Disclosure: I received a pair of Ampla Fly running shoes for testing purposes because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

The red stripe at the bottom is the edge of the carbon fiber plate
The red stripe at the bottom is the edge of the carbon fiber plate

Introducing: magic shoes! A shoe with a carbon fiber plate in the bottom on purpose? What’s with the funny flappy thing on the bottom? As a runner who usually runs in pretty plush shoes and has the uncanny ability to trip over flat surfaces without assistance, I was a little apprehensive…until I saw that they come in red. Sold! I would just click my heels three times and find myself flying over the finish line, right? Well…not exactly. Ampla Fly is a surprisingly lightweight training shoe designed to encourage efficient use of force while running. It’s not specifically a stability shoe, though based on my experience I think it can help you to develop running habits that will lead you to correct your stride.

First, they FIT. I might seem like a shoe junkie, but that’s just because I can’t find shoes that fit quite right (when I find them, I hoard as many pairs as I can before the shoe maker messes with the model and ruins it). My feet are big (10.5 in running shoes), relatively flat (medium to low arch), and shaped like men’s feet (not narrow at the heel, not narrow across the toes). When I found out I was going to get the chance to try out the Ampla Fly, I crossed  my fingers and hoped they would fit. They did!

Ampla Fly in black (image courtesy of Ampla)
Ampla Fly in black (image courtesy of Ampla)

Interruptus: a little on the technology. Before I get into my experience with them, here’s an abbreviated tutorial on the Ampla Fly (link to the exact shoes I tested is HERE). As the company explains it:

The AMPLA FLY is a running shoe that encourages the efficient use of force and provides the most powerful running experience possible. The full length carbon fibre Forcepower plate technology guides upon foot-strike and releases stored energy at toe-off.

If you compare the construction of the Ampla Fly to your current running shoe, you will immediately notice the difference in design.

Courtesy of Ampla
Courtesy of Ampla


Yes, the carbon fiber plate feels stiff. (This is a GOOD thing.) When I first put on the magic red shoes, I immediately noticed the soles felt stiff. Very, very stiff. I did a little walking around before I tried to run in them, and it definitely took some time for my feet to get used to the idea of stiff soles. If you run in a stiffer shoe, like Mizuno, you might not notice this; if you run in a plush shoe like ASICS nimbus or cumulus, or Brooks glycerin, you will notice it. (If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, you will definitely need to ease your way into running in these, a little bit at a time, and slowly build your mileage, as well as follow your running with mobility and soft tissue work.) I mention this NOT because the stiff soles are bad–they serve a very specific purpose–but because if you are used to fully articulating through your foot when you run, you might initially find these shoes a big uncomfortable. Trust me, not only does it get better, it’s totally worth it.

Oh, side note: “stiff sole” does NOT mean “hard landing.” There is sufficient cushioning that you don’t feel like you’re running on steel shoes on pavement. The microfiber and mesh upper was super comfortable.

Running in Ampla Fly takes less effort. After I spent some talking walking around, I decided to try running in them. Ampla Fly is aptly named! The shoe is designed to use the force of your foot-strike to propel you forward, so instead of hitting the ground and thinking “push,” as you hit the ground your foot almost feels like it just bounces right back up.

The shape of the shoe strongly influences your stride. The BibRave Pro team was lucky enough to get an exclusive call with the team behind Ampla Fly, and one thing they mentioned was that it is nearly impossible to heel-strike wearing Ampla Fly. Naturally, I had to see for myself, so I tried to run about a half mile while heel-striking. (I’ve spent the past few years training my strike to mid-foot striking, so heel striking is no longer my default; I can generally choose to heel-strike and stick with it though.) It was surprisingly difficult. Heel-striking felt unnatural and strange, as though I was somehow using my feet wrong and the shoes were fighting it. (Because, you know, they were.)

Overall, it seemed that the shoe promoted shorter strides and a quicker turnover (more steps in less time), which will naturally cut down on heel striking. The shoes are definitely neutral.

