First an apology that this post is so late. Part 2/3 of this review was published in November 2013 with a promise that the last part would be out in a couple of weeks. Well life and running events caught-up. First Airtel Half in December; then extensive physiotherapy to fix some running injuries during second half of December and first half of January, and finally the Mumbai Full and the several weeks of recovery thereafter dealing with more injuries. Finally have the mental energy & motivation back to conclude this.
The good news is that current mileage on the RealFlex Run 2.0 stands at 270km, which means it’s really been put through the grinder. It has also become a favourite go-to shoe for most of my training runs. I haven’t done any races in these as I kept going back to my Saucony Kinvara 3 which was a tried and tested option. I am looking forward to race in the RealFlex 2.0 at the Budh International F1 track HM in March.
When we talk about shoes and our feature preferences we tend to think in terms of extremes – on cushioning (none to 2 inch springs), on heel drop (zero to 15mm), on flexibility (contortionist “yogi” to rigid planks), on pronation support (none to big hard wedges) and on uppers (minimalist to extreme padded pillows). And therefore the debate of what shoe is right for a certain person sees some pretty extreme stances being taken.
I personally think the RealFlex 2.0 is a shoe where someone at Reebok has made some really smart design choices and “compromises”, and I don’t use compromises in a negative sense but rather in a sense of saying “maintaining the balance”.
What I mean by this is that the shoe hits the cushioning, heel drop, flexibility, pronation and uppers sweet-spot in a way which will appeal to a wide variety of runners without people having to fight over whether minimalist shoes are good or cushioned shoes are good or whether one needs stability/motion control.
Now that I have said this let’s go back to our runner profiles (if you have read the previous review on the Reebok Cushion you are familiar with this but even if you haven’t don’t worry) and see how things work for each.
Runner Type 1 (used to Cushioned Comfort): If you are a runner who is already running in a highly cushioned shoe. The RealFlex has great cushioning while still being extremely light. I would easily recommend it for people who want cushioned comfort and yet yearn for a lighter, faster shoe.
Runner Type 2 (Heel, mid/fore Foot striker): Two thing stand out for heel strikers, first the heel drop which is 8mm and therefore more than conventional minimalist shoes with 4-6mm drop. Second the extra tough outer rubber in the heel area which gives some extra protection and prolongs the life of the shoe. So a good choice for the heel striker.
And yet the heel drop is much lower than the monsters with 12-15mm drop. The 8mm shoe drop “feels” much lesser and personally I was deceived into thinking the profile was very much like my 4mm heel drop Kinvaras (do read http://runindiarun.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/review-of-the-reebok-realflex-run-2-0-a-little-beyond-the-first-run-with-166km-done-and-dusted-part-23/ to understand the significance of this). This coupled with the flexibility of the shoe also makes it a great choice for the mid/fore foot striker.
Runner Type 3 (Newbie): You are a newer runner; are looking at a comfortable running shoe; are going to do most of your running on hard surfaces (tar or cement roads and sidewalks) without a lot of consideration at the moment for speed, form, gait, etc. Your running style is still evolving and you are apprehensive about the impact running may have on your legs or you may already have some issues. Well choose the RealFlex 2.0 with an easy mind, the added benefit a much lighter shoe and if at any point you want to go aggressively minimal well you are already in a great transition shoe.
Runner Type 4 (Body Weight “irrelevant”): If you recall I had recommended the Reebok One Cushion for the “heavier 80kg+” runner. Well the good news is that this shoe will work for them as well. However because it is lighter and flexible it will also work extremely well for the lighter runner without compromising on the response. So you won’t need the weight of your body to elicit a “response” from this shoe.
Runner Type 5 (You are also fast): If you are already on low profile shoes or racing flats and are a forefoot to midfoot striker but yearn for some more protection then again the shoe is a great compromise. And since it is very light and relatively flexible the responsiveness is super.
Runner Type 6 (High Mileage Road Runner): High mileage on road means a lot of wear and tear of the lower half of the body. Till now this meant having to wear highly cushioned, bulky and heavy shoes. With the RealFlex 2.0 there is now a much lighter and cushier option available.
Finally a category that I said I would not review for – “The Pronators” since I believe most people can actually do pretty well in neutral shoes and since there is research (new and old) to show that inside the shoe (irrespective of type) the foot is still doing what it is doing ! Read this http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/the-myth-of-pronation-and-running-injuries/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 and this http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021929000001160 if you are interested in this topic. Well the RealFlex is interesting since it has dual density midsole which makes the mid-foot area more rigid then the rest of the shoe. I suspect this would be of help to the mild pronator (and assuming that these shoes actually help).
So if you are looking for a minimalist, cushioned, flexible, low heel drop, stable shoe which runs cool (a lot of these adjectives would be normally mutually exclusive for most shoes) then the RealFlex Run 2.0 is for you. I am almost tempted to call it an “every runner’s shoe”.
P.S. Two other shoes have been patiently waiting on the sidelines – the Skechers GoRun2 M and the Puma Mobium Elite. Hope to complete those reviews before end of March. The good news is that the GoRun2 already has about 150km on it
Review of the Reebok RealFlex Run 2.0 – A Little Beyond the First Run with 166km done and dusted (Part 2/3)
When I finished part 1 of this review I promised you two things in part 2 – my first run impressions and a lesson in “breaking-in” new shoes. Although eight outings and 166 km later is a little late in the day to talk about the first run but that is anyway where I am going to start my story.
First Run Impressions
It’s the morning of the 30th October and I am eager to test out the new shoes. I am ready to start my run around 7.30am after dropping off my son for football practice. If you have been reading my blogs then by now you know my routine – I start with a warm-up which today consists of a partial Myrtl routine (someday soon I am going to write about this for sure !), today is going to be a 6 km recovery run (with speeds near the 7min/km mark) which is all about loosening up, getting the kinks and minor glitches in the muscles and body out-of-the-way and flushing some of the lactic acid out before the longer and tougher 18k planned for tomorrow.
The shoe feels very planted yet light. When I stand in them and then walk up to my warm-up spot I can feel hardness near the heel in the sole, I also notice that the heel cup has a pretty hard plastic type of support and I am little worried about both these things.
