Barefoot Running Magazine, Issue 13 (Autumn/Winter 2014)

The latest Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 13, Autumn/Winter 2014,  is now available including my reviews of the Suunto Ambit3 Sport and The North Face FL Race Vest.

“IN THIS ISSUE: We talk to impressive ultra runner, Patrick Sweeney, David discusses athleticism and the nature/nurture debate, we give you tips on reading the road and how to do a deep squat, delve into the details of the amazing life of Louis Zamperini, find out about the fabulous children’s charity “Kids Run Free” and offer you the opportunity to win a pair of the popular Swiss Socks.  Plus, the usual musings and info from our column writers, product reviews, letters, Q & A and more…

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Range Expanded

The excellent Vivobarefoot Trail Freak is one of my standout products of the year and, along with the Vivobarefoot Evo Pure, I reviewed the shoe for Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 12, Summer 2014.

I’ve certainly enjoyed letting my ‘inner freak’ loose in the Trail Freak, walking, running & cycling, from Ellon, to The Cairngorms, to Gairloch & the West coast of Scotland.

My review of the original Trail Freak, and of the Evo Pure, is included below but watch out for new colour variations of the Trail Freak, including an excellent, almost autumnal looking Navy/Green colour combination and also the new grey winter-proof Trail Freak which I hope to get my hands on in time for some serious winter training.

“Wet weather, muddy tracks and steep hills are no obstacle for the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Winterproof Mens trail running shoe. Durable and lightweight, with enhanced water proofing and a thermal insole to protect you from the elements, theres nothing stopping you hitting the trails all winter long.”

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak & Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

Vivobarefoot is “a shoe technology aimed at offering the optimum biomechanics and posture commonly associated with walking barefoot and barefoot running” and it has been described as “as close to going barefoot in the city as you can get.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivobarefoot)

The Vivobarefoot argument is straightforward – Your feet have all the technology you need. Their aim is to provide shoes that let your feet do ‘their thing’.

“The key for a long life of efficient movement involves reconnecting your brain and reconditioning your body. This is achieved by relearning the skill of locomotion by perfecting simple motor skill milestones and simultaneously, and gradually, building up adequate strength.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/learn)

This is achieved via the combination of a wide toe box, ultimate flexibility, and an ultra-thin sole.

The above content will already be familiar to you if you read my review of the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail in Barefoot Running Magazine issue 11.

If you didn’t read the review, the above will serve as an introduction to the Vivobarefoot ethos and I would strongly recommend that you check out the excellent, highly informative, Vivobarefoot web site:

I was impressed with the Breatho Trail, other than a minor issue with the laces, and, as such, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review not one but two new Vivobarefoot products for this issue.

The products in question are the Trail Freak, intended, as the name suggests, for trail running, and the Evo Pure, essentially a road shoe but touted for use from everything from road and treadmill running through to weight lifting, court sports and gym classes.

As with the previously reviewed Breatho Trail, the Trail Freak and Evo Pure and, indeed, all Vivobarefoot product, are constructed to be as minimal as possible, with a wide toe box, ultimate flexibility, and an ultra-thin sole.

Fit

Both the Trail Freak and the Evo Pure provided a perfect fit straight out of the box, with a lovely wide toe box to facilitate toe splay, helping with both balance and running efficiency. I found the Evo Pure in particular was especially spacious, far removed from the typically cramped toe boxes of more traditional running shoes.

Styling

Trail Freak

The Trail Freak is available in navy/sulphur (not unlike the Breatho Trail) or red/orange male colour combinations and pink/teal and blue/turquoise ladies colour combinations.

Aesthetically, the Trail Freak will never be accused of being subtle and, as much as I do like the slightly understated navy/sulphur, there’s something really appealing about the fiery red/orange colour combination. It screams for attention and looks fast – It’s just a shame I don’t have the turn of speed to match it!

Perhaps with the exception of the navy/sulphur, the colour combinations may reduce the likelihood of people wearing the shoes casually, outside of their intended environment.

Evo Pure

The Evo Pure is available in red or blue/sulphur male colour combinations and blue/turquoise and white/pink ladies colour combinations. The colours are on the vivid end of the scale but I would go so far as to describe the male colour combinations as classy and, unlike the Trail Freaks, the Evo Pure would be far easier to pass off if worn casually.

The male designs focus more on a single colour, with any alternate colour used minimally on trimmings. The ladies design, however, sees the alternate colour used throughout the hexagon design of the upper material and, I have to admit, I find that the contrast clashes a bit where my tastes are concerned.

