Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review Saucony Razor Ice+ - Lightweight Winter Speedster

Article by Jeff Valliere

Saucony Razor Ice+
10.6 oz. (US Men's Size 9)
25mm heel/21mm forefoot = 4mm drop
$180. Available now.


I have been a big fan of the Saucony Razor, particularly the 2.0 which I have been using reliably over the past 4+ years as my go to winter trail running shoe.  It was a reasonable weight, waterproof, had a built in gaiter, was comfortable, cushioned, had great traction and ran well.  Not only that, the 2.0 was extremely durable and held up to whatever I could put it through.  When I learned of the Razor Ice+, I knew this was a shoe that I had to test.  Here in Boulder, our trails can be a bit challenging in the winter with the varied conditions that range from knee deep snow (or more), to packed snow, to icy packed snow, to steep bulletproof water ice, slush and intermittent patches of dry ground and rock.  It is possible to encounter all of these conditions on one single 4 or 5 mile run, so selecting a shoe that will handle it all can be a challenge.  With claims that the revolutionary new compounds that comprise the Razor Ice+, Artic Grip and Vibram Ice Trek, actually getting grip on ice, I was eager to see how these claims would hold up in varied, real life winter running conditions.  Do they really work?


Upper:

Most noticeable is the graphic laden, ripstop neoprene outer shell and seamless built in gaiter.  This neoprene shell is notably thin (almost paper thin), but seems durable enough to withstand typical winter trail running use and contributes to the low weight of the shoe. The zipper is in the front center of the shoe to prevent getting caught up or snagged on rocks or branches and zips/unzips easily.  At the top of the zipper is a zipper garage to help keep the zipper free of snow.  The zipper is sealed to prevent water seepage and the zipper is thin enough that it does not kink or contort in funny ways that could potentially be uncomfortable.

I have a skinny ankle, yet the collar is comfortable and snug enough to keep out snow and debris.
The toe bumper is on the thin side, but is sufficient enough to not feel pressure when wearing Microspikes.  I don't think it would withstand much impact if kicking a rock, but presumably trails will be snow covered for the most part when wearing the Razor Ice+.


Inside the outer shell is one of the more plush, cushioned and comfortable shoes I have had the pleasure of sliding my foot into.  The ISO fit upper has been compared to the Peregrine, which I find fit to be quite similar, but this shoe surpasses the Peregrine in overall plush comfort.

Unlike any other Saucony shoes, the Razor Ice+ relies on a quick lace system to accommodate for the outer neoprene shell/gaiter.  Salomon excluded, I am normally quite leery of this style of lacing system, but I was pleasantly surprised at how fast, easy and securely these cinch down, as I always achieve the proper snugness on the very first try and never have to re-adjust.  There is no lace garage on the tongue, which is fine, since the outer shell works as one giant garage once zipped up.

The well padded, gusseted tongue is more for comfort, support and bootie like fit than it is to keep out debris. There are nice large pulls tabs on both the heel and the tongue to aid in putting on the shoe (though I have not yet felt the need for them).  The heel collar is plush and very well padded, but not overly so and provides a secure hold.

Fit is true to size and somewhat precise, with a little room in the forefoot for toe splay and wiggle room, a secure heel and and midfoot that really snugs down securely and comfortably.  Saucony mistakenly sent me a size 10.5 vs. my normal size 10.  I thought I would need to send them back to size down to my normal size 10, but I tried them on with a mid weight wool sock (my go to sock for colder days when I would wear a winter shoe) and I was surprised that they fit perfectly.  Though I don't often need to size up, I always encourage others to consider doing so if using thicker socks in the winter.

Midsole:
The EverRun midsole delivers excellent cushioning and all day comfort.  In my experience, the majority of winter trail shoes have felt a touch on the sluggish side and give somewhat of a harsh ride, but the Razor Ice+ feels especially quick, snappy and responsive, not just for a running shoe, but for any shoe.  This is the same midsole as used in the Peregrine 6, so performance is quite similar, though I found the Razor Ice+ to be a little more flexible and forgiving than the Peregrine 6.  This is likely a result of Saucony's claims that the EverRun TPU is less sensitive to cold temperatures. Having run in temperature ranging from 20 degrees Fahrenheit up to temperatures in the 80's, cushioning and performance seemed surprisingly similar.

