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Reebok Floatride Energy Grow Review

By Social Media Manager Bach Pham and Founder/Chief Editor Matthew Klein

Over the past year Reebok has been working looking towards a sustainable future for their brand. They launched two programs to help with this: [REE]GROW which focuses on using natural materials and [REE]CYCLED programs which aims to use recycled and repurposed materials. The Floatride Energy Grow is their second running shoe in the [REE]GROW program category after their debut with the Floatride Grow back in the winter. Taking the Floatride Energy 3.0 platform, the shoe aims to mimic the framework while replacing as much as possible with plant-based materials. In this review, we explore how those elements come together and compare it to its traditionally-made sibling.

Specifications (per Reebok)
Weight: Men's size 9.7 oz, 275g, Women's size 8.1 oz, 230g
Stack Height: 26.5 mm heel, 17.5 mm forefoot
Drop: 9 mm
Classification: Neutral daily training


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Bach: The Floatride Energy Grow aims to provide a plant-based spin to the Forever Floatride Energy 3.0 that arrived earlier this year. It features an upper with eucalyptus, an bloom algae insole, a castor bean  midsole, and a natural rubber outsole. The shoe has a very premium feel to the upper and smooth ride that performs best at easy paces. It's a shoe well-suited to racking up daily mileage comfortably with the occasional easy long run.

Matt: The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is a plant-based shoe evolving from the Floatride Energy 3.0.  It features a relaxed but comfortable upper on top of a slightly firm castor bean oil infused midsole with all plant-based materials. The ride is smooth with some flexibility, lending itself for both running and walking. A shoe that doubles for casual wear and daily mileage, the Floatride Energy Grow will make you feel better about your carbon footprint. 



FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)
 
Bach: The fashion industry's use of sustainable material is well-known, which is why I expected a high level of comfort in the Floatride Energy Grow. The eucalyptus upper is very soft and luxurious throughout. The lockdown in the forefoot to midfoot is socklike, with some decent room to splay in the toebox. The heel counter is moderately rigid. The shoe fits true-to-size. It's important to note that the fit is not performance-oriented; the shoe has no issues keeping the foot locked down, but the generous room throughout emphasizes comfort over performance.

I did not have to heel lace lock the shoes - if you do though, note that the laces don't leave you much to do it. I really enjoyed the upper for easy to recovery paced efforts. The shoe runs just a touch warm, but still handled high humidity and heat days decently well in my testing under the South Carolina sun. One weird quick of the shoe is the rather large tongue. It's soft and didn't get in the way during the run for me, but it also doesn't set down neatly on my ankle. There is a thin, but decently cushioned bloom algae insole that is removable.

Matt: The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow fits me true to size in my normal Men's US size 10. The upper is very soft and flexible, more so than I have experienced almost ever. It feels like a sock, with just enough stretch in the forefoot and midfoot to allow for the perfect amount of room. The fit is fairly average through the heel, with some adjustable room thanks to the upper in the midfoot and forefoot. This is not a performance fit, but a casual fit for easy miles and casual use. The upper security is just enough for those uses, but any turning or faster running will cause some additional movement within the shoe. The heel collar is very padded and there is a slightly smaller than normal heel counter. It is very flexible and I almost did not notice it. Those with sensitive heels will be fine. The tongue is big but compressible and gusseted. The laces are fairly large and while I did try lace locking the shoe, it didn't seem to do much. The upper does run a bit warm and is comfortable for sockless use. I would not however suggest this as my pair started to.... smell faster than normal (that may also just be me...).

Tertiary Fit Review: Contributor Nathan Brown (size 9)

The fit of the original grow was very long and sloppy, while also being very comfortable. This new version is much more refined while maintaining the sock-like comfort. True to size for width and length, and the upper is quite accommodating in the toe box. It does lock the heel down well, but the true sock-like upper does not hold the midfoot and forefoot very stable on the platform with turns. The upper function best for daily miles without severe turning or uneven terrain.


PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

Bach: Due to the shoe's comfort-oriented upper, I found the FFE Grow to be best for easy and recovery runs. It carries the identity of the Floatride Energy 3.0 (FFE3) ride with a very smooth heel-to-toe transition thanks to a generous heel bevel and full length outsole. The sustainability component of the midsole in the Grow is comprised of castor bean oil (more on castor beans below). The ride of the shoe starts on the firmer side, but warms and softens up during the run. I particularly enjoyed it for longer recovery day efforts. The shoe transitions easily and the way the shoe softens through a run helps keep recovery efforts comfortable. At uptempo paces, the shoe can pick up the pace briefly, but it does not have the same midsole pop of the FFE3. The Grow is decent for brief strides, but I would not gravitate towards the Grow for a workout, especially if cornering is involved as the fit is too generous to take aggressive action. The shoe comes in at just under 10 ounces as well. While not particularly heavy on foot, it is almost a full ounce heavier than the FFE3 which further adds to the recovery and easy running feel of the shoe.

The outsole is made of natural rubber which I found to be very grippy - slightly more traction than the FFE3, and almost on par with Reebok's Run Fast series. The traction handles wet surfaces with no problems. There is some decent flexibility in the forefoot with the rest being fairly rigid. In tandem with the bevel you can a nice rolling sensation from heel to the front midfoot, with the mildly flexible forefoot allowing you to push off gently. It's a simple, but effective ride that will suit many. The durability after 36 miles hasn't been an issue so far and there's a healthy amount of rubber you would have to chew through before you'd really have to be concerned.

Matt: The ride of the Grow is slightly firmer with good ground feel in the forefoot and a bit more cushion in the heel. The sole does soften over time, but this does take 20-25 miles to occur. The midsole also softens over the run. It is initially firm, but then tends to give more as the miles pack on. The flexibility of the forefoot is noticeable and provides a great transition up front. The heel, although featuring more cushioning, is stiffer with a slightly abrupt transition. The heel bevel is centered, which with a curved last makes for a bit more posterior lateral heel flare. This causes a bit of an early initial contact, making the heel a little clunky despite the bevel.

Traction and durability are both very good as the nubs in the forefoot grip well and the outsole rubber has very little wear after 35 miles on my pair. The rubber seems to add to some of the firmness of the midsole. While the midsole does soften, it is not responsive. Like Bach, I have tried strides but these are best for recovery runs and easy days. There is protection, but this is not a speed day shoe. So overall the ride is slightly firmer with a really nice forefoot transition and is best for easy and recovery runs. 



STABILITY

Bach: This is a neutral shoe, but there are some stable elements to it to help out runners. The first is the width of the shoe throughout being very generous, especially in the midfoot. This along with the most minor of sole flaring helps provide an above average width base to land on. The firmer midsole and sturdy full ground contact rubber outsole help provide a touch of rigidity and control on the run - moreso than the softer Floatride Energy 3.0. There is a cutout in the outsole in the rear midfoot which provides some very minor guidance. Overall this is a neutral shoe, but with a few stable elements that make it slightly friendly to a larger market than some others in the category.

Matt: The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is a neutral shoe. While there are some guidelines in the sole and the midsole is a bit firmer, the heel has what feels like it has some extra lateral flare and the narrow, curved midfoot causes some bias toward the medial side. The extra lateral flare may be due to the heel bevel being a bit more centered. Landings at the back feel like I am pivoted toward the medial side while walking and running slowly. The feeling goes away as the pace picks up however. For those that do not like stability or want a shoe that has a medial bias, ie for someone who spends too much time going laterally, this shoe may be for you.


CULTURE CORNER
Exploring the Use of Castor Bean Oil in Sustainable Products

There's a reason we're starting to see this thing called castor bean everywhere in discussions regarding sustainability. It's an abundant product that has no edible uses, but endless manufacturing potential. Scientifically known as Ricinus communis, castor beans are a perennial flowering plant. Despite the name, it's also not at all a bean, but rather a flower with seeds that the castor bean oil is made from. The oil has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. In Ancient Egypt it was used as fuel for lamps and as a natural remedy for eye ailments. It has anti-inflammatory properties (note: we are not medical doctors. please seek professional medical advice before use) that many cultures have explored for centuries. Post 2000s castor bean oil particularly took off as companies launching towards sustainable projects began to see the value of the easily replenishing castor bean plant. Being a fairly invasive plant, it grows freely in tropical locations and even wastelands with a much lower amount of resources needed than most plants, making it easily renewable for commercial use.

