Teva might not be a name to conjure with when it comes to running shoes, but if you are a fan of trails and have your eye on lightweight shoes that give you something of the barefoot experience, then the company’s brand new TevaSphere Womens Speed Shoe might be worth more than a second glance.
The shoe has recently gone on sale at Cotswold Outdoor where it is exclusive, along with others in the TevaSphere range, till March 2014.
There are five new walking and running shoes in the TevaSphere range. The TevaSphere Womens Speed Shoe is matched by a mens version and both retail for £90. There are mens and womens versions of the TevaSphere Trail Mid-Event Shoe at £120. For some bizarre reason there’s only a mens version of the £110 TevaSphere Mens Trail Event shoe.
You’ll have gathered from the name of these shoes that they’re designed for trails. Now, this is the kind of running I love – and have loved since way before it became the trendy thing to do. There is no other kind of running as pleasurable as wending your way through beautiful woodland. I can smell a pine forest as I write this and I’m getting that calm, tranquil vibe.
A trail shoe needs to be able to do many things. It needs a good sole so that it can cope with varied terrain. You need grip on mud, tree stumps and loose terrain like wet leaves and gravel. You need to feel confident that you won’t slip and slide on the flat, and that you can get up and down muddy or wet slopes without falling.
You need flexibility in the shoe so that you can bend at the ankle and twist your foot and not feel that the shoe doesn’t like it. Trail running isn’t like jogging round the roads or even through the park. Not all trails are the same, of course, but on some your foot strike will be very variable as you negotiate uneven, maybe stony or rough ground. A lightweight and flexible yet solid upper is important here, as is as sole which gives you the flexibility to not always land your foot quite as you intended on the running surface.
Teva says it spent four years developing the TevaSphere technology, and the key to it is startlingly simple.
The sole is rounded rather than flat at the heel. This mimics the shape of our own heels. Conventional shoes, with their flat heels don’t help us strike on the ground at varying angles. But TevaSphere shoes do. This helps reduce deceleration forces and, by lowering the point of impact on the ground these shoes help generate a more natural and smooth foot strike.
The shoe has blocky pods that sit under the arches. These give the Womens Speed Shoe a distinctive look, but of course they aren’t there just for the look. Their assistance in absorbing impact is key, says Teva, to helping prevent the lower leg injuries that people switching to minimalist shoes can experience. This, to use Tiva’s terminology, ‘pod-arch system’, gives the shoe stability too.
In use I noticed several things about this design in comparison to the solidly built, maximum controls shoes I usually wear for everyday training.
I could feel the ground under my feet much more clearly. My normal thick, solid soles don’t let me connect with the ground in the same way that the other running shoes I am used to wearing – for orienteering – do. Like the TevaSphere Womens Speed Shoe my orienteering shoes are flexible. Both let me feel the rolling of uneven terrain much more readily – running in the Teva shoes I felt much more connected to the running surface.
My feet felt – and were – much more free. On rolling terrain and trails, as I’ve already noted, the foot can land at any angle and a flat landing is often not an option. Tough soled shoes don’t help with this, but I found landing at non flat angles on tussocks, tree roots and so on was possible – and comfortable – in these shoes.
I didn’t only run in the TevaSphere Womens Speed Shoe. I also used them as general footwear on a couple of occasions when I knew I’d encounter some mud and grunge underfoot. When doing this I noticed the arch supports much more than when running. As a way of testing out that arch support and stability theory, walking in these shoes was a good plan. I certainly felt comfy and stable underfoot.
I’ve noted that grip is really important on a trail shoe. I didn’t get to try the TevaSphere Womens Speed Shoe in the very worst conditions, but the oddly named Spider365 rubber sole performed well through the puddles, wet grass and mud that I could find on test runs. Deliberately heading for mud and wet patches is a treat that people wearing more conventional shoes might not allow themselves!
You’ll notice from my photos that my blue, grey and yellow shoes are different from the pink that’s in the press shots and that Cotswold Outdoor is advertising at its online store. If you don’t know how I feel about pink, suffice it to say that I’d rather there were other colour choices on offer.
The upper is flexible and hugged my foot when laced. I found there was plenty of room for toe movement. Teva says the upper is quick drying – which is very important for a shoe that is likely to get wet frequently. There’s nothing worse than putting on a wet pair of running shoes. Psychologically I find it is a negative thing, even when I know my shoes – and feet – will be wet within five minutes of starting out.
There’s a little bit of protection at the very front of the toe which is important as trail runners can hit stones, tree roots and so on. I’d have liked a bit more protection here, but I’m notorious for smashing into things and other runners may be naturally more careful.
I like the cushioning round the ankle which helped make for a very comfortable fit, and the relatively high back felt supportive on the run. This is a key element in having confidence in a shoe – and especially one as lightweight as this which comes in at just 218g per shoe.
Only prolonged wear in a range of different types of trail conditions would give me a real feel for this shoe, and in the month since launch that simply hasn’t been possible. But I have found it performed well in the familiar places that I was able to test it.
The TevaSphere Womens Speed Shoe gave me a comfortable ride in a range of, admittedly quite tame, off road situations. The rounded heel that is integral to the design feels like a smart move and the shoe felt comfy, flexible and supportive.
- Comfortable wear
- Rounded heel for flexible landing
- Good arch support
- High ankle support
- Would like more toe protection
From: Cotswold Outdoor