Ampla Fly over the Alameda bike bridge
Ampla Fly over the Alameda bike bridge

These are definitely road/track shoes. The Ampla FAQ clearly states these are not trail shoes and I already find trail running sufficiently treacherous, so I didn’t even try. My only “off roading” was on the wooden portion of the Alameda bicycle bridge. It’s old and uneven, and as a person who can trip over a totally flat surface I find it challenging even with regular running shoes, but I had to try the Ampla Fly. I wondered if the flap on the bottom would trip me as I crossed it. The running was precarious, but not because of the plate; the main challenge came from wearing a stiff-soled shoe on an uneven surface. The other BibRave Pro Team members swapped notes on our experiences, and the consensus was that these are most suited to road or track running, not for trails, gravel, or the boardwalk.

Wait, where have these been all my life? If you’re a youngster, they’ve been in development. Ampla Fly’s design elements are courtesy of David (he previously worked in innovation at Nike) and Dr. Marcus Elliot (a sport scientist who tests and trains top-notch athletes at the P3 Sports Science Institute in Santa Barbara). Originally Quicksilver funded these as a dark project during research and development, but when Quicksilver filed for bankruptcy in late 2014, Ampla was basically frozen–even though it was ready to launch.

How do I get my feet into Ampla Fly? You go to the website and buy them. Ampla is a direct-to-customer company, you can’t get them in stores (though you might luck out and find them at a race expo). The entire company is run by six people (Rob, Charlie, David, Jessie, and Jayme). The direct-to-customer model means two important things for you as a runner. One, you save because Ampla isn’t dealing with distributors and individual stores, and you don’t pay the markup involved with a distribution system. Two, every customer has a one-on-one relationship with the company. If you email them, you get a reply from a stakeholder–yup, co-owner Rob Colby actually answers emails. There is a 30-day, no questions asked, return policy.

Ampla Fly at rest
Ampla Fly at rest


To find out more about Ampla Fly, head to their main website, or directly to the FAQ. You can also follow Ampla on Twitter and Instagram.

Want to read more about the Ampla Fly? Check out additional reviews from the BibRave Pro Team:

Disclosure: I am a BibRave Pro and received these shoes for testing and review purposes. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro HERE and check out to review find and write race reviews!

This is my first test drive of a road shoe, and the first time I’ve tried a Mizuno. (Frankly, prior to this shoe, I 0nly associated Mizuno with cycling and soccer. Turns out they make running shoes, too. Who knew?) To road test this shoe, I wore them to work for three days–mainly because I couldn’t wait to wear them, but also because I hate to run in a brand-new-to-me shoe right away–and then took the shoes for two runs. On Thursday, July 2 I ran somewhere between 3 and 4 miles at the RoadRunner Sports (San Carlos) Adventure Run; on Independence Day I ran the Alameda Mayor’s R.A.C.E. 5k. That’s not much mileage, but the timing of the shoes’ arrival, the holiday weekend, and end-of-month work obligations mean that’s all the time I had.

Gorgeous New Kicks!
Gorgeous New Kicks!

Aesthetic Appeal. Let me start with the obvious: these shoes are pretty! Yes, I know that’s far from the most important factor when choosing a shoe. It was, however, the first thing I noticed when I opened the box. With an increasing number of shoes that look like the entire My Little Pony gang vomited rainbows on them, I was really pleased with the aesthetics of this shoe. The pair I received are primarily a plum-purple  with aqua and silver, plus a little white on the sole. (Mizuno calls this “Wild Aster-Silver-Waterfall”)   The flat shoelaces are in matching colors, which is a cool design element. Again, I know that looks are about the least important factor when choosing a running shoe, but I do love a good-looking shoe; bonus points if it doesn’t make my size 10.5 feet look more enormous than they actually are.

Compared to My Usual Shoe. To understand where I’m coming from in reviewing this shoe, I’ve spent the past two years primarily running in Brooks Pure Cadence 2. (Yes, I know the 4 has been released. I stockpiled.) Brooks classifies my old shoe as good for mild pronation, the Mizuno classifies the Wave Enigma 5 as a neutral shoe. Road Runner calls the Pure Cadence a Level 3 Performance Stability shoe, and the Wave Enigma as a Level 4 Neutral shoe. When I used the Mizuno website’s “Find Your Perfect Shoe” it recommended the Wave Enigma.