The agricultural appeal of castor bean plants is that it is inedible; it produces ricin which is toxic to humans and even insect species. The oil and the protective shell of the seed is safe to handle, but within it's layers contains the deadly chemical. Like cotton, it has no competition of being needed to be grown as an edible product, but immense value as a manufacturing product. Unlike cotton, it's also easy-growing and drought-tolerant, making it somewhat future-proof as weather patterns evolve. It is also fairly affordable compared to other sustainable products we see in the market today, which is an important step when it comes to running shoes in particular as prices continue to go up and up each year.

There are some complications to castor bean farming. While it is on its way to a farming boom due to high interest in using it for its oil and vast manufacturing uses, the farming community is still developing best practices for growing on a large scale - particularly due to its toxicity. While there is not a history of recorded deaths from growing castor, there is also not guidelines in place for the poisonous plant, particularly isolating it from other edible agriculture to prevent contamination. The mass harvesting of the product is also an area of concern as the the plant has an allergenic compound called CB1A which is considered to be a likely nontoxic substance, but those with hypersensitivity may react. Researchers are exploring ways to engineer the ricin out of the plant.

On the user side, castor bean's properties in clothing have been a strong selling point: it's lightweight and breathable, making it clearly an area of interest for run clothing moving forward. That lightness combined with low financial cost is likely a big reason why companies like Reebok and the soon-to-be released Cyclon from On has been working on incorporating castor bean into midsole foams and why you should expect to see it more moving forward in the running industry.

Sources
The Important Impact of the Shift Toward Sustainable Castor Oil, Acme Hardesty
Ricinus communis  L. (Castor bean), a potential multi-purpose environmental crop for improved and integrated phytoremediation, Boda Ravi Kiran1 and Majeti Narasimha Vara Prasad
 A Bean Called Castor Can Cut Carbon & Fuel the Future, altenergymag
 Castor an oilseed crop that can cure, kill you, Farmprogress


RECOMMENDATIONS

Bach: The main recommendation I have is to slightly refine the upper to be a bit more fitted in the heel, which might open up more workout potential. Some slight extra width on the medial side would also help with providing a fully stable base. I think if the goal of the shoe is to remain easy to recovery paced training, then it's doing its job. I do think the tongue is a little out of control and could use some refinement in slimming back to something similar to the FFE3 which is lower cut.

From a sustainability standpoint, I think there is a case for considering leaning into the comfort aspects and making this an even more premium shoe with potentially higher stack and more softness. I think it suffers slightly from wanting to showcase that these materials can make something like their popular FFE model, but I believe there is room to give it it's own identity and make it standout. From a pricing perspective, $20+ is a big enough difference that I think as a consumer, I would consider the FFE3 first unless I was trying to focus entirely on sustainable clothing. I think Reebok could even go up $10 with a more premium offering similar to a Saucony Triumph or New Balance 1080 here, or even in the Ultraboost territory.

Matt: I have similar recommendations to Bach. The upper, while comfortable, could be refined. There are many methods to use threading to create better lockdown, so that may be worth exploring. The upper could also be thinner given the slightly warmer temperature. The medial midfoot could be filled in just a hair to create a bit more centralized ride. The heel bevel also needs to be moved slightly laterally or the midsole needs to be softened. This will improve the heel transition, as the majority of people will land on the posterior lateral section.


COMPARISON WITH THE FLOATRIDE ENERGY 3.0

Bach: While the Grow and the Floatride Energy 3.0 [REVIEW] share the same identity, particularly in the shape of the design, there are differences. The Grow is a slightly firmer shoe that runs best at easy and recovery paces while the Floatride Energy can pick up the pace for some tempo work. The slightly more performance fit over the midfoot of the Floatride Energy 3.0 also helps separate the two shoes from one another. The other big difference goes back to the midsole. In my experience the Floatride Energy midsole starts strong and responsive, peaking in the middle of my runs and then bottoming out towards later efforts. The Floatride Energy Grow midsole, however, starts firm and softens throughout each run, and over time has gotten more and more comfortable. Long efforts have never bottomed out for me, making it a fun shoe for very easy distance runs. It really will come down to whether you need a shoe for everyday runs with some workout versatility (FFE3) or a easy to recovery run shoe with some easy-to-recovery long run potential (Grow).


