Vasque Pendulum II GTX Trail Running Shoe Review
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The Pendulum II GTX is a trail running shoe designed specifically to address a gap in the market… the space between the minimalist and maximalist camps. It takes features of both and delivers a lightweight laterally stiff shoe with great breathability, just the right flex, and bombproof traction. If you are looking for a light waterproof trail runner with great grip this is the shoe for you.
Pendulum II GTX Performance
Just in case you have been living in a cave for the last century and aren’t familiar with Vasque, here is a summary. They make great stuff, and have for over 60 years. The company started back in 1964 making Alps inspired hiking boots. For anyone who loves the outdoors like I do, you remember (and still have) your first pair of Vasque Sundowners, perhaps the most iconic hiking boot ever. Over the decades they have expanded their line to include trail running shoes and maintained their reputation for well thought out unbelievably durable products.
Out of the box these shoes are really comfortable, a pleasant surprise for a trail runner with a fairly stiff upper. Paired with the midsole and outsole, the upper makes the shoes look and feel a little burly. That said each time I ran in them I was impressed with the protection and support I got out of a shoe which is pretty light. Overtime this was a feature that really won me over as I often have trouble finding a shoe that provides adequate grip and stiffness for rocky terrain without being too heavy. True to form for Vasque, when they say something is waterproof, it is. Despite my attempts to prove that mesh can’t be waterproof, it took basically submerging the shoe in a creek to get any water in it.
As I continued to log miles, the midsole of the shoe molded to the shape of my foot and they became even more comfortable. Paired with what in my opinion is a perfectly shaped heel cup I felt like I could wear these shoes all day. There is sufficient room in the toe box for almost all feet which is great, but if you have really narrow feet you may slide around a little.
What impressed me most about the shoes was the combination of outsole and TPU plate. I like shoe that really let my foot flex while I am running. Often times the problem is that this means the sole is soft and it can be pretty painful planting the shoe on a marble sized pebble or pointy rock. This isn’t the case with this shoe. The claim to be very strong to point impact but otherwise flexible is spot on.
The Rubber outsole is pretty burly. It provides more than adequate traction for any type of terrain. One great benefit of this construction is that after a long run on the rough, rocky terrain where I live, I did not experience the foot fatigue or the vague post run ache I sometimes get with a softer sole. It is a little too beefy for road running in my opinion, but that isn’t what this shoe was designed for.
My only complaints about the shoe is that there is a significant amount of friction from the holes on the laces making it a little bit of work to get the right amount of tension through the entire lace. Also, they were a little short for a double knotter like myself.
One of the really unique features of the Pendulum II GTX is the construction of the upper. Instead of stitching together multiple materials or using an inner sleeve like other brands, Vasque has settled on their own solution. The upper is mostly a single piece shaped around the Immerse 360 last. It has a seams but because they are bonded, the claim is that it eliminates hotspots that often plague runners in new shoes. I have to say, I was skeptical because I love the sleeve used by companies like Salomon, but now I am a believer. Out of the box, the upper was firm but extremely comfortable and I had no friction spots, even with very light weight running sock.
The upper itself is highly breathable. Despite being very cool, the mesh did a nice job of keeping the debris out off my socks. The mesh is lined with a GORE-TEX membrane making it waterproof. The membrane does its job making this shoe very hard to get wet without completely submerging it. The lacing system uses the standard hole system used in most shoes. There is a loop to ensure that the tongue doesn’t slip down while on the move.
The Vasque Pendulum II GTX midsole is packed with technology and constructed with multiple layers of different materials. On top is the insole, a 3mm layer of the flux foam. Think about it like a very firm version of a tempur-pedic mattress for your foot. It allows a custom fit for the unique shape of your foot on top of the shape build into the remainder of the midsole. The rest of the midsole is constructed from compression molded EVA foam. This runs the entire length of the shoe. The construction of the foam allows it to be soft and provide a slow rebound. Over time, it also molds slightly to the shape of your foot. At the heel there in an injection molded EVA heel cushion to provide a little more heel protection and contributes to the 6mm drop.
Vasque Pendulum II GTX Outsole
The real genius of the Pendulum II comes in the sole. It utilizes a 2 part system. The top layer running half the length of the shoe is a molded TPU plate. For the uninitiated, TPU is thermoplastic polyurethane and in short, its the right tool for the job. It is extremely resistant to abrasion, somewhat elastic, extremely strong, and performs consistent over a wide range temperature, a feature that separates it from other products on the market. Its design provides very little resistance to the forward flexion the foot makes when running but it firms up with point impact like slamming your shoe down on a pointy rock. It’s the best of both worlds.
Grip is provided by the proprietary Vasque Visualizer rubber outsole. The challenge with a shoe like this is getting the balance right between weight, durability and grip. The Pendulum GTX II uses a very aggressive but medium length lug (4mm). The end result is a very grippy sole that is light but not afraid to tackle brutal terrain.
Vasque Pendulum II GTX Conclusions
This is a great trail running, hiking and frankly around town shoe. For the many of you who want more support than a minimalist shoe but don’t want the weight of a maximalist shoe, the Vasque Pendulum II GTX hits the sweet spot. The bonus of high breathability and waterproofing makes it a truly outstanding and an easy choice. It is exactly what I would expect from a company like Vasque. For more details visit www.vasque.com.