Vasque Ultra SST Review
By now most of us have had the opportunity to experiment with minimalist shoes. Some of us have found this is a quick road to injury, while others claim it has reinvigorated their running. I fall into the latter category, and have been running exclusively in minimalist shoes since the first Five Fingers debuted. With that being said, there has been a lot of talk lately regarding the maximalist category. The trailblazer in this new style of shoe is clearly the Hoka One One, and now many brands are coming out with their own version of a maximalist shoe.
I have decided to test my own feet on this new maximalist craze, wearing the Vasque Ultra SST. Just one look will tell you that this shoe is not for the faint of heart. Vasque’s shoe, along with other maximalist shoes, is designed to keep the ultrarunner’s feet happy and healthy through hundreds of training miles. I must admit that the thick stack height kept my soles from feeling any rocks or other sharp objects that were in my path.
Specs and Technology
The Vasque Ultra SST, which stands for “ShapeShifter Technology”, is designed for comfort without sacrificing performance. The shoe has a 6mm drop, but boasts a stack height of 22mm in the toe and 28mm in the heel. This will provide enough cushion to keep your grandma happy. The mesh upper is stitched directly into the EVA midsole, eliminating the need for additional layers of rubber/fabric in between. Each shoe weighs in at 10.6 oz, so they are not exactly the lightest on the market.
By far my favorite part of this shoe is the use of the Boa Closure System instead of traditional laces. For those of you who snowboard, you already appreciate this technology. However, for the average runner, this is not something you come across everyday. With Boa lacing, you essentially turn a reel, which tightens the stainless steel “laces” without the need for two hands or double-knots. The laces stay in place, and are easily adjusted mid-run for maximum comfort.
Performance of the Vasque Ultra SST
As I mentioned above, I have been wearing minimalist shoes pretty much exclusively for the last half-decade, so it took some time to get used to the stack height of the Ultra SST. When running quickly on uneven or downhill terrain, I did not feel as sure footed as I do in a Minimus or similar shoe. Because of this, I would not recommend this shoe for your more technical trail runs, or at least not until you have learned to grip in a shoe this tall. The benefit, though, is that you can cover long distances on sharp rocks (i.e. jagged granite) without worrying about ripping up your feet.
The barely there uppers were tight on the foot and breathable enough that I wasn’t concerned with wearing this shoe on a hot, humid day. It is almost like wearing a stretchy sock for an upper. This aspect did appeal to my desire for a minimalist shoe.
One note of caution: the first time I wore these shoes I got blisters on the arch of both my feet. I have heard that Vasque fixed this issue in the production runs of the shoe, so I will assume that the shoes found in stores will have remedied this concern. Either way, I would test these out on a shorter run first.
If you are planning to put in a lot of miles this summer, and have had issues with pain in your soles, this shoe would be well-suited for you. However, it is not an all-around everyday running shoe, and should not be treated as such. For me, I have now tried the maximalist fad, but will likely be sticking with my minimalist shoes for years to come.
As maximalist shoes continue to gain traction this year, expect to see many more Vasque Ultra SST’s on the trail.
Read more at Vasque.com.