Sunday, March 31, 2013

In search of Cloud Nine

Shoes that help you bounce. Maximum energy return, minimal impact.. We've all heard (or seen) them before.



Some or all the above seriously deserve to be laughed at. Yet shoe companies will keep on producing such "innovations," as long as runners continue searching for their Cloud Nine (defined by Webster's dictionary as 'a feeling of elation') running experience.

Enter Spira, a relatively new shoe company, which has purportedly sold over 1 million pairs of footwear with their patented WaveSpring technology.



The subject of this initial review is the Spira Stinger 2, which comes with 3 WaveSprings embedded in the midsole.



Compared to the five "springy" shoes in the first photo of this post, the Spira Stinger 2 is the first such footwear that had prompted me to make a purchase decision. That is, after the On Clouds (pictured below), which also promise bouncy action through a different 'technology,' i.e. their patented nubs on the outsole.




FIT, BUILD, and APPEARANCE: Ordering shoes online is always a risky bet, particularly from an unknown brand such as Spira. Would they fit right? Will the build quality be commensurate with the price? Et cetera etc. Fortunately, Spira's professional website, and excellent customer service (thanks Judy Egger), helps make the purchasing process a smooth experience.

When the shoes finally arrived, I immediately tried them on, finding that the Stinger 2 (in size 11) fit great on my wide feet. I normally wear a 10,5 (US size) in 2E, and for normal (D) width shoes, I usually do well in size 11 (with a few brands, size 11,5 fits me better).

In terms of appearance, the Stinger 2 looks quite handsome to me. Spira seems to have invested quite a bit in the design department, with many colorways available in this particular model.



The upper is made of breathable material.

The insole provided is quite thin.

I did notice excess glue on the outsole, which detracts from an otherwise good-looking pair of shoes.

In terms of build quality, the Spira scores a passing grade.

The summary:

  • FIT = 9 / 10 
  • BUILD QUALITY = 7.5 / 10
  • APPEARANCE = 9 / 10


TOEBOX: I like to feel my toes having the freedom to "splash and splay" within the confines of the shoes. I truly believe an adequate toebox helps allow a more natural running motion, especially when one runs sockless, or use 5-finger socks (I always wear the latter for running). The Spira does okay in this department, with a better than average toebox space.




RIDE and COMFORT: I like running shoes that are light (nothing over 400 grams / 14 oz, the lighter the better), and preferably with heel-to-toe differential of 6 mm or less.

The heel to toe on the Stinger 2 is 10 mm, which puts them on a par with the Adidas Boost.



In terms of weight, the Spira Stinger 2 comes in at a relatively light 280 grams (9,8 oz) for my size US 11, putting it in the same weight class as the Altra Torin.




The one hundred ten dollar question (the shoe's retail price) is, what do 3 WaveSprings give you, in terms of ride?


When I first stood in the Stinger 2, I could feel the gap area between the heel and forefoot (there is no outsole in the middle). I was concerned this would be a potential problem area during actual running.

I've been having rather severe flu this week, but I just couldn't stand the sight of an unused pair of new shoes. Yesterday I finally took the Stinger 2 for a 6 km run, and I am happy to report that I finished the run with my feet feeling fresh.

In terms of ride, the Spira actually delivers on the springy promise. I could feel the WaveSprings helping me bounce off each landing. The sensation is what I had expected when I first ran in the Boost (but didn't get from Adidas' marble-bouncing midsole material). 

The sole of the Stinger is flexible, aided by the aforementioned gap in the middle of the outsole.


The Stinger 2's flexibility made the ride feel much better, helping to offset the 10mm drop of the shoe. When I consciously tried to heel strike, I could feel the WaveSprings in the heel, and likewise, when I forefoot striked, I could feel the front springs bouncing back. Road feedback is just slightly above average on the Spiras, perhaps muted by the springy feeling. It all sums up to a new kind of ride, one which is light and bouncy.


The zero drop GoBionic and the 10mm drop Spira Stinger 2

In terms of comfort, these shoes felt bare-bones (a positive point), but that gap area of "missing outsole" made its presence (or absence) known throughout the run. The latter was not a problem for this initial run, but I'm not sure how much it would affect the shoe's comfort factor in, and for, the long run.

Overall, these Spiras provide a "light and springy" ride, and I'd give them a temporary score of 8 out of 10 in terms of Ride and Comfort.


CONCLUSION: With its 'light on the feet' action, attractive design, and WaveSprings technology that I could actually feel, the Spira Stinger 2 adds up to one interesting pair of shoes.

Did the Spira Stinger 2 end the search for my "Cloud Nine" running shoe?  Unfortunately (or fortunately) not, since my "Cloud Nine" shoes need to have the following features:

  • lighter than 320 grams (11,2 oz)
  • give great road feedback at all time
  • has the ability to turn from minimalist feel to confidence-inducing cushioned at my whim (yes, I am reaching)
  • doing all of the above while not letting me know they're on my feet (yes, I am dreaming)


I guess the more important question is = how important are shoes in trying to reach 'the Cloud Nine' feeling of elation through running?

To sum it up, if you like their looks and you are looking for light shoes that give bouncy action, the Spira Stinger 2 is worth a try.  Considering everything, the overall (temporary) grade I would give is 8 out of 10, with the Stinger 2 at $110 being a relatively good buy.


DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Spira and the shoes were purchased at normal price. A few of the photos are from the Spira's website or Google. Please contact me if they need to be removed.

3 comments:

  1. Thank your this well-written and thorough review! I've never heard of them before, and at first glance, they looked crazy to me, but after reading this, they kinda make sense!

    I worry about durability of the midsole and the overall balance of the shoe with the springs in place. And as you rightly pointed out, the absence of material in the middle part of the sole could create discomfort during longer runs. Having said that, these shoes now have piqued my interest and will be looking out for them!

    Cheers, Dhitri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dhitri, what led me to finally purchase these is Spira's claim to have sold one million shoes (that's a LOT of springs). Godspeed on your upcoming first marathon :)

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