Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Mizuo Wave Ronin 2 Running Shoe

For the first time in my life, this tour included a section where I expected to do some hiking. Last year's tour included more hiking than I wanted, and I was not happy with my footwear. The Five Fingers did not do well on any kind of hard gravel or the rocky volcanic soil we saw, and the cycling shoes gave me blisters when attempting to walk fast. Those blisters really put a damper on quite a bit of my trip, so I was not looking forward to them again.

I visited Ryan's Sports Shop, which appears to be the running equivalent of Shaw's Lightweight Cycles. Opinionated, willing to say negative things about anything that doesn't stand up to their exacting standards, these guys were a lot of fun to shop at. They suggested racing flats, and brought out the Mizuno Ronin 2 Running Shoe. These shoes are butt ugly, but when I first put them on the experience was amazing: they were light! I went home and weighed them and they weigh less than the Five Fingers! I bought a pair for myself and a pair for Lisa (who managed to get the red version).

The caveats Ryan's told us about was that these shoes are not designed to last. They're meant to be used for a few races, and then they will fall apart. They did say that if all we did was walk on them, however, they would last quite a bit longer than people who ran marathons on them. The shoes were also not designed with any kind of support in mind, but during the tour we slipped the custom insoles we were wearing from the bike shoes into them with no problems and with excellent results.

In practice, the shoes are as comfortable or more as any running shoes I've worn. On 12 mile walking days, my feet never got sore, and I would have been happily hiking more if my companions were up for it. At no point did we wish that our shoes were lighter, and of course we never wished them to be heavier or more sturdy. They survived the entire tour just fine, and looked like they will survive another 2 or 3 tours of similar magnitude. I have no intention of using them for casual walking around, however! They are expensive and I have more sturdy and heavier shoes at home.

Cynthia and Kekoa were planning on using saddlebags, so Kekoa brought his Five Fingers and Cynthia bought some cycling sandals that she will undoubtedly write about over at her blog, but neither of them ended up being very happy about their choices for hiking, and we cut one of our hikes short because of that. However, when saddlebag touring, there's no way the Mizunos will fit inside a reasonably sized saddlebag. Because these shoes are not waterproof, tying them outside would not work either.

Phil's solution, which was to simply buy shoes in Grindelwald, was also sound. His Mont-Bell hiking shoes ($120) were sturdier and would have survived tougher conditions as well. On the other hand, we just got lucky and finished in Grindelwald, rather than in Rosenlaui, where there was not a shoe store in sight, certainly not one open till 9:00pm. For a trip like the one we were planning, I definitely recommend these shoes. The real problem is being able to carry them. Kekoa says he prefers panniers for cycle touring now, and if you have panniers, there's definitely no reason not to bring decent shoes, especially ones that are so light!

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