Much remains to be said about that super cool urban sports brand, Adidas, which was somehow a latecomer on the running scene in India. Never mind the fact that they are behind some of the most formidable athletes and football teams (cricket too but I don’t care much for the game really) and yet in India, their running prowess has remained rather undermined.
I too didn’t know much about their range save for when they launched something called the ‘Boost’ a few years back and I got my hands on a jet black pair which oddly enough reminded me a lot of another running brand. The cushioning was more than ample, the grip firm yet yielding, and I enjoyed my runs in them, save for the fact that they fit tighter than similar sizes from other brands.
And then they somewhat faded into obscurity. relegated to the areas of my running cupboard from where things make rare comebacks. Till recently when I not only got to meet the team but also apprised myself of the range of running shoes that Adidas had launched since. In short, there were more than 2 dozen shoes and although all had the ‘Boost’ technology in some manner, they were entirely different from each other, with every style designed for a specific type of run. Here is my take on three of them.
But before I launch into shoe specifics, a bit about Boost. This is a proprietary foam which the brand has developed with BASF and the firm-yet-cushioning properties of this material are exemplary, or so the company believes, so much so that most new models incorporate a little or lot of this. The difference is in the thickness, the way it is applied (toe, heel, both) and the uppers it is used in tandem with.
Adidas Ultra Boost: This is the running-on-a-bouncy-castle shoe. For those who are scared of injuries and knee-related issues, you couldn’t be more softly cushioned than in this pair. The Boost foam runs the length of the shoe, always generously layered, keeping a safe distance between you and the ground. The top is a close-fitting knitted sock with reinforcements to hold the laces. Overall, the shoe shows grip and comfort unparalleled. The fit is definitely snug but not constricting. The lacing is perhaps among the finest I have seen and holds well even through long runs. It is not a trail shoe so the grip although adequate for urban use, does wobble a bit when one goes off-track. finally, if there was one thing that I may not have entirely liked about the shoe it is that the excess cushion does take away some speed and control at high speed. So while it is nowhere near sluggish, it won’t be my shoe of choice of clocking my fastest 5k. That said, it is my favourite training shoe for long runs, especially when am running on tarmac or other hard surfaces. But all these knitted upper shoes not only get dirty, if it rains the slightest then the dirt gets down into your socks and shoes too. And then they need a good tumble in the machine (or a gentle hand-wash if you prefer) to get them back to presentable. I love the neon green uppers (was totally my colour for the season) but they definitely need their share of maintenance. PROS: Lovely cushion, great comfort, snug fit CONS: Some loss of speed.
Adidas Climachill Cosmic Boost: A step up from the Ultra Boost is the Cosmic Boost with a roughly 8m heel-to-toe drop. This shoe currently has the most attractive colour-blocked options on the market. It also feels like it rides relatively higher around the ankle area so once laced in, the grip is substantial. Unlike the other Boosts, this shoe only has the Boost technology in the front half, the rear being a stretchweb rubber material. The overall effect is that the shoe transitions really well, from an impactful heel landing to a gentle roll unto toe-off. The Climachill ensures the feet stay cool and the knit uppers help with the circulation. Their is a small vertical groove running through the middle of the shoe insole right below the arch; the company claims this is to facilitate better airing but frankly, to me it was like an itch that doesn’t go away. I couldn’t help but feel that there was a stone in my shoe and the feeling lasted for entire runs. This perhaps is what made me not like the shoe as much but outside of that, this is a great middle-of-the-path shoe, one that provides ample cushioning and yet great control and speed. It also fared well at my last 25k trail run. PROS: Super attractive, Lovely mix of control and cushion, versatile trainer CONS: Insole groove is a nuisance.
Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2: This is Adidas’ take on the old school run-flat style of shoes. Fairly light with a lean drop and a firm cushion, this is my go-to shoe for days when I just want to go fast. The infusion of Boost makes it a lot more forgiving than traditional EVA soles so it doubles up great as a long run shoe. Otherwise, for most parts, it remains a minimalist shoe without risking safety and shoe comfort. The mid-sole stiffness (Adidas famed Torsion system) improves energy transference, thereby making for a great return in every strike and every stride. This is where many a running brand parts ways as some believe that a sole should be utterly flexible whereas many wish for some stiffness to reduce the loss of energy thereby building up to a springy toe-off. I find myself preferring the latter so this shoe with its stiff middle sits well with me. The sole uses “Continental” (of tyre fame) rubber and that really comes in to play when rounding corners at a near-sprint without any loss of speed or form. The uppers are very classic in appearance (suede leather-like) but revisited with new-age materials that give it flexibility and also some hydrophobic advantage. The shoe runs low so do not expect a superior hug around the ankle area. It is definitely not you shoe for trails or anything off-piste but when it comes to grip, speed, spring, and control, few shoes can burn up tarmac like this one. PROS: Super shoe for speed and grip, great control CONS: None really; just a caveat: not a beginner running shoe.
And if that wasn’t jargon enough, here’s a list of some other terms that Adidas employs and what they mean. In many cases, the differences are tiny and not even the trained runners can tell what works better till they have tried it for a good 50 kms or so. (All the shoes, by the way, I have written about above were run in for a minimum of a 100 kms before being summed up here.)
So which Boost is for you? Don’t worry, in the weeks to come am possibly going to add a couple more versions. If variety is the spice of life, prepare for one flavourful season…
Nike, the brand that pretty much created the concept of the running shoe, finally came around to saying that maybe it’s better barefoot. But to up and rubbish the idea of running shoes in its entirely wouldn’t have worked; it would amount to saying that all that you have believed in so far was wrong.
But before anybody thinks I am out to get Nike, I am not. For one, I have barely had this shoe for a while and have found a lot to love about it. That settled, let me get back to where I was.
So, for long, running shoes have come with cushions and gels, foams and rubber pads, multiple densities, various zones depending on impact and recoil, and more such technical malarkey. Some of it was relevant, some pure marketing. And this isn’t just Nike, everyone had been quick to jump on to the bandwagon.
But then this book happened, ‘Born to Run’ where the author, Christopher McDouggall spoke about how he went from being a sluggish runner with aches and pains to this ultra-running machine, all by going barefoot. But more than just a one-man narrative he backed it up with data and quotes, not to mention the astonishing feats of the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico who not only run barefoot but can also run endless. Their average race could last over a day and cover over 200 miles!
Now that sounds convincing enough. And it did manage to convince more than a few people in recent years to chuck the running shoe and go barefoot. So far so good. Nike saw potential and instead of dissing the whole idea went back to the R&D table and launched the Free series.
Free is constantly being upgraded and this year they have versions 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 – the cushioning increases with the numbers as also the drop (i.e. difference between heel and toe height). If you have no idea what barefoot running entails, go for 5.0, if you have been clocking miles on grass and dirt with nothing but your soles, you will enjoy 3.0. That said ,if you are curious about barefoot-ing it but have never tried it before, go for the 4.0, that way you get an idea without hurting yourself. The 5.0 are too close to standard running shoes. The ones reviewed here are the 3.0 the closest to barefoot running you will ever get, without well umm, being barefoot.
That said, I am admittedly not a dedicated barefoot-er so my gait and stance were never meant for such shoes. And yet, without feeling much of a change to my stance I was able to shave off a good few seconds from my runs. So either I don’t have a specific stance or else I am adaptably amphibian like that.
But if you are not used to the feeling, then you might injure yourself with a heel-first strike; won’t happen instantly but the chances with each step would be higher. So don’t just get these out of the box and go on a long run as normal. Test the waters with shorter distances, and try them slower than your usual pace.
The uppers on this shoe are basically a sock, a lightweight Flyknit sock. I loved it, for not only does it manage to be firm and pliable at the same time, they are a cinch to pull on and in a recent triathlon event, they helped shave a good few precious seconds off the transition clock. You don’t necessarily need socks with these but keep running like that and the shoe may soon smell like a dirty old one!
