of the original minimalist shoes in my opinion, the Mizuno Wave Universe, but never called it that.  Slowly they have begun to lower the heel drop of some of their shoes like the Wave Shadow (8mm).  Now they have decided to go after the knit uppers.  These can be seen in the Waveknit R1, which is essentially a knit upper on the Wave Rider sole and the S1, a knit upper on the Wave Sky sole.  Given my preference for lighter shoes, Mizuno was nice enough to send me the Waveknit R1.  I am impressed that Mizuno has done their homework and this is by far my favorite knit shoe to date and the only one I have been able to wear sockless without issue.  So let's talk.


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.3 oz
Stack Height:  30mm/18mm
Drop: 12mm
Classification: Neutral Trainer (with Knit Upper)


FIT

The Waveknit upper provides a snug but comfortable fit.  The heel is especially snug due to a high level of cushioning in the upper.  This opens up into more room in midfoot and forefoot.  The fit of the Waveknit R1 is very different from the Wave Rider, which is traditionally higher volume. 



The Waveknit weave is fairly thick.  This is not thin Nike Flyknit.  The upper is still very thick and durable provides a snug fit to lock down the foot.  This thickness increases the hold on the foot and this is one of the first knit shoes I can go around corners without my foot slipping off the platform.  This is especially apparent as mentioned in the heel with the amount of padding and cushioning around there.  There is a heel counter back there, but I cannot feel it at all due to the cushioning and I have had absolutely no irritation of my calcaneus (heel bone).  Which is extremely rare for a shoe that I have worn so much sockless.


The sizing is very true to size.  Many will be fine wearing socks in this shoe and there will be enough room (although snug).  I found wearing my normal size 10 with and without socks just fine.  With thicker socks it almost feels like a compression like fit (which some may enjoy). 


COMFORT

I found plenty of comfortable room wearing these shoes sockless.  I do not know if this is from the high number of miles I have put on my feet (and the skin toughness), but I found the against skin comfort incredibly high.  This is one of the first shoes I have been able to take sockless above 10 miles without the fear of blisters.  My longest sockless run was 14 miles and while my legs were a bit trashed due to doing this  at 5am, I had no issues.  I believe I have said that shoes "disappear on my feet" before.  This one actually does and I have to take back that comment from others.


Another surprise from the upper is that these breath very well.  I was expecting the thicker upper to get very hot, but there is plenty of ventilation to keep the foot cool.  It is certainly not the most ventilated shoe, but I have had no issues running sockless in +80 degree Southern California weather.


RIDE

The sole of the Waveknit R1 is firmer as typical Mizuno go but slightly softer than Rider 21.  I do not know if this is from the upper, but it feels much lighter than 10.3 oz weight.  I have used these for long runs, steady state runs and fartleks without issue.  I do need a little more stability than the Neutral Wave Rider sole, but for picking up the pace a little these shoes are great for me.  There is a bit more inherent stability due to wave plate and firmer ride, but I still need a bit more on easy runs.


The ride of the sole is very smooth.  With the Smooth Ride tech (gender specific flexibility), flexibility seems to be placed in all the right places in the forefoot.  Combined with some toe spring, toe off is smooth and seems to unload the calves a little.  The heel and midfoot are somewhat stiff, but thanks to the wave plate and a correctly place posterolateral heel bevel (which helps with forward transitions), the ride is smooth.  The heel bevel and wave plate make for extremely smooth heel landings.


While this is a traditional 12mm drop shoe, I have never really felt the heel got in the way.  I will fully admit that I tend to land higher back, but when the pace picks up, landing further forward feels fine.  Many shoes with most of their cushioning tech in the heel feel very unbalanced.  Mizuno seems to do a better job of evening this out despite the wave plate being all in the heel.  This might also be due to the fact that the wave plate takes up less weight and the width of the forefoot tends to be wider (thus may make a more stable landing).  Thus the 12mm measurement is likely inaccurate and may be far lower when the midsole is under load.  Dynamically loaded and static stack heights are different!  Would I complain about the drop being lowered a bit to 8-10mm?  No, and that is already starting to happen in a few of their other trainers (Shadow, Sky, Horizon).


SPEED

As mentioned previously, the Waveknit R1 feel lighter than they actually are.  These are trainers, but they can handle fartleks, strides, hill repeats and uptempo runs.  They are responsive when the pace picks up, but I would choose a far lighter shoe for most workouts or races (check out my review of the Mizuno Wave Emperor 3).  For those looking for additional protection over the marathon distance, these would be a great shoe as it does feel lighter and does have some bounce to it from the firmer sole and wave plate.  However there are far lighter and faster shoes out there.  This is a trainer after all. 


