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New Soft Star RunAmoc Preview; Soft Star Survey Request

Posted Apr 09 2011 12:00am

I’ve let slip in a couple of previous posts that I’ve been doing some prototype testing for Soft Star this year in preparation for a new shoe that will be released later this spring. Truth be told, the company is developing two new products – and since they just officially introduced one of those models at the end of last week, I figure that gives me license to talk about it a little bit.

This May, Soft Star is releasing a new version of their remarkably popular RunAmoc , which has been my favorite minimalist shoe ever since its debut approximately one year ago. You might think that since I loved the first version so much, the prospect of a new and improved model would have me giddy with excitement … but if you did, you’d be flat out wrong.

In fact, participating in this development process was somewhat distressing at times, partially attributable to the fact that I love the original RunAmoc so much. I didn’t want my favorite shoe to be replaced, and the first models I tested were more than a little bit disappointing. Soft Star made a lot of changes to the original … and I honestly hated almost every single one of them.

To their credit, though, the elves at Soft Star were open to just about every piece of feedback I offered, and graciously hand crafted one pair after another to incorporate little changes here and there as we went along. As of right now, I’ve tested no fewer than 7 different pairs of moccasins so far – and I’m not certain that we’re completely done yet.

Consequently, I’m going to wait on posting an official review until the final version - which has an official name, but I haven’t seen it used publicly yet; I’ll include it here as soon as it’s green lighted - becomes available on the company website. For today, I thought it might be interesting to show a sampling of where we’ve been – because like I said, it’s been kind of a strange ride. For example

The first version I tested looked nothing like any Soft Star shoe I had ever seen. The colors were weird, the styling was odd, the construction was problematic, and the fit was relatively poor in a couple of key areas. Have I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly wild about the new RunAmoc? Fortunately, this version quickly gave way to a prototype that at least looked something like its predecessor …

… except that it had laces, which is one of the primary design changes on the new RunAmoc this year. The laces are great for improving the forefoot fit …

… but there was still a lot of modification at the heel over several versions. Initially there wasn’t a heel support cup, and then there were two different styles … and I actually don’t know what the final call on this will be. And this is only half of the heel puzzle …

… as the cut of the heel collar is quite a bit different on this version than the original RunAmoc. It has a high notch at the Achilles area, and tapers downward around the ankle bones on each side. Without the laces that wrap around the heel in the original RunAmocs, a secure fit through the heel has been one of my biggest concerns.

Original RunAmoc on top; first new version on bottom

The toe box shape has also undergone a few variations, and I’m not sure what dimensions will be settled upon for the final version. Although the picture above doesn’t reflect it, the new version is currently running a little bit narrower and a little more rounded than the original, but should still allow plenty of room for natural toe movement.

I’d like to say that the end result of all this is a product that completely blows me away – but truthfully, I’m still not 100% convinced that this new version is an improvement over the original. However, over the course of multiple changes, the new RunAmoc has gradually evolved into something that I’m confident enough to run an ultra in … which is exactly what I did at Woodside a few weeks ago, after which point we went back to the drawing board to address a couple more issues.

53 muddy miles in new RunAmocs

The best news in this whole story is that the original RunAmoc and RunAmoc Lites that I love so much aren’t going anywhere; they’ll still be available on the Soft Star website even as the new version is released, to accommodate folks like me who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to the moccasin we’ve fallen in love with. Before the new ones are released, Soft Star is soliciting feedback on the stock color they’ll offer; go to their company blog or Facebook page to tell them whether you prefer silver or black.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to test the new RunAmoc as well as the other model to be announced later; my hope is that by the time summer rolls around, I’ll be able to say that one of these new offerings is something truly special.

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