Start the run, trying to feel and think about the shoe. The first kilometre is slow as usual since I walk for about 200-300m and only then start running. Second kilometre onwards I fall into a rhythm. Stop for a pee-break in the third kilometre, and then back to the rhythm. 4 kms later I suddenly realise something is wrong ! I am running faster than I intended to and I am not feeling it, in fact my mind is pretty much a blank. It is then that I remember that I am wearing new shoes – I could swear that I was wearing my well broken in Kinvara 3 or the Free 4.0 !
This perhaps sums-up the first run in the RealFlex Run 2.0 – the shoe provokes little or no thought and I don’t even realise I am wearing anything new. This, in my humble opinion, is exactly how a shoe that works for you should feel from day one. I know that there are still a lot of kilometres I need to put in this shoe before my final verdict but by the end of the first run I am satisfied. And the question on mind is – “Can these shoes replace my ageing Nike Free 4.0 (now about 1600 kms old)?”
The Next 8 Runs
Have put in another 160k in the RealFlex Run 2.0 which includes Recovery runs (10.1k and 11.18); Fast Striders (6x100k after the 11.18k recovery run); Medium Long runs (18.15k, 19.12k and 23.04k); an attempted Tempo run (18k which didn’t really work out well) and two Long runs (32.06k and 28.11k). The shoe has behaved like a good friend – being there but without being obtrusive!
That description is nice and emotional but doesn’t tell you much about the shoe so let me get back to two adjectives that Reebok uses for the shoe (and I have explained in detail in earlier posts) and see if they live up to them – “Cushioned” and “Responsive”.
The shoe is touted for the runner who is looking for a “barefoot/minimalist experience but is not willing to compromise on cushioning”. I have already covered the first part about the minimalist expereince – the shoe being very light, having a light upper structure and being quite flexible but Reebok is bang on when they say they haven’t compromised on cushioning. Out of the range of shoes that I have – the Kinvara 3.0; the Free 3.0 & 4.0 and even the Reebok ONE Cushion the ride in these feels really plush. Now for those wondering why the RealFlex Run 2.0 would feel even more cushioned to me then the Reebok ONE Cushion, a little patience please, you will get the answer when I do the final part (3/3) of the review :)
What about responsiveness? Once again the response seems pretty bang on. The shoe feels very responsive and adapts to a range of running speeds pretty easily (felt equally comfortable during slower recovery runs and all out striders) providing just the right return of energy at push-off. But more importantly there is a fantastic balance between the cushioning and the response (which at times can be opposing characteristics).
Interestingly the RealFlex Run 1.0 (not really called that but rather the version before this one) had some complaints of having a very soft sole and therefore tending to have a less than satisfactory response. So the changes that Reebok has made to the shoe’s midsole and outsole seems to have worked well (at least from my perspective).
Another thing which I haven’t spoken about in earlier reviews is grip. I run primarily on tar, cement and brick roads/pavements and in some of the other shoes that I have, I have been a little tentative especially if the surface was wet. However these really grip the road without having a breaking action, giving you confidence to keep pushing.
If you remember I was concerned about heat build-up especially due to the nature of the insole. Well I haven’t had any problems with this but then the weather too has been much cooler during the review runs. The shoe doesn’t seem to be as breathable and as cool as my Kinvara (I can actually feel the breeze through them when I run!) but it is still significantly cooler than the Reebok ONE Cushion.
I was also concerned about the harder heel and the stiffer support in the heel cup however when I run I don’t feel or think about these at all. I think I know why they are there but once again I ask for your patience since I will come back to this in part 3 of the review.
Breaking-in a New Shoe
If you ask most experts if a running shoe needs to be “broken-in” for fit and feel they will say they DON’T need to be. In fact they say pretty emphatically that the new shoe should feel great right from day one. I completely agree with both these views. However there is a slight caveat to this that I learnt the “hard” way.
My second run in the RealFlex Run 2.0 is an 18k on the very next day after my first one in them. I start with the usual routine, feeling quite fresh and alert. I do the first 2k and have started pushing the speed (this shoe makes you do that !) when suddenly my foot seems to catch on something and I am sprawled face down on the road. For the tiniest moment I just lay still trying to assess the damage, then get up and sit down on the kerb to make sure there are no major injuries. Lots of cuts and bruises but surprisingly doesn’t seem to be any major injuries. What seemed to have saved me was my water bottle which was in my hand and landed first when I fell down – the deep lacerations on the plastic bottle reminds me of what could have happened. Anyway get up and complete the balance 16k very very strongly in spite of now being cautious – I guess a fall triggers all your survival mechanisms, pain suppression centers and adrenaline !
When I come back from the run I am still trying to figure out why I fell, especially since I was alert and feeling strong when I started. Then I remember that the day before when I had first used the shoe I had almost tripped a couple of times while still walking! What was going on? Later in the day I get a mail from Reebok informing me that the shoes heel-to-toe drop is 8mm. That is when the brain starts whirring. If you remember from part 1 of the review I didn’t have this information for the first two runs. Secondly my other regular shoes (both the Kinvara 3 and the Free 3.0) have a heel-to-toe drop of just 4mm.
Mystery solved? I think so. Go up a few paragraphs where I say that when I first used these shoes I actually felt like I was wearing my regular, well used shoes. First that was not the case; the heel-to-toe drop was significantly higher, in fact double. Second I wasn’t aware of this difference; and third the shoe never felt like I was using an 8mm drop shoe (why this was so is still a mystery to me !)
Now here is what I think happened – every runner lifts his foot while running (some more than others). The lift is also dependent on the feel of the shoe. A taller shoe would automatically make you lift higher, similarly a higher drop shoe would also need to be lifted higher to avoid potential obstacles. Since I had been running in 4mm drop shoes I had been used to lifting my foot very little to get over potential bumps. When I wore the RealFlex Run 2.0, not conscious of the change in drop & height, my mind was still sending the same signals to my legs and feet, causing me to raise the foot exactly as before. So even the slightest bit of undulation in the road (which I should have just glided over with my other shoes) became a big bump – and bang I was flat on the road !