Build Quality

Trail Freak

The upper of the Trail Freak consists of a dual layer mesh with a laminated hexagonal overlay. It’s a very lightweight, highly flexible overlay, adding a slight element of protection. A more robust heel counter helps hold the foot in position.

The upper sits atop a patented, ultra-thin, puncture resistant sole, constructed from V-grip rubber specifically designed for off-road surfaces, with multi-directional ‘V-teeth’ for improved traction. The 2.5mm outsole, with 4.5mm lugs is, by all accounts, the same sole that is used on the Breatho Trail.

A Dri-lex lining with lycra collar provides supreme comfort and moisture wicking. The Trail Freak is just as comfortable without socks as it is with socks, though I have found on numerous occasions that the insoles have a tendency to come with the foot when you slip the shoes off and getting them placed in exactly the right spot can be a faff.

Overall, the construction results in a ‘barely there’, almost ‘second skin’ fit.

I’ve saved one of the best elements till last. My biggest moan where the Breatho Trail was concerned was the overly long, chunky laces that had a habit of coming loose mid run. Double knotting them resolved this but, because the laces were quite so fat, this resulted in an unsightly lump of lacing on top of the shoe. I wasn’t alone in finding this and Vivobarefoot have responded to the feedback with a totally different approach to lacing.

Gone are the laces, replaced instead by a speed-lacing toggle system similar to Lock Laces and the system employed in a number of Salomon trainers.

No more stopping to double knot laces mid run! What’s more, once you have found your preferred setting, there’s actually little need to alter the lacing as I have found that the Trail Freaks slip on and off with ease. There may, of course, be occasion when you will want to tighten the lacing but this is easily done. Any excess lacing simply tucks away, preventing it from flapping around.

Evo Pure

The upper of the Evo Pure consists of a thin, durable polyester mesh with V Web lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support. The heel counter is considerably pared back in comparison to the Trail Freak, indicative of the reduced level of support required in an on road shoe.

The one thing that did catch my eye initially was the use of very thin strips of material on either side of the main flex point of the shoe, which I can only assume are intended to strengthen the area.

As with the Trail Freak, a Dri-lex lining with lycra collar provides supreme comfort and moisture wicking and the Evo Pure is also comfortable to wear both with and without socks.

The sole used on the Evo Pure is the V Multi 2, providing a ‘coned hexagon grip for perfect balance between on and off road (light trails) traction, control and sensory clarity’. By all accounts, this is a new approach from Vivobarefoot, replacing a thicker multi-terrain sole employed on previous road shoes.

Finally, the Evo Pure employs a standard lacing system. Thankfully, I have had no repeat of my problems with the Breatho Trail with the considerably thinner laces of the Evo Pure.

Performance

Trail Freak

The Vivobarefoot ethos is all about providing the necessary tools to let your feet do their thing, and there’s no doubt that the Trail Freak do just that.

“Your shoes and your feet will move as one, no matter what nature throws at them. The Trail Freak is a durable and lightweight barefoot trail shoe suited for the toughest mud sections, slipperiest descents, and filthiest climbs.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/trail-freak-mens)

Touted as shoes for ‘hot and fast trail running’, travelling, trekking, and even cycling, thanks to their pedal friendly, grippy lugs, the Trail Freak are a highly comfortable, highly breathable, trail shoe that manages to successfully combine a second skin feel with a spacious toe box.

One of the standout points of the Breatho Trail for me was the excellent off-road traction afforded by the patented ultra-thin, puncture resistant 2.5mm outsole with 4.5mm multidirectional lugs and this same level of protection from unknown terrain is equally as welcome on the Trail Freak. The lugs towards the rear of the shoe face the opposite direction from those on the front, helping to maintain traction on steep and slippery descents.

As with my experiences with the Breatho Trail, traction issues in the Trail Freaks have been limited to wet concrete, hardly the intended terrain for the shoe.

The Trail Freak isn’t a waterproof shoe, but then the jury is out on the merits of waterproof trail shoes anyway – far better to have a highly breathable shoe that drains well.

After a week of constant, often sockless, use in The Cairngorms, my Trail Freaks did start to develop an odour but this was nipped in the bud with a quick hand wash of the shoe and a machine wash of the removable insole.