I find all of this very interesting, as in my experience the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 is a lot more shoe than I’m used to running in. Specifically, the sole is quite a bit stiffer, more cushioned, and more supportive. If I had to guess which was a more stabilizing shoe, I would have picked the Wave Enigma! I definitely appreciated the extra cushioning beneath my feet while running on the road. Mizuno’s website states

The Wave Enigma 5 is perfect for higher mileage runners. This neutral running shoe is built for runners who are training for longer races, as well as runners who could use a little extra cushion on recovery days.

My feet did feel a bit warmer on the soles after running, probably because I was lazy and didn’t apply Body Glide like I usually do, but they were much fresher at the end of my run. I definitely appreciated that extra cushion (hey, I’m not 20 anymore!) and can see why these might be a better choice for higher mileage runs.

First Impressions. The Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 is a little bit heavier–according to Runner’s World, my old shoes weigh in at 7.5 ounces, while the Mizuno site states the Wave Engima 5 are 8.8 ounces. When I first unboxed the shoes I was concerned they felt stiff and chunky, but that was just in my hands–I didn’t notice any weight or chunkiness while running. (By the way, the video on the Mizuno website says the Wave Enigma 5 is 10.5 ounces, but the guy is clearly talking about the men’s shoe.)

Compared to the Prior Model. While I didn’t wear the Mizuno Wave Enigma 4, information from Runner’s World (which will feature the Wave Engima 5 in the Fall 2015 Shoe Guide), Mizuno, and Road Runner commented on the following as features new to the Wave Enigma 5:

  • Design of the sole. Per Mizuno, “New u-shape full-length parallel wave provides the Mizuno trademark responsive feel.” According to Road Runner, “New forefoot outsole pattern with deep flex grooves works with articulated forefoot Wave plate: Offers optimal blend of pliability and propulsion at toe-off.”
  • Cushioning materials. The video on the Mizuno site explains the sole has a combination of new “u4icX” (that’s “euphoric X”) and “u4ic” (“euphoric”) midsole foam, and they work in cooperation with the internal cushioning under the heel. Road Runner calls this “lightweight, resilient cushioning.”
  • New materials on the upper (the shoe part that goes around your foot, as opposed to the sole). The main part of the shoe is a mesh, which allows for some breathability. Upgraded upper materials, including extra breathable mesh, provide a glove-like fit.

Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 continues to feature the Wave and Smooth Ride technology used in earlier models of the shoe.

You can see the foam sole construction
You can see the foam sole construction

Fit. I used the Runner’s World shoe finder to compare my old shoes and the shiny new Mizunos, and according to the fit profile, they should fit about the same. The main difference between the shoes is the drop: Brooks Pure Cadence 3 has a drop of 5.0 mm while the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 has a drop of 12 mm. (Note that I was unable to find the data for the now-discontinued Pure Cadence 2.)

I had the opportunity to read a few reviews before I got to take these shoes for a run. A few of them commented that “my toes went numb” or something similar. I’ve got the solution to that problem: loosen the laces! The appearance of the shoe is a little deceptive, because the wider lace eyelets make it seem like the laces are the right tension when you take them out of the box. Trust me, you need to loosen them up MORE than just a wee bit before you slip them on. I didn’t, and I had a similar sleepy-toes on just my right foot during my first run. Afterwards I loosened the laces up, and did not experience this problem again.

The heel fits securely. I have average heels (not narrow ones) and haven’t experienced any slipping. The throat (where you put your foot in) and tongue of the shoe are pretty much perfect; unlike most other shoes I’ve tried with a similar design, the tongue stays put. (The tongue sliding over to one side is a total pet peeve of mine–I just hate how it feels!)

