Last week I had the frustrating experience of stopping by a major outdoor goods retailer to try on some trail running shoes. Although I have narrow and thin feet, it was difficult to find a fit among many of the trail runners, even at a full size up. Several of the shoes, including those from Saucony and The North Face, felt quite tight and snug – even more so than racing flats.
Fortunately, fit is not a problem with the new Zoot Tempo Trainer, a stability running shoe with a comfortable medium-wide fit. I hadn’t previously run in a shoe from Zoot (“1983… Born in Kona.”). Thus, I had no preconceptions about this model that was provided to me by Zoot Sports. But then I have maintained a couple of preconceptions that were turned into misconceptions by this virtually distinct running shoe.
I say virtually distinct, because as soon as I put on the Tempo Trainers and began jogging, I was reminded of the original Adidas Supernova trainer from the early ’90s. This was true for both the fit and the feel. The classic Supernova, a bit wider than most running shoes of the time, provided a smooth ride and a bit of extra stability on rainy days.
The Tempo Trainer is a mid-weight shoe (10.3 ounces in the men’s version) with a two-density midsole. The firmness provided by the small second density insert above the arch may be just enough to allow a runner to maintain his or her natural foot striking style when tired. It is not significant enough – and this is a positive – to force the feet either inward or outward.
My first preconception was that I do not favor running shoes that provide a bouncy feel. The Tempo Trainer’s Z-bound maximum cushioning midsole provides a bit of a bounce over crushed gravel, something that’s appreciated by those whose feet regularly get beat up by this supposedly “softer” surface. The same minimal-to-moderate bounce cushioning feels like a protective force when jogging on both concrete and asphalt. The Tempo Trainer’s ride on asphalt is so pleasing that you might find yourself wondering when’s the next time you can sign up for a half or full marathon.
My second preconception was that as a heel striker I do not like soft heels. I’ve continually searched for running shoes with a firm or stiff heel plant. This shoe might have cured me of a strange obsession. The Tempo Trainer has a very soft heel which provides a pleasingly smooth ride.
The Tempo Trainer arrives in a Graphite/Black/Blaze color scheme, which most of us would describe as orange and black with neon green laces. If you’re an introvert who disdains attention except when you’re out jogging, these shoes will get you noticed! If you’re on a Most Wanted list, substitute jet black laces for the neon green ones.
The forefoot of the Tempo Trainer is wide enough for your toes to splay at will, and forefoot runners will enjoy the sweet blown rubber section up front. Reflective materials are sewn onto the forefoot for night running protection. And speaking of protection, I’ll reiterate that these trainers provide enough cushioning that even those with minimal padding on their feet and/or metatarsal issues will want to sing the Beatles song, “I Feel Fine.”
Well, no running shoe is perfect, so what issues cropped up with the Tempo Trainer? The first is that the sock liner is quite thick – mysteriously so (and a friend mentioned that it looks like an aftermarket insole). The thickness is logical given that this Bare Fit shoe was constructed to be run in without socks. Simply replace the provided insole with a standard one from another pair of running shoes – and add socks! – and presto, the fit reverts to feeling normal.
The second issue is that this model feels only competent on a hard-packed dirt trail. The width of the shoe makes it feel more like a jaunt in a family sedan than in an exciting personal sports car. But the Tempo Trainer gets the job done, making this a bit of nit picking.
The Tempo Trainer is well named, as it permits the runner to keep up a consistent running tempo while fostering mid-foot landings. The shoe makes for a relaxing walking shoe; it feels Asics-like at walking pace.
All in all, this trainer from Zoot presents a close-to-perfect blend of strengths that should overwhelm any minor weaknesses in it. It’s an all-purpose shoe that may eliminate the need to buy separate shoes for running, walking, visits to the gym and for casual wear. With the Zoot Tempo Trainer, it may be “one and done”!