Thursday, 10 April 2014

Hi-Tec Shade, road shoe (review)

I've been running the Hi-Tec Shade road shoe for about a month now and I've put 150 kilometres on to them - a good distance to have developed a good feel for them and an opinion.

The Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity was the first Hi-Tec trail shoe that I wore. Light as a feather, it took a while to grow on me, which it did. I've been wearing the Hi-Tec Shadow trail shoe for a few months and while it is comfortable and has been good on all kinds of terrain, I prefer the Infinity for its snug fit and tactile sole.

On road I ran regular cushioned shoes for decades and for the past 18-months or so I've been in the Inov-8 Road-X 255 (men's). Its a broad shoe with a 4mm lift (the heel sits 4mm higher than the forefoot). I've been happy in it across distances from a quick 5km to 30km road races. I sometimes run my well-worn Asics Gel Fuji Racers (trail, men's) on road too - these are the shoes that saw me cross over from cushioned to minimalist.

This shoe model is the Hi-Tec Shade. It's a road shoe. I'm running the men's model in a very lovely blue and silver colourway.

Women often think that they can't / shouldn't wear men's shoes and I don't think that men even contemplate wearing women's models. For the most part, colours are different and the lasts are shaped differently. Women's shoes tend to be more narrow in the mid-foot and they often have a more narrow heel cup. I've very rarely had a women's shoe model in trail or road. I try them all and go for the one that fits best, and it is often the men's one.

Fit is far more important than the label on the box.

Apparently this shoe takes its heritage / inspiration from the Hi-Tec Silver Shadow, but as I don't know this shoe at all it means little to me.

If you wore the Infinity happily, you'll feel totally at home in the Shade. The two are definitely closely related.

When I opened up the box to pull out the shoe it was almost like what happens when you lift an empty milk carton that you expect to be almost full. Whoops!

My shoe is a size UK 8 (US 9) and it weighs... 185g per shoe.

Compare to the following (per shoe weights):
Asics Gel Fuji Racer - 269g (US 9.5)
Inov-8 Road-X 255 - 267g (UK 8)
Flip flops (Gisele Bundchen) - 174g

Feet are generally more narrow in the middle with a wider spread at the forefoot and across the toes. Both the Hi-Tec Infinity (trail) and this Hi-Tec Shade have a weird shape. They're very uniform - like a dugout canoe. Instinct says that this just isn't right but reality and experience have shown that it isn't an issue (for me) - neither on trail nor road.

Putting your foot into the shoe it feels like you're pulling on a slipper. The upper is smooth and uniform. There's no stitching other than around the lace 'cage' to secure the loops that the laces are threaded through. You can very comfortably wear these shoes without socks. The silver-coloured, heat-welded strips maintain the shape, form and support of the upper.

I think it is because the upper is soft and conforming that it doesn't matter much that the upper looks so uniform in shape - the upper allows your foot to spread. The last (what your foot sits on with the sole beneath it) has more shape. You can't judge this book by its cover.

How much lift?
This shoe has a 10mm lift - the height differential between the forefoot and heel is 10mm. Can't say that I've particularly felt anything different in my running to my Inov-8s with their 4mm lift. But I'm a forefoot striker anyway.

The longest distance that I've run in these in one chunk is 25km. I'd definitely wear them for longer distances too.

The slipper-like upper moves with your foot and the toe area bends with your toes (it doesn't bunch, which is what happens when the volume above the toes is too high). This shoe is streamlined with no excess nonsense.

The sole is light and thin-ish, yet it still cushions. This isn't a racing flat. I like this sole because it is thin enough that I can feel what is under my foot and my foot can spread and bend and move unrestricted. The shoe protects my foot from the tar and stones but it doesn't try to limit movement.

My feet are generally always blister-free, especially on road, so I can't comment much here. The smooth inner means that you're incredibly unlikely (impossible even!) to get hot spots caused by the shoe. If you do, look at your socks and any trail debris that has been kicked up into the shoe. They will be the culprits for sure.

I looked up the price online. Get this... R499! Considering the price of running shoes these days, I didn't expect less than R1000. How cool. Get two pairs.

Here's the thing... If I'd pulled these shoes on in the shop I don't know if I would have been convinced to buy them.

Sure, there are no lumps and bumps and the foot-in feel is good. It's that canoe shape that just doesn't seem right and my first concern would be that the forefoot is too narrow and that my toes won't have enough space to spread. But, in practice it has no effect (on me) and within minutes of heading out I don't even notice it. The challenge is that when you're spending money on shoes, you'll rule out shoes for reasons like this - I would.

The lightness, which is the shoe's most significant feature, is quite alarming. We (me) tend to distrust something that doesn't feel solid because we think it will fall apart. I've put 150km on the shoes and, aside from being a bit dirty, they look like the day I took them out of the box.

I have only worn these shoes for the past month or so. They've superseded my Inov-8s (road).

They're my full-time, first-choice shoe to wear at the moment. I'm doing a 30-odd kilometre run in them later this month and I'll certainly put a good couple of hundred kilometres into them over the next couple of months.

As I always say with shoes, you can't just go on what people say or what the shoe looks like. You do have to go to the stores (many of them), put on many shoes (remember to take your socks with you) and walk around in them (run on the in-store treadmill if they have one). And if the shoe fits your foot, buy it.

These shoes were kindly sent to me by Hi-Tec to try out. I'm not paid by them and I have the freedom to say what I want to.

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