First Look: Foam-sole 'Virrata' running shoe

The shoe hit stores this week. As a running junkie, Saucony’s Virrata model was on my drool list. The brand previewed it last summer as “the most cushioned shoe for its weight on the market.”

A weird claim to fame for sure. But in the hand it makes sense — a thick slab of foam offers a sole/midsole combination that weighs almost nothing. There’s no traditional rubber on the underside of this shoe, saving weight and also creating a unique feel as you run.

Saucony Virrata sole.jpg

Where’s the tread? Full foam sole

At $90, Saucony sells the Virrata as a training model, not a racer. But it is the lightest training shoe the brand has ever built. On my scale, my big size 13s weigh about 8 ounces a shoe. A men’s sample size 9, Saucony claims, is a feathery 6.5 ounces per foot.

Unlike most trainers, the Virratas are zero-drop shoes. There is a 0mm heel-to-forefoot offset. This style means you need to run differently if you’re used to normal running shoe models.

Heel strikes are a no-no — the Virrata is made to train you to run with a mid-foot stride and quicker steps, or “more naturally,” as the industry likes to say.

woman running.jpg

Cushioning + a more natural stride? A promise of this shoe model

The aforementioned “slab” of foam is a new type of EVA foam. It’s springy and light. Saucony applies it thick on the Virrata, giving an 18mm ply of foam underfoot for the midsole. Plenty of protection from the road as you pound miles is the result.

I took a pair for a first test run earlier this week. The roads were a bit snowy, but I managed to find clean pavement for a few miles.

First impressions? Grip was good, even on slippery spots. The shoe is comfortable and easy to run in. They feel light on the feet.

More interesting, Saucony cites the Virrata hits a sweet spot between a “natural, deconstructed running experience and improved cushioning.” Sounds wonky, but I’d actually agree with that description — I felt like this shoe made me run differently, more conscious of my stride (dare I say more “natural”).

Saucony Virrata.jpg

Virrata is a streamlined training shoe

The punishment for a sloppy stride is not high if you get tired. There’s so much cushion underfoot that you can misstep or “pound” for stretches when fatigued and the Virrata will not punish like other zero-drop models can.

That said, after a second run in the shoes I was a bit sore. Zero-drop shoes take time to adjust to on pavement. I often run in 4mm or 6mm drop models. The cushioned Virrata is a nice bridge for getting into zero-drop. I can’t wait to put a few more miles down in the shoe to see how it effects my stride and my style over the long run.

—Editor Stephen Regenold recently ran an ultra in the Marin Headlands of California. See his story “Hills, Mud, Rain define tough 50-Mile Ultra Race”

Posted by Daniel - 02/05/2013 08:51 AM

These must fit firmly between the higher-end Nikto line of shoes and the entry level Klaatu series.
If you buy all three and mail in the UPC’s, Saucony will send you a free copy of the Necronomicon.
(Protective gloves not included; mind the teeth)

Posted by Derek - 02/14/2013 07:36 AM

I just bought a pair on Monday. I have ran in them a couple times so far (18ish miles) and my calves are extremely sore. I have been running in minimals for a couple years now with the Nike Frees so I’m wondering if its the zero-drop as well as the new shoe factor that is causing my extreme calf soreness.

Posted by Justin - 02/14/2013 12:37 PM

That’s because of your new greater range of motion Of your heels dropping

Posted by Heini - 03/26/2013 02:45 PM

great shoe for longer runs! Finnish word “virrata” means to flow in english….running is smooth. I like these a lot, next saucony could make trail-version of these(i disagree in one thing though, shoes are slippery on ice and snow).

Posted by Nik - 03/28/2013 08:45 AM

Walking in the desert for a week with Vibram 5 Fingers has convinced me that cushioning is the wrong approach, no matter what form it takes.

Consider that our feet have evolved to provide the best walking experience for a million years. Adding a slab of foam does not improve things.

I am not normally used to walking around that much, taking my motorbike everywhere and not hiking for the last 10 years. But I did not have sore feet after a week of daily desert walking, on a hard desert ground (dried lakebed). Even more amazing, I never had sore legs!

Barefoot is the only way. It’s even better for running, obviously.

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