The arch has a reasonable amount of support and feels good. Lots of women’s shoes are a bad fit for my arches, I guess because the shoe designers think all women have narrow, petite feet. Sorry boys, I’ve got big clodhoppers. Thanks to Mizuno, the shoe meets my arch instead of stabbing me in the bottom of the foot. Honestly, you have no idea how exciting this is.

The forefoot is a bit more a snug fit than I’m used to, I’ll admit. As noted above, I had to loosen up the laces quite a bit. The design really does fit like a glove around the forefoot. My toes can still wiggle, but I definitely feel the shoe. On the one hand, this took a little adjustment as the piggies are used to have more room to go whee-whee-whee. On the other hand, the snug fit combined with a sole that is both stronger and more cushioned than I am used to prevented me from “gripping” with my toes as I run; the smooth transition of the sole over the toes actually prevented gripping action. (If you get blisters on the tips or front-bottom of the tips of your toes, or have sore toe joints after you run, you’re probably a gripper too.)  Since my biggest running problem (knock on wood!) is that I have to tape up my left second toe to prevent it from hyperextending when I run, this is a pretty big deal–no more toe tape!

Post run, tongues in place, feet quite happy
Post run, tongues in place, feet quite happy

Feel. Running in these shoes was a smooth experience. I did notice that my gait changed a bit–remember, I gained like 6 mm in drop. Specifically, I noticed my landing changed from straight-up midfoot to more rear-midfoot. I wouldn’t say “heel strike,” though I think that would be easy to do in these kicks. I suspect this contributed to my lack of toe-gripping action, so I’m going to call it good. In terms of feel of the road–can I just say I love that runners talk about this the same way ballet dancers do, a la “those shoes are so unresponsive”–I got just enough, but not too much. It’s not like running on a pillow, it’s like running without beating on your feet.

Reviews by Dudes. “That’s all well and fine,” you think, “but I’m a guy, and men’s shoes fit differently.” Never fear, I’ve got you covered. Or rather some of my BibRave Pro friends do.  Check out reviews of the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 for men written by Runner and the Bride (actually, written by Runner), and DP on the Go.

Sooo…..tell me: are you loyal to one brand and model of running shoe? (Do you feel like you’re cheating on your brand when you test out something else?) Or do you run around with everyone?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo 2013 was my year of crazy running: between January 20, 2013 and January 19, 2013 I ran 31 half marathons. The magic number 31 landed me on Earth in the Half Fanatics club. Along the way, I learned A LOT about running. During 2013, Skechers generously offered to let Women’s Health Action Heroes choose a pair of shoes from their new Go collection of performance shoes. If you read any running magazines or health magazines (and you must, because you landed here, right?) you’ve probably seen the ads for the Skechers Performance line of running shoes, endorsed by none other than Meb Keflezighi. When I first saw these ads, I associated Skechers with skateboarders and those rocker-bottomed “toning” shoes, and was a bit dubious that they could turn out running shoes worth my time. (Running shoe design is more complicated than you might expect, and I’ve spent a lot of time poking at them and reading about them and trying them out to learn how they are put together and why.) Yes, just a year of running “for real” turned me into a bit of a shoe snob!

I was taught that accepting a gift honors the giver, so I set aside my preconceived notions about the Skechers brand and wear-test some shoes. At that time I was pretty much married to my running shoes, so I chose the Skechers Go Bionic, which are trail running shoes. Marathon Matt, the coach of my running group, had recently started Sasquatch Racing trail races, and Brazen produces at least two dozen trail races per year, so I thought the Skechers Go Bionic would be a great incentive to get me out and running on trails. I selected the Skechers Go Bionic in pink or purple (we even got to choose the color, isn’t that sweet?) and asked for a size 10.5 since that is what I wear in every other running shoe on the planet (despite the fact that I wear a 10 in regular shoes). Since most of why I love racing has to do with being outside, I couldn’t wait for them to arrive!

