A Quick Review of 3 Non-Traditional Shoes

Running shoes come in all sorts of different shapes and have different purposes. In this post, I will quickly review 3 wildly different types of shoes: The Hoka Bondi B 2, the Topo M-ST and the On-Running CloudRacer. Obviously, these are all pretty much non-traditional shoes: The Topo is a very minimalist shoe, the On CloudRacer is supposed to be a lightweight racing shoe (more on that later) and the Hoka Bondi B2 is well…it’s a Hoka.

Also, before I get started, let me say that I purchased the Hokas, while a local running store asked me to evaluate the other two shoes on a temporary basis – they are trying to see if they want to carry them in their store

The Topo M-ST:

 

This was by far, my favourite out of the three shoes.  This is an ultraminimalist shoe and before you jump to conclusions, no, I’m not a barefoot runner or think that everyone should be in barefoot style shoes. Personally, I can’t deal with more than 3-4 miles in any barefoot shoes before my calves are aching. However, I do think that running in very minimalist/barefoot shoes is great for most runners to use 1-2 times per week for brief mileage. I find it helps them be more aware of the impact forces and how to attenuate them as well. I also find that most runners tend to pick up their cadence a bit in barefoot style shoes and land closer to their COM. Just my opinion.

What I liked so much about these shoes is that there was a very nice roomy toebox, the midsole felt sturdy and there was still some minor cushioning (13mm stack). Let me break each of those points down a bit:

  1. The toebox on some minimalist shoes is still narrow by my estimation. The Topo toebox actually looks…boxy! This shape was better suited for my foot.
  2. The platform on some barefoot shoes seems to force my foot into pronation (the New Balance MT110 for example).  As a result, I strained my tibialis posterior a couple years ago in them.  (Again, before you jump to conclusions, you can see how I feel about pronation here) Unlike many other uberminimalist shoes, the Topo M-ST felt like a shoe should feel – it didn’t get in my way.
  3. The cushioning in the Topo was adequate. Not to little (e.g. VFF) and not too much either. It seemed like the Goldilocks of ultraminimalist shoes

The ON Running CloudRacer:

On-Running is a Swiss company that makes shoes with little pods on the bottom of the shoes. Again, I’m going to keep these reviews brief, so I don’t want to get into the technology of it all. I would refer you to Pete Larson’s review of these shoes for that type of info. Personally, I felt these shoes to be heavy and very cushioned. They say that the shoes are 7.9 oz, but they felt way heavier to me. I do a lot of running the Saucony Kinvara’s and according to Running Warehouse, they come in at 7.9 oz as well, but the CloudRacers felt way heavier to me. I don’t have a small scale, so I can’t comment on who they truly weigh in, but in Pete’s review, he weighted them at 10oz for his size 10.5.

The feeling of cushioning was quite large in these shoes, so if you’re into that, these may be up your alley. I tend to land mid-footish, fairly close to COM, but other people may feel different amounts of cushioning depending on how they land.

A couple other points on the CloudRacer:

  1. Durability may be an issue with the pods. The On Running website says that these shoes will last 4-5 marathons. I have read other reviews where people have to change out the shoes because the pods are starting to get thin. I wonder how that changes the deformation propertied of the pods as they wear thin.
  2. I’m really not a vain person, but those pods! A bit strange, no?

The Hoka Bondi-B 2:

Well, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in these. I was expecting so much out them. Maybe the hype led to my disappointment. Whenever I run in these shoes the first word that I think of is “box”.  The feel like I have big cardboard shoe boxes strapped to my feet.  However, I can see the effects of the cushioning. Maybe it was mental, but I found after longer runs (16-17 miles), my joints didn’t ache as much as usual. However, I think the cushioning makes my muscles work harder. I felt like I had to work harder in them and was more sore in my muscles. In addition, I have included a photo below showing an abnormal wear pattern on the outsole after only about 20-30 miles.

Lastly, I developed large blisters on the tops of my 3 of my toes because of where the upper bends. I’ve never had that with any other shoe. A patient commented to me that she lost a toenail after wearing the Hokas and she has never had that happen before (she’s run about 6 or 7 marathons).

The positive side of the Hokas is that we’ve had a lot of rain here lately, so my lawn is very wet. I can safely go out in the lawn and wear the Hokas without my feet getting wet since the water doesn’t rise up above the midsole level!

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