There are a couple of lessons here – First know your shoes, both the old one and the new one. If the new one is significantly different then the old one (and even if not) make sure you consciously focus on this and make the adjustments necessary to adapt to the new shoe – else you might end up with injury. After a few conscious runs you should gradually move to a zone of unconscious adjustment whenever you wear these shoes especially if you tend to rotate your running between two or more shoes (as I do). In my case this happened after the 4 or 5 run in these but I think this would also depend on how many kms you put in as well.
By now you must have figured out (you don’t need to be Einstein for this ) that I have really liked the RealFlex Run 2.0. It has seamlessly worked for me (discounting the fall that humpty dumpty had !) and it has indeed now replaced my worn down Nike Free 4.0 as my preferred training shoe (still trying to keep a low mileage on the Kinvara 3 and the Nike Free 3.0 for actual races).
The shoe is fairly minimalist in design philosophy (light and thin upper, low weight, reasonably flexible, highly responsive, etc) yet has some interesting characteristics like the great cushioning, the higher heel-to-toe drop, the taller height in general and the comparably less flexibility than the Frees which makes it different from the traditional minimalist shoes. If I have to compare it to the shoes I have it feels almost like a cross between the Kinvara 3 and Nike Free 4.0.
I don’t really have any negative comments on these shoes. But if I were to nitpick it would be to ask Reebok to make the insoles more breathable.
That concludes the meat of the review. Watch out for the final post on these shoes where I will try to answer the question – “Is the RealFlex Run 2.0 for you?”
WIN A SHOE AND ALSO MAKE A SOCIAL CONTRIBUTION
Sometime back I had reviewed the Reebok ONE Cushion. If you have not read that review then do go back to my October & November posts and read them. For those of you who have already read it you would remember that due to my running style I personally will not be using that shoe.
Instead of letting the almost brand new shoe (run only 44 km in it) just sit in my closet I have decided to put it to some good use.
I am auctioning this shoe with the entire proceeds from the auction going to the charity – “Handicapped Children’s Rehabilitation Association” (HCRA – http://www.hcra.org.in) a registered charity which I have been supporting for several years. The shoe is a men’s size US 11/UK 10 (photo & colour as below). If you win the bid for the shoe there are multiple benefits – First you get an opportunity to get the shoe at less than its MRP of Rs. 8,999 (if no one bids higher); second you contribute to a good cause and third you get 50% income tax rebate u/s section 80G (the charity will give you a receipt).
Here are the rules. Please read them carefully before bidding.
- This will be a bid (and lottery if required) based auction.
- A person can make a bid of any amount of Rs. 6,000 (minimum bid) or a higher amount in multiples of Rs. 250.
- If you are the highest bidder for the shoe you will automatically win it. If there are multiple bids at the same amount then your name will go into a lottery.
- You can make a bid by going to the comments section below and mentioning your amount and name. You can make as many bids as you want during the bidding period however subsequent bids have to be equal to or higher than the last bid made.
- Bidding period will be from today till 2pm on the 30th Nov Saturday
- If required a lottery will be drawn in the second half of 30th Nov Saturday and winner will be announced on various FB groups and my blog by the 30th November Sunday.
- The bid winner will have to send me a bank draft/pay order in favour of “Handicapped Children’s Rehabilitation Association” within 7 days of intimation from me. The shoe will be shipped to the bid winner after receipt of the same.
- In case the winner does not send the bid amount to me within 7 days. The next bid will win or a new name will be drawn from the lottery.
- Formal receipt from H.C.R.A. (to allow tax deduction u/s 80G) will also be sent to the winner.
- Bidding is open only to people resident in India and who have an India shipping address.
- No implied or expressed warranties for the product. Please bid entirely at your own risk.
- I reserve the right to amend these terms (if absolutely needed to) or withdraw/stop the auction (again only under attenuating circumstances).
I hope you will all support this good cause and also try to win this shoe from Reebok.
It’s official I am not a one review wonder !
About three weeks back as I was concluding the review of the Reebok ONE Cushion I came across another running shoe launch in India by Reebok – this time with a very bare-chested and in your face John Abraham showing off the Reebok RealFlex Run 2.0. This shoe looked really interesting – it was being touted as flexible, minimalist and meant for fast running – seeing that I have a closet full of similar shoes I was eager to test this one out and see how it stood up. Out went a mail to the good folks at Reebok and about a week later a box turned up with a US 11/UK 10 size eclectic blue RealFlex Run 2.0 (Photo 1 below).
I was a little foxed as the courier handed me the box, it felt very light and I wondered for a second if by mistake an empty box had been sent to me. My mind settled as I gazed upon another beautiful shoe from Reebok (remember the really nice looking ONE Cushion!). Part of the fun of being a runner these days is all the sexy, flamboyant and flourescent shoes you get to wear and if you are running (pun unintended) into middle age (like me) it’s almost as good as acquiring a Ferrari to tide over the “mid-life crisis” !
The Official Line:
Reebok says that the RealFlex Run 2.0 is “for the consumer looking for the barefoot / minimalist footwear experience, but is not willing to compromise cushioning” and goes on to describe it as “lightweight, 360 degree flexible, functional, cushioned, minimalist, responsive, etc, etc” a lot of adjectives for a running shoe, some of which actually feel contradictory. They also provided me with a photo with all the little its and bits neatly labelled (see Photo 2) ! But I am going to just ignore all those details because I have a load of adjectives to test instead :)
First Impressions Pre-Run & Some facts:
It is uncanny how things turn out – at the end of Part 3 of my review on the Reebok ONE I had made three suggestions and if I didn’t know better I would have thought someone at Reebok had read them and then redesigned that shoe as the RealFlex Run 2.0!
- First I said the shoe needs to lose weight, about 25-30gms. The RealFlex feels really light and in fact I was quite sure that it was as light if not lighter than my Frees and the Kinvara (all below 225gm). I was surprised when I found out the shoe weighed 240gm. Much lighter than the Reebok ONE (at 283gm) but just a tiny bit heavier than the other shoes.
- Second I said the Reebok ONE needs to be more breathable, well this shoe with its significantly less padding in the heel and tongue area definitely looks more breathable and this has contributed to the lessor weight. I hope this would also translate to better heat management (which I will know only after I run in them).
