Reebok-RealFlex

The sole of this shoe is both funky and functional

Just the ad for these funky running shoes made me want to try them. Forget the runners gliding across a scenic rocky landscape, what captured me was the personification of the 76 "sensors." The sole of the shoe is broken into 76 pods that double as grip and protection; this is Reebok's key technology in these shoes.

In the commercial, the sensors cheer on each touch down, even doing the wave at one point. In real life these pods allow Reebok to simultaneously offer cushioning and create a flexible, natural or barefoot running shoe, says Bill McInnis, the head of advanced innovation for Reebok.



McInnis says the foot not only flexes at the forefoot, where barefoot running proponents say we should touch down, but throughout the foot. The broken up sole of the shoe allows flexibility in every direction. But because we can't always run on the soft savannah, like we were adapted to do, some cushioning is still needed. To prevent stress fractures there's support and cushioning in the forefoot and for downhills, where toe first landings are almost impossible, in the heel. The totally stripped down, mesh upper encourages full flexibility too. Pictures of the shoe bent in half are no trick.

On the run these shoes feel effortless. They're light and flexible with a subtle spring. But walk across a stretch of gravel and you'll be picking rocks out of the gaps between the pods for hours. Forget true trail running like they depict in the ad. With each step the gap between the pods grows and then shrinks, perfect for picking up rocks.  So, while we like these shoes we recommend you reserve them for running on the road or fine gravel trails only. For someone wanting to try barefoot running technique these are an easy and safe introduction. Just stick to the roads, like these were designed for.

$110 available at Sport Chek, Foot Locker, Champs and Reebok stores. Fits true to size.
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