My sole concern (no pun intended!) as far as the Trail Freak goes is the long term durability of the shoe. Given the lightweight upper and overlays, it’s not a shoe that affords much protection to the foot and, by virtue of that same lightweight upper and overlays, it’s also a shoe that might just suffer from continued use in harsh environments. I’m thinking specifically about the kind of damage that might arise from repeated exposure to dry Scottish heather, for example. Those concerns would apply, however, to any lightweight trail shoe and certainly not just to the Trail Freak.

The last time I enjoyed a shoe this much was the Inov8 Roclite 305, a shoe that felt like a favourite pair of slippers, and saw me through many, many miles of ultramarathon training and racing. By the time Inov8 discontinued production of the Roclite 305 (why!!!), I had gone through 5 pairs of them, and I can see a similar situation developing with the Trail Freak. If I had to choose a single pair of shoes to be stranded on the proverbial desert island with, they would be Trail Freaks!

Evo Pure

“There’s nothing holding you back, it’s just you and the Evo Pure working together. This road running shoe will let your feet perform, as if they were barefoot. They’re stripped back to ensure it’s your feet that are in control.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/evo-pure-mens)

I’m a trail runner at heart and, as such, I will likely never have quite the same affinity for a pair of road shoes as I do for trail shoes. However, I have no complaints whatsoever with regard to the Evo Pure and I am particularly fond of the versatility of the shoe. It’s touted as a shoe with many uses and I’ve certainly used it in this way, in running, treadmill, gym and casual environments.

I don’t have the same concerns vis-a-vis durability that I have expressed above about the Trail Freak. The Evo Pure is arguably lighter and with even less in terms of protective overlay. However, I just wouldn’t expect them to receive the same levels of punishment.

Barefoot Simulation

There’s little point in dealing with the Trail Freak and Evo Pure separately at this point. Barefoot simulation doesn’t get much better than this, other than actually running barefoot.

So lightweight you forget you are wearing them, so spacious as to provide ample room for toe splay, and with only millimetres of patented puncture resistant sole between your feet and the ground, both the Trail Freak and the Evo Pure certainly let your feet do their own thing, putting you in full control of the running experience.

Even the 4.5mm lugs on the Trail Freak do little to dampen the barefoot experience. You still have excellent ground feel and will no doubt need to rein it back a bit on the rockiest of descents.

Taking the Evo Pure off-road, on a short woodland walk, soon gave an idea of how good the ground feel on the Evo Pure is. I have to admit to finding the terrain underfoot actually made for an occasionally uncomfortable experience and was glad of a return to the pavement!

Price

  • Trail Freak RRP: £85.00
  • Evo Pure RRP: £90.00

Overall Rating

Having been suitably impressed with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail that I reviewed for Barefoot Running Magazine issue 11, I was looking forward to the prospect of reviewing the new Evo Pure and, in particular, with trails being my favoured running surface, the Trail Freak. I’m happy to report that both shoes lived up to expectations, providing shoes that appear to be perfect for their respective terrain.

I would advise anyone looking for minimalist trail or road shoes to at least consider these offerings from Vivobarefoot. Both shoes certainly follow the Vivobarefoot ethos of providing shoes that let your feet do ‘their thing’ and do it well.

Specifications

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak

  • Upper material: 3M Mesh
  • Upper description: V Web Lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support.
  • Collar/panel/lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining with thick mesh collar: Lightweight, performance lining for moisture wicking and superior comfort and thick mesh collar.
  • Sole unit: V Trek
  • Sole thickness: 2.5mm sole with 4.5mm lugs
  • Sole description: V Trek: Multi-directional teeth for the steepest, muddiest, wettest terrains. Ultimate off-road traction and sensory feedback (proprioception).
  • Closure/lacing: Lock-Lacing System with toggle: Webbing eyelets make sure the foot is secure in the shoe.
  • Eco-credentials: 100% Vegan

More info: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/trail-freak-mens

Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

  • Upper material: BR Mesh
  • Upper description: V Web Lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support.
  • Collar/panel/lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining and lycra lining, thick mesh collar.
  • Sole unit: V Multi 2
  • Sole thickness: 3mm
  • Sole description: V Multi 2: Coned hexagon grip for perfect balance between on and off road (light trails) traction, control and sensory clarity.
  • Closure/lacing: Lace-up System: Fasten securely with simple tie-up lace.
  • Eco-credentials: 100% Vegan

More info: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/evo-pure-mens

New Barefoot Running Magazine Web Site

Barefoot Running Magazine, the world’s first barefoot and minimalist running magazine, has a new web site www.barefootrunningmagazine.com with news, events, competitions, reviews and more! One of The Team may even be familiar to some of you!

