Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gear Review: Saucony Virrata

Saucony is at it again.

They're making shoes that I love.

I currently have about 300+ miles logged in my Newton Distance, and I remember having this thought when I bought them - "I'll never find a shoe that I love this much ever again."

That is until a pair of Saucony Virrata's came to visit.  It all started so innocently too.  I put the Virratas on to get a first impression of the overall feel of the shoe - not bad, not bad at all.  My initial impression was that even though they were Saucony's latest addition to their natural line-up, were a 0mm offset, and had their upgraded Pro-Grid midsole (all of their cutting edge accouterments, really) is that the Virrata actually feels like a shoe.  It certainly doesn't feel like it had that much going on.

Score one for the Virrata.  My Newtons (reviewed here) or Skechers GoRun 2 (reviewed here) are really fantastic while running, but have some challenges when walking around.  The running shoe life cycle in my house goes like this - major miles, minor miles, walking/being on feet for a long time, casual, yard work.  So, a shoe that feels like an actual shoe is a big deal for me.

And now, after 50+ miles in, the Virrata nearly tops my 'best shoe ever' list.  Here's why:

The shoe just feels simple.  The upper is super breathable and really hugs my foot nicely.  I have long and narrow feet, so any of the issues with toebox crowding that I've read about really haven't been an issue for me.  I also noticed that after my first 5-10 miles, the upper relaxed to accommodate what my foot wanted to do naturally.  The lacing hugged my feet well, and the fit around my ankle was exactly what I like, and while I would not categorize the fit at the ankle to be constrictive, it's locked in pretty well, and the shoe becomes an extension of the body pretty easily at any speed.

The 0mm offset of the shoe is really complimented by the 18mm stack height in both the front and rear of the shoe.  The Pro-Grid material found in the midsole of the shoe combined with the intelligent stack height of the shoe create a ride that is comfortable, supportive, and (for me) gives the perfect amount of protection and ground feel.  If you take a look at the picture above, you'll see an area of black outsole rubber on the heel and a bit on the toe (colored red).  If there is one drawback to the shoe, it's the lack of outsole rubber in the potentially higher-wear areas of the shoe.  The Pro-Grid midsole material (above shown in green) makes up about 90% of the outsole of the shoe, and after 50 miles in my Virratas, there is a good amount of noticeable wear.

There are some pretty deep grooves present on the bottom of the shoe.  After Friday's run of about 13 miles, I spent the first few minutes at home picking small stone out of them.  Last Sunday's 20 miler - same thing.  I found the rocks, picked them out.  There are some advantages to the deep grooves as well.  This increases the amount of flexibility in the shoe, and there is a distinct feeling of the foot really grabbing the ground you're running on.

While my Newtons are threatening to give me a big eye roll, in my opinion, this shoe is the most capable shoe that I've ever run in.  It has proven to be both responsive and comfortable at any speed.  I've run sub 7" miles in them and I've run easy (9"/mile) in them - in both instances, bliss.  That being said, I view this shoe a little more like a nice bottle of wine or a nice single malt.  As much as I love these shoes, and I do love them, I'm having a hard time seeing them as an everyday shoe at the 40-50 miles per week that I'm currently running.  This is, again, due in large part to the head-scratchingly small amount of outsole rubber in high strike areas of the bottom of the shoe.

I find myself wanting to run endless miles in this shoe, but I also find myself wanting to savor it and save it for the marathon lurking just 6 weeks away.  There is little doubt in my mind that if I made the Virrata into my daily trainer, I'd be looking for a new pair in another three weeks or so.  At this point it's worth mentioning that Saucony has done something pretty smart here - while it is their newest shoe, the price point is a modest-for-a-new-shoe $90.

Finally, the Virrata just looks cool.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I like my shoes to not only feel awesome, I want them to look awesome.  They feel great, look fast, and feel fast.

Bottom line - I love this shoe so much that I want it to be my everyday trainer, but I don't see them holding up to the miles that I have already seen me be able to get out of other shoes in the stable.  However, the Virrata has more than earned its spot in my rotation.

**special thanks to Pete Larson. at for providing these shoes - they were provided free of charge as media samples directly from the manufacturer

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