- The third thing which I would have liked to see is a perforated fabric insole but I still see a lot of smooth rubber. I am beginning to think that maybe all Reebok insoles these days are made of rubber on top (unlike the Nikes, Saucony and even Adidas I have used earlier). My problem with this is the heat & sweat management but let’s wait and see how this shoe manages that during runs.
Before moving any further let me address that the all important question “whats the price of the shoe” – well the retail price is Rs. 6,999 which compares well with other similar shoes in the market.
I decide to slip the shoe on and walk around.
- This shoe too feels very roomy and in fact at first I think I have been sent a larger size, I almost pack it back up to send back to Reebok for a smaller size but then decide to compare it with the other shoes. Almost identical, only very marginally bigger – in fact the fit is very similar to my Kinvaras (which are a perfect fit by the way). The Nike Free 3.0 V4 is comparably pretty tight and the foot feels restricted at times. The fit is also very comparable to the Nike Free 4.0 V2
- The heel-to-toe drop, which I actually only get to know after my first run, is 8mm (21mm-13mm). This is a real revelation and surprise for me since when trying it on (and while on the first run later) I couldn’t make out any difference in the way my foot was landing compared to the 4mm heel-to-toe drop for the Kinavara and the 6mm for Free 4.0
- The shoe is indeed flexible – however I think Reebok has over emphasized this since it is nowhere as flexible as the Nike Free 3.0 or Free 4.0 or even the 5.0. But we have to do a few runs to find out whether this makes any difference whatsoever. I remember getting my Kinvaras, which are pretty rigid in comparison, and thinking I bought the wrong shoes – it made no difference and as of now they are actually my race & training “go to” shoes !
- The shoe has a lot of bits and pieces on the top and the side including a different type of lacing system support and side band (called the FitFrame LT) which is claimed to make the shoe very functional and a better fit. Well the only thing I can say is that the shoe felt comfortable and I didn’t have any problems getting the right tension in he lacing nor did I feel any lace pressure on the top.
- The shoe does feel nice under the feet but cushioning and response are best tested on a few runs (you should read my earlier blog to understand cushioning and response in some more detail – here is the link – http://runindiarun.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/review-of-the-reebok-one-cushion-33-wrap-up-shoe-physics-and-recommendations/)
- The comparison photos below were actually taken after I did a few runs in these shoes and once again I was very pleasantly surprised. From the runs and the feel and look the shoe felt & looked very similar in height and construction to the Frees and Kinvara (minimalist) and significantly smaller than the Reebok ONE Cushion – but the side by side comparison had another tale to tell – check out the photos below the RealFlex Run 2.0 is actually as tall as the Reebok ONE Cushion ! Doesn’t feel like that at all !
Reebok made several claims about the shoe and till now (by just observing, wearing and walking around in them) I have been able to confirm that it is indeed lightweight, quite flexible, fits well, feels good under the feet and has a minimalist feel to it overall. For the rest of the test we will have to pound some tar !
The day I got the shoes I had already done a 16k run in the morning otherwise I would have headed out in the shoes for a run right then, I was that excited to get them. Well I did go out the very next day morning and the good news is that I have now already put in 86km in them !
So watch out for the impressions of the RealFlex Run 2.0 from my first run and also for a personal learning and lesson in “breaking-in” new shoes which I learnt the “hard” way !
Till then …
For those of you who have read my blogs I don’t do short ones ;) The problem with that is that sometimes the reader misses out on some important parts.
My concluding post on the Reebok ONE Cushion too was long (read it here – http://runindiarun.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/review-of-the-reebok-one-cushion-33-wrap-up-shoe-physics-and-recommendations/) and I think that some may miss the answer to the question – “Will this Shoe work for me?” So I am doing this post to clarify just that.
Here are the profiles of runners (male) who should seriously evaluate the Reebok ONE Cushion:
First, only a very small percentage of runners run barefoot or in minimalist footwear (Vibrams, etc) or in very low heel to toe drop shoes (Saucony Kinvara, Nike Free, etc with 6mm or less drop). For these runners the Reebok ONE Cushion (or for that matter any similar shoe) would not make sense.
The vast majority of runners though fall into one or more of the following runner types. If you are one or more of these types then you should seriously consider the Reebok ONE Cushion for your next shoe purchase.
Runner Type 1 (used to Cushioned Comfort): You are a runner who is already running in a cushioned shoe with an 8mm or more heel to toe drop. In this case your natural running mechanics are well adapted to this type of shoe and you will find the Reebok ONE Cushion – stylish, comfortable, stable, roomy and with a great construction quality.
Runner Type 2 (Heel to Toe Foot striker): This shoe is designed for people who strike heel first, then move to mid-foot and then toe off and push back. With all the barefoot buzz (and “Born to Run”) most people think that this is the wrong way to run (that’s a load of BS) and therefore most people convince themselves that they are mid-foot or forefoot strikers. Get a gait analysis done (or just ask someone to shoot a video of you running on a treadmill) and you will be surprised. You will also find the Reebok ONE Cushion to be just right for you.
Runner Type 3 (Newbie): You are a newer runner; are looking at a comfortable running shoe; are going to do most of your running on hard surfaces (tar or cement roads and sidewalks) without a lot of consideration at the moment for speed, form, gait, etc. Your running style is still evolving and you are apprehensive about the impact running may have on your legs or you may already have some issues.
Runner Type 4 (Body Weight is 80 kg+): This shoe is already superbly cushioned which is great for protecting your legs especially if you are a heavier runner. The responsiveness of such shoes would increase dramatically as the impact forces increase. I suspect that the body weight sweet spot for this shoe is 80 kg or more for men. Above or around this weight the cushioning should also start giving you great response instead of just pure impact protection.
Runner Type 5 (You are also fast): If you are already on low profile shoes or racing flats then this shoe is not for you. However if you are a lighter runner but run faster (thus generating more impact forces) the shoe will once again start giving you great response instead of cushioning alone. I suspect you will start seeing this if you usually run at a 5.30min/km (8.5min/mile) speed or faster.
Runner Type 6 (High Mileage Road Runner): High mileage on road means a lot of wear and tear of the lower half of the body. Such runners would definitely like the comfort that a shoe like the Reebok ONE Cushion would give.