The web site also contains links to current and back issues of the magazine.

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Altra were kind enough to send me a pair of the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 to review for a future edition of Barefoot Running Magazine.

Full review to follow in the near future.

From the Altra web site:

Benefits

Inspired by Lone Peak, one of the rockiest, toughest mountains in the Wasatch Range, The Lone Peak™ was designed to conquer the Wasatch 100. While the foot-shaped design allows athletes to stay relaxed and comfortable for hours, this do-everything mountain shoe promotes happy feet, increases ankle stabilization and improves form with the Zero DropTM platform. The Lone PeakTM features an innovative, sandwiched StoneGuardTM system that deflects rocks into the midsole for a smoother, more stable ride. Stand above the rest with the ultimate trail running shoe.

Technical Stuff

  • Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking, Ultra Marathons
  • Designed to Reduce: Ankle Sprains, Stone Bruising, Overstriding, Forefoot Pain
  • Platform: Zero DropTM Platform, Foot-Shaped Design, NRS – Natural Ride System™
  • Weight: 9.9 oz.
  • Stack Height: 23 mm
  • Midsole: Two-Layer EVA / AltraBound™
  • Outsole: Sticky Rubber TrailClaw™
  • Insole: Mountain Footbed
  • Upper: Quick-Dry, Abrasion-Resistant Mesh with Minimal Seams
  • Lacing Structure: Asymmetrical
  • Other Features: StoneGuard™ Sandwiched Rock Protection, TrailRudder™, Gusseted Tongue, Vegan Friendly, Natural Ride System

Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Review

The following review was included in Issue 10, Autumn/Winter 2013 of Barefoot Running Magazine.

Waist packs are excellent for holding keys, gels and fluids that would otherwise be cumbersome to carry. The latest offering from Ultimate Direction, the Jurek Endure Hydration Belt, is an excellent minimalist waist pack with space for the bare essentials.

Anyone at all familiar with the ultramarathon scene should be able to immediately identify the man behind the belt, ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek, and it would appear that Jurek’s vast experience has been well tapped to create a quality product where the attention to detail is second to none.

Styling

The Jurek Endure hydration belt is available in black or citron. While I actually do like the citron/lime green colour, the pairing of this with aqua blue just doesn’t work for me as far as colour combinations go and, as such, I opted for the far more sedate grey and black offering. I can see, however, that the brighter option is not without merit as it would likely benefit the wearer in terms of increased visibility.

Fit

The Jurek Endure is so light and free of movement that it’s possible to forget that you are wearing it. Most waist packs that I have tried in the past have suffered from bounce and/or movement of some form, more often than not leading to chaffing. This is not the case with the Endure.

The first time I used the Endure, I adjusted the belt strapping to provide a comfortable but secure fit and I have not had to touch it since. This is largely due to the elasticated holder that serves a dual purpose. It secures any excess strapping, stopping it from flapping about. Further, it ensures that the desired strap positioning is retained. I’ve had packs in the past that have required constant adjustment and it ranks as one of my pet hates, especially when said adjustment has to be done mid race. As such, I think that this is a particularly neat feature.

Another plus point is the left hand side fastening, which ensures that there is no direct pressure on the stomach area, something that helps to avoid digestion issues when running.

Build Quality

The Jurek Endure is constructed from strong, lightweight, highly breathable Hex Mesh. The mesh does not absorb moisture and, at the end of one particularly sweaty run, I was surprised at just how sweat free the pack was, unlike the soaking wet t-shirt and shorts that I was wearing at the time. The pack also makes use of Silnylon, silicone impregnated for ultra lightweight and durable waterproofness, and Velvetex, super comfortable and soft edge binding.

Performance

Typically, waist packs come with a single 5-600ml bottle or two 5-600ml bottles. The Jurek Endure comes with two 10oz/295ml bottles. The reduced bottle size obviously impacts on the volume of fluid that can be carried, thereby impacting on the distances that the pack can be used for. However, the use of 2 smaller bottles spreads the weight evenly, adding to the stability of the pack. Further, the 2 bottle approach opens up fluid options. Typically, I have opted for one bottle for plain water, with the other carrying some form of juice or water with a High 5 tablet added. In terms of volume, I have found the two 295ml bottles to be sufficient for short to medium distances, even on hotter days. However, fluid requirements vary from person to person.

