Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shoe Review - Pearl Izumi Syncroseek III

If you're not familiar with my self-imposed review rules, familiarize yourself with them.

Advertised weight:  13 oz. (M's 9)
REAL weight:  13.2 oz. (M's 9.5)
Heel-toe drop:  unsure (could not find online), feels like 10-12 mm
Tagline:  "A lightweight trail shoe that features excellent support, traction, and off-road protection"
Miles logged: 500+

Since this shoe is a few years old, it's hard to find information about it online anymore.  Even on Pearl Izumi's site, the Syncroseek line appears to have been discontinued, and very few syncro- shoes still seem to exist in the road category.  Also, they have inexplicably put Colorado state flags on most of their trail shoes.  I guess that might not bother you if you live somewhere that doesn't have a lot of local pride, but there are 26 million self-respecting Texans that will never wear some other state's flag.

Oh, right, the review.  Let's talk about this shoe.

The Syncroseek III has a pretty standard fit.  Not narrow, not wide, and true to size.  I might say the toebox area is just a little slim.  I say that not because it bothered me, but only because I've run in shoes with noticeably bigger ones, and I know some people complain when that area's not big enough.  No unusual feel to it either; I wouldn't use any terms like "sock-like" or "locked-in."  It just feels like a typical running shoe.  And for the most part, unless you have an unusual feature to your feet, you can order your normal size and expect these to fit just fine.
Over time, one of the shoes had its tongue slide over to the side just a bit, creating a small scrunch point inside the shoe and a little discomfort on the top of my foot.  All I really had to do was drag the tongue over before each run, problem solved.

The color I got was a nice dark grey, which doesn't really look any different once they get dirty.  Good choice for a trail running color, though maybe a little boring.  Even after 500+ training miles on these, they're still not showing any significant discoloration or signs of wear.  Not bad!

I feel the need to point out that 13.2 ounces is not "light," even for a trail shoe.  For a normal trainer, that would be heavy.  For a trail trainer, I'll give it a pass and call it average.  But it is certainly not light.  When I lace up my faster trail shoes on race day, checking in at 9 ounces each, there is an immediate noticeable difference, before I even start running.  These aren't bricks on your feet, but they're not light either.  Don't expect this to be a speedy shoe.

The material chosen for the outsole is a durable rubber throughout, no soft spots whatsoever.  Holds up very nicely in the long run.  After 500 miles, there are some lugs that have noticeably worn down, but not vanished completely (and can you tell I pronate slightly?).  The lug pattern gives you horizontally-oriented lugs on the outside and vertical on the inside.  I've often wondered if the opposite would be better.  When running fast on easy terrain, I've got most of my weight on the center of my foot, so I want horizontal paddle-like lugs there for pushing off.  When on uneven terrain, I'm more likely to rely on the outsides of my feet, and that's when I need to keep from sliding sideways, so vertical lugs in those areas would be a good idea.  But still, this seems to be a very common pattern, and I don't get paid to make running shoes for a living.  Maybe someone else knows something I don't.

When you hit the trails in these shoes, it feels very natural.  Depending on the trail (like a fire road), you can check out mentally and just run, not worrying about every little bump and rock in the trail.  It gives you a feeling like you're running on pavement in a road shoe, only without the hard surface.  The ride can be just a little stiff, but not to the point that you think you're wearing hiking shoes.  I tend to prefer something a little lower to the ground; this isn't quite as crisp and nimble, and sometimes you have to be a little careful on quick turns.  But hey, it's a training shoe, not a racing shoe.

These handle pavement decently well.  Easily good enough to run for a few blocks to connect two trails, but not so well that you won't want a pair of road shoes if you log more than 10 miles/week on pavement.  If all of your runs are an even combination of road and trail, there are better double-duty shoes out there.  The point is simply that these don't feel like tanks on pavement.

They may not be the fastest, but they feel like a running shoe, which is something that high-mileage trail runners don't always accomplish.  If you're interested in racing and care about speed, these aren't your race-day shoe; you can run very long distances in a lighter, quicker shoe than this.  But for churning out 50-60 miles/week?  These are a solid everyday off-road trainer.

For the curious, this is the shoe that originally inspired the widely popular X-Alp Seek mountain bike shoe, which has since evolved into the still widely popular X-Alp Enduro III.  These are so cool I'm considering getting them as my one-and-only shoe if I ever do another exceedingly long self-supported bike tour.  But now I'm talking about another shoe, and another activity.  Back on topic.

After 500+ miles (probably closer to 600), I've recently retired this shoe from my training routine.  It is now used for light hiking, and even held up very well during my Rae Lakes solo backpacking trip this past Memorial Day.  That's the great thing about trail runners, they get a second life as a hiking shoe.

These shoes are now out of production, and a direct replacement from Pearl Izumi does not appear to exist.  It's possible, of course, that one of their newer offerings is similar, but I can't speak to that.

Bottom Line
Thumbs up!
Best use:  Everyday off-road training
Pros:  Good standard fit, all-around performance, good general feel, comfortable
Cons:  A little heavy/slow, a little stiff, both to be expected from a high-mileage off-road trainer.