Vasque ShapeShifter Ultra
The Vasque Shapeshifter is a heavily padded running shoe that attempts to buck the trend of minimalist footwear.
It comes up unsuccessful however, mostly due to a sloppy high volume, wide fit coupled with the choice to use the BOA lacing system.
The positives were the surprising responsiveness and the traction on a variety of surfaces. They are also reasonably lightweight for a shoe with this much padding.
They are best for someone with wide feet looking for a heavily padded cushioned ride. In my opinion their best application is in recovery runs or rough trails where the foam can absorb some of the pounding.
- Heavily padded
- BOA lacing
- Unable to wear barefoot
- Did I say fit?
Specs (from Vasque)
- WEIGHT : 10.6 oz. (300g) - Half Pair
- LAST: ShapeShifter 6
- UPPER: 3D Stretch Mesh, Synthetic
- FOOTBED: Fixed 4mm PU Foam
- MIDSOLE: Injection Molded EVA
- OUTSOLE: Vasque Morpheus
- PRICE: $189.99 CAD
I've had the shapeshifter for four months of testing (Mar-July) which gave me a good variety in temps and running conditions. I most often paired the shoe with SmartWool PHD running socks or plain old cotton socks and once, and only once, barefoot (borderline masochistic: see below). Running surfaces included single track dirt, ice, gravel and city pavement. Besides trail running I also did a couple gym workouts and backpacked in them.
Wide, wide and did I mention wide. My feet are swimming in this shoe. So much so that it is difficult to tighten them down enough to overcome the heel slip and excess volume. Even with a heavily cushioned sock and laces cranked down they are still too wide. I did find the length true to size. I normally wear a size eleven in street shoes but prefer a tighter more performance fit in athletic footwear and opted for a ten and a half which fit perfectly. For reference I have a narrow heel, average forefoot and high arches.
BOA lacing system
Although I was initially excited about this addition I have had too many difficulties to recommend these laces in this particular shoe. The novelty of being able to quickly tie/untie or tighten the lacing system wears off quickly as you are left with a slew of problems.
The first is is that while running through any kind of low lying brush you run (pun intended) the risk of unlatching the shoe. On one run I nearly rolled my ankle as this had happened and I wasn't aware.
The second is that you can only tension the lacing system so far before it pops open, and unlatched. This coupled with the wide fit makes it difficult to get any feeling of foot security or agility.
The last problem is that with the boa system the whole lace tensions evenly. This doesn't allow you to individually tighten any one area of your foot. I'd love to be able to tighten the toe box down, while leaving the ankles a little looser.
Breathability/ Water resistance
An odd combo here — the mostly mesh upper helps keep the top of your foot cool, but the lower half foam makes underfoot a sauna. The foam extends about halfway up the foot, all around, and almost entirely up the heel. Where the foam transitions to the upper mesh is very harsh and will rub your foot raw. (Do not wear barefoot, you will come home bloody and blistered, don't ask me how I know). That amount of foam does add a level of protection against ground water. Shallow puddles or wet grass gets shed easily before it can penetrate the shoe.
One of the most positive suprises of the testing process. I found the traction to be above average, especially on wet rocks. The tread and lugs are both designed to contour to the terrain, minimizing impact on the knees and ankles which they do quite well.
There is one part, on the instep that is not covered in rubber which I did find a large piece of glass embedded once after a trail run. It was an area easily accessible and what I'll call... heavily influenced by teenagers, meaning there was some partying and broken glass. It did worry me a little until I realized it would have to go through roughly 26mm of foam before it got to my foot.
Disappointed. The lack of foot security inspired little confidence, the BOA lacing system doesn't work in this application and the price is far too high to recommend this shoe. Suggestions for improvement- dump the novel lacing, redesign a new last, and bring the foam midsole down, allowing you to wear it barefoot.
My thanks to Trailspace and Vasque for the opportunity to test this product.
UPDATE: I thought I had lost these photos but turns out I had labelled them wrong on my computer. Anyway, here's what happens, should you dare to try them barefoot.....
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample provided by Vasque for testing and review)
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