Outsole:
The outsole is the advertised highlight of the Razor Ice+, as the name of the shoe implies.  Does it really grab better on ice than a normal trail shoe?  This is what I was most eager to find out and with a very slow start to winter here in Boulder, I had to wait much longer than I had hoped to answer this question.  A recent storm however, laid down a nice coating black ice, followed by 5 or 6 inches of snow, then several freeze thaw cycles which allowed me to adequately put this shoe through its paces on a wide variety of surfaces.

On clean, clear, level ice, with a clean shoe (no snow or ice stuck to the bottom), I could feel the Artic Grip compound (black with the blue flecks in above and below photos) contributing to an ever so slight bit of adhesion, but not so much much that I would feel confident running, or letting my guard down while walking.

Add in a little bit of angle to the ice, especially with some snow underfoot or any other flakes of ice in between the outsole and the running surface, then the Razor Ice+ was essentially the same as just about any other trail runner.

Overall Performance:
The Razor Ice+ is one heck of an amazing shoe and will be my go to winter shoe on the local Boulder trails.  The overall combination and balance of comfort, cushion, control, performance, responsiveness, waterproofing, stability and protection, all in such a lightweight package is tough to beat.  Competing shoes might share many attributes, but weigh at least 2 ounces more per shoe and are not nearly as quick and responsive feeling.  The only other winter shoe I can think of that is lighter than the Razor Ice+, would be the discontinued New Balance MT110W(winter), but that shoe was not nearly as full featured or versatile.  

My pair of size 10.5 weigh in at 11.5oz., but they feel MUCH lighter than that in the hand and especially on the foot, they seem nearly weightless actually. The Razor Ice+ begs to go fast and can handle every bit of speed you can dish out, but perform equally well at slower paces.

I was able to run through a wide range of conditions, just about anything one might find in the winter. Hard ice, slush, wet ice, powder snow with ice covered rocks underneath, packed snow, trail breaking in unconsolidated snow, standing water, dry trail, dry rock and loose off trail conditions.  As I mentioned earlier, the Arctic Grip sticks slightly better under ideal circumstances, but when faced with ever changing, real world trail conditions, I found it difficult to replicate conditions such as these here Sam refers to at the Saucony OR booth.  The difference under ideal circumstances might be the difference of sliding and realizing you are going to fall vs. sitting on the ground wondering what the heck just happened.  



One other (not entirely surprising) limitation was that this shoe did not grab well in warmer conditions.  Eager to run in this shoe even before winter fell on the mountains, I ran in the Razor Ice on 75-80 degree days and noted that they did not grab well on angled rock or anything steep and loose due to the cold specific tread compound and relatively low tread profile.  I was able to replicate similar circumstances on rock in cold weather 20's and 30's and was impressed with how much better the rubber compound was able to adhere.

Ideally, I would like to see deeper lugs and a more aggressive tread pattern for off trail, loose surface versatility and for a little better bite in more loose and unconsolidated snow.  I also tested these with Microspikes and they handled them quite well with no pressure from the toe bail, nor could I feel the chains/spikes poking through.  As steep and varied as our trails are here in Boulder, I'll most often be adding Microspikes to these for safety and efficiency.

Recommendations:
The Razor Ice+ is versatile overall, but best suited for cold, snowy runs on packed trails or roads, or on wet days that don't necessarily involve mud.  I would be hesitant to use these shoes off trail or in the high mountains where transitional rock traction and loose traction are paramount.  On steeper icy trails, like I might recommend with any shoe, I would suggest supplemental traction such as Microspikes or Nanospikes.  The Razor Ice+ will also now be my go to shoe to use with my running snowshoes.

Comparisons:
Salomon XA Alpine (RTR review) vs. Razor Ice+ - More expensive ($250) and heavier than the Razor Ice+, but also a more durable all around mountain shoe.  The XA Alpine is much sturdier and has better traction over a wider range of all mountain conditions.  For more spirited running on tamer terrain, the Razor Ice+ has a clear advantage (and is more waterproof).

La Sportiva Crossover GTX .0 vs. Razor Ice+ - I am basing this analysis off of my experience with the 1