Most folks probably know the name Teva from their active-life sandal collection. Recently Teva came out with their natural surface trail shoe series called the TevaSphere collection. This series is Teva’s creative approach to combining barefoot-style minimalism, and the stability and comfort of a traditional shoe. Not an easy marriage when we are talking about joining two ends of the running shoe spectrum but Teva went for it.
Olga and I were provided the opportunity to each test-drive a pair of their light-er weight TevaSphere Speed tread where we put them through a number of dirty miles on both tame and rugged terrain. Before we share our thoughts, let’s learn a little bit more about the shoe.
Specs of Interest
- Moderate weight – 9.45 ounces (mens size 9), 7.7 ounces (female)
- Low Drop – 4 mm (23 mm heel / 19 mm forefoot)
- Grippy Outsole – Sticky rubber outsole with low-profile lugs
- TevaSphere Outsole – The Big Bang of this shoe (more on that below)
- Minor Piggy Protection – Small amount of outsole wrap with a bit of stiffness
What is this TevaSphere Outsole?
How Teva describes it – “The TevaSphere’s spherical heel and support pods give you the natural motion benefits of barefoot, and also the comfort and protection of a traditional shoe.”
So the outsole heel area is basically an extension of your heel (similar to a pair of Vibram fivefingers) – rounded and firm/hard (without much cushioning).
The support pods hang out in the midfoot area, are fairly cushy (much lower durometer value versus heel) and actually raises the heel up slightly such that there is a small gap between heel and ground when shoe is unloaded on a flat surface.
Here is a little Teva video on the TevaSphere approach.
Enough about the specs, let’s get to the test drive.
Btw, Neither Olga or I have talked about the shoe or seen each other’s thoughts about them prior to putting this together so it should be interesting to see our two perspectives. (unedited)
Men’s TevaSphere Speed Test Drive – David Hanenburg
Out of the box, the black and gray with a bit of highlights looked pretty good together. The support pods looked a little odd by being highlighted a different color than the midsole.
I wore a size 12 which has been my typical trail shoe size. Fit was good through the heel and midfoot but a bit snug in the forefoot. Definitely not lots of room for the piggies to play. I could go with thin to medium sock thickness but a thick sock would have the shoe too snug for my foot.
To the Trails – Time to Get Dirty
I wore these shoes on both groomed and flat off road surfaces, as well as steep, technical, rocky, and rooty Texas terrain.
On the tame stuff, the TevaSphere Speed worked like a running shoe should, you don’t really notice it. It was comfortable (still would like more piggy room) and functional. It worked.
Once on the more technical and varied terrain, I began to receive much more feedback from the Speed and it felt outside of its comfort zone.
The Speed did dance over roots well, providing a nice mute to the object, and the sticky rubber outsole maintained a good bite on a variety of surfaces.
And then things got a bit challenging for the shoe.
Technical running that included steep descents and a mix of small to large rocks (loose and fixed), I could feel the rocks jabbing into my feet. I also noticed the forefoot midsole area seemed to break down pretty quickly which didn’t help with the object buffering.
While scampering through the technical terrain (downhill with objects of various types) I felt less stable. Hard to exactly describe what less stable means, but my running felt sloppy and a little skittish when dancing on various awkward sized objects along the steep downhill sections of trail which I have ran many, many times. I could sense wobbly/unstable ankles at times. I am not sure if this could be due to the squishy support pods or reduced ground contact area at the heel, or maybe a combination of the two. Not sure, but I did notice it.
I would consider it more of a short to moderate distance running shoe (up to 15 miles) as my feet seemed to get beat up especially on more technical terrain.
The Last Mile – Final Thoughts
The TevaSphere Speed handles the non-technical terrain just fine but seems to lose stability and handling in the technical stuff. As a spec’d 10 ounce shoe, I would like more midfoot/forefoot buffering and object protection.
I dig the 4mm heel-to-forefoot drop.
Did I notice any benefit of the support pods and spherical heel? On the flats I could notice the pods (not sure on the benefit) but on technical terrain the pods felt like a hindrance. I didn’t notice any benefit of the spherical heel but I guess having the rounded edges could help support midfoot/forefoot running. How much more help than a more standard outsole/midsole in the heel area on a 4 mm drop shoe? Not sure. Would I prefer more heel midsole cushioning for extended, technical downhill running? I think so.
If someone is more of a heel striker when they run, I would definitely be aware of the lack of heel cushioning/midsole although with the lower shoe drop (versus traditional shoe) predominately heel strikers may move closer to initial ground contact nearing the midfoot where the support pods will come into play.
Also, if you run in more traditional 12 mm drop shoes, you may need to gradually incorporate these lower drop (4mm) shoes into your running as your legs (Achilles, calf, and likely the whole chain) may need to adapt. Of course, this is true for all shoes with this scenario.
