A couple of weeks back a huge packet arrived from Puma. I was a bit surprised since I didn’t remember ordering anything. Removing the wrapping revealed a large purple & blue box (interest was piqued). On opening the box I was pleasantly surprised to find a pair of purple shoes – the Puma Ignite! It was then that I recalled the casual emails a few weeks back from the Puma PR folks wanting to update their database with some of my stats and coordinates – cheeky folk!
I had been hearing of the Ignite for the past several weeks especially since Puma had been organizing events all over the world to launch the shoe (I couldn’t attend the #igniteDelhi event). Was really excited to get to try out these shoes, unfortunately I have been nursing a right knee issues for some time and I was in the middle of what would turn out to be an 8 week hiatus from running. So eager though I was to run in these I had to hold myself back.
First the Official Line
For those who are keen, here is the official description of the shoes –
IGNITE features a superior cushioning material that disperses impact forces while providing optimal responsiveness and energy return to make you faster. Our unique PU foam formula offers high rebound and ultimate comfort where you need it the most. ForEverFoam is integrated in the heel to provide durability for long-lasting performance. The shoe’s minimal upper design offers lightweight flexibility and an incredibly comfortable fit.
- Flexible AirMesh upper with seamless overlays
- Soft, ultra-thin suede tongue for more comfort
- Molded EVA sockliner hugs the arch
- IGNITE Foam midsole for high-rebound cushioning
- Chevron flex grooves for increased energy return
- ForEverFoam at heel for optimal durability
- Flexibility through forefoot flex grooves
- Transition Line mimics the natural gait pattern
- Smoother toe-off for a fluid ride
- EverTrack for durability in high-wear areas
Lot of words – most of which I tend to ignore 🙂 !
Essentially this is a neutral running shoe which is touted to make you run faster. With the fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt officially promoting it – you can’t miss that message!
Visual and Tactile Impressions
A few things hit me immediately, the shoe looks really small for a UK9/US10; and the colour combination of purple with a fluorescent orange sole seems really over the top (and I’ve worn some crazy colours, including parrot green!).
My dress shoe size is a UK8/US9. For most of my running I have been either using a UK9.5/US10.5 or UK10/US11. This sizing has worked well for me with Nike, Reebok and Saucony. The Skechers GoRun2 ran really large and a UK9/US10 worked really well with room to spare. Considering that the Ignite was a UK9 I am concerned it wouldn’t fit me.
Anyway I decided to leave them in the box for a few more days while I complete my 8 weeks of resting the knee, so more on colour and size later. But before all that some basics for the shoe –
Price: Rs.8,999 (this is getting into expensive territory but comparable to shoes from the competition except Skechers which is more aggressively priced). For me price per se is very important but one has to factor in the durability of the shoe. This is where Skechers had a problem, priced very aggressively but the usable-running-life seems less than half of the competition especially if you are running a lot on tar/concrete.
Weight: The shoe felt really light in the hand so I was surprised that it weighed in at around 272gm for a size 9. Still the weight is in, what I consider a good zone for most runners.
Heel-to-Toe drop: Visually this looked pretty aggressive to me, but again was surprised that it was 12mm. After using several types of footwear (including barefoot & Vibrams) I’ve come to the conclusion that a 12mm drop is actually good for most runners.
Flexibility/Flexion: The shoe is definitely stiffer than some of the other shoes in my arsenal like the Nike Free, Reebok Realflex and Skechers GoRun2. It even feels marginally stiffer than the Saucony Kinvara (which itself is fairly stiff). But I have seen with experience that this too is not a bad thing as a stiffer shoe tends to be more responsive.
Upper: The shoe upper seems fairly structured like the Reebok Realflex but not over the top like the Reebok One. The Nike Free, Skechers GoRun2 and Saucony are more minimalist.
Shoe Shape: The shape is more straight than curved (look at the sole of the shoe and the curve from heel to toe). Puma seems to have decided that their running shoes would have a straighter shape – case in point the whole FAAS series and even the Mobium Elite. Once again, not a bad thing for a neutral shoe.
Sole: The sole looks solid and even the rubbery bits look and feel pretty durable.
Tongue: This is pretty rubbery & soft and should provide good protection from pressure from tight laces at the top. The laces themselves are pretty long and if you don’t use the heel-lock-eyelets at the top you may need to do a double bow tie to keep from stepping on them.
Impressions on the Foot
About 7 days into receiving the Ignite I couldn’t hold myself back any longer and decided to take them for a short spin (mostly because I was coming back from a long running break).
As I take them out of the box I am pretty sure there are going to be small for my feet. Surprise surprise, they are actually very roomy in the toe area with a very good fit in the heel and mid-foot. In fact I am now concerned they may actually be too big for me! Now here is the contradiction – they still look pretty lean on my foot compared to the other shoes I have, including the Nike Free!
After using these shoes for a few runs – my recommendation is to not oversize them and maybe even go with your true size (dress shoe size). If you engage the heel lock lacing (Google that) with your true size you will also likely have some space left in the front for foot expansion which invariably happens over a longish run.
Two other comments with the shoe on the foot – the colour combination of purple and orange actually looks pretty good and in fact might be part of the reason for the shoe looking smaller and slimmer.
The second is the weight; it actually feels quite light on the foot. A walk to my warm-up area feels routinely normal and I am not thinking about the shoe at all. Normal is a great thing when it comes to new shoes!
I said earlier that Usain Bolt was promoting these shoes, as a long distance runner that’s a mixed message for me – is the Puma Ignite a long distance running shoe or are they good only for shorter runs? I am not going to get the answer to this on my short comeback run but this is the questions on my mind as I start my first run in them.
Watch-out for the second part of the review when I’ll talk about my experience running in the Ignite. And do leave your comments below and also let me know if you want to know something more about these shoes.
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 – https://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 😉