Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vasque Transisitors

about the middle of March i was fortunate enough to win the chance to test a pair of the new Vasque Transistors from the irunfar website. i can sum up the Transistors in three words "kick ass fast kicks." ok, that's actually four words but that's what the shoes do for you: fill your run with more adjectives than you can handle. the following are the questions i answered for a future review on the irunfar site:
  • What were your impressions of the shoe out of the box?
good looking and light. the Transistor is well constructed, comes in racy yellow or grey and red (tested), and has a not-to-aggressive not-to-mild outsole. the size 12 i received is a half size smaller than i normally wear, but the Transistors aren't made in half sizes over 12. the fit was good with seemingly enough room in the toe box even without the extra half size. on especially steep trails though i could feel my toes hitting the end of the right shoe.
  • What you like or dislike about the shoe in use?
OUTSOLE-like it: on my first run, which was actually a hike with my 34lb. 2 year old on my back, i was amazed by the traction the Transistors provided. the trail was 90% covered with spring snow: wet, slick, and hard packed on the trail. at first inspection i thought the tread wasn't burly enough for AK trails but it held to the snow like skins on a ski. i was quite surprised at the lack of slippage as i ascended the steep trail. on future runs it held it's own on frozen crust snow, slush, mud, rocks, roots, and roads. the only conditions i was unable to try it out in was dry trail conditions b/c they don't exist right now in AK. a minor complaint is that the clear plastic 'bubble' (rocknrolla plate?) near the heel filled with water during one run and emitted a squishing sound.

MIDSOLE-love it: what sets this shoe apart from any other shoe i've worn is how it feels when you first step into it. i've tried to describe it to people like this: in every other shoe you are ON the shoe, but with the Transistor you are IN the shoe. i typically throw out the insoles that come with running shoes, but the feel of these shoes is so much different because it was designed to be worn this way. one sits much lower to the ground enabling a 'feel' for what's underfoot. in my experience the midsole didn't offer enough rock protection for overly technical trails. after an 8 mile run on an especially rocky, rooty, and snowy trail my feet were left feeling a bit beat up. i think the stability offered by being able to feel the trail may outweigh the lack of protection over the long haul. if one eased into this type of trail after wearing the shoe for a bit it would probably be ok.

UPPER- like it: quite simply it does it's job. the laces stay tied, the materials seems durable, and the fabric breathes well. the only issue i found was on my first long-ish run during the test a seam in the upper caused a weird blister on my left arch. it only happened that once though and not since so it is a minor issue.
  • What "features" did you like most or least?
i loved the form fitting, built in insole. it worked very well to enhance feel of the trail and seems to be holding up very well. i didn't like whatever was allowing water into the outsole as the squish squish heard while running is annoying. the rock protections seems too light weight for ultra distances on technical trails. i came into this test as a minimalist footwear type runner and found my pre-season condition to be not strong enough to handle the minimal midsole on my gnarliest trail run. on the other hand the shoe felt light and part of the foot. the low stack height was ideal for the midfoot strike encouraged by a minimal shoe.
  • Under what conditions did the Transistor perform especially well, ok, or poorly?
performed well on everything tested on: snow, rocks, roots, mud, slush, road. ok on long, technical trails. have yet to find a poor performance.
  • Any other thoughts!
i have flat feet, a wide toe area, and narrow heels. my right foot is almost a half size longer than the left. the fit accommodated my foot well, but if the upper stretches (which it shouldn't as it is synthetic) i will reach the limit of being able to tighten it up enough around my midfoot. the shoes are good looking, light, and comfy right out of the box. i think the shoes would be best suited to those looking for a minimalist trail racer. it seems great for smoother singletrack and less technical trails for long distances, but at the same time gives one an enhanced feel for running technically over shorter distances. the outsole grips well in most conditions, but i would predict a problem on slick or sticky mud trails.

thanks to Bryon Powell over at irunfar and Vasque for the opportunity.

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