We love that we are bombarded with brands to review at Ultra168, and while we are forever grateful to the generosity of these companies in asking us to be involved we always have to think long and hard on whether the review will be relevant to our audience.
Some brands we get very excited about because they have a reputation for pushing the envelope in innovative design or function.
Some brands we expect great things and they disappoint and some brands surprise us with their out of the box thinking.
So it was with a sense of genuine interest and intrigue when we were approached by US company Teva to test their new trail shoe.
Why ? Well for some years now we have seen the brand associated in the outdoor scene but mostly centered on the adventure racing and watersports brigade of weekend warrior and who hasn’t at some stage owned a pair of their adventure sandals ?
I thought here we go again, another brand jumping on the booming trail scene. But as they were keen to work with us and we always love a good shoe review, we said send them over. The only caveat is that the sizing available for testing was smaller than any of the sizes the members of Ultra168 wear. So we turned to our trusty FaceBook page to seek out a worthwhile tester.
Step up NSW local Wes Gibson. Wes is the type of quality runner who has talent backed up by decent results who thinks hard about his training. He is also racing this years TNF100 in the Blue Mountains and so what better place to put these shoes through their paces.
Here is his review and I would like to add we have only done minor cosmetic edits to his words to fit with the Ultra168 format.
On receiving the parcel from Teva® (that’s “teh’-vah,” not “tee-vah”) I initially checked out the technical specs behind the shoe. Below is their marketing blurb:-
TEVEsphere, change your shoe, not your stride.
TevaSphere technology provides a solution by offering users the benefits of natural movement, without sacrificing stability. TevaSphere features a patent-pending spherical heel and pod-arch system that delivers a more natural point of impact, efficient transition and phenomenal stability. The TevaSphere works for all types of users, whether their feet pronate normally, over-pronate or sub-pronate. In instances of over-pronation, the pods are engaged when the foot rolls over and pushes it back into optimal alignment. It works the same way for sub-pronation.
Spider 365 Sole
One rubber, huge range of uses. Spider365 Rubber is the spork of our rubber arsenal. An all terrain outersole.
TevaSphere’s Spherical Heel
The spherical heel lowers the user’s point of contact with the terrain for a more natural point of impact and more efficient transition. In a TevaSphere, the heel is 24 mm from the terrain, compared with an average 40 mm in a square foam heel, creating more stability for the athlete. The TevaSphere design reduces the magnitude of braking and results in a more efficient transition from heel to toe when compared to square-heeled shoes intended to control motion, and even running barefoot.
TeveSphere Support Pods
Lightweight and ultra stable. The pod-arch support provides further stability with specific point-of-contact support only where it’s needed, without restricting movement or adding unnecessary weight to the shoe.
Initial Thoughts and Impressions
From first view of the promotional videos I was impressed with the marketing and technology behind the TevaSphere, I was also curious and cautious as to how they would perform. I have had lower ankle issues in the past and the thought of wearing a shoe with a rounded heel was quite intimidating, however the curiosity of the support pods and how they will work intrigued me somewhat.
As for the shoe itself, it looks ok, good colours and contours, slightly quirky due to the pods but definitely wearable. They are not light but not heavy and only their performance on the run will tell whether the 342gms they weigh is too heavy.
On the foot my first thought was they are fairly stiff underneath and quite solid feeling on the ground. They do offer plenty of protection from sharp rocks, roots, etc. But I personally prefer a shoe with more trail feel. They are stable and supportive and the transition from the heel seems to glide well, definitely a plus for those looking for a shoe that will allow confidence in their footing on the trail.
I did however find them restricting somewhat, especially in the arch where the pods are located and they are not lightweight, probably more mid to high weight in reality. They gripped well to the grass and there was no sign of instability at the heel on forefoot, midfoot or heel striking and I’ll soon see how they stack up on the trails.
The TevaSphere are waterproof, grip well on the trail at lower speed and assist with heel transition. They descended well at lower speeds but got a little out of shape on sharp turns or faster efforts, as for ascents they were good, giving passable grip and support.
Unfortunately the feel of the trail is lost somewhat as a result of the supportive forefoot and inserted heel pods. This makes the ride feel very stiff and limits the foots natural adaptability to the trail making for a seemingly heavy foot strike.
The shoe itself is on the heavy side but is reasonably comfortable on the foot, with no abrasive or uncomfortable seams that irritate the skin and could be worn with or without socks. The fit is narrow and caused some pressure on and around my arch.
The shoes handled a variety of surfaces including single trail, boardwalks, stairs, sand, grass, road and concrete well without standing out on any. They are very surefooted at slower speed and would suit those after reliability as opposed to speed and performance. They are waterproof and did collect some junk when running in sand and on dusty trails, so gaiters maybe required if you do not like stuff in your shoes.
The aim of the TevaSphere is to offer the runner a minimal feel and they do in the heel transition but at the forefoot they instead offer a supportive and stable landing point, particularly for runners who are travelling in a more steady manner on the trails. If your looking to bomb the flats and the downhill look at a different shoe, but if your after something that will offer a bit on a variety of surfaces and you will be out on the trails for a long time then the TevaSphere may offer you something to think about.
Sphere Heel – A good inclusion, but hardly making the shoes minimal. It does help with the transition during the foot strike, this alone would reduce energy output and be a potential plus on long runs. Minimal shoes in my view allow the foot to respond to the ground, but the Teva’s solid supportive sole doesn’t allow any trail feel and falls well short of being minimal in anyway.
Support Pods – They offer stability but seem to get in the way during the foot’s landing, not allowing a natural spread of the bones in the foot. The pods constricted my arch causing some considerable soreness in my feet, in my right foot in particular, this may be due to my flatish feet though.
The Final Word
A good shoe for those looking for support, stability, durability and protection. If you plan on just completing TNF100 or a similar tough 100km trail race then this shoe will see you through a good 20+hrs in reasonable comfort and help you achieve your goal.
But for those looking for something more minimal, lightweight or with trail feel you might want to look towards another more established brand known for its trail heritage.
*Thank you to Wes Gibson for taking the plunge and to Teva Australia for providing us with test shoes.