REVIEW: Reebok Floatride Run

Disclaimer: The Reebok Floatride was provided to me by Reebok Singapore for the purposes of a review.

Reebok isn't a brand one would associate with running shoes these days. That hasn't always been the case, but in the last couple of years, their focus seemed to be more on cross-fit and obstacle racing. That focus seems to have shifted this year with a host of new running shoes that have caused quite a stir among running circles. Earlier this year, Reebok gave us a taster of things to come when they released the Reebok Harmony Road, sporting their first foray into a TPU-based midsole - KooshRide (which seems to behave similarly to Adidas's Boost foam). And now, representing Reebok's first foray into the increasing popular knitted-upper retail space, we have the Reebok Floatride Run.

Let's start with the basic specs.

Heel stack: 26mm
Forefoot stack: 18mm
Drop: 8mm
Weight: 9.17oz (260g) (US9.5)
Note: advertised weight is 8.2oz (233g) for US9


One of the first things I noticed when i inspected the shoe was the interesting design of the insole. It has a ribbed under-surface, possibly to get better bounce characteristics, or maybe afford better flexibility without causing any kinking of the foam. It is the first insole I've seen using such a design. Then there were the numbers. A quick check with the folks at Reebok confirmed that these were the Personal Best times of Sydney Maree, who was a prolific middle distance runner in the 1980s, once holding the World Record for 1500m. So how is this shoe tied to Sydney Maree? Well, this shoe is meant to be an homage the Reebok's Sydney Maree Trainer from 1984. 

UPPER

The upper on the Floatride is pretty unique. The entire front 2/3 of the shoe is composed of an elastic knit material (which Reebok calls a seamless Ultraknit), which seems to have a uniform tension throughout. What this means is that the degree of elasticity is homogeneous through the entire knitted section. Is that significant? I will get back to this when i discuss the fit of the shoe later on. The knitted mesh is fairly dense, in the sense that not a lot of daylight gets through it, but it is a relatively thin knit, so breath-ability was never a problem for me when i ran in these shoes. The knit upper is completely unstructured on its own, and Reebok added midfoot support to this by means of a plastic cage extending from either side of the midfoot. For the heel, Reebok used a soft, padded neoprene-like cup designed by a bra manufacturer with the intention of eliminating heel irritation. The heel cup does have a thin strip of plastic acting as an external heel counter/support, which communicates with the cage structures at the midfoot, but make no mistake, this heel cup will flatten easily just by pressing down on it with your hand. No breaking in required. In an age where a lot of shoe in the daily trainer category are reinforcing heel collars and accentuating the support against the Achilles tendon, this is a distinct departure from the current design trends. 
photo credit: Reebok SG


MIDSOLE

This shoe uses a dual layer midsole. There is the main platform, utilizing Reebok's Floatride Foam that extends the entire length of the shoe (white foam in picture). Then there is a firmer layer of EVA foam around the rim of the shoe (blue foam in picture) with excursions into the Floatride Foam at regular intervals in the forefoot. 
photo credit: Reebok SG
The blue EVA foam serves two purposes. Firstly, it acts as a cradle to keep the foot centered within the shoe. I see this as an important feature, given how unstructured knitted uppers can be, and serves to prevent the foot from spilling over the edge of the shoe when cornering or running on uneven surfaces. Secondly, the extensions into the forefoot Floatride Foam increase the responsiveness of the forefoot and gives you that nice rebound feeling on toe-off, while preserving the softer feel of the heel. 

What this shoe doesn't have is any form of medial posting or motion control, so it really is targeted more at neutral runners, and ideally runners with a normal or high arch. 

OUTSOLE

You can see that the last of this shoe is fairly narrow at the midfoot from the outsole. The outsole uses a full contact ribbed design, with thicker rubber placement at the lateral heel, and under the big toe. These are areas of higher wear generally (for heel strikers), and where the main propulsive phase of running takes place, and so it makes sense to add more durability to these zones. You will also notice a zone of less rubber placement running longitudinally right through the the forefoot of the shoe. I suspect this is in place to improve the torsional flexibility of the forefoot, so that the metatarsals and toes can transition through the last stage of pronation more naturally.


