Monday, August 20, 2007

The North Face Arnuva 50 Boa (review)

OVERVIEW: Built for the athlete who runs trails, dirt paths, even road, and offering the cutting-edge Boa lacing system for a rapidly-adjustable, secure fit. These are the shoes that were developed by The North Face together with Dean Karnazes and the shoes Dean was wearing when he was doing his 50 consecutive marathons in 50 states last year.

PROS: Boa lacing system is really cool. You do not need to re-lace your shoes when they get untied. All you need to do is to turn a little bit a wheel on the back of your shoe to tighten them up. So you are not loosing any momentum stopping and re-lacing your shoes – nothing irritates me more than untied shoes on the run.
Another great thing about these shoes is their outsole with a very good system of claws, which provides you an excellent grip on downhill slopes.

CONS: Although these shoes have some “rear foot compression cage” and even “Ultra lightweight compression molded EVA midsole”, you do not get much cushioning at all. At least it feels much harder than Asics trail shoes with their gel cushioning.
Also the outsole is very flexible. On one hand it improves the grip. But on the other hand you feel every sharp rock you are stepping on almost as if you are running barefoot.
The tightening wheel tends to get stuck from time to time and it becomes pretty difficult to pull it off to take off your shoes after a run (not every single time though).

One more downside is the outer mesh that does not provide you enough protection off the trail. Once I had to run through a meadow and got a lot of hay stems that got in though the mesh. Those stems were pretty difficult to get rid of afterwards and were bugging me a lot for the rest of my run that day.


SUMMARY: Although I love Boa lacing, I would not recommend Arnuva 50 shoes for trail running. The North Face has two more models of shoes with Boa lacing – Endurus XCR Boa or Amp Boa – and these are made specifically for trail running, while Arnuva is positioned for endurance running. Still as those two other models are likely to have the same cushioning system issues as Arnuva, let’s hope that other trail shoes manufacturers will pick up the trend and will license the Boa technology as well.

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