Let me ask you a question? Why is it that you think we as runners read these types of reviews? Is it for insight, or is it maybe that we don’t always trust the marketing “schpeals” that come with the shoe? It could even just be for pure entertainment, for example I thoroughly enjoy watching the Ginger Runner reviews for a good laugh. Mostly though I think it is because we would like to know how the product handles in the real world on real trails etc. It’s easy to read a bunch of complicated high tech and fancy sounding words but until you actually run in the shoe, one has no idea how it is going to play out in the real world.
It is because of this fact that I believe Trail and Mountain Running as a sport is really starting to hit a sweet spot at the moment. 5 years ago we were very limited in terms of shoe options, as well as kit and accessories options. As the sport has grown and as more and more events are filling up the calendar companies are really putting their R&D budgets to work to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. (Sometimes they go a little too far ahead like these particular what-ya-ma-call-its??? but hey let’s not blame them for wanting to push the envelope). This also means that existing models are being revamped often, as technology improves and companies receive constructive feedback from their pro athletes and customers. What this means for us as trail runners is that we are no longer scraping the bottom of the barrel to find good quality products to feed our hunger for the dirt. Companies like Puma that were solely a lifestyle, road, track and field brand have started developing competitive ‘trail-specific’ shoes that are really going to shake a few tree’s once word gets out how good they actually are.
Which brings me back to this review, the cool cats at Puma South Africa very generously sent me a pair of the FAAS 300 v2 TR in the recently launched ‘NightCat Camo’ edition and straight out the box these shoes were made to impress. (For our review on the ladies FAAS 300 TR version 1 click here.) Looks wise they are stunning, as you can see from the images they really are a very photogenic shoe with the “360 degrees of camo-inspired reflectivity which makes you visible in the dark” (hence the name ‘NightCat’). Let’s face it, running is way better when your kit looks cool whether it’s in the day time or at night
The outsole features a high abrasion resistant rubber in high wear areas which gives the outsole added durability, all that means is that they have put a material that lasts longer on the parts of the shoe that usually wears down the fastest. Trail shoes take a pounding on sharp rocks, loose gravel, and running through mud so added durability is always a plus in my book. This is also one of the key features that makes this shoe a great trail to tar shoe, not all of us live in the Alps or at the Western States trail head so some tar running is usually needed to get to the trail. These shoes are great for that, one of my favourite features of this shoe is that they are just as comfortable on the road as they are on the trail.
The multi-directional lugs, which are found in most trail shoes worth looking at, provide that added stability and grip on the steeper descents. We trail runners appreciate that extra stability when things get a little hairy. I will be honest, when I saw the outsole I thought to myself that Puma might have made a decent road shoe with some off road capabilities. Thankfully looks can be deceiving and I was sheepishly surprised after taking the shoe onto the trail and finding out that the grip was magic. The shoe holds it’s own out on the trail and they did not shy away from the technical rocky sections. The rock grip of the shoe is decent, I experienced very little slippage jumping between the larger rocks. It usually takes me a few runs before I can ‘trust’ the capabilities of a shoe to really open up the taps. After only a few km’s into the first run I felt like I had been running in the shoe for months which is one of the best things Puma has going for this shoe. Have you ever met someone for the first time and after a coffee and a good chat you feel like you have been friends for years, that’s what it was like for me and the FAAS 300 v2 TR.
The midsole, as with all the other FAAS models, Puma has gone with their FAAS Foam which is a lightweight one-piece blend of foam and rubber and it really is light and it really is comfortable, oh and it really is fast! This shoe is light, in fact they are just over 230g for a pair of size 8’s which by our standards is very pleasantly light. Again the comfort of the midsole and the lighter weight make it a great tar to trail shoe. Not everyone has the finances to buy a pair of shoes for every kind of terrain so if you are looking for a shoe that isn’t a “jack of all trade’s and master of none” but actually performs when you need it to this is definitely one of the best shoes out there. The FAAS Foam takes the impact of the tar as well as protecting the foot from sharp rocks on the trail. There is no rock plate but I found that it really isn’t necessary as the midsole provides adequate protection, this also keeps the shoe very flexible and allows for a fast roll off on the toe, as you can see from the image below.
The Upper of the shoe has been designed really well, it features minimal ‘no-sew’ overlays which provide great support to the foot. On the trail the more support you get the better. The ‘no-sew’ overlays also mean less abrasion on the foot inside the shoe, this helps to prevent blisters very well. The shoe breathes and displaces water incredibly well, having water sloshing around in the shoe after running through a river or a stream is not fun at all, thanks to what Puma calls it’s “Air Mesh Upper” water is able to escape fairly quickly and your foot can breathe better on those hot summer days. One of the fun features that I have begun to appreciate is a small ‘pocket’ at the top of the tongue that you can fold the laces into, I hate having laces flapping around while I run so this was a great feature, plus it keeps the shoe looking super fast and sleek which my OCD enjoys thoroughly.
The only issue I have with the shoe is the narrow toe box, although in the shoe’s defense I do have freakishly wide feet so for a normal size foot they would more than likely be fine but I personally did find the toe box quite narrow. As you can see from the image below it could actually be the sole itself which is a bit too narrow for my feet (see how my foot stretches out over the sole in the load phase). Next time I will go for 1 size up (like I had to do with the New Balance Fresh Foam) and see if that makes a difference. If you, like me, have a more wider foot try fitting a half size or full size bigger than you would normally go for.
I do believe Puma has made a massive effort to improve a number of key areas of the shoe, some areas I would have liked to see an improvement were left out (specifically wider toe box) but the version 2.0 is monumentally better than the version 1.0 – in fact it is probably the best improvement I have ever experienced between different models of a shoe on all the brands of shoes I have run in. The key is that they made lots of small adjustments that most people might miss and say ah it looks just like version 1. Trust me, it is not! Those little adjustments and improvements add up to one great shoe. When those pesky software updates come out for my iPhone I don’t always install them, some of them are lame and change my phone so much I don’t even recognise it. This, though, is definitely one of those “software updates” you want to do. #ForeverFaster