Rethinking Minimalist Shoes: A Saucony Virrata Review

by - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When minimalist shoes became all the rage in the running world several years ago, I didn't really get it. I loved my Mizuno Wave Inspires for the support they gave me on runs, and I couldn't imagine sacrificing that.

Obviously wearing my bright green @mizunorunning wave inspires to tonight's Glow in the Dark #5kdanceparty

But then I saw more and more people wearing the Vibram Five Fingers and I was curious and wanted to know why everyone thought they were so awesome. About two years ago, Vibram sent me a pair to test and review. If you've been reading that long you may remember the video series I made as I tested them out.

The Vibrams were fun and different, but I really struggled to build my mileage in them. (I think the longest I ever did was one mile.) I eventually gave up on the minimalist thing because I wanted to be able to run longer distances in something more comfortable.

Fast forward to today, and I'm mostly back to ignoring the whole minimalist thing and still running quite happily in my Wave Inspires.

Running in shorts in November. No complaints here. @mizunorunning #fitfluential

But then I heard about the Saucony Virratas -- a minimalist shoes with some cushioning to protect your feet. I was intrigued.

Through FitFlulential, Saucony hooked me up with a pair to try out.

Happy Valentine's Day to me! Love Saucony #findyourstrong #virrata

Can we talk about how amazing this color scheme is?

Here's the deal with these shoes. You get the 0mm drop of traditional minimalist shoes, but you also get 18mm of cushiony foam under your foot for an added level of protection. (If you want more in-depth details on the shoe's construction, Saucony has a great blog post breaking it down.)

Despite that cushioning, these shoes are extremely lightweight, which I loved.

I tried them out first at my CrossFit classes, where the coaches preach a lot about the awesomeness of minimalist shoes. I got a ton of compliments and really loved the way these held up during the workouts.

Crossfit free class
Also, look how much the shoes pop in this group shot.

My first run in the shoes was a quick and easy three miler. I loved how light the shoe felt on my foot, and I could barely tell I was running in a minimalist shoe. None of that traditional ankle/calf tightness I've experienced before.

Took my new Saucony #virrata shoes out on their first run today. Love them! #findyourstrong

Since the first run went so well, I might have gotten a little bit cocky, and might have forgotten that even though they didn't feel like it, the Virratas are still a minimalist shoe. On my second run in them I decided to tackle five miles.

Bad choice.

On this run, I could definitely feel some of the familiar tightness in my calves and ankles. It wasn't bad, but I did stop to stretch out around the 2.5 mile mark. I also decided not to be stupid and cut the run short. I did 3.5 miles instead.

Rocking all my new running gear today. Top and capris by Ellie. Shoes by Saucony. #findyourstrong #virrata #loveellie

What I love about these shoes, besides the awesome color, is that I could put them on and still go out on a three-mile run. I didn't have to worry about slowly building my mileage and working my way up to a three miler. I could just go out the door and do it, something I wasn't able to do in other minimalist shoes I've tried.

Now this doesn't mean I'm going to go jump on the minimalist shoe bandwagon and abandon my Inspires. They've done too many great things for me over the years. But I will be working the Virratas in to my routine especially on my shorter runs, and I certainly see them becoming my go-to CrossFit shoe.

What's your take on the minimalist shoe trend? Love them, hate them?

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  1. Hmmm. I am also married to my Mizuno Wave Inspires. I've cheated before, but always gone back. I am, however, looking for more minimalist shoes for weight training. The last time I tried Saucony, I felt like the toe box was really wide and I was always kind of tripping over the edges (do you know what I mean?). Did these feel roomy in the toe for you?

  2. I actually didn't notice that with these shoes. I thought the toe box fit my foot well and I don't have a lot of extra room in there. I definitely didn't feel like I was tripping over the edges. I was happy with the fit.

  3. Awesome, thanks for the feedback! I might give these a go for the gym.

  4. I've been wearing Asics 2170s for years and managed to get a stress fracture. In all my rehabbing, the PT wanted me back in them with the addition of orthotics. I was still running with shin pain and figured I'd always have pain when I run.

    Then I decided to do something crazy. I bought a pair of NewtonRunning Gravity shoes - neutral with a 3mm drop. I'm loving them. So far I've done a 6 mile run inside and yesterday ran one of my fastest 4 mile runs EVER in them outside. Is my shin pain 100% gone? No. Do my calves and ankles feel the difference? Yes. Am I working harder to improve my running form? Yes. Am I still running my long runs outside in my Asics? Yes (I didn't want to risk all the snow and ice we've had in shoes with no stability.) But in some weird way, I think I'm onto something. Maybe I've been running in too much stability and it's screwing me up and resulting in injury.

    Hopefully these Sauconys will continue to work for you.

  5. I love that color scheme too! I'm also married to the Mizuno Inspires - seems like a popular shoe - but the more I strengthen my legs through lifting/crossfit I have thought about trying a more neutral shoe. :)

  6. I've flirted with a coouple of different minimalist shoes, but not those; I might have to give 'em a try! They sure are purty, if nothing esle!

  7. I am loving reading all the reviews of these shoes! So glad you enjoy them!

  8. love that you used these for crossfit! definitely intrigued!

  9. I love your blog! I started mine about 2 months ago based on my goal of running a thousand miles this year.

    Hope you check it out!

  10. I want to try a pair for in the gym use! :)

    Love the colour!

  11. I love minimalist shoes like that. Check out the Mizuno Musha's, they are my minimalist shoe of choice.

  12. I'm Curious - now that you've had them longer, what's the verdict on longer runs and such?

  13. Oh good question! I actually haven't been using them very much on longer runs while I've been training for my half. I have however, been using them on most of my short runs and still love them, especially on the treadmill.

    I've always had problems running on the treadmill in my regular shoes with form causing my hips and knees to hurt, but I don't have any of those problems in these shoes.

  14. [...] as part of a FitFluential partnership. You may have remembered I also reviewed the super minimal Saucony Virratas a few weeks back, and completely loved them as [...]