It looks like Teva is making a push back into the running shoe game. As such, they’ve brought out the Shoe Geek in me and inspired me to write a review.
I owned a pair of Teva trail running sandals years ago. I think they were called “Wraptors”, and they were very comfortable and had great traction. They looked like this:
Running in them was great, that is until you got some tiny bit of flotsam or jetsam stuck between your foot and the insole - ouch! And then it was very hard to get those bits cleared away. I wore the sandals for camping and canoeing, but didn’t do a lot of running in them for that very reason. Still, it was a cool idea. Now Teva is back with more cool ideas, and a new line of trail shoes grouped under the name Tevasphere. Teva’s press release states “With a first-of-its-kind spherical heel and pod-arch system, the TevaSphere technology delivers a more natural point of impact, efficient transition and superior stability on varied terrain”.
I had a chance to test-drive one of the new models recently (note: my shoes, and a few other cool goodies, were provided to me free of charge for the purpose of testing and sharing my thoughts. Other than that, I was not compensated or otherwise engaged by or for any company, and I have no affiliation with Teva or any other shoe company for that matter. This review represents my own viewpoint, period. Your results may vary, of course).
Model: Tevasphere Speed
Conditions: I ran several miles in the shoes, mostly on narrow, packed dirt single-track but also across uneven, grassy fields. Some of the trails were pretty technical, with tight turns, sharp-angled ups and downs, rocks and roots. The trails varied between muddy and “Spring moist”, with a few juicy puddles. I also covered a couple sections of rough gravel, a number of wet boardwalks, and a handful of pavement crossings (including a half-mile-long section of pavement to connect trails).
What I really liked about these shoes:
- The innovative “spherical heel” is great, especially on technical downhills. It’s rounded shape and relatively narrow profile made transitions smooth and natural, not unlike a minimalist shoe. And it never got wedged into a narrow space or bounced off the edge of some obstacle suddenly. I would say this was the best feature of the shoe.
- Torsional rigidity - bear with me here, I know it sounds technical, and this might be a plus only for some of us. I’ve had problems with my plantar fascia when I’ve run in shoes that offer little resistance to twisting. If you take a shoe in your hands and try to twist it like you were wringing out a wet towel, some models will readily give (think minimalist shoes) while others won’t at all (think wooden plank). I’ve had best success with shoes that don’t twist in the midfoot area, and these fit that bill.
- Lightweight and agile: the shoes feel fast even though they don’t necessarily look it out of the box.
- The midsole and outsole are not too wide; that is, they are about the same width as the upper, so the shoe fits nicely between and among roots and rocks without causing stumbling - unlike many trail shoes that are all-too-often simply modifications of road models (with added traction and usually a really ugly upper). In my opinion, nimble trail runners almost never need the kind of “stable base” that many road shoes feature.
- The toe box fit is roomy without feeling long or clumsy, nice on your sore toenails!
- Traction was excellent on the surfaces I ran.
- Firm arch support (this may not be considered a plus by everyone, but for those who like a firm feeling of support under the arch, they’ll get it here).
- The “throat” of the shoe is cut high and tight (this is the part that you put your foot into, and where the laces are tied). In addition, the tongue is short and tapered to become more narrow at the top end. On my first run, the shoes dug into the top of my foot on both sides, leading to blisters which burst and bled. Ugh. Hint: Don’t lace ‘em all the way up and/or wear high-cut socks. When I did that, no more problems at all.
- The shoes are a bit stiff - admittedly, some runners prefer shoes that are a bit on the stiff side. See my comments below about the benefits of stiffer trail shoes. The shoes may break in a bit over time, but I don't think they will ever be super-flexible.
- There is a sizable hollowed out area under the mid-foot, between the “pod-arch” sections. This had a tendency to cake up with dirt, especially if I ran from a wet surface onto a dry one. At times, I was carrying a few extra ounces along with me. This was probably limited to the conditions on the surfaces I ran, and probably wouldn’t happen at all in dry conditions.
- The pod-arch supports: I didn’t really notice them much when running (which is good, frankly), but then again I don’t need much help from my shoes with pronation or supination, so I’m not the best reviewer of that feature. To me, it was simply a non-issue.
- The fit is fairly narrow and slightly long. I am testing a men’s size 11, which is my standard size, but I might have been able to get into a 10.5 … however, that extra length can be a toenail saver on courses with a lot of downhill, and (unlike a few other models I’ve tried over the years) that extra bit of length did not cause the shoe to seem clumsy or make me trip and fall on my face.
- In terms of fit, the Tevasphere Speed most-closely resembles the old INOV-8 Flyroc 310, but the Speed is lighter and has a much less-clumsy feeling toe box.
Maybe not so great for:
Mixing in some road running - the Tevasphere Speed feels a bit hard for the roads and sidewalks.It also sort of “clop-clops” along on pavement, like rubberized horseshoes (probably due to the support pods on the sides).
Here’s the FREE SHOES Deal:
Teva has generously provided an opportunity for my blog readers to win a free pair of TevaSphere Shoes. You can enter below, and by tweeting about this deal (which you can do once per day to increase your odds of winning). The giveaway contest begins now and ends June 21, 2013, so don't waste time - get your name into the hat now (you must enter via the Rafflecopter box directly below). One winner will be chosen at random from all entries. USA only, please.