Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gear Review: TevaSphere Speed (including a free giveaway)

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).

Company: Teva

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).
A few things that I liked a bit less:
  • 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.
Best for:

  • Low-volume feet 
  • Narrow and technical trails 
  • Rocks, sharp rocks, sticks, roots 
  • Tight turns  
  • Climbing - stiffer midsoles always perform better on steep uphills 
  • Technical downhills

  • 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.


    1. Good to see you back running! If you are ever in NY in late April drop us a line and we can get you set for the Leatherman.

      1. The Leatherman's Loop is one of my all-time favorite races, and I miss it dearly. I absolutely promise you that I'll find a way to come back soon. All the best! - Douglas

    2. I have a trail near my house that follows the river and goes to downtown dc

    3. I plan to run in Rockefeller State Park!

    4. Please enter me in the giveaway. I am fairly new to trail running (though ran Sour Grapes last week too - albeit much slower than you). Def interested in trying these trail shoes!

      1. Hey MN Nora (and everybody else) - please be sure to use the Rafflecopter box on this post to officially enter the drawing for the free shoes. Looking at the entries so far, not sure I see everyone in there. Good luck to all. - Douglas

    5. This would be awesome! I'd love to win a pair. My Nike Frees are nice but I definitely think I need something rather more substantial for trail running.

    6. I would use these on the local state park trails when it's not muddy.

      1. Now I just need to find a way to help you LOVE the MUD! Good luck, and good running. - Douglas

    7. Perfect for my Fox State Forest runs here in NH!

    8. We have an amazing hiking place about 20 minutes from my house, with some beautiful running trails. Through the woods, clear, without a lot of obstacles. Perfect place for a nice, comfortable trail run. That's where I would take my Tevas.

      nlbourassa (at) gmail (dot) com

    9. I have a park in my area with a phenomenal trail - however it gets really muddy after it rains and takes while to dry out. On top of that, it's very hilly so I need shoes with good traction. Thanks for the opportunity.
      -Angel Wolf

    10. I live in Colorado Springs so there are many, many places for me to get my trail running done. I can run a different trail every weekend and still not cover them all! Although I do tend to stick with the same ones...maybe this is good motivation for me to try a new one this weekend! I am very grateful for this great state! Thank you for this opportunity :)

    11. Some of the trails on the research preserve near my house are great for trail running. I hope to do their 5K this year.

    12. I'm on the hunt for good trail running shoes. I was just at Gatlinburg, Tennessee over the weekend and had a blast running the trails at the Smokey Mountains. :) The views are just breathtaking! I just wore my regular running shoes. They don't grip that much especially when it started to rain. That's when I realized that I need to get myself a new pair of trail running shoes. I'm going back to the Smokey Mountain trails soon! :)

    13. Trail running rocks my world!

    14. There are all kinds of trails here in Northern California. Plus, we often go to Lake Tahoe to our cabin and there are tons of great trails there.
      Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

    15. we would plan on hiking!


    16. I just bought myself a state park pass here in Virginia, and would love some awesome new shoes to try out :)

    17. Lots of great technical trails and parks here in North Florida. Summer is the best time for trail running!

    18. I have a trail near my house that hosts a 5 and 10k,I'd use the new trail shoes to run that. There are some steep places that are tough in regular running shoes.

    19. With the tevasphere I would be hitting some trails that have bark and some rock and roots... I'd really like to take them to the North Umpqua trails in OR. :)

    20. I'm just getting back into it, so I would say the easy ones!


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