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Gary Dalton gives refreshingly honest opinions on shoes

by @garyfallsover
Saturday 18th June 2016
 
 
Gary Dalton is many people's favourite Run247 contributor. Why is this, we often ask at Run247, scratching our heads? Surely he often walks a fine line of offending people. Who can forget 'will blog for socks' ? Well, we think that people like Gary because he's honest, he's passionate about stuff and he just says it like it is. So who better to review products? What could possibly go wrong? 

Reviews.  Generally written by somebody who’s been provided free kit to talk about it on a blog that only their friends are likely to ever read in the hope that if they’re nice they’ll get even more free stuff.  One of the main reasons I’ve stayed away from writing and even reading reviews over the years is that I don’t believe they have any integrity.  Magazine reviews tend to be biased towards advertising revenues and blog reviews either fall into the sycophant camp, the tested for one hour camp or the clueless isn’t it pretty camp.
 
Well almost against my best judgement I thought I’d try something new. Well new for me at least, you may well think it’s the same old shite I always write just packaged differently. Over the next while the lovely Kirsty from Run247 has given me carte blanche to offend as many brands as I can with some reviews. Well ok, that’s not exactly what she said but it’s what I heard and that’s what counts. [Ed: I think what I said was ‘write honest, believable fluff-free reviews’ which I recognise might be the same thing, Gary!] So I’m going to test some stuff I already have, some stuff I’ve bought specifically to test and some stuff people have given to me because I’ve gotten tired of saying no. I’m not even kidding about that last one.
 
So the way this is going to work is when I buy something I’ll say where I got it, how much it costs etc and I’ll give initial impressions. If it’s shoes I’ll then take them to the guys and girls at Profeet who’ll have a look at them and give me loads of info about how they’re constructed, what’s  good and bad about the shoe and what kind of runner they’d suit. And then I’ll go run in them until I destroy them and months later when most of us have forgotten I even started this thing I’ll come back and let you know what my impressions are.
 
If I’ve been provided the item I’ll let you know why, how and where it came from. Any product that comes direct from manufacturer for free will go back to them at the end of the test. I have enough crap I’ll never use in my flat, I really don’t want anymore.  I’ll be as honest as I can be whilst still being constructive, there really isn’t all that much stuff out there which is truly bad but if something is rubbish I’ll say so. But most of all I’ll review from my own perspective. A middle aged, average runner who’s probably a bit crapper than my online persona. The shoes will be ones that suit me or not. They won’t necessarily suit you. So go try them yourself.
 
La Sportiva Bushidos: Provided by Centurion running to shut me up for standing in a field for 30 hours at the TP100.

Bushido

Yellow. And not just a mellow,  gently setting sun over the trees yellow this is a oh shit my eyes yellow. So if you’re the shy retiring type maybe go for one of the other colours in the range. Straight out of the box and these immediately struck me as a solid shoe, they come in at a manufacturers 298g and slightly more on a real world scale and they look it. This is not a shoe for the minimalist and though they post a 6mm heel toe drop it feels like a little more. I tend to use 6 as my lowest and thought this wasn’t even close to that. This looks like a shoe I’d look to do serious miles in, think Cascadias rather than Sense Ultras.
 
The upper. There’s a semi solid rubber wrap under the midsole arch which could help high arch wearers who need a little more support in their shoes, it seems to be designed to hold the arch in a more supportive position similar to how arch taping would work. The drawback to this is that for flatter footed wearers this may cause some irritation in the arch. For me it felt great, held my foot nicely and I think as a feature would come into its own during longer races when my foot loses form.

Bushido collage 1

There’s an extra eyelet sewn into the base of the tongue which enables you to tighten the forefoot lacing to wrap the foot securely, however if this is pulled too tight you may crease the material over the top of the forefoot causing irritation.  The tongue is well thought out with side debris flaps to catch any loose shite that gets in around the side.  One feature I do really like is the lack of stitching around the 1st metatarsal on the outside of the foot. If like me you tend to splay your little toe when fatigued this lack of stitching should mean less irritation and it should mean that the join is less prone to splitting as I’ve seen some like the Brooks Cascadia and the Speedcross do.
 