FIT

Here's where things can get a bit tricky. Let me say upfront that this shoe fits true to size. Beyond that, the fit is just a little bit on the narrow side at the midfoot. The knitted mesh is pretty snug, and takes a few runs to loosen up to what, for me, is the right amount of compression for a knitted upper. The tricky part is in getting the lacing tension right so that there is no heel slippage. You see, the heel volume is on the high side. Couple that with the lack of a solid heel counter, and you have the recipe for a lot of heel slippage. I wish to preface this by saying that there is zero heel irritation from the slippage, but it does feel like the fit is sloppy and there is the feeling of wasted energy in letting your heel slip in and out of the shoe as you run. How do you get around that? That's the tricky part. The plastic cage has only three rows of eyelets, and while that is fine in terms of providing lock-down for the midfoot, the last set of eyelets is about 2 centimetres too far forward of the ankle to pevent heel slippage. I have a wider midfoot than the average runner, so I tend not to overly tighten the laces as it is, so as not to "pinch" the midfoot when I run. (I will know as it gives me a sort of aching feeling in the outer edges of my feet when i run.) With this shoe, I tried to tighten the laces a little more than usual to get around the heel slippage issue, and immediately felt the aching in the midfoot. In the end, I settled on a bit of a compromise by using low lacing tension but utilizing one of the convergence points in the side plastic cage to mimic an additional eyelet. This greatly ameliorated the heel slippage while still allowing for pretty good overall lock-down of the shoe. Note that I did use fairly low tension in the laces to prevent damaging that contact point in the plastic cage. 
 
This whole issue with the plastic cage reminds me a lot of the Adidas Energy Boost and how it evolved over the past few years. Reebok has learnt from some of these past flaws in that the plastic cage in the Floatride is soft and malleable and allows for a higher degree of lacing tension while still being able to wrap around the midfoot without causing discomfort, whereas early versions of the Energy Boost plastic cage really crushed the foot when the lacing tension was even a little bit high. Regardless, I think Reebok would do well to move the attachment points of the plastic cage outside the EVA foam cradle, so that the plastic has no chance to pinch the foot, or move away from the cage altogether in favour of the now popular bootie-type upper. 

RIDE

The shoe took a couple of runs to break in for me. There was some initial stiffness in the midsole that went away after the first 20km, and once I found the right lacing tension, things started to feel really smoothen out. This shoe has really grown on me over the past few weeks. The platform is softer than say a Skechers Razor or ASICS Noosa FF, and there is a bit more vibration dampening underfoot, but not so much that it feels mushy or sluggish. 

The sweet-spot for this shoe seems to be the middle miles. Those aerobic controlled runs that you do in between the slow recovery jogs and the faster uptempo stuff. I had no problems taking this shoe out for a 30km long run. The upper takes sweat well and does not feel very laden down when it gets wet. The full contact outsole also gives the shoe good grip on wet surfaces. 

Durability has been decent. I've used the shoe for the past 3 weeks on and off, and there is some early wear on the lateral heel and some small areas on the forefoot, but nothing major. I would expect the shoe to exceed the 400km mark easily at this rate.


CONCLUSIONS

Overall the shoe reminds me most of an Adidas Energy Boost, minus the extra bulk. To me this shoe is what the Adidas Boston should have been. Don't get me wrong, the Adidas Boston Boost 6 is a fine shoe, and lots of people love it for what it does, but for me, the Boston doesn't do what it's supposed to do. The Boston at its current weight should be the daily trainer of the line, the equivalent of a NB 2090 or a Saucony Ride, but it rides much closer to an Adidas Adios or a NB Vazee Pace, both of which are uptempo lightweight trainers. For me, the Reebok Floatride sits as a very strong competitor to the likes of the Saucony Ride, ASICS Dynaflyte and NB 2090. 

Who should try this shoe? I think it's for people who like the feel of the Adidas Energy Boost, but want a more streamlined package; a little less bulk, and little more versatility, for the middle miles or an aerobic long run where you can pick up the pace a little at the end. The Reebok Floatride is simply the Boston that should have been. The catch is you need to make sure it will fit your foot shape. Heel slippage is one possible pitfall. The other is the plastic cage causing some pressure issues at the midfoot if you need a high lacing tension, though this should only affect people with wider feet or low arches. The feel of the midsole and outsole are right at the sweet-spot, and some minor tweaks to the upper will allow it to fit a wider range of runners.

The Reebok Floatride Run retails at S$219 in Reebok Velocity, Reebok VivoCity, and iRun Queensway. 


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