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Review of the Reebok ONE Cushion (3/3) – Wrap-up, Shoe Physics and Recommendations

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.

Till then…



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 😉

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