Outsole: Appears to be made from two different compounds but it’s difficult to tell which is harder. The yellow outer lugs appear to be slightly softer which would mean as the shoes wear the central platform will become more prominent and should improve grip. Something I’ll be keeping a close ey on in the coming months. 

Bushido-collage 2

Midsole: They’ve gone for something a little different than what I’m used to here, there’s a wrapped support called SBT control which feels a lot firmer out of the box than I’ve felt before. These shoes will take a bit of time to break in properly but it should mean a greater durability. The heel also sits a couple of mm inside the midsole which means the fat pad of your heel doesn’t splay as much as normal which in turn should mean greater rearfoot control under movement.
 
I’ve been out in these for about five hours so far and whilst they do feel solid they don’t feel heavy. Personally speaking I’d rather lose 100g by putting down that second donut than by buying a lighter shoe. Early indications are positive though I do keep catching sight of them at the bottom of my eyeline and scaring the shit out of myself.
 
The North Face Ultra Endurance: Dunno. They just arrived on my doorstep. I think they were for next door.

TNF endurance

A poor man's Speedcross. That’s what I thought when I saw these. Another example of taking an iconic item of kit, tweaking it slightly and re branding it as something else. 
 
The North Face have, in my opinion, a deservedly good reputation for their outdoor gear, suffering a little bit from the outdoors pub wear crowd but still producing quality innovative outerwear. Not so much for their trail running footwear, seemingly not being able to shake their reputation for robust kit and capture the aspirational Salomon fanboy crowd. So by designing a shoe around an existing popular platform maybe they’d at least would get a decent shoe on the market and so capture some market share.
 
But this isn’t a Speedcross. I’m not sure it’s better but at least they’ve developed their own shoe with its own faults and favours and actually the design is somewhat innovative in it’s own way.
 
Upper:  Again as with the Bushido they’ve thought about the tongue and how debris gets into the shoe, adding a high seam along the side to inhibit crap getting in, the tongue is also nicely padded which will benefit those with a high instep.
 
The heel counter instead of having a straight heel to Achilles seam is slightly offset in what’s known as a varus angle which allows the foot to be slightly supinated when it hits the ground, this slows down the natural pronation of the foot and adds to the shoes stability. I should add here that this is still a neutral shoe, this design feature just adds to the natural stability of your footfall.

TNF collage 2

Midfoot: As with the Bushido TNF have designed the midfoot heel cup to sit slightly around the heel fat pad, holding it in place rather than allowing it to splay. This should add greater rearfoot control rather than allowing to pad to move around inside the shoe.  What really stands out for me here as the most obvious difference between these and the Speedcross is the width of the forefoot. One of the biggest complaints against Salomon is that their shoes tend to be considerably narrower than other brands. I can only wear speedcross for sorter races as I tend to splay my toes when I tire and I inevitably end up getting blisters because the shoes are tighter than my first girlfriend. The Ultra Endurance gives you more room in the toebox and that in itself is a winner for me.
 
The midsole is considerably softer in the TNF shoe as opposed to the Bushido giving it a nicer feel straight out of the box, whether that has implications for durability will remain to be seen. It certainly was comfy from the first run.
 
Outsole: Vibram. Always a great choice and hasn’t presented any problems so far. There are some small lugs right on the edge of the sole that will likely wear down or break off before the rest of the sole deteriorates but whether that raises an issue only time will tell.

TNF collage 1

Instead of a rockplate TNF have designed what they call a Snakeplate, essentially a winding ribbon of harder material which goes from the medial to lateral side of the shoe, it adds protection without making the forefoot too rigid and hard underfoot.
 
So there you go. Initial impressions are good and to be honest I’d expect them to be, if two big companies fecked up shoes so much I could spot it on initial sight we all might as well take up cycling.
The plan is to test the shoes for between 40 and 50 hours each on a variety of surfaces and see how they get on, bearing in mind that that amount of time for me may mean considerably less miles than it would for you. I’ll then take them back to Profeet for them to geek over and together we’ll figure out how we feel about them. 
 
So if there’s any other companies or distributors that would like to send me kit to test then please don’t, most of the time I can’t be arsed and it’s unlikely I’ll be nice about it. There’s loads of people out there who’d love to, get one of them. They’re probably more photogenic too.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 

 
 
 
 
 

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