Friday, December 2, 2011

Shoe Review: Aetrex RX Runner

There are some shoes that take you by surprise; those shoes that you wanted to hate but wound up loving. There are some shoes that are consistently great. And then there are some shoes that you always know will fit one way, and it isn't quite for you, but you understand why it works.

This is none of these.

In fact, I've never been quite so stumped by a product before. Everything that I had thought these would be, was incorrect, but at the same time, it was 100% accurate.

And it is with that, we enter the Aetrex RX Runner.

The Backstory
Aetrex is a company that formerly did nothing but custom orthotics, available via a podiatrist. However, they noticed that they were receiving the same four orders for support levels nearly 98% of the time: neutral, neutral with a metatarsal lift, posted, and posted with a metatarsal lift. In time, Aetrex realized that they could instead offer these orthotics at the retail level.

Respectively, this has become the Lynco L400 series orthotics. Going through the above descriptor, that has morphed into the L400, L405, L420, and L425, respectively. This is the similar backstory to Superfeet, and so it is no surprise that these two orthotic makers vie for the top positioning in our store for their orthotics.

However, unlike Superfeet (with the exception of Superfeet flip-flops), Aetrex also desired to enter the footwear market; after all, wouldn't an orthotic maker do a good job of knowing what the foot needs for support during walking and running? And so come along the RX Runners.

The Technobabble
The Aetrex RX Runner is a neutral running shoe, making it best for neutral pronators or supinators.

The main call out on the RX Runner is the "Fat Pad" system. This is their proprietary secondary cushioning system, much akin to New Balance's Abzorb system, or Asics Gel. It is a fully encapsulated, low durometer foam. This means that it is quite soft. There then is their blend of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), which is the primary cushioning system.

The RX Runner them has a relatively stiff midfoot shank, which is mirroring the shape of the plantar fascia: thick in the heel, and then spreads out toward the metatarsals.

The outsole is segmented in a few strange ways. The medial side features more segmentation than the lateral side in the heel. This is interesting, as people tend to land towards the outside of the heel during their gait cycle. The midfoot features two prongs, then three directly under the ball of the foot. This gives the shoe a truly neutral flair through the forefoot. There are only two flex grooves through the forefoot, giving it a relatively stiff positioning.

The insole to the Aetrex runner features a gel-esque substance in the insole. (Asics only holds copyright to the use of Gel as a cushioning material in the midsole of shoes, not for insoles). It does not feature an Aetrex Lynco orthotic, which I personally found surprising. (I would've thought it'd have been a perfect device to couple the two together.)

The shoe weighs in at 16 ounces in my size 13. Considering what I've been wearing around the CtB offices as of's a bit heavy. (No published weight exists for these, so I had to go off my own size here.)

The Run
These, are, well...

OK, there's no sugarcoating this.

These are the worst running shoes I have ever put on my feet.

What makes them terrible? Let me count the ways.

First and foremost, they made my toes fall asleep within about 30 seconds of putting them on. I tried re-lacing them. I tried not tying them. I tried everything. Nope, toes still asleep. Not a good start.

You slip the shoe on (and, if you don't experience the same numbness in your forefoot, well, more power to you), and you start to wonder: am I about to be taken in the back of a black Cadillac and deposited in the East River? That 16 ounces feels more like 61. It is probably due to that very thick "Fat Pad", coupled with the midfoot shank being so far away from the foot. The pendulum effect makes these much heavier than they sound.

OK, so they're heavy. Whatever. No matter. That should mean they have a boatload of cushioning, right?

Within four strides, you're left wondering: did I put cinder blocks on my feet? They're heavy. They're not well cushioned. They're much firmer than the amount of material would have you believe. By comparison, the featherweight K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Light is much softer, and much more supple.

These are stiff. As in, my poor 158 pound (hey, it's the off-season. 153 is the racing weight) self could not get them to flex forward, no matter the strike. I tried heel-striking. I tried forefoot striking. I tried midfoot striking. It all sucked something spectacularly.

In sum, these are terrible. And what makes it worse? It's the gall of $129.95 being charged for these. Seriously? You mean, for the price of, say, a Saucony Triumph, you want people to wear these? These don't even compare against the Saucony Jazz. From the 1980s.

In my reviews, I try to give you imagery. I don't like trying to tell you HOW it is, so much give you the feeling of having put the shoe on yourself. Well, this is one experience that I almost say, every runner should HAVE to experience. You need to put these on. It changes your perspective on your shoes.

It makes you very, very grateful for the other shoes that you own.


Unknown said...

All very good points to note!!! Looking forward to seeing what is in the baggies!
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Unknown said...

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