An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Altra Samson and NB Minimus Road Zero

This past weekend, I had a chance to visit several running stores, from large to small, chain stores to sole proprietorships.

We were delivering flyers for the up-coming Lucky Cause Sports events in April and May, and in each location I looked at the shoes offered, with my eye specifically on the New Balance Road Minimus Zero 2E. And surprisingly (or maybe not), all but one store sis not have the wide offering.

Road Runner Sports, in Kent, WA, had the Zero's, but not in wide (at least this time the guy in the store didn't try to tell me that New Balance doesn't make a wide in that model), as did The Balanced Athlete in Renton, and
Plateau Runner in Sammamish. I did get some running shorts at Plateau Runner -- bowing to my wife's sense of fashion, and desire that I NOT run in my tri shorts. Brooks 2-in-1 provided just the ticket, at a lower price point than everything else I've seen to date.

Our final stop was the Born to Run Store in Bellevue. There I got a chance to try on the Minimus Road Zero in the 2E width, as well as the Altra Samson (!!), side by side.

I really liked both shoes, but for different reasons. I had one on each foot, the Samson on my left, the Road Zero on my right.

Having walked into the store in my New Balance 737 (Minimus Trainer) 2E width, a Christmas gift from my wife, I was surprised to feel that the Road Zero toe box felt a little narrow. Going up a half size might have remedied that, or taking my socks off (taboo in the store). I did like the feel of the sole/midsole -- very natural. Nothing felt like it was in the way there. I liked the construction of the upper and tongue -- the upper simply wraps under the laces from the medial side, so there is no tongue to get bunched up or misaligned. These shoes are very light and airy, and I suspect that there would be no heat retention issues at all. You'd almost think that the shoes would lack in durability in the upper, given the lack of reinforcing material where most shoes have it. I'll leave the durability assessment for some other time, and to those who have put some miles in the shoes, as I didn't purchase them (whew -- my wife would have had my hide). At some point I will need to try on the 4E version and see if it's too wide. Or maybe slip my socks off when they're not watching (kidding!).

This was the first opportunity for me to have the Altra Samson in my hands (and on my feet). To say they're comfortable is an understatement. Toe room is what I've come to expect from Altra, and the Samson has it in spades. Wiggle room is plantiful, without slop. I had tried the Adam on a few months ago, and I wasn't completely enamored with the strap system. The Samson is a traditional lace-up. While the sole/midsole and footbed felt overall thinner than the Road Zero, it really only felt so because I could feel that my left foot was lower than my right. By itself, it didn't feel too thin. Tread-wise, this isn't a mud shoe, but they've got the Lone Peak to address the more extreme trail environment. For most of what I run on -- roads, hardpacked dirt, and gravel service roads -- these would work wonderfully. The upper is light, and the reinforcements are minimal, but applied to the critical areas. These shoes are about as non-shoe as you can get without going to haurache sandals. There's nothing there to interfere with the natural foot function (though there are barefoot purists who will argue that anything between you and the ground deaden proprioreception).

I can see myself with both of these shoes in my running shoe rotation at some time. But currently with six pair in my rotation, and especially with my wife looking on, I couldn't justify purchasing another pair. So I guess I need to get running more so I can wear a pair out. Like the heads of the hydra, wear one pair out, and two replace it...

Such is the life of the running shoe geek...

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