Saucony Virrata – Flexible, Light, Minimalist and Cushioned
Saucony have made major impact on the local and international running market in recent years with a range of shoes that have gradually introduced a reduction in heel to midfoot drop from 8mm to zero.
The Kinvara, which is currently in its third edition, is amongst the most favoured shoes in the market place, not least for its lightness, flexibility and responsiveness for both the training and racing market. However the company takes another step forward in 2013 with the introduction of the Virrata.
This sleek looking model has the typical triangular tread on an ultra lightweight combination mid and outsole that contributes to the overall 184gram weight. (size 9).
A combination of the parallel and diagonal flex grooves makes for a very flexible shoe, which can follow the natural movement of the foot. Although having a zero drop and massive flexibility, the Virrata is not short of cushioning with an 18mm thick EVA midsole.
The shoe is sculpted from the ball of the foot forward giving assisted propulsion on toe off which is even greater than the popular Kinvara 3.
The use of high carbon lugs on the key toe and heel areas gives extended wear for the outersole, which uses a ribbed lug design for grip. The open nature of the outersole design is such that the shoe is as much at home on the road as it is on open trail while being light enough to be an excellent middle distance track racer.
The moccasin upper is close fitting and utilizes the typical Saucony internal support spider under an open mesh, which has a fine nylon sheath covering. This keeps everything including sand from penetrating the foot area, but maintains a high level of breathability.
The sample model was relatively narrow in fit, but this is expected to be wider and more akin to the form of the Kinvara 3 in final production.
There are five splayed fingers to the support spider, with an additional link to a low level cup, which provides support to the heel without becoming an irritation to the Achilles.
The toe box, heel, Saucony logo and medial edge of each shoe incorporate reflective material providing a useful safety feature.
The Virrata took a couple of runs to acclimatize to due to the high multi directional flexibility and there is no question that your foot is exposed to a greater work out in this shoe compared with most. The important message here is that you should not make a sudden transition to this shoe: rather introduce the Virrata by alternating with your current shoes, and keep in mind that adaption is required both in the overall foot flexibility (strengthening) and the reduction to a zero drop between heel and midfoot. Too fast a transition could easily result in excessive fatigue or injury, but done with caution this will add oomph to your running.
From the first run it provided good grip with that welcoming squeak of rubber on ground that makes you feel you are really driving forward. Even in the wet this sole was up to the mark and provided the confidence that allowed tight cornering.
The grey and orange of the sample is one of four colourways that are due to be on offer in the mens range with an additional four listed for ladies.
The comfort and cushioning is surprising and this is a shoe that makes you want to run. If you like the Kinvara or Cortana, this is a shoe you have to try as a step towards an even more natural running style, but don’t expect the firm un-cushioned feel of many of the competitors, this is a well padded model looking for a fast run..