DURABILITY

As with most trainers, particularly from Mizuno, the durability is fantastic.  I have not seen any fraying of the upper or major sole wear after almost 80 miles.  I expect to get many hundreds of miles out of these and will even retire them as casual shoes because I expect the wave plate and upper to hold on for quite some time.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT

The knit uppers are just the beginning of a new era of custom fit shoes.  The fit of running shoes are based on what is called a last (shoe shape).  Some companies may use the average shape of a group of professional and recreational runners to develop the last to reach a broader audience.  Others may just use the foot shapes of their elite runners.  As a customer, you are always trying to find the last that fits your foot best.  With the onset of knit uppers, the shoes are fitting better to people's feet because they stretch and accommodate variations better.  People do NOT have the same shape or size feet.  Men and women have differently shaped feet (arch lengths, widths, etc), different people have different shaped feet, different cultures have different shaped feet.  Just look at the shoes in the Asian vs the US market.  There is a reason there is a wide version available of every shoe INCLUDING racing flats in Asia!  However, the next step is to have not only the upper, but the sole customized to the foot.  Imagine having flex points, plates, posting, stability and more customized to your foots preferred motion path? 


CONCLUSION

The Waveknit R1 is a shoe with a knit upper done right.  It is thick enough to provide durability and a good lock down of the foot while being very comfortable with or without socks.  The ride is similar for those who love the Wave Rider series, providing a lighter traditional trainer that can still handle some uptempo training.  I really hope Mizuno does more with the knit uppers as I think they hit a nice balance between keeping the foot comfortable and locking it down on the platform.  Plus I am still impressed I was able to run 14 miles sockless in this shoe.  So definitely give these a try, if for no other reason than to see how comfortable that upper is!

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT 
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow
***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Mizuno for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 78 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.
Like and Follow Doctors of Running
Facebook: Doctors of Running  Twitter: @kleinruns
Instagram: @kleinrunsdpt Direct Contact: doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Mizuno Wave Emperor 3 Review

For those of you who may know, I have a thing for Japanese racing flats.  From the Takumi Sen/Ren, the Nike Zoom Speed Racer, the New Balance 1100 (ran in those before this website) and more.  They were cool, unique and different.  Racing flats generally do not sell well in the United States.  Most runners are either not interested in faster lighter shoes (and would rather choose super cushioned shoes) or are intimidated by them.  Rarely do I walk into a local running store and see an extensive array of racing flats (although I am impressed when I do).  For this reason, I frequently look to Japan and the Asian market for unique racing shoes because they seem to take the art of running fast more seriously.  Thus came my interest in the Mizuno Wave Emperor 3.  Many Mizuno racing shoes like the Ekiden, Cruise and Universe were either  discontinued or are no longer available in the US.  Being someone who loved both series, I figured I had to continue exploring and found my way to the Emperor.  Although European websites state this is a 5k-10k shoe, this is a do it all, 5k to marathon racer. Why? Let's talk.


Specifications (per Mizuno Japan)
Weight: 6.7 oz (190g)
Stack Height: unknown
Drop: 9mm
Classification: Japanese Racing Flat

Wider fit for a racing flat. 

FIT

The fit is different from traditional US racing flats.  The heel, midfoot and forefoot all fit normal to slightly wider for a racing flat.  This does NOT have the traditional narrow fit throughout.  Instead, imagine the fit of a trainer in a lighter package.  This is due to the adjustable fit system and Airmesh upper that hold the foot without being tight.  The toe guard initially made the forefoot feel tapered, but with a few miles, it opens up and adapts to the foot. This eventually opened up to give me a perfect amount of room in the forefoot, which is often missed in normal racing flats that have a narrow and tapered toebox.  Those with narrow feet may find they have a bit too much room for a racing flat, but that may be fixed by tightening down the laces.  For those that want an even wider fit, there is a wide option available through Japanese websites (Rakuten).  The fit is fairly true to size as I ordered a size 10 (my normal) and it fit me perfect.  There was a tiny bit of extra room at the toes, which I definitely appreciated during the later miles of my recent half marathon

The fit looks tapered, but opens up once your foot gets in there.  The offset lacing seems to help reduce pressure on the big toe and keeps it sitting straighter. 

COMFORT

This is a very comfortable shoe for a racing flat.  While the ride is firmer, the upper gives the foot plenty of room.  The heel counter is somewhat flexible and initially feels very firm, but has relaxed over time.  I have not had any issues with pressure on my calcaneus in the heel of the Emperor.  The laces do go down a little low and although I thought I would have some extra pressure on my toes from that, I loosened the laces a bit and had no trouble.  There was some additional pressure near the top of the foot (close to the talus), but again not tying the laces as tight and trusting the shoe to hold my foot helped quite a bit.

The heel counter is secure but a bit flexible.  The heel split also gives plenty of flexibility for the achilles. 