The bottle holders on the Jurek Endure are stiffened at the front, which helps when it comes to retrieving and re-holstering the bottles on the move. An elastic cord helps to ensure that the bottles remain in place. This is fairly easily removed and re applied as and when required and there is a small plastic clip to assist with this. I did find that the plastic clip isn’t always all that easy to grab and, ideally, I would have preferred a larger, cloth based method of pulling the elastic back. This aside, the fastening mechanism works well and I always found the bottles to be secure.

I’ve already mentioned that the belt strapping provides a perfect fit, secured by the elasticated holder. There’s also one further useful addition, two moveable race clips that permit the attachment of a race number to the belt. If, like myself, you hate sticking pins in t-shirts, you will no doubt appreciate this functionality. Further, given that the weather in the UK often necessitates the use of waterproofs, your race number will remain visible. While you might resort to a waterproof jacket on your upper body, covering any number attached to a t-shirt, rarely do you see runners use waterproof trousers.

There is a large, moveable side pocket on the right hand side of the Jurek Endure. This well sized pocket is perfect for carrying gels or energy bars and can be worn on the left side if preferred. It’s also a good fit for an iPhone 5 but, with the addition of a headphone connection, can be fractionally on the tight side, especially if you are prone to taking your phone in and out for the purposes of taking photographs and/or answering texts and phone calls. If I have one criticism of the pocket, it is that the zip placement, on the top of the pocket, occasionally results in the pocket moving rather than the zip opening, necessitating a two handed approach to retrieve the contents of the pocket.

There’s a stretch mesh pocket on the rear, located between the two bottles, that is fastened with a small Velcro strip. As with the bottles, an elastic cord can be used to help secure any items placed in here. There’s not a huge amount of space in the pocket but you can, for example, squeeze in a buff and a pair of thin gloves at a push. Alternatively, it will hold a few gels and/or energy bars. It’s also possible to secure items on top of the pocket, such as a lightweight jacket, using the elastic cord. I am always concerned that anything positioned here disappears without my noticing and, as such, I always try to somehow clip the item on to the pack.

Safety reflectors positioned on the rear of the waist pack serve to increase your visibility to traffic.

Price

£34.98

Overall Rating

The Jurek Endure from Ultimate Direction is my new go-to waist pack for short to medium distance runs and supported long runs where there is no compulsory kit requirement. It’s the perfect pack for those who like to travel light and its limited capacity ensures that you are never going to over pack for your run.

Granted there are a couple of minor adjustments that I would like to see to make the Jurek Endure truly perfect. However, it does come close to perfection, especially with regard to the lack of bounce and the fastening mechanism that ensures it stays exactly in place.

“Ounce per ounce, the Jurek Endure belt does more than any other waist pack. Scott wanted twin bottles because they balance the load, and you can use one for water and the other for your sports drink mix. One can quickly stash a windshell, gloves, and even a hat into the stretch mesh pocket and innovative bungee system, and the movable front pocket allows you to whip out a bar gel without breaking stride. Hydration products should be at your finger tips when you need them but they should just provide you with the bare essentials and the Jurek Collection from Ultimate Direction really does that.” Scott Jurek

Specifications

  • Fluid capacity: Comes with 2 * 10 oz. bottles
  • Weight: 163g / 6 oz (8.5 oz with bottles)
  • Pocket Size: 16.5 x 7.6 cm / 6.5 x 3 in
  • Pouch Size: 10.2 x 10.2 cm / 4 x 4 in
  • Bottle holsters are stiffened with lightweight foam for quick access
  • Front pocket is sweat resistant and moveable, with foam backing
  • 3/4 in. waist webbing with stretch panel
  • Movable Race Bib clips
  • Adjustable buckle fits: 26 – 44 in. / 66 – 112 cm

The Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Waist Hydration Belt is available from the http://www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com/

Barefoot Running Magazine – Issue 10 (Autumn/Winter 2013)

The latest Barefoot Running Magazine is now available. Issue 10, Autumn/Winter 2013, includes:

  • A look back at the recent Running Show
  • ‘The Truly Legendary Jesse Owens’
  • Q&As
  • How To Improve Your Swimming Stroke
  • And much more!

Issue 10 also includes my The North Face Isotherm 1/2 Zip Shirt & Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Waist Hydration Belt reviews.