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Bach: Aesthetically, Reebok did a great job of making a very sleek shoe that keeps colors minimal for sustainability reasons while using natural blue dye to help create a very fun retro look. They made a shoe that will not only cover the majority of your daily runs during the week outside of workouts, but also a very easy shoe that you can slip on and take to class, take to work, or take out for errands before swapping into an easy paced or light run. Despite my recommendations, this is still one of the most affordable sustainable shoes in the market right now that provides a nice blend of lifestyle and performance.

Matt: The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is a good looking, plant based easy day and recovery shoe. The retro look (a classic for Reebok) makes it double as a casual shoe. The forefoot transitions very well with a bit of a clunky heel, but those looking for a neutral or medially biased ride will be happy. The upper fit is comfortable with a fairly average fit that stretches. However, it is not the most secure. Thus this shoe is best for going in a straight line on roads. Continuing to be a sustainable and affordable shoe, the Grow continues Reebok's trend toward making green products. 



GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Bach
Fit: B+ (Comfortable fit throughout. Good width in toebox. True to size. Heel could be more fitted for performance)
Performance: B (Graded as an easy to recovery day shoe. Slightly firm, but comfortable and smooth ride for daily training. For those not looking for a maximal stacked shoe that can just roll, this is a fine option.) 
Stability: B 
(A neutral shoe with a decently wide base and minor guidance) 
Personal: B+ 
(For the combination of comfort, a smooth ride, and lifestyle aesthetic, I really enjoyed my miles in the Grow. Sustainability of the shoe is exciting to see and shows a lot of promise here) 
Overall: B
 (For those looking for a comfortable daily trainer for easy mileage that merges lifestyle comfort, this is an good option at a decent price point of $120 considering the sustainability aspects)             

Matt
Fit: B (Comfortable but not the most secure upper. Fits true to size)
Performance: B-
 (Good for recovery/easy days. Sole does soften, but not responsive. Smooth forefoot, clunky heel)
Stability: B- (Neutral shoe with medial bias)
DPT/Footwear Science: B- (Centered heel bevel and curved, narrow midfoot not optimal. Bonus points for plant based though)
Personal: C+ (Comfortable for walking and a cool plant based shoe. Not versatile for running and limited to shorter distances due to medial bias that does not work with my mechanics)
Overall: B- (A casual/easy day shoe. Not for performance)

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

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Rabbit Running Clothes: Incredibly soft, high quality clothing for your next run
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FURTHER READING

Compare Sustainable Trainers
Asics Nimbus Lite 2 
- Using cellulose nanofiber in the midsole and recylced upper, this is a smooth, soft trainer with a bit more inherent stability
Newton Motion/Gravity 10 - Newton's two neutral and stability trainers turn 10, showcasing a sustainable pivot for the brand

Recently at Doctors of Running
DOR Stability Shoes Resource Page
Doctors of Running Financial Report, Mid-2021 -
We released our first ever financial report, highlighting how much we've made in 2021 so far
Adidas Boston 10 Video Review and Comparisons - Contributor Nathan Brown gives his thoughts and comparisons with the best of 2021
Saucony Omni 20 Review - Guest reviewer Ryan Flugaur checked in on the latest premium stability model from Saucony!
Mizuno Wave Rider 25 Review - The Rider reaches a landmark year, now featuring soft full length Enerzy foam for a next generation ride
Adidas Boston 10 Review -
Boston gets revolutionized as it leans into its racing sibling the Adios Pro 2 with Lightstrike Pro midsole and energy rods
Coros Apex 46mm Review -
David Salas checks in on the Coros Apex which he's used extensively for track and trail running these past few months

Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. IG handle @kleinrunsdpt

Bach Pham is a 135 lb male with PRS of 23:13 in 5K and 52:42 in 10K. He typically runs 25-35 miles a week at 9:20-9:50 min/mile and occasionally faster for the hell of it. He typically prefers neutral shoes with a firm ride. A recreational runner, he enjoys working on distance and growing his base for future half and marathon efforts down the line.

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:54 marathon. He typically runs between 20-40 miles per week at a variety of paces from 7:30-8:30 min/mile for recovery runs to 6-6:45 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel. Current goals for 2020 are to break the 1.5 hour half marathon and 3:30 marathon. IG handle: @nate.docsofrunning

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.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Reebok for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our 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.

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