I dig Teva’s willingness to try a bit of a different approach but it is hard to figure out who exactly this shoe is designed for? One possibility is the Vibram Fivefinger runner looking for a cushier ride within a more traditional shoe fit.
The TevaSphere Speed performs well on tame terrain but lacks the complete skill set to handle technical terrain and be an all-purpose trail shoe.
– David Hanenburg
Women’s TevaSphere Speed Test Drive – Olga King
One day in June I got a package from Teva for new model shoe testing, the TevaSphere Speed.
That whole event happened a few days prior to my and Larry’s trip out West – some running in Wind River Canyon and a lot of backpacking in Grand Teton backcountry! So, lots of testing to be done.
My first time putting them on was during a four hour drive to the beginning of the Wind River run. Let me tell you, all four hours were a pure misery, and I couldn’t believe I had to go for some 14 miles run in the mountains wearing them! They felt tight, squeezing my foot in every direction to the point it hurt – while sitting and not moving! I loosened up the laces, and it still didn’t get any better. That was not something I was looking forward to.
But the day had to start, and so I went…and literally, within a few miles, the foot settled in, the fabric extended (?) and the shoes were feeling quite comfortable. Yay, it may work! So, ran I did: on the dry single track, on the granite rock, and in the mud as the rain poured in, and crossing small creeks and getting wet…and a lot of thoughts transpired from even that first run.
A Closer Look
I hated the color. They claim that “vibrant colors” are great from trails to streets, and it seems that all shoe company lately decided to throw up with piñata, But I can’t stand odd colors that draw attention and don’t fit into the nature of the forests and dirt and mountains. The “squeezing out” arch sides add to the weirdness.
They do the job though, I have to admit. The shoes were very stable! Whether on narrow single track or countering the rocks, they felt like I could always trust them. The other feature of the shoes they promote – the roll off the heel to toe due to rounded heel design – wasn’t that great. I did feel like I was “rolling on”, but in general, especially on the roads or non-technical trails, it felt like I am missing a part of the step, or reminded me of a the Sketchers “perky behind” commercial (full disclosure – I never bought those shoes, but that’s how all the women seemed to look on TV, rolling off the rounded heel).
I have to give big props for the gripping function – there is a reason these shoes are made by Teva, they gripped everything, slicked rock, loose rock, and wet surfaces – safe and sound!
But, a horrible sight discovered for the very makers of Teva, the claim that they drain well – NO. Took the shoes through a number of creeks, snow crossings and muddy dirt trails. It held water (after crossing bodies of water) for a very log time, like, full weight not drained water inside the shoe for a good 5-7 minute stretch. Then the water finally drained but the squishy feeling stayed for a good 10 more minutes (and we’re talking very warm weather days!) before remaining damp and not drying fast.
On a positive side, the shoelaces stood their ground as water shoes requirement ask! They never untied even though I used only one knot, and never moved from place!
While the feeling I initially had of being very tight inside went away with some running, the forefoot of the shoe continued to feel very narrow – and it looked narrow too – and if you have wide feet, or are used to shoes of Altra type, you will not be comfortable. That part was overlooked by designers if they tried to bring their model closer to “barefoot” models. To add to that, the metatarsal pad, the bottom right underneath the ball of the foot, felt very odd at first, and then straight on painful. I am not sure if it was a material used that was stiff – the shoe seemed to be flexible enough – or how it was put in, but the hurt never left, and stayed for couple of days after I’d take a break wearing these shoes. And, for the first time in years I got blisters on my little toes – see the “narrow design” complaint.
With that , the shoes were re-delegated to shorter runs only, having filled 14M and 10M mountain runs as their longest, and then getting stuck with me for 6-8 miles on roads AND trails for variety.
I was hoping that maybe they would feel better on the road as the surface is smooth and push off happens faster, but that was not to be.
The wear and tear seemed to be much faster than I would want to happen in a shoe that cost $120 retail. After only 70 miles, the sides of the outsole began showing tears, small, then bigger.
Another few miles, and the tears began showing up on the fabric on the tops of the shoes, on the stitches, and at the bottom.
That said, the shoe got retired as short hike on days off right now. Someone who has a more narrow foot and is looking for more stable midsole can probably give a different description, but the stiffness in the middle didn’t work for me – I like to “curve” my foot over each obstacle as I go. The shoe is light enough, but far from being in a category of “light” (like Sportiva Crosslights or NB series), doesn’t drain well, has a wide ankle opening for too-much little stuff entering the shoe, has amazing grip on terrain and good laces, ugly colors, falls apart quicker than expected, and the tongue keeps moving too. I would not recommend these shoes for trail runners, maybe for trail hikers whose feet find a perfect fit in them with the correct size.
Lots of work to be done if Teva wants to enter the trail running market.
– Olga King
Posted on 20 Sep 2013