So that’s it folks. My absolute final comment on these shoes – unless of course there are questions :)
If you are here I hope you have read the previous parts of my review, especially the detailed “first run impressions” written after my first 13km run in the Reebok ONE Cushion. While I was writing that review I had already done two more runs in the Reebok ONE – an 18km medium long run (on a Sunday morning) and a 7km recovery run (on a cooler Saturday noon). I decided to sneak in one more run in the shoes just to refresh my thoughts before writing this down, that was a 6km recovery on last Wednesday evening. So with 44km of running in the Reebok ONE Cushion I am ready to wrap things up. In the preface to this review I had written about a testing protocol which had also included a long (24k +), tempo/LT and some speed work (VO2 Max) runs. I have given those a miss and you will see why further below.
I also have a confession to make – I promised a lesson in “Shoe Physics”, sorry, that’s not going to happen in this review. The simple reason for this is that as I have been writing on that topic it has been taking on a life of its own and growing and growing and growing. So I will do that piece but only as a separate post. In this review I will only use some of the end observations.
But first let’s review those other runs !
18km medium long run:
Started early on Sunday morning with the usual warm-up routine (5 lunges and a partial Myrtl), again the body is very stable as I do this in these shoes. This time I made sure that I had the lacing tightness right and that I didn’t feel pressure on top of my foot. In hind sight, I am not sure why I laced up so tight on the first run – over this year I have moved away from very tight lacing which has allowed my foot some more flexibility inside the shoe and surprisingly & contrary to what one would expect this has worked much better for my black toenails condition than a tightly bound foot. This also solved another problem which I had perceived with this shoe – the humongously long lace – as soon as I got the tension right the lace became very manageable.
As I start the run it is definitely cooler. Wanted to take the socks out of the equation to test the heat build-up in the shoe, so I am wearing my five-toe-socks which are much thinner and feel nice on long runs since my toes can splay out a bit.
To cut a long story short, here are my long run impressions of the Reebok ONE Cushion -
- Shoe was still running fairly hot (although not as hot as on the first run)
- Still feeling heavy (although not initially a problem) from the beginning of the run. However in the last 6 odd kilometres this definitely started bothering me and creating foot drag
- The cushioning was nice to begin with but the drag was a dampener
- Usually on a longish run I am able to accelerate, from time to time, quite easily (to break the monotony) but somehow I was unable to do so on this run, in these shoes
- Today I just don’t feel the “promised” kick
- My heel still wants to go further down on each step which it’s not able to
- I somehow feel disconnected to the road and my run (part of the problem is the over analysis going on in the brain)
In short the run was not very pleasant and the weather which worsened later did not help either.
7km and 6km recovery runs:
The purpose of a recovery run is to help prepare the body for the next key workout (by getting the blood moving through muscles and loosening up tight muscles, tendons & ligaments which are still a little stiff from the last tough run). I usually do these about 30-45 secs/km slower than an aerobic or long run. The recommendation for these runs is to do it on soft ground, to give the legs some relief from “concrete pounding”. Since I usually don’t have “soft ground” around I just do this on the road. In the Reebok ONE, with its excellent cushioning, I was quite sure that the feet would get that relief, and I wasn’t disappointed.
However the heat issues still remained (less so because of the slower speed) and the heaviness still bothered me.
Some Shoe Physics (the detailed one will happen in another post and will also involve some discussion on the Physics of Running):
This is going to be a bit over-simplistic (or not depending on where you’re coming from) for the time being, and I might also clean it up a bit later.
When we run the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the body (specially waist downwards) act like a spring which stores and then releases energy on each stride – essentially converting potential energy into kinetic energy. This “spring” mechanism also helps protect our bones and joints from collapsing/breaking/getting overly damaged with each stride by dampening some of the energy which eventually gets released as heat (principle of “conservation of energy”).
Every person has a different “springiness” (or running mechanics) due to differing physical composition (muscle fibre, flexibility, stiffness, muscle & bone strength, range of motion, etc). An interesting thing is that everyone also seems to have a band within which they can adjust their springiness between applying/releasing force and dampening impact forces – as an example when we run barefoot on a tar road we adjust our running mechanics to more cushioning from impact whereas when we run on sand we adjust it to create more force since the sand provides the cushioning from the impact. We naturally balance the cushioning and force release to run the best and safest we can when we run barefoot.
Theoretically if the mechanism of cushioning is externalised then our running mechanics should be able to create more force per stride and therefore help us run faster. This is exactly what shoes are trying to achieve – provide impact CUSHIONING so that one can then use their own running mechanics purely to generate force.
Every shoe would have a CUSHIONING but also need to be RESPONSIVE (some of you may already be familiar with these terms so pardon the long discourse to explain this). The RESPONSIVENESS is the ability of the shoe to linearly respond to the application of force with forward motion or a change in direction. If you have ever run on sand you would realise that due to the “yielding” nature of sand or what I would like to call “over dampening” the force required to move forward is very large, also increasing the force does not yield the linear RESPONSE we expect, which is to move forward faster.
So CUSHIONING is good but if it results in over-dampening this would mean that some of the force that I actually need to propel myself forward would get lost resulting in low RESPONSIVENESS. These two characteristics are natural behaviours of any elastic material (of what the soles of most shoes are made of ).
Shoe RESPONSE and CUSHION are not absolute numbers – for the same shoe they could vary significantly from person to person depending on -
- The running surface. Running on concrete versus trail versus sand for example.
- The forces acting on the shoe from running mechanics; body weight; speed; etc
Finally every shoe is made with some design parameters which would include some assumptions on variables like running surface, weight, running mechanics, foot strike, speed, etc, etc. I call this the “design sweet spot” for that shoe.
If your running variables (most of the time) match the “design sweet spot”, the shoe will work great for you out of the box. However if they don’t, you will have to significantly adapt your running style overtime or you will suffer!
The holy grail for a shoe manufacturer is to find a sole material which would deliver perfect CUSHIONING and RESPONSIVENESS across a wide range of runner types. As of now all shoes are a compromise between the two unless you fall in the design sweet spot.
Which very nicely now leads me to the conclusion of my review.
