I love running history. The history of running. Sure, you got your competitive part there—the racing and all. The evolution of training methodologies is really interesting, if you’re into that kind of thing. If you’re not, I’m sure you’d rather take a 36 grit sandpaper to your, you know, parts than to read about Cerutty or whatever. You got your mythology—Pheidippides, the importance of VO2—and cultural roots stuff—the early Puebloans, and more recently, the Tarahumara. I really enjoy tracing the historical lines to where we are currently. Like, right here, at this coffee shop, next to this Americano.
One of the reasons I wanted to get my feet in some Karhu was because of their history. Well, theirs and Finland’s. Karhu are from Finland, which has one of the longest and most successful competitive running histories around. The Finns were the Kenyans of 1920’s and ‘30’s distance running—they pretty much won, well, everything—and Paavo Nurmi was the greatest of them all. Lasse Viren in the ‘70’s: He was one of my early running heroes, and still is.
A couple of years ago at The Running Event I saw him there, doing some promo work for some company, I don’t know which. I’m generally not a fanboy, or starfucker, or whatever. I remember getting really goofy the first time I met Paul Tergat, and the first time I met Meb, and of course Bill Rodgers back when I was a kid. But when I saw Viren, oh my God, all I could think of doing was a fist pump and yelling, “SISUUUUU!” but then I thought better of that and quickly found an exit before I shit myself in his presence.
Karhu made Nurmi’s shoes, and I thought that if I wore some Karhu, I could win the Olympic 5,000, 10,000 and Marathon, too, except never.
I’d tried a couple different Karhu models in the last few years and while I liked them, I didn’t love them. Like looooooove them. They were ok, but just ok. The first Fast Fulcrum Ride had good pop to it, were a little bulky for a lighter weight shoe, and were so narrow that my little toes on each foot bled violently. And then the Flow 2 had a really nice fit—they wrapped the midfoot just right—but there was just…something…not yet right. But still, I wanted to love to run in them, so I kept them around until I knew I could get my feet into something cooler.
So the good people at Karhu delivered unto me a pair of the Flow 3 Trainer, which are the daily trainer version of their racer, the Flow 3 Light, by way of some more rubber on the outsole. I tried them on first without socks, and thought that the lemon yellow–they call it Scream–looked good and made my ankles look awesomely tan.
Oopsie. My bad. I’d asked for a size 12, because that’s the size I normally wear, but that size was a little big. And by “a little” I mean “way fucking.” My foot slid around in the shoes, completely unencumbered by the upper, which I can’t imagine was the intention of the designer. So I got the half size smaller—I even considered going to the 11—and the fit was right on and I knew me and the Karhu were gonna be spending some snuggle time together. The Fulcrum is the dual density inverted scalene triangle—I looked that shit up—in the midsole and serves to guide the foot forward in transition more efficiently. I don’t know how much of that is legit—the studies behind it are their own, after all—but the shoe feels fast when you move and the foot feels cradled by the contours of the midsole.
And speaking of the contours of the midsole, the Flow Trainer feels like a superfirm version of the Skechers GORun 2. My foot sits in each about the same, though they are really different shoes. The Karhu feels as firm as the Adios 2, though a bit thinner in the forefoot and almostbutnotquite as responsive. I mean, really, what shoe is as responsive as the Adios? Ok, the Newton Distance. Whatever.
The upper is pretty much a one piece mesh that fits very clean but my relatively narrow foot wanted a little more, I don’t know, narrowness in the heel. There wasn’t any shifting or sliding, but because the midfoot is more rigid than in other shoes I’ve been wearing lately—other than the Adios 2 anyway—I expected a little more…grabby or something. Yeah, yeah, yeah1, don’t get all You shouldn’t expect things, bro! on me. I didn’t really expect things, I suppose I was used to, or familiar with, other sensations enough that I noticed the difference. To continue the comparisons with the Adios 2 and the GORun 2, both of which have similar characteristics, the GR2 feels like you are wearing a gently padded moccasin, and the Adios 2 feels like you’ve strapped each foot into the cockpits of, I don’t know, space rockets or some shit. The Flow Trainer is somewhere in the middle; they feel like you’ve got a moccasin upper on a space rocket. A baby teenager space rocket. I think that it is just another example of how important it is to pay attention to the entire shoe and not just to some flex grooves or offset or whatever. And, true to the Karhu history, these shoes are made for running fast. That’s when they feel the best. I mean, the least. You know what I mean.
I’m generally not a fan of “technologies” in running shoes, because they rarely work. There are some that do work, and work well, but most of them are, let’s just put it out there, completely ineffectual shit. The Fulcrum has potential, particularly if Karhu could figure out a way to incorporate it into the forefoot of the midsole. I’d love to see Karhu take up some more space on the running shoe walls. They’re making some cool stuff and one would hope that they’ll use their history in performance to move forward with some great and new designs, rather than rely on designs that are there just to chase numbers.
1Karen O is hot.