Anytime I tried to run, I made sure I had the cushiest pair of Air Max 360s I owned, and would be in a ton of knee and ankle pain within the first minute. Still not cool for shoes that retail for over $160 a pair.
Then I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, learned about minimalist running, and decided to give it a try. I had Nike Frees, and tried with those, but also picked up some Adidas Adipure Barefoot Trainers (basically, firmer-soled Vibram imitations), and tried running in them. The Barefoot Trainers weren’t ideal for running, but they worked, and I found I was running pain-free. The next step was to get some Vibrams, and I chose the super-minimalist, made-for-running SeeYa model, and really loved it.
Then I had double hernia surgery, and was out of running for a while. When I got back into it, I found that the SeeYas were uncomfortable and always seemed to cause an issue (blisters, rubbing my foot raw somewhere, etc). I read about a new model from Adidas’s Adipure line in a review at runblogger.com (excellent blog, by the way), and was really intrigued. Why? Read on to find out.
What it is & How it works
The Gazelle is a minimal shoe, meaning it’s light and has a very low drop – that is, the difference in thickness at the heel versus at the toe. I believe it’s 4mm. Vibrams are zero drop, as are some other non-weird-shoes (or not too weird) like Altras and Vivo Barefoots and some of Merrell’s ‘Glove’ line shoes (like the new Vapor Glove). The bigger the drop, the harder it is to run on your mid or forefoot which is key to being minimalist in your running style. This is how I’ve found I must run or my knees end up in acute pain really quickly. The Gazelle is in the middle of the Adipure running models, with the Motion being more traditional (bigger drop) and the Adapt being more minimal.
The shoe is basically a spandex-like sock with laces. The more minimal Adapt model actually really is like a spandex sock. Up until now, it only came in a horrible color (the same blue/bright red that I show below for the Gazelle, but it looks even worse on the Adapt). The Adapt lacks laces and, oddly, the 3 stripes (or any other clear Adidas branding). The Adapt just came out in black and yellow, so I am really interested in trying it. But that’s not related to this review…back to the point.
The Gazelle has a painted on thin layer of TPU dots strategically placed on the spandex-like stuff to help provide some structure. The material is incredibly stretchy and non-constricting, which I love (more on that in a moment). The three stripes are hard plastic, providing rigidity in the side of the shoe, though I don’t think it actually matters beyond creating solid anchors for the laces. The sole is a mix of EVA-type foam and rubber for traction up front. The heel is basically just foam, but there’s a white insert of rubber. The impression the sole gives is that you shouldn’t be using the heel much.
On the tongue (which is well-sewn in), and at the top of the ankle cuff, there’s a little velcro flap. I still don’t totally understand its purpose. The one on the heel doesn’t help in getting the shoes on (which is very easy), and the one on the tongue is too small to help keep the laces tied (see My Depressions below). If someone knows what they’re for, lemme know in the comments.
Currently, the Gazelle comes in a sharp black/neon yellow combo (which I have), a gross blue and light red, and a new silvery-grey and yellow, which also looks great. Adidas had a really nice, strong red version that I bought, too, but they’ve dropped that in favor of the new grey color. A shame – they should have dropped the blue. You can see the red in the RunBlogger.com review I mentioned earlier. Women’s versions come in black and purple (very sharp), and that same red they stopped offering to men but with green rubber pods.
I absolutely love this shoe. It is by far the best shoe I’ve ever run in, and seriously just a joy to wear in general. It’s SO light, so flexible, absorbs just enough shock while not robbing me of needed feedback…the list goes on. I really love this shoe.
One of the best parts, and something I’ve most concerned with whenever I look at a non-toe-shoe option is the toe box. I’ve found I’m more and more sensitive to toe box width, and have gone to stores to get a minimalist-yet-traditional-looking shoe like the New Balance Minimus MR00, but walked away due to how tight I found the toe box to be. I don’t have a wide foot, but because I wear minimalist shoes and run on my forefoot, my toes spread more than they did before, and I like to let them spread when I run as it’s such a great and natural source of stability. That’s what they’re for. The RunBlogger review mentioned the toe box being fairly wide and flexible, but the photos aren’t totally clear. Sure, it’s generally more foot-shaped than lots of shoes (see how it comes out in front of the laces, and doesn’t have a clear point to the toe like most Nikes do?), but it doesn’t look like an Altra does, either. It’s wide enough for me, and has such a nice way of shaping to your foot and giving when you need it to give that the toe box is a total non-issue. And it achieves that without making you look goofy.
So, it’s all good, and I have no complaints, right? Not quite. I eluded to my issue above, and it’s mainly around the laces. They just will not stay tied. I pulled them super-tight when tying a bow, and basically made myself blue in the face with the effort I was expending. 2 minutes later – laces flapping around. I double knot, and they still come undone half the time. What I’ve found works best is to tie a bow, and then double knot just the loops.
This is where I thought I figured out the purpose of the little velcro flat on the tongue. I un-velcro’ed it, and tried to put the tips of the laces in there. The flap will fit one tip, but it’s too small to take them both. I figured that would be good enough. Nope.
Sometimes I thread the tips back under the criss-crossing of the laces, but even that doesn’t always work since the tips work their way out sometimes. As the laces age, they get better (it’s like they’re too stiff when new). Adidas, if you’re listening, this is my only complaint about the shoe – surely you have other laces that don’t suffer from this. Merrell and Nike have great laces. Look at theirs, copy them, and make me smile. K?
I did consider getting Lock Laces, but I don’t know if I like the idea. I could just get other laces, I guess. I wish these laces just worked right and stayed laced.