Barefoot Running Magazine, Issue 9 (Summer 2013)

The latest Barefoot Running Magazine is now available. Issue 9, Summer 2013, includes:

  • A conversation with Liz Yelling
  • Behind the “Energy” in Energy drinks
  • In Focus with Jenn Shelton
  • Monkeying around with Barefoot Ted in London
  • Review of The Cool Impossible by Eric Orton
  • How to set up your bike for reduced injury and increased performance
  • And much more!

This issue contains my second contribution as a member of the Long-Term Test Team – a review of the Merrell Vapor Gloves.

Barefoot Running Magazine – Issue 8 (Spring 2013)

The latest Barefoot Running Magazine is now available. Issue 8, Spring 2013, includes everything from articles on Anton Krupicka to the Boston Marathon and a conversation with ChiLiving founder Danny Dreyer, together with the usual mix of questions & answers, tips and reviews.

There’s also an addition to the Long-Term Test Team – me! I contribute to Barefoot Running Magazine for the first time with my review of the Mizuno EVO Cursoris.

Back issues of the magazine are available on issuu.com.

Mizuno EVO Cursoris & Levitas Review

The following review was included in Issue 8, Spring 2013 of Barefoot Running Magazine.

Back at the beginning of the year I received an email informing me that I had been selected to join a mixed bunch of experts, elite runners, ultra marathoners, marathoners, fitness runners and running newbies on the Mizuno EVO UK Test Team. The purpose of the team – to test out the new minimalist offering from Japanese company, Mizuno, their first zero drop shoe, designed entirely from scratch and promoted on the their website as being suitable for ‘midfoot running’.

As a self-confessed trainer addict, my delight was compounded with the arrival of not one but two new shoes, the Mizuno EVO Cursoris and the Mizuno EVO Levitas, with 12mm and 8mm of cushioning respectively.

For my first product review, Barefoot Running Magazine have given me the opportunity to share my thoughts on the Mizuno EVO Cursoris.

“Offering a thicker 12mm AP+ cushioned midsole and wider platform, the EVO Cursorsis provides moderate protection and allows for a more natural gait. Exceptionally light and incorporating Mizuno’s renowned Wave technology, Mizuno EVO Cursoris running shoes have been meticulously crafted as a ‘training tool’ for the newer midfoot runner, providing a smoother and more efficient transition from strike to toe off”

Styling

As soon as I received the email about the UK Test Team I was straight on to Google for a quick search to see what I could find in terms of both information and images. As such, I did have an idea of what to expect when the shoes arrived. However, even ‘pre-armed’ with this knowledge, I don’t think I was adequately prepared for the reality of seeing the shoes ‘in the flesh’.

Subtle, they are not – Quite the opposite in fact! Aesthetically, the shoes make a statement. From a purely personal perspective, the vibrant orange Cursoris fares better than the very purple Levitas. Fortunately I love orange and, as such, didn’t find the vibrant orange colour scheme objectionable. However, these shoes are never going to blend in so expect plenty of subtle, and not so subtle, passing glances when you are out running in them!

At the end of the day, however, aesthetics are secondary to the fit and performance of the shoe.

Fit

There’s no disputing that the Cursoris is supremely comfortable. I would go so far as to say it has an almost slipper like fit. They are not ‘the’ most comfortable trainers that I have ever worn but would definitely rank in any comfort top 10.

There are a distinct lack of overlays in the upper of the Cursoris and, as such, the feet move freely, barely constrained by the porous mesh upper. It would be nigh on impossible not to find this comfortable! As someone with wide feet, it’s refreshing to find a shoe with such flexibility in the upper, providing a comfortable instead of overly tight fit.

The Cursoris uses asymmetric lacing for improved fit and flex, and I personally found that this resulted in a nice secure fit. However, I have come across comments on line that suggest others have found it difficult to get the perfect fit, finding that they lace too loose or too tight.

My one and, it has to be said, only real gripe with the shoe, has to do with slight upwards pressure that I feel midfoot when I initially slip on the shoe. However, once running, this slight pressure soon

disappears and, in all likelihood, there’s a good chance that I only notice this because I spend quite so much time in sparsely cushioned zero drop shoes.

I did try running barefoot in the Cursoris but it just didn’t feel right and I was concerned that a toe or toenail would do some damage to the soft mesh upper. As such, I opted to wear a thin sock when running in the shoe.

Finally, in terms of sizing, I found that my usual UK size 8 provided the perfect fit so there was no need to size up or down.