The sole is a hexagonal interlocking pattern with deep grooves that allow each arc of the cells to move independently and in multiple directions. Mathematically speaking that is a lot of possible permutations for lateral movement but what it really translates to while running is that the sole relays the landing sensations to the body by mimicking the way a bare foot would have landed on the same surface. So big up for responsiveness even if it means heightened susceptibility to sprains and jerks. But gradually, one finds, that, as you learn to land with these, muscles and intuition take over and you start landing softer and in more measured a manner.
Clearly this is not a shoe for the first-timer or weekend leisure runner. None of the benefits to be had from this pair are short-term. Keep going and go slow and you shall soon unbox their potential. Go fast and it’s a one way ticket to the physiotherapy clinic.
PROs: super-light, comfortable, responsive
CONs: stance-specific, low on support, uppers get dirty easily
Everyone knows that when it comes to sunglasses Oakleys are quite the definitive brand. They are big on the sports and performance scene, provide all sorts of frames, lenses and coatings, and other gear to keep you visually at an advantage. Mind you they are not the only brand on the international scene (Rudy Project, Smith Optics, Tifosi, Julbo, Ryder, Bliz, Kaenon, and so on) but they do manage a good balance between performance and commercially popular. Also, they are the only ones you will find in India and their range is not at all lacking so you’d be fine with these.
But, like performance sunglasses, they aren’t cheap. What else would you expect from a sunglass brand that delivers you functionality and practicality as also all the technical capabilities that you didn’t even know you can or should expect from sunglasses?!
Here are a few features (the ones I remember that is, for am too lazy to pull out the press kit, or even google it for that matter):
1. They are incredibly light and the rubber grips help keep them in place without any pinch even as you bob up and down. I have worn mine for a good few hours and never experienced any pain. A small dent on the nose (as also on the sides of your head) however is inevitable. And the marks on the sides of my head were only noticed in my case on account of my bald head.
2. The water-repellent lenses keep sweat at bay and even when you a few drops do splatter on them, they disperse quickly without smudging. I do hope this coating doesn’t come off easily.
3. Small vents on the sides help with
air-flow so as to prevent fogging. The general aerodynamic design as it helps in this regard and although you won’t feel any special draft hitting you through the tiny slits on the lenses, just know that they are doing their job.
4. The polarised lenses are great and came in extremely handy when running in white deserts which stretched on for miles in every direction. With no mirages to distract, and cutting out all the glare off the surface, they helped in the, pun intended, long run.
5. Oh, the best part, the lens is one contiguous piece of plastic (I know, that didn’t sound very complementary but praise and prose aside…) and it can be removed very easily with a simple Switchlock® pull, click, and lock mechanism. You can replace this with another lens which comfortably snaps into place. Why would you need to do that? Well maybe not in the middle of a race but say if conditions were to turn, on the same run or on two separate occasions, all it would take is a simple manoeuvre to switch from a dark shade to a light tint lens, something that is more suited for the time of day and lighting conditions.
6. The half-rim design supposedly provides an unobstructed view on the lower half but I don’t know how pertinent or useful that might be. So far I have used normal glares and glasses and any stumbles that I have had are nowhere more frequent that one may attribute to my general clumsiness.
7. The advantage of the half rim that I can easily acknowledge is that you can have shape options for the bottom half. So you have Path® and Pitch® where the former is a slightly leaner cut whereas the latter provides more umbrage.
8. HDO® or High Density Optics is how Oakley defines their line of lenses which provide the best of their engineering prowess (clarity, impact resistance, et al) in one transparent (OK, translucent) piece of plastic.
I would love to get my hands on the photochromic lens which would be a great addition to the pair I already have. But choice is always consuming so for now, I think I will manage just fine with the set I already have.
Going ahead, it would be fun to see if they can create more frame shapes that can take these lenses or, alternatively, do something that can make this rather sporty pair convert into something more conducive for urban wear. Now that would be straddling it all. It also goes to show that no matter how intense and serious a brand gets with its product, we the lazy consumers will still expect more.
PS. I really enjoyed putting in all the ® throughout this piece. To use current parlance; it was definitely “trending” on my mind.