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springblade

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It is a point of pride and, to an extent, shame that I introduced the TC audience to minimal running shoes aka crazy monkey shoes. Since first reviewing odd shoes back in 2009 I’ve tried to keep up with the trends. The latest stop in my exploration? Adidas Springblade.

Why is this on TechCrunch, you ask? Because these are some high-tech shoes, friends, and I suspect some of you out there in the Valley/Alley enjoy a spot of running now and again, in between complaining about things being on TechCrunch and coding.

While the bright, blaze orange upper alone is enough to turn heads, these shoes have plastic springs instead of a sole. These springs add a bit of “lift” each time you step, essentially springing your foot back into the air after each footfall.

I’ve been a minimalist runner since 2009, first using Vibrams and then trying various models from Brooks, Adidas, and most recently Skora. After a fairly complete and debilitating injury during marathon training, my long-distance running days are pretty much shot, but I still try to get at least 10 miles in a week. It’s not much, but hey, I’m not running for Miss Blog USA. I’m also fairly slow.

That said, running with the Springblade has been, if not a revelation, then quite surprising. I’m a bit more tired running in these than in minimalist shoes, which is normal. These are about 12 ounces and those 16 springs on each foot add just a bit of weight. However, I’ve seen my maximum speed increase from 8 minutes per mile to about 7:50 per mile – a measure taken at my peak speed using a Nike+ GPS watch – an improvement that is fairly important for a slowpoke like me. I also felt less pain in my shins and ankles and a distinct difference in the tiredness I felt after my three-mile runs.

Do I think it’s the shoes? Sure. The soles are far springier than I’m used to and I honestly enjoy them over the last pair of full running shoes I bought, the New Balance M1080v2. They also wore me out far faster and I definitely felt a distinct soreness in my calves that I hadn’t experienced in a while. In short, at the very least these shoes changed my stride slightly.

Would I recommend them over minimalist shoes? I’m not sure. Vibrams helped me out of a bout of plantar fasciitis, which has not flared up to this day. I have fought shin splints and other knee issues that I believe are weight related and I know I could use a more solid pair of shoes to perhaps take some of the strain off the ankles and joints. These could do the trick.

These shoes expel energy forward and work best while running on concrete and less well on soft surfaces like sand or trails. I was worried they’d get caught up in the buckling Brooklyn sidewalks but I noticed no issues. Apparently these are extensively tested to ensure the springs don’t break or buckle and, if anything, they look wild.

The shoes are available for pre-order for $180 – quite pricey for their weight – but they are a fascinating improvement to the standard, mushy thick-soled running shoes that I’ve eschewed for a number of years.

I’ve yet to see many experts weigh in on these shoes, and even Runner’s World is still mum about their opinion. I’m under no illusion that these shoes are more than an interesting gimmick that may shave off a few seconds at your fastest pace. But as a sheer feat of technical improvement to the tired running shoe, I applaud Adidas for attempting something so bold. I would expect these to rise to the level of the Nike Free over the next few months as people try them out simply for the novelty of the design. While I’m not exactly sure if I’ll stick to these over the long run, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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