Thursday, March 3, 2011

Avia Stoltz Shoe Review

If the Avia Stoltz trail running shoe was a car, it would probably be a sporty little Subaru 4x4 wagon. True, it’s not the most beastly 4 wheeling machine under the sun, but it handles cruddy off road conditions well enough while it also drives well on the road.

I always use my golf club analogy for running shoes. There isn’t really one shoe that is going to fill every need. There are drivers, putters, sand wedges, etc. With trail running shoes it’s the same- there are racing flats for single track perfection, cross country racing shoes, long mileage beefy trainers, mud shoes, and there are shoes that fill the middle ground in-between.

I came across the Avia Stoltz while researching shoes that I could wear during my upcoming 100 mile ultramarathon, the Umstead 100. I wanted a shoe which was what I call a hybrid, one that performs equally well on road and trails, because the running surface at Umstead is a fine crushed granite powder loop, which one could wear a road shoe or a trail shoe on. I wanted a firm sole in a light shoe, and the Avia looked like it might fit the bill.

The Avia Stoltz is a do-it-all trainer which can fulfill all your needs. It was designed for off-road triathletes. The shoes weighs in at 10 ounces, and still offers more cushioning and support than most other shoes in that weight range. The light weight is achieved by a micromesh upper which feels very comfortable against the foot, as it hugs your foots natural curves and anatomy. The shoe has a long pull tab in the back, making it easy to get on and off, since it is designed for fast transitions. The cut on the ankle is honestly higher than a lot of other shoes out there now, as minimalism is a movement which is taking over the running world. Personally, I don’t really like how high the ankle/collar/tongue rises on the shoe, but that being said, I feel that the sole on the shoe is so good, (and comfortable), I am willing to overlook the somewhat high ankle cut on the shoe which impedes the natural motion of the foot, and I will keep enjoying the shoe for its intended purpose. I have a disturbing amount of shoes in my arsenal, so that is saying something for this shoe by the way! I like it…

The shoe is very cushioned by dual density foam, and the heel provides plastic stability supports which aid in guidance. This shoe is still classified mostly as a cushioned trail runner by Avia, and they say it has minimal guidance even though it has plastic heel inserts. The forefoot cusioning is awesome, you definitely won't get jarred by rocks, roots, etc. You will not feel them through the forefoot of this shoe. After putting it through the ringer at Jefferson Memorial Forests highly technical singletrack, I find it feeling better after putting a few miles on it. It excels on terrain which is not technical, because the fit in the toebox in heel is rather high volume, which means my foot slips around a tiny bit. This is highly PERSONAL, because my foot is rather medium to low volume. The heel is definitely high volume in this shoe though, and so if your foot is high volume, you might really love this shoe. I find that I will be wearing mostly on non-technical trails where road work may come into play as well. Running at Cherokee park would be perfect terrain for this shoe, where you often find yourself on road traversing to the next trail.

The sole provided firm cushioning, which feels great on the crushed running path at Tom Sawyer. Once again, terrain in which this shoe truly excels, since it is not technical, and the wearer needn’t have top-notch trail-feel and the ability to handle tight switchbacks.

This shoe could readily and willingly handle high mileage due to its incredible sole which is my favorite aspect of the shoe. The tread pattern is tightly spaced so it is best suited for mostly dry trails, in which they won’t get caked with mud. I prefer more lugged tread for winter snow or heavy mud, but in dry conditions, this tight tread pattern truly shines and feels best, especially while traversing terrain like roads or gravel it feels great.

The upper, fits better than most any other do-it-all type trail runner I have tested. True, it is designed for a medium to high volume foot, but the microfiber air mesh upper is designed to hug the foot regardless, which aids it fit to all feet.

As far as sizing goes…I usually wear a 9.5 or a 10. Right now I am trying a size 9.5 out. I could probably jump to a 10. You really need to try them out. If anything, I would say order your normal size, or if anything, size up a ½ size if you usually float between 2 half-sizes.

This is one that I definitely recommend trying out for anyone looking to get into trail running, or for any other trail runners who are always looking for a new shoe to try out. It is only available locally at VO2 Multisport, so stop in and try it out. The guys at the shop are all awesome, and Jeff, the owner, even runs ultras too, so he is a great resource to help you find the right shoe.

As far as do-it-all shoes go, it’s going to be hard to beat the Avia Stoltz. Most shoes in this category usually feel a little sloppy to me as I tend to wear more minimal footwear, but the sole on this shoe is awesome, and the upper hugs the foot well enough that you don’t lose all dexterity and trail feel. This shoe excels on non-technical terrain, so for most mountain bike trails and singletrack trail it is a very good shoe that most runners will love. It offers all the support and cushioning one could want in a lightweight package, which is hard to do! It’s a sporty little Subaru, ready to tear it up off road and then get you home in style and comfort too! Oh and speaking of style, I think the shoe is pretty damn good looking too! But hey, I like a little flash…

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