Introducing the Reebok Trifecta Racer
Finally, it looks like Reebok is stepping up to the plate with some real, practical gear. Even better, it’s specifically designed for OCR! Well, sort of. While this shoe is great for extreme conditions, it would also make a great trail racer or performance trainer. The new “Trifecta Racer” won’t hit shelves for at least a few more months, but I had the opportunity to get my hands on a pair last weekend at the PacNW Spartan Race Sprint, and have already put some decent mileage on them. Here’s the scoop.
For a shoe to be a good fit for OCR, it needs to meet a couple of basic criteria. Is it lightweight? Does it have good traction? Does it hold excess water weight? Is it comfortable? Let’s take a look at each of these criteria one by one.
Weight (dry) – there’s no official specs out on these, but I weighed them myself and got 6.3 ounces for a size 9.5 (*) or 12.6 ounces for the pair. While slightly heavier than some xc flats like the Brooks Mach 15 (5.4 ounces), 6.3 ounces is on par with Nike Waffle models and the inov8 x-talons. So, is it lightweight? I wouldn’t call it featherweight, but all things considered, it’s still pretty light.
Weight (wet) – what’s really great about this shoe compared to others isn’t its dry weight, but its wet weight. Water drains from the shoe really quickly and it doesn’t hold onto excess mud or water since the entire upper is made from very thin but durable fabric. After racing in these on Saturday, all it took was 60 seconds with the hotel hair dryer to get them ready for another day of competition. That, I like.
But… I don’t like the tongue or laces. The cheap, flat laces come untied easily and the tongue tends to shift across the top of your foot instead of remaining in place. Both minor issues, but a Nike-style one sided tongue would really make these cool. I also don’t like that water stays underneath the insole; not enough to add weight, but after use this area stays damp and will make the shoe smell bad unless you remove the insole. I always prefer shoes without an insole at all.
Traction – To have good traction in thick mud, a shoe needs big lugs. Big lugs add weight. What you have with the Trifecta Racer is small lugs similar to the inov8 trail-roc series – big enough for good grip in most situations. Scaling a 60 degree incline wall is *always* going to be a challenge, so don’t blame your shoes when you struggle with that one. The grip on these is perfect for racing in both mud and in dry conditions, since the lugs are big enough be “grippy” but small enough not to be annoying. Another plus side to small lugs is that they won’t hold onto dried mud or clumps of grass like really big lugs can.
The one thing I don’t like about the design of the bottom of the shoe are the small crevices in which little pebbles in dirt get stuck. They don’t hold enough dirt/rocks to add significant weight, but it’s just tacky. If you happen to take these on a training run, don’t bring them inside afterwards or you’ll scratch your floor and track dirt in.
Flexibility vs. Protection – as a very minimalist runner myself, I’ve never liked how stiff and rigid most cross country flats are. That’s why I’ve always raced in light weight trails shoes rather than “racing shoes”. The Trifecta Racer offers a compromise. It’s thick enough to provide adequate protection from rocks, rigid enough to provide some stability, but has the flexibility to appease minimalists like me. I’m guessing the heel-toe differential on these is about 3-4mm; I am a big 0mm drop fan, but these felt good anyway.
Comfort and sizing – these shoes are only slightly wider than most racing flats, but just that little bit of room was enough to make me a lot happier. All of my training shoes have wide toe boxes and I absolutely hate it when my feet are constricted by narrow shoes. I’d still prefer a E width version, these had enough “give” to be comfortable, even on me.
The shoes run small. Normally, I’m a size 8.5 and occasionally a 9. In the Trifecta Racer, I’m a 9.5 (well, actually I’d be a 9.0 E, but whatever). So when these do come out in stores, try them on first or order a 1/2 size up! And maybe order two pair while you’re at it. I’m sure you’ll love them.
February 2014 Update:
After running more races in these, I’d like to update my review:
They ended up being pretty fragile shoes, and only lasted about 50 miles of racing. I’m definitely not happy with that. However, my understanding is that these were a prototype and that the final version will be more well put together. Hopefully that is the case! Meanwhile, I’ve been racing in the Brooks Mach 15, another shoe originally recommended to me by Hobie, and love them. They are my go to racing shoes now! The Nike Zooms are too narrow for me, but the Brooks are pretty comfortable (for a racing shoe). I’m still a die hard Altra Running fan when it comes to training shoes. I’d love for them to make a racing shoe, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.