Adidas_1
You can look through the bottom of the shoe and see the motor.

The shoes work by measuring your foot-strike with the computer chip, which controls a cable in the heel that either limits or loosens the cushioning space. Less space, harder cushioning. More space, softer cushioning. Beyond the chip is simple technology you can see through a small window to the midsole: the rotors that move the cable.

The technology works so that even if you don't feel it in the short run, over the life of the shoes – about 600 miles, same as any other running shoe – the cushioning will hold up better. Ordinary shoes flatten out after repeated pounding. These shoes shouldn't. Same thing on a long run, say 10 miles or so, which I never got around to trying with these shoes. As the miles on an individual run build up, the cushioning compresses, and toward the end of a long run, you're getting less cushioning than at the start. The adidas_1's adjust for this, so the end of a long run should be easier on your feet.

But maybe not. In my old age, I don't mind heavy-ish running shoes. Heavy usually means more cushioning and support. I need both. But the adidas_1's are hefty; my size 8.5 weighed in at 15 ounces, about 3.5 more ounces than the Asics Gels I now run in. On my longest runs – about six miles these days – I'd be lugging around an extra 1,733 pounds. A better workout? Sure. A more comfy one? No.

A long, long time ago, back when I was a hard-core runner, I wanted to have the latest and greatest. I was putting in 50 to 80 miles a week in the offseason, and like most runners who put in this kind of mileage, I'd cycle between two or three pairs, never wearing the same shoes two runs in a row. Besides my trainers, I had a collection of racing spikes and lightweight racing shoes, and a bin of shoes that just didn't work. But my favorites in high school were the first major variation of the revolutionary Nike Waffle. The Nike shoe was called the LD-1000, and they were the ultimate in stability shoes, sporting soles that flared way out. Picture running in a pair of backwards flippers. We're talking solid foundation here.

When I bought them in the late 1970s, they were the most expensive mass-produced shoe on the market, costing $40. I loved them. They were very cool, and perfect for me. But they weren't perfect for everyone; within a year, Nike had shaved the flared heel way down, and the shoes no longer did the trick for my dogs. The price remained the same. The cool factor wore off. I switched shoes.

For now, I'm sticking to my plan: $75 is my optimal price for a running shoe, and I won't pay more than $100. So for one pair of adidas_1's, I can score two or three pair of other shoes that I like. Maybe even one pair for road running, and one for trail running. And with the leftover dough? Maybe I'll save that to buy the next generation of adidas with chips – probably in basketball shoes. Or I'll go the other way, toward the minimalist, lightweight Nike Free.

Or maybe I'll just enjoy lugging around a heavier wallet rather than heavier shoes.

Jeff Merron last wrote about running, and memories of his father, for Page 2.



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A SHOE WITH A BRAIN