Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TevaSphere Trail eVent: Initial Impressions

Part 1: Initial thoughts on TevaSphere Trail eVent

My Background

In order to understand this review of the TevaSphere Trail eVent, I think it is important to first understand the background of the wear tester.

I started running at age 27 and within the first 10 years of running had logged 25,000 miles.  With 19,500 miles coming in the last six years after moving to Huntsville, Alabama I tend to be a high mileage runner.  I have competed in nearly 300 races during that period with 38 races being marathon distance or longer.  I have won more than 50 races which is a result of hard work and dedication to quality training sessions.  I fare well in road races but my true passion is running trails.  In fact, I was a selected as a member of the U.S.A. inov-8 ultrarunning team in 2010 and 2011.   

I own the fastest known time for the 40.4 mile Greenstone Ridge Trail on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, running unsupported from Washington Creek Trail to Hidden Lake Trail on July 10, 2012 in 8:47:36.90.  I also own the fastest known time for the 28 mile Trapp Hills Traverse and the 2nd fastest known time on the 171.3 mile Alabama Pinhoti Trail.  In 2012 I ran Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon (41.8 miles, 21,100' of elevation change) in 11 hours 9 minutes 58 seconds, for fun!

Trail Shoe Preferences

I've worn over a hundred pair of shoes from just about every brand in the market so I know what I like when it comes to footwear.  I started off wearing high cushion stability shoes and over a three year period, I transitioned to mostly lightweight trainers or racers.  I mostly mid-foot strike but as the pace slows I will heel strike from time to time.

For trail running, I prefer a shoe that is:
  • Low to the ground for stability
  • Aggressive lugs for traction
  • Sticky rubber outsoles to grip in wet conditions
  • Flexible (no rockplate in the forefoot)
  • Minimal front toe bumper
  • Light weight
  • Mesh upper for fast drying
  • Minimal heel to toe drop (prefer 6mm and less)
  • Minimal to moderate cushion
Initial Impressions

I will be honest that my initial thoughts on the TevaSphere Trail eVent were that they were drastically different than what I had been wearing.  That said, I put aside my preconceived notions so that I could give them an honest review.  The folks at Teva were kind enough to ship me a pair to test out, along with some gear from GoPro and Camelbak to help in the wear testing process.  The shoes launched earlier in the spring of 2013 and can be found on the Teva website at a retail price of $140 USD.

I read through all of the marketing material and being a techie by nature, I appreciated all of the scientific testing that had gone into research and development for this shoe.  I also like the notion of "unfollow" and "livebetterstories" which appeal to my sense of adventure and living off of the beaten path.

Out of the box the eVent felt very heavy.  In fact at 12.1 ounces, they were nearly a third heavier than then 7.5 ounce inov-8 x-talon 212's that I have been wearing for the last few years.  I have worn heavier trail shoes in the past and from experience I know that any extra weight means extra work, which can add up during the course of an ultra marathon.  

The spherical heel looks like it would work well for most heel strikers to help with the heel to toe transition.  When walking in them around the house, I could feel how they did seem to help roll through the foot strike.  I would describe the overall fit as comfortable and the sizing was true to what I normally wear.  The heel counter is hard molded so while it should cradle the heel properly, it may be a little stiff for some trail runners.

The most noticeable feature is the support pod that is directly under the mid foot.  The website describes how it will help to promote stability on unpredictable terrain.  When examining the shoe from the bottom I can see how it extends out more than on a normal shoe, widening the shoe through the middle section and giving it more surface area on contact.  It does create rigidity through the footbridge which will prevent the shoe from twisting easily under landing pressure.  I was unable to twist the shoe from front to back, mostly due to the support pod.  The grip seems to be fairly tacky, while the lugs are not overly aggressive.  These look like they will be best for hard packed surfaces.

The upper features a mesh membrane called eVent which should help to allow the foot to breathe through wicking.  The true test will be how well they keep water out and hoe efficiently they drain once getting wet.  These panels are on the sides, and on the toe box.  The overlays on the upper seem a bit excessive and while they may help with the construction of the shoe, might just add weight. The collar on the heel cup is fairly high in the back with deep grooves on the sides, which should alleviate any potential for rubbing on the ankle bone.

The collar around the ankle is quite padded as is the tongue of the shoe.  The length of the tongue and overpadding may rub on the front ankle joint and create irritation.  Excess tongue padding also can make it difficult to fit in an after market footbed for proper arch support like a SuperFeet or a PowerStep.  True story that I once had a pair of trail shoes that I ran in once and then demoted them to grass cutting shoes because the tongue was too thick and with my inserts in them, they created upward pressure on the top of my foot.

Stay tuned for part 2 in which I will bring the shoes out to some of my favorite trails and subject them to rocks, roots, mud, climbing, fast descents, water crossings and all of the things that make trail running so much fun!