27 June 2008
Yah! The new shoes have arrived!
Earlier this year, I had an offer to become an ambassador for a fantastic new brand of shoe: END//outdoor
The company was taking a different approach toward design and construction, focusing on minimising the environmental impact of production. The result are some of the lightest shoes I have ever run in, which still provide comfort, protection, support and traction. And, as time will hopefully tell, durability. I received some of an early production run, and the full retail release is scheduled for Fall 08. They launched at the Winter Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, and apparently generated a ton of interest.
END//outdoor is an Oregon-based company, and the name comes for "Environmentally Neutral Design". While no production can be entirely neutral just yet, they are pushing their designs and their producers towards it, but for now have ended up with models that apparently contain 30%-50% less material than many other shoes on the market.
But what about where the rubber literally hits the dirt?
Out of the compostable plastic bag they ship in, the shoes are immediately different than any thing I had seen before. Light, light, light, with nylon fabric uppers, a minimum of straps and doo-dads, no heel cup, and an aggressive outsole.
No heel cup - really? There was just an embedded stabiliser at the very back, about 1cm wide that supported the fabric. Ah, but the feel on the trail was amazing - my heel was stable enough with no rocking on hard corners, no sliding out of place, and no typical blistering on my heel bump just beside my achilles insertion (there's a name for that...retrocalcaneal bursitis?). I amost felt like I was wearing sandals with a free heel, although though my heel was definitely not pulling out of the shoe. It all begs the question of why every single other shoe out there has a hard cup that wraps right around the heel?
The outsole is aggressive, as mentioned, and has done well through everything that I have been running over: mud, wet west coast slop, loose rocks, cross-country alpine, spring snow, and sweet packed single track. I feel confident in my stride, which is essential for the way I like to hammer the downhills :-) There is a light protection panel between the outsole and midsole that protects the base of the foot from poking rocks and bruising, and serves a dual function in providing structure and torsional rigidity to the entire base of the shoe - without being too stiff.
Midsole is cushy and comfortable, but I almost found it too soft. I would prefer something just a tad firmer for more stability when taking sharp corners.
I received two models of shoes: the Stumptown 10, and Stumptown 12. They are built on the same midsole/outsole, but the uppers are slightly different. The numbers are meant to reflect their respective weights, yet I found the ST 10 to measure 9.75 oz, and the ST 12 to come in at 10.5 oz. Interesting.
Overall fit is very comfortable, with no bits poking into the foot, a neutral last, and flexible uppers that fit your foot (instead of the opposite!). I will note that I have not had one blister over the course of the 200+ miles I have run in them so far.
And I have to rave about the light weight. I have been wearing Montrail Hardrocks for years, and they have served me very well. But the END shoes save a third of the weight from a pair of Hardrocks - think of what this means when running a 100 mile race!! I have always been sceptical about such light shoes, but I am defintely converted. I have raced a 50km and put in multiple 6+ hour runs on them so far and have been very comfortable, but it will be interesting to see how both they and my feet fare when I take them to the actual Hardrock 100-mile race in a few weeks, certainly a true test.
Thanks so much to END//outdoor and Insport Fashions for having me be part of their team!
(photo - Stumptown 12's)