Build Quality

The Cursoris are well constructed, neatly stitched, with no annoying seams that I have experienced. My only ‘concern’ would be the long-term durability of the mesh used in the uppers. However, this kind of concern is fairly typical with a lot of the current lightweight, minimalist offerings.

Performance

The Cursoris is touted for those new to midfoot running and/or looking to run longer distances in a minimalist shoe. With 12mm of cushioning you don’t have to scan ahead quite so diligently as you might with less cushioned shoes and, If you land on a stone, the cushioning should protect you from injury. With 12mm cushioning it’s more forgiving than most minimalist shoes but it’s not a comfortable shoe to heel strike in and, as such, this helps to promote the intended midfoot to forefoot landing style.

The Cursoris is designed with road/pavement running in mind but I have actually taken them ‘off road’, on to my favoured terrain. They coped pretty well with the fairly uneven, often rocky path but there were a couple of ‘ankle turning moments’, highlighting the lack of support in the upper. Fortunately for me, these didn’t come to anything. Given the fairly basic tread on the Cursoris, I doubt very much whether they would cope with, for example, muddy terrain and, as such, I will most likely stick with their intended purpose in future.

Note also that this is not a shoe for speedwork. If this is one of your requirements, consider instead the Levitas, with its additional heel support which provides the increased level of stability required when running at higher speed.

You might also want to consider how you feel about wet feet if the weather is inclement as the porous mesh upper does little to stop the rain and water from puddles. The consolation to this is that what easily goes in just as easily comes out!

Barefoot Simulation

The Cursoris sits flatter than your average trainer so that the toes are engaging the ground, excellent in terms of stability and enabling you to push off in the most optimum way.

Landing midfoot, you want flexibility both from heel to toe and, also, laterally, and the Cursoris provides this flexibility with deep multi-directional flex grooves, allowing for a versatile, natural movement. The flex grooves split up the front sole area into a number of ‘pods’, some of which are covered with a reinforced rubber in perceived high wear areas. The rear of the shoe is relatively smooth, offering little in the way of grip.

In terms of feedback, I would describe the level of feedback as moderate, most likely towards the upper end of what you would consider acceptable for a minimalist shoe.

There is a small Wave plate under the forefoot area which filters some of the impact and returns energy during the propulsion, ‘pushing off’ phase, something that I think can be felt when running. There’s a definite feeling of ‘assistance’ from strike through to push off.

There’s an excellent, very thorough review of the Cursoris and the Levitas by Fred Brossard over at the Runblogger website. Fred captures the essence of the shoes in his review:

“Mizuno’s designers have obviously read and studied the ‘What should a real minimalist shoe feature?’ theories that flourish on the web. In their first minimalist offerings, they very seriously tried to respect 5 key principles of minimalist shoe design: zero-drop, wide toebox, minimal structure, light cushioning, and flexibility under the metatarsals which leads to two quite different shoes: the Levitas is a real racer, and the Cursoris is great for smooth, easy runs.” (runblogger.com)

Price

Retailing at around £75-80, the Cursoris is a reasonably priced shoe for anyone looking to make the transition to ‘midfoot running’. For those who have already transitioned, the Levitas retails for around £80.

Overall Rating

The Cursoris is a good first entry into the minimalist market from Mizuno, ticking all the boxes for a minimalist shoe. The only question would be over the 12mm of cushioning which may prove to be too much for some runners. Consider that the shoe is aimed at those looking to transition and/or those looking for a minimalist trainer capable of distances and, as such, the 12mm can be justified in this respect. For anyone looking for a higher level of connectivity with the ground, there is always the Levitas with 8mm cushioning. Having tested both shoes, that 4mm difference is indeed noticeable when you drop down to the 8mm sole. Retailing at around £75-80, the Cursoris is reasonably priced, just don’t expect not to stand out when wearing them!

Specifications from the Mizuno website:

  • Named after one of the oldest known bipedal creatures, the Eudibamus Cursoris
  • Designed to provide a more stable platform and cushioning for someone transforming to a midfoot strike
  • ZERO RAMP offset between the heel and forefoot provides a natural plane tailored to a midfoot strike
  • WAVE TECHNOLOGY in the forefoot for maximum protection, comfort and a smooth ride
  • Flat-bottomed forefoot design coupled with a wider platform provides stability and assurance from foot strike to toe-off
  • 12mm/12mm heel-forefoot design offers a more protective ride