Wednesday, November 24, 2010

mzungo exclusive test: PUMA Faas 500

It’s been a while that I had the pleasure to run in a PUMA. In the recent years, PUMA seemed to always have one decent racing flat but the rest of their road running shoe line was sub par and unappealing. The new Faas series has the potential to change this.

Let me first tell you what I usually wear. I think it’s important to know a tester’s preferences as it says a lot about his judgement on a shoe. I do most of my training and racing in NIKE Lunaracers. They are lightweight but still cushioned which suits my running style. I’m efficient but, at 72kg (160lbs), heavy for a runner. For some of my races I go more minimal and use NIKE Mayflys, while for recovery runs I’m often longing for a more cushioned trainer. NIKE's Lunartrainer and Zoom Moire are currently my favorites for jogs (both are discontinued but can still be found on ebay). My prime focus is the marathon which I run in the 2:30s on a weekly mileage of 70-90.

Over the years, I started to dislike structured shoes. My feet need freedom. Not necessarily the five-finger-barefoot-shoe kind of freedom but given the choice between two extremes like an ASICS Kayano and a MIZUNO Universe, I would always choose the latter, no matter the distance or speed. To give you another example, I recently tested the ASICS DS Trainer XV. The old DS Trainers used to be straight forward training shoes, not too flimsy but not too heavy either. However, ASICS turned this shoe in a structured model that became useless for me. I just don’t enjoy running in something that takes away any kind of freedom for the striking foot.

So what’s the deal with the new PUMA Faas 500? First thing you notice: it’s a shoe you notice. Its bold colors are a statement that used to be reserved for racing flats. I want to say it was NIKE who loosened the universal “running shoes must be white” policy a little by moving away from white as the base color. The Faas 500 will come in various colors so everyone should be able to find one to his or her liking. Personally, I dig the bright colors but I would wear any color for a training shoe. My shoes tend to get dirty pretty quickly anyway, especially now in fall/winter.

First time I slipped into the Puma Faas 500, I noticed the soft interior. Also, its midfoot is fairly wide as is the toe box. Heel to toe drop and weight are in line with similar lightweight trainers. The cushioning is quite nice, not squishy soft but not firm either. Only the sole feels a little firm at first. However, as soon as I ran in them a few times, the shoe actually gets pretty flexible.

The soft interior is perfect for my regular easy runs and jogs the day after hard workouts when my feet tend to be a little sore from being cramped in tight race shoes. The Faas immediately hit the heavy rotation with my Lunartrainers and Zoom Moire. Its sole seems to be most suited on tarmac as the profile isn’t overly anti-slip but I run in them on gravel which is no big deal unless you would go at speed of light. Wet, fallen leaves in a tight corner might be a challenge for the Faas but so it is for most shoes outside XC specialists.

Mzungo says: Unless you have super narrow feet or run barefoot exclusively, the Faas can be for everyone. It’s a nice training shoe for easy runs and it probably is suitable for fast training and races for the 3hr+ marathon crowd who tends to prefer a little more cushioning for races (that, of course, is only a rule of thumb). I’d say: go to a shop in January when they hit the market and try them on. Run a few steps and you will see immediately if they are for you. The sole will get more flexible but other than that, it’s such a straight forward shoe that you immediately will get a sense of what you can get. Good job PUMA. Welcome back.
Personally, I can’t wait to get my feet into the Puma Faas 300 which is the lighter, lower to the ground version of the 500. I think I would have even more use for it.