Not long after, a huge box from Skechers arrived. I immediately ripped it open and was puzzled to find two pairs of shoes inside (one pink, one purple) in sizes 9.5 and 10. The bottom fell out of my tummy for a moment, because I sincerely feared these adorable shoes wouldn’t fit my amazon feet. Surprise! Not only did the 10 fit fine, I could wear the 9.5 too! Since any runner who has ever run a distance race should tell you to NEVER race in a pair of new shoes, I wore them to work (hooray for a casual-dress policy!), varying the socks I wore with each. The 9.5 were best with Wright’s Double Layer socks (my one true love), while the 10s were best with slightly thicker socks or Injinji socks (the kind with individual toes).

Somehow I just didn’t make any trail runs. The one day I thought I’d go on my own, without a race, I ended up stuck in my office. Excuses, time passed, until I had to find a mere three races to finish my 31 half marathons in 365 days. There are not a lot of half marathons happening in the limited window of time I had available (basically Christmas to New Year) and the nearest options were all trail runs. Without thinking about it too much, I signed up for the Brazen New Year’s Eve (actually held on Saturday, not New Year’s Eve itself) and Brazen New Year’s Day—run both, and you get a cool extra medal linking the two races together. Troy’s Trail Run through Almaden-Quicksilver regional park (a former Mercury mine and surrounding environs) was the last race I needed to make 31. I figured it would be just like a road race, only with gravel and dirt.

Trail running, as it turns out, is NOT for wimps.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFor the New Year’s Eve race, I decided to try the royal purple 9.5s with my Wrights. They got a little bit of an extra workout as I was literally picking up my bib when the gun went off. Oops. The Skechers Go Bionic had a nice ride for the entire run, which included several sections on blacktop, some on a pretty rough/raw trail with tree roots and rocks and all, and a few areas of well-packed trails (the kind you could easily push a stroller over). The best part of the shoes is that despite how amazingly sturdy the soles are—my hiking shoes have similar lugs–they weigh practically nothing. The design cleverly avoids two of my pet peeves with running shoes. First, the tongue is connected to the shoe so it can’t waggle from side to side while I’m running. Second, the top most portion of the tongue is pretty thin, so it does not bunch up and annoy me. As an added bonus, the laces are a bit wider at the second grommets than they are at the first or third, preventing me from over-tightening the laces and cutting off the circulation in my toes (which is, sadly, something I often do). The only problem I had was running downhill. Up was fine (let’s be honest, there was not much running involved on the uphill!), but on the downhill my toes smashed into the end of the shoe. Lesson: the 9.5s fit well, can be worn casually and feel great, and are awesome on all parts of the trails EXCEPT downhill. I decided to wear the hot pink 10s for New Year’s Day (and also to start in the hikers division—an hour early—because while I’m never first, I’m usually not quite so close to the end of the pack).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNew Year’s Day I chose pink Injinjis to coordinate with the hot pink Skechers Go Bionic. (Note to self: buy black socks. Trail running is messy.) The course was the same loop at Lake Chabot, only in the opposite direction; this actually made the race MUCH faster for me (40 minutes!) but put the 10s over the same terrain as the 9.5s. About half way through the run, another runner complimented my shoes and mentioned she was looking for new ones. When I told her they were Skechers, she was surprised—she had skaters and rocker shoes in mind too—and we had a lengthy conversation about what makes good running shoes. (In the end, I think she ran off to buy a pair. Or maybe she’s just a faster runner than I am.) Unlike the 9.5s, the 10s were perfect for me on the downhill. When the hills are steep, there is pretty much no way to keep your feet from sliding a tiny bit in your shoes. Unlike the 9.5s, where my toes bumped the end, in the 10s my toes had plenty of room to slide forward without hitting the end of the shoe.

Overall, I’m tickled pink (and purple, for the 9.5s) that I had the opportunity to try Skechers Go Bionic, and plan to wear them for my next trail races in 2014. They are lightweight, well designed, rugged, comfortable, and cute (in the colors, at least). Despite the minimal non-running break-in period, I did not have any blisters or hot spots from the Skechers. The shoes got dusty and muddy, but nothing stuck to the soles and they clean off very easily. Bottom line: if you are looking for trail shoes, do not overlook the Skechers Go Bionic.