Understand that while the shoe does fit a little wider for a racer, it still will hold your foot secure.  The upper is very comfortable, but I would not wear this shoe sockless.  Overall the mesh is light, breathes well and I am not surprised I was able to do a half marathon in this shoe with little preparation.

The heel has a firm landing.  Thanks to the internal ESS wave plate though, it will pop you forward. 

RIDE

The ride of the Emperor 3 is definitely on the firmer side.  This is not a cushioned racing flat, but a firm and somewhat responsive flat meant for longer and faster running.  Thanks to the U4ic midsole however, there is plenty of protection.  The forefoot flexibility and toe spring keep the ride very smooth during toe off and I was surprised this shoe carried me so comfortably through my first half marathon in a while.

The toe spring is not aggressive as it is offset by good forefoot flexibility.  However this does help with creating a smooth toe-off. 

There is a mild heel bevel that keep heel landings smooth and the flexibility in the forefoot does a great job of protecting the calves.  The flexible forefoot is balance by a very stiff ride in the heel and midfoot.  There is next to no flexibility back there (thank goodness for the heel bevel) but that does provide a stable landing.  There is an internal ESS wave plate that does a great job of dispersing shock during rearfoot landings, which helps prevent a harsh feeling during landings.  The Mizuno wave plates definitely help with forward transitions and further contributes to the smooth ride of this shoe.

The U4ic midsole gives some additional cushioning and durability to the midsole. 

The outsole nubs provide fantastic traction.  I have used these on track, road and trail (was surprised by some section of trail during the recent half marathon I ran) and I never lost any grip.  On the track, the nubs dig in like spikes and feel great.



SPEED

The Mizuno Wave Emperor 3 is a fast racing flat but is not the fastest.  While billed online as a 5k-10k racer, I would reach for this more for long distance racing up to and beyond the marathon.  This shoe has worked well for me during track workouts, but shined most at moderate speeds for half and full marathon races and workouts.  The cushioning is firm and protective but not harsh, lending for a more stable flat for longer distances.  I did not feel a ton of rebound for good 400 repeats but had plenty of traction and responsiveness for those consistent uptempo efforts (steady state, tempo runs and mile repeats).


DURABILITY

I do not usually expect high durability out of racing flats.  However I expect to get many miles out the Mizuno Wave Emperor 3.  I have seen little to no wear during the 40 miles of high intensity running I have used them for.  The X10 rubber in the heel has very little wear despite my hard landings and the forefoot nubs have all stayed on.  The ride has stayed very similar if not slightly relaxed (not as firm) from the very first run and remained consistent during both races and workouts.  


THOUGHTS AS A DPT

Mizuno Japan did a great deal of correct things with this shoe.  The sole is firmer and the last of the shoe is wider for a racing flat.  This gives the Emperor 3 a far more stable ride.  Combined with good flexibility only the the forefoot, forward momentum is maintained.  I do wish the shoe shoe was full ground contact, but it almost is given the fact that the midfoot shank sits low to the ground.

Related image
Image from Teachmeanatomy.info

I find it interesting that the midfoot shanks tapers to the medial side instead of also connecting to the lateral midfoot.  From a ligamentous standpoint, the closest ligament in that position is the plantar calcaneonavicular ligament.  This complex is actually a series of three ligaments that connect the calcaneus to the navicular bone on the medial side of the foot.  It is also known as the spring ligament as it is a major supporter of the medial longitudinal arch and supports the head of the Talus bone.  However, this ligament complex stays mostly along the medial side of the foot.  The only other structure that makes an almost similar path is the fibularis longus, which travels in a similar path from the lateral rearfoot/midfoot to the medial forefoot.  So it could be an attempt by Mizuno to support/imitate those two (or more) structures.


Regardless, I do get the feeling of a stable ride in this shoe.  So whether that comes from the wider last, the different shank or the firmer ride, know this shoe will carry you for long miles.  Even if you need a little bit of stability.


CONCLUSION

For those looking for a wider fitting, firmer, long distance racing flat that happens to look really cool, the Mizuno Wave Emperor 3 will fit that bill.  The fimer ride, wider last, and comfortable upper make for a stable ride that will keep you going for long fast miles.  The grippy outsole and forefoot flexibility make for a smooth ride that handles a variety of paces and the adjustable upper will fit a variety of foot types to a degree.  I have very much enjoyed training and racing in this shoe and hope Mizuno considers bringing this shoe to the US.  This would be a great addition to their line up that I feel is otherwise missing a racing flat of this caliber.  So definitely take a look.  For those that are interested, this shoe is available through foreign websites in Europe and Japan (Rakuten) although can also be found on Ebay.

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT 
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided for their full retail price through Step Sports of Rakuten.   This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 40 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Like and Follow Doctors of Running
Facebook: Doctors of Running  Twitter: @kleinruns
Instagram: @kleinrunsdpt Direct Contact: doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!