Final Verdict and Recommendations:
By now you must have inferred that the REEBOK ONE CUSHION does not work for me. The reason for this is that my running mechanics don’t fall in the design sweet spot for this shoe. This is also the reason the extra testing protocol seemed futile to me.
Does this make it a BAD shoe? Absolutely not, in fact it’s an excellent shoe but for a specific runner type which matches up with its design sweet spot. So what is the design sweet spot for the REEBOK ONE CUSHION – some of the cues for this is already in the messaging the company is sending out the rest is just me trying to speculate.
- Foot-Strike: The profile of the shoe is designed for people who strike heel first, then move to mid-foot and then toe off and push back. With all the barefoot buzz (and “Born to Run”) most people think that this is the wrong way to run (that’s a load of BS) and therefore most people convince themselves that they are mid-foot or forefoot strikers. Get a gait analysis done and you will be surprised.
- Body Weight: The shoe is superbly cushioned which is great for protecting your legs but not always great for moving forward (responsiveness). I suspect that the body weight sweet spot for this shoe is 80 kg or more for men. Above or around this weight the cushioning should start giving you great response instead of just pure impact protection.
- Speed: If you are a lighter runner but run faster (thus generating more impact forces) the shoe will once again start giving you great response instead of cushioning alone. I suspect you will start seeing this if you usually run at a 5.30min/km (8.5min/mile) speed or faster. Remember the kick I felt when doing my striders or when I transitioned from walk to run.
- Current Shoe: If you are already running in a cushioned shoe (with an 8mm or more heel to toe drop) then your natural running mechanics are well adapted to this type of shoe and you will find the Reebok ONE Cushion – stylish, comfortable, stable, roomy and with a great construction quality.
If I did fall in the design sweet spot for this shoe I would still like to see this shoe reduce some weight (about 25-30gms) and dissipate heat build up better. Here are my suggestions for this -
- Reduce the cushioning in the upper of the shoe (weight and better heat removal)
- Use of more breathable material in the toe & tongue area (heat removal and minor weight reduction)
- Use insoles with perforations to allow a bit more of air circulation
So that’s it – the conclusion of my first ever shoe review. Do send me feedback on what you liked/disliked in the writing style and the review itself. I also welcome any questions or clarifications you may want to seek from me.
P.S. I am sure some of you are wondering – so what’s this guy going to do with these shoes as they don’t suit his running mechanics … aha … I have some ideas … keep an eye out for an update on this ;)
The title of this post is a bit misleading, by the time I have sat down to write part 2 of my review on the Reebok ONE Cushion I have already done not one but actually three runs in it with a total distance of 38km. But in this post I will restrict myself to the first run impressions.
For those who have been running regularly the last few weeks, Friday the 13th of September lived up to its reputation! The weather looked like turning invitingly cooler during the day with clouds turning the sky dark by afternoon and even some rain our side of town (East of the Yamuna). All a big deception by the weather gods !
So why am I talking about the weather in a shoe review? Well the simple reason is that in a test you want to keep the variables as low as possible so as to be able to differentiate what is an outcome of the object being tested versus the general environment in which the test is conducted. The hot and humid weather has made that task difficult, especially since I decided to start my first run around 5.30pm on Friday the 13th! Read on…
5.30pm: I am lacing up the Reebok ONE Cushion shoes:
- I am struggling a bit with this. The shoes inner volume seems a tad larger than my regular running shoes (Free 4.0 & Kinvara 3)
- Two eyelets are still unused so I decide to run the lace through the 2nd last one. Still feels a little loose so I tighten up the entire lace pulling as hard as I can. Now there is a bit of pressure building on the upper foot but I think this will settle once I start warming-up.
- Bigger problem, the lace seems to be humongously long – so double knot it, still hanging a little too low for me but hopefully it won’t snag on anything.
- Walk out of the house – 5.40pm’ish shaking my foot and leg around to get the shoe to sit more comfortably. Still feeling the tightness at the top.
5.43pm: Ready to warm-up
I start my runs with a warm-up routine (courtesy Coach Jay Johnson) which includes 5 Lunges (google it for now, I do intend to do a piece on my training routine at some point) plus some hip girdle strengthening and loosening through a partial Myrtl routine (again please query “doc google” on this).
- Walking up to my warm-up spot feels good, the feet are feeling more comfortable and I can feel the deep cushioning along the entire length of my foot unlike any of my other shoes.
- Switch on the Phone GPS (with Endomondo) and start the GPS search on my Timex Run Trainer watch so that I have stable locks on satellites by the time I start my run (why I use both is another story !)
- As I go through the warm-up the shoe feels very stable. When I am warming up in my Free’s I usually feel unstable and am constantly trying to balance myself. With these shoes, my feet feel very planted.
5.55pm ish: I am ready to go
Have the phone and Timex Run Trainer GPS locked and ready to go. I usually start my run with a fast walk & jog of about 300m. As I start walking the shoe is still feeling a little tight on top but the feet feel very comfortable with lots of room inside for them to splay out.
- As I transition into a jog from the walk – Whoa ! I actually feel the kick from the shoe (as described in the marketing stuff that I have read & the videos I have watched). Looks like it’s going to be a really comfortable run :)
- Ok, I am into my run now which is going to be 13k at around 6:15 min/km pace. After about 12k I will do 8 x 100m fast striders (essentially run at about 95% of peak speed with exaggerated hip extensions, arm swings, with shoulders loose & head aligned, helps in fixing postural problems and gets the body used to running correctly when tired).
- The lace is still feeling a little tight on top but I don’t have the patience to stop and try to fix it (will come back to bite me in the rear-end later !).
6.35pm ish: I have covered around half the planned distance
Man, it’s really hot and humid, I was expecting cooler weather after the clouds and some rain around noon ! I have also worn slightly thicker, New Balance, socks today (no specific reason, just usual rotation).
- The shoe is running pretty hot compared to my other shoes. Although the shoe upper fabric looked like it was pretty well ventilated I think the problem is the thick padding around the heel cup & shoe tongue and the thicker sole overall.
- After the initial “kick” at the start I am not feeling the “push-off” from the shoe any more.
- I am also thinking too much about my footwear, over thinking foot landing, gait, etc. Part of this is because I am in research mode but also this is natural when you start using a new shoe which feels different.
