Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shoes Review: TNF Double-Track (Trail) & Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 (Road)

TNF Double-Track (Trail Shoes)
Although I was a big fan of Salomon Trail Running Shoes, the XT Wings didn't quite fit my feet and I had hot spots near the arch area of my right foot when I ran anything longer than 10km.  It happened during the Canadian Death Race in 2011 and the Vibram Hong Kong Trail 100km in 2011.  :(  So I decided to seek out other brands and in particular, I had great success wearing the TNF Sentinel and TNF Rucky Chucky in that I had no hot spots nor any blisters.  However, getting my shoes in Singapore was a problem because of my US 9.5 size.  So when I had the chance to visit the St Louis' The North Face store, I bought the award winning TNF Women's Double-Track trail running shoes at a cool US$120.00 (with taxes).

TNF Double-Track weighed in at 272g (per side), much lighter as compared to TNF Sentinel at 285g and TNF Rucky Chucky at 348g, although it looked heavier than the Sentinel.  The shoes wrapped around my feet comfortably well and had a snugged fit (but not too tight) around the heel with enough room in the toe box.  My foot arc area did not slide as in the case of the Salomon XT Wings.  The cushioning in TNF Double Track felt soft, probably because it had a 24mm/12mm heel to forefoot height cushioning while TNF Sentinel had a 22.5mm/11mm heel to forefoot height cushioning.  The shoes was versatile both on the road and on the trail.  On slippery or muddy terrain, TNF Double-Track provided good grip and traction due to the Tenacious Grip sticky rubber outsole used.

I wore the TNF Double-Track for the first time during the Salomon X-Trail.  It was a muddy course because of the rainy season.  I had a good footing going up and down the grasses when I tried to avoid the puddles of water that presented along the trail.  And when I had to run across ankle deep water along the second half of the trail, I was able to do so with ease.  The water drained from the shoes relatively fast and I did not feel the weight of the shoes although it was wet.  Towards the end of the run, where the trail dried up, the raised lugs beneath the shoes was able to help me get a better grip of the terrain and sprinted towards the finishing line.  Verdict: A great pair of trail shoes with enough cushioning, excellent grip/traction and sufficient flexibility to tackle easy to moderate trail. Ratings: 8/10.

Afternote: While I tried to wash the shoes after the run, I found that water got trapped within the translucent rubber material outside the heel counter of the shoes (the lime color and the translucent area).  While the water dried up eventually, the smaller dirt particles were trapped inside the rubber.  The translucent plastic material cracked after using just for 4 months.  I believed this is more of a design shortcoming than material used as TNF Rucky Chucky has a similar design but its plastic material was protected by a thicker lining sewed next to it - see below photos for comparison.

TNF Double Track: Cracks Found In The Heel Counter Material

Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 (Road Running Shoes)
I had been using the Mizuno Wave Inspire shoes since Inspire 2 was launched and had never missed an upgrade.  It was a stability (or also known as structured or support) shoes for runners with low/falling arch.  So when I read in the Runner's World (US edition) Dec 2011 issue that the new Wave Inspire 8 would be launched in the USA, I decided to give Wave Inspire 7 a miss even though it was just launch earlier in 2011.  On my last day of visit, I went to South City branch of the Big River Running Company in St Louis but they didn't have my size.  Luckily, the South County Branch which was just 30 minutes drive away had my size 9.5 shoes.  I paid around US$125.00 (with taxes).

Mizuno Inspire 8 weigh around 243g (per side).  The women's version had a dull purple color lining at the back and back of the foot plate, with the inside of the shoes in dark blue color and a dark blue insoles, and shoe laces.  I put in some mileage when I arrived back in Singapore as I needed to break-in the shoes in time for SCMS 2011.  I ran primarily on the treadmill and once along ECP with a friend during our "dress rehearsal" (as I was supposed to pace her during SCMS).  The shoes felt a little softer when I landed as compared to Inspire 6.  (Actually, if felt soft even when I walked).  According to the technical specs, "Mizuno made this update softer under the heel than the previous version (Inspire 7) by bulking up the amount of foam below the plates and thinning out above".  :)

The tongue of the shoes seemed to be slightly longer as well, and I was able to pull it further up prior to tightening my shoe laces.  My heel felt snug at the heel counter while my toes had just enough room to wriggle in the toe box without much restriction.  The shoes gave me just the right balance and enough stability to enjoy my SCMS 2011.  :)  Verdict:  The Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 has a very roomy toe box and had good cushioning (hence softer feeling) at the heel.  A great pair of road running shoes which I hope is able to last me for the entire 2012!  Ratings: 8.5/10

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