- Reached around the 6.5k mark and now turn around for the run back. The run back on this route is always tougher since there is a very slight uphill (about 10-15 degrees) which lasts for about 3 kms but it tests my resilience so I love-hate doing it (as a fellow runner you understand the love-hate concept of doing a run, right ?).
6:50pm ish: About 3 more kms to go
The last few kilometres have been tougher than usual, part of it is weather related. But there is definitely some other stuff going on around my foot.
- I should have really fixed the shoelace, the pressure on the top of the feet is not pleasant (Note to self: Need to fix this next time)
- Feet are still too warm inside, not sure if it’s the weather or the shoe or the sock. Have run in worse weather but don’t remember getting the foot so hot (Note to self – need to wear lighter socks and check this again during the next run).
- Remember, I have just been through the slight uphill section and even though the shoe is only about 70-100gm heavier than my other shoes (Reebok has officially said it is 270gm but they didn’t say for what size. I still think my UK10 is more around 300gm), my feet have been feeling heavier – psychological !?
- I usually run landing around mid-foot, then heel coming down and then push-off. I am still trying to run like that but the higher heel-to-toe drop (Reebok by now has confirmed it is 10mm – 23mm heel and 13mm toe) means my heel is not reaching where it is normally used to getting to (in my 4mm drop shoes), this seems to be causing more feet drag and maybe that’s what’s making the shoe feel heavier?
- Tried changing the foot strike a couple of times to heel first but just can’t make that work for me.
7:10pm ish: Finished around 11.5k now ready for the 8 x 100m striders
Really wondering if I have energy left for the striders – but I always like to “Finish What I Start” so park the water bottle on a fence post and am ready to belt out those back and forth 100m sprints with about 100m walk intervals in-between.
- Whoa ! and another Whoa ! The “kick” has kicked in again and the striders which are normally brutal on the legs after a 12k feel very very comfortable (now the engineering brain is starting to purr, trying to figure this out. Do read about my “shoe physics” and some theorizing when I conclude my review, but meanwhile try to come up with some explanations/comments of your own on this so we can compare notes).
- So even though the middle part of the run felt a little uncomfortable I finish on a high, which is always a great feeling and motivator for the next run !
7:30pm ish: Run over now cooling down with a full Myrtl routine and some Active Isolated Stretches
Well folks, that concludes my first run impressions in the Reebok ONE Cushion.
Since then I have done two more runs in these shoes – an 18k medium long run and a 7k recovery run. I will cover these briefly in the last & concluding part of my review. Also don’t miss my theorizing on “shoe physics” and my recommendations on the Reebok ONE Cushion.
Till then …. RunIndiaRun !
P.S. I have tried to do this part of the review in a narrative, story style. Let me know if you liked this or you would prefer to just get everything straight up next time. As always would love to hear from you.
(You might want to read the preface to this post first to figure out whats going on – http://runindiarun.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/my-first-shoe-review-reebok-one-cushion-preface/ )
Some Background First:
My reviews will be about “neutral” running shoes with high, moderate and at times no cushioning. Before I start, some confessions/facts to help you put things in perspective – I am a runner who is moderately overweight (5ft7in; 68kg); completely flat-footed; a mid-foot striker (however the soles of my shoes also show significant wear near the back of the heel). I run 45-55km per week in non-running season which goes up to 70-90km in the few months before a race (usually September – January). My best race times are 10k-50m31s; HM-1h53m5s and FM-4h19m12s. Almost all my running is on tarmac or concrete roads and sidewalks. Since mid-2010 I have been mostly running in “minimalist footwear” from the Nike Free series (although some would debate whether the Nike Free is truly minimalist). I have also put significant kilometres in the Vibram Bikila (about 600k) and done some mileage barefoot (probably less than 50k a few years ago). I currently use a Nike Free 4.0, a Saucony Kinvara 3, and a Nike Free 3.0 in that order of mileage. So my basis for comparison will be these shoes.
Finally, shoes are a very personal choice therefore in these reviews I have no intention of commenting on what type of shoe you should be wearing (stability, cushion, motion control, rigid, flexible, etc) or if you should be wearing shoes at all !
Here are some pictures of my shoe collection including my dress shoe for some visual comparison.
The Official Line:
So what’s the big deal about yet another running shoe ? Below is what Reebok has to say about the Reebok ONE series which has been launched in two versions, the neutral running “Cushion” (being reviewed) and the “Glide” (not being reviewed) meant for mild to moderate overpronators.
“The Reebok One Series is the introduction of a unique running concept based on a function-first design philosophy– featuring technology you can feel. Built from back to front instead of the standard bottom-up method, the Reebok One Series features ‘Zoned’ technology that mimics the way the foot moves, meeting the demands of the runner through each phase of the Gait Cycle. The goal of the Reebok One Series is to give the runner the smoothest ride possible. A new seamless fusion of zones is engineered to ensure the upper and bottom work harmoniously as one system.
The state-of-the-art technology in the One Series features 3 distinct zones that complement the runner’s needs at each phase of their gait. Zone 1 is the Contact Zone – featuring a soft foam compound that provides shock attenuation with every stride. Zone 2 is the Midstance Zone – engineered to provide a smooth mid foot transition. Zone 3 is the Propulsive Zone – featuring an ultra-responsive high rebound foam compound to help propel the runner forward during toe-off.”
First Impressions Pre-Run:
Out of the box here were the first impressions and comparisons -
- First the price, the MRP is Rs. 8,999. Definitely seems more expensive than the minimals (Rs. 6,000 – 7500) but I know for a fact that Nike has running shoes which go north of Rs. 10,000.
- Visually very appealing. I received the flourescent green and electric blue combination which looks great
- “CUSHION” is an apt name for this shoe – the sole, the upper, the heel cup all look, feel and are signficantly “cushioned”.
- Shoe felt bigger then most of my other shoes and I was concerned if this was going to be too large for me. If you look at Photo 1 above, although marginally “longer” versus the minimalist collection, it compared well with the Lunarglide (which incidentally is a half-size smaller). However the real difference was visible in the side profiles (Photos 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 below) – even if one discounts the thicker sole the shoe upper is definitely taller than all the shoes in my collection.
- The sole too was definitely much thicker then all the minimals (Free 3.0, 4.0 – Photo 5 & 3) but was comparable to the Lunarglide (Photo 2).
- Although I couldn’t get the official weight of the shoe, I did some research. This weighs in around 283gm v/s the Nike Free 3.0 around 204gm v/s the Nike Free 4.0 around 215gm v/s the Kinvara 3 around 225gm. With a thicker sole and the upper cushioning this is not surprising.
- The sole of this shoe is significantly more rigid and harder than the other shoes. The Frees are of course highly flexible; the Kinvara 3 less so and the Lunarglide+ almost as hard as the Reebok ONE Cushion.
- The upper of the shoe is also quite stiff even more stiffer than the Lunarglide+ and I think this “stand-up-ness” contributes to the shoe looking really tall. The Frees, the Kinvara and of course the Vibram have extremely pliable uppers, to an extent that they tend to settle/sag down on themselves. Not the Reebok ONE which stands at attention!
- Heel-to-toe drop is another thing which I was trying to determine for these shoes. In spite of trying my best I could get the numbers for the Reebok ONE Cushion. I also don’t have the tools which would have allowed me to do the measurement myself. However a very rough measurement puts it in the 15-20mm range which is way higher than 4mm for the Free 3.0 and the Kinvara 3; 6mm for the Free 4.0 and 0mm for the Vibrams !
Hope you enjoyed the preliminary report. Please do give me your feedback below.
While I was writing this report I also completed two runs in the Reebok ONE Cushion – first on the evening of Friday the 13th Sept (ominous!) – a 13km Aerobic run with 8 x 100m striders at the end; and the second today morning, Sunday the 15th Sept – an 18km Medium Long run. Watch out for the first run report in the next few days.
I always knew my running was taking me places (literally !) and I have enjoyed expressing my views on everything and anything related to running on various facebook groups/page; email groups and here on my running blog but that was about it, well until a few weeks ago when I got an email first from Reebok India and then another shoe company (which will remain unnamed for the time being) expressing interest in associating with me and my running blog. Sounded interesting but sometimes these things just remain that – interests. Well today I received a pair of Reebok ONE Cushion shoes which have just been launched by Reebok in India with a request to put them through the grind and then review them on my blog.
Will this be a one test wonder? I don’t know but the engineer in me decided to set-up a shoe test protocol just in case. So here is what those that are interested can expect in the next few weeks -
- First just some stock photos (below) & a video
- Next will be an initial pre-run review with primarily stock stuff from the company and maybe some comparative photos with my other footwear (Nike Free 3.0, 4.0 & 5.0; Vibram Bikilas; Saucony Kinvara 3 and yes, my dress shoes – a pair of Hush Puppies!)
- Watch out for the first run impressions from a 13k with 8x100m strides that I have planned for tomorrow
- I will then start putting the shoes through various type of runs over a few weeks & miles – recovery, aerobic, medium long (18k-24k), long (24k +), tempo/LT and some speed work (VO2 Max runs)
- Finally will do a wrap up review and hopefully be able to give you some recommendations.
Wish me luck for stepping into the unknown and do have a look at the review as it happens
Disclaimer: I get to keep the shoes after the review. No other monetary gain.
First the great news, humidity on 20th Jan 2013 is forecasted to be around 55% at start and will go down to about 50% around 10-11am. This means that the body’s natural cooling mechanism of sweat evaporating from the skin surface will be functioning well. The other ok news is the lower temperature forecast of around 22C at start but rising to 25C around 10-11am (the lowest being 21C around 8am). To most this temperature may sound really good but as you run you will soon find your body core temperature rising significantly especially if you are pushing your pace.
One of the best strategies for managing heat is to acclimatise to it. For most runners coming from warmer zones (and of course Mumbai runners) this is already taken care of. However for people coming from colder zones (like North India) this is a big issue since most training has been done in brutally cold weather. Although it is a little late, if you go out for runs over the next few days, do them during late morning/noon when the sun is out and temperature is warmer.
Here are some steps you can take to help manage the heat irrespective of how acclimatised (or not) you are -
- Although coffee is a good stimulant but it will also cause an increase in body temperature. So if you don’t really need your morning boost, avoid it.
- Try to wear the minimum possible clothing and make sure it is breathable (dri-fit/coolmax/play-dri etc). Running singlets are strongly advised. The same goes with lowers, shorts are good. The logic is to expose as much skin to allow a larger area for evaporative cooling. If you are worried about “losing your fairness” then probably you have chosen the wrong sport :)
- Avoid any sort of compressive clothing or form fitted clothing. Slightly loose clothing is recommended. This will prevent sweat from getting trapped between the skin and cloth. The looser clothing allows air to circulate between the skin and clothes.
- Also ensure that the upper is white or of a lighter colour so that it reflects heat. Avoid black, it’s a heat magnet !
- The body tends to lose a lot of heat through the head. Even a very efficient dri-fit running cap will interfere with this. However some eye/face protection may be required – either use running sunglasses or use a visor only cap (which leaves the head exposed).
- If you have been having anti-inflammatory medicines (crocin/brufen etc) or plan to use them before or during the race – please be advised that they can interfere with the body’s ability to retain sodium. My advice is to refrain from such medicine at least 3-4 days before the event. DO CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE DISCONTINUING ANY MEDICINES.
- Start building on your hydration reserves at least 2 days before the event. Either use a ready-made drink like gatorade/enerzal on the 18th and 19th (about 1.5 litres each day + plain water) or make your own drink (50:50 diluted sugar-free juice with a pinch of salt added).
- Continue hydration (gatorade or homemade mix) on race morning till about 1 hour before start. Let the excess fluid drain through the system and then start hydrating again about 10min before start.
DURING THE RACE:
- Consume about 600-700ml fluid for each hour of running. Either a gel/water combo or a gatorade/enerzal mix.
- Pour water over your head and down your back at water stations. This year there will be water sponges also available, use them over your head, face, legs, etc.
- Look for shade and try to run under it as much as possible along the route.
- If you find the heat really unbearable make adjustments to your pace, since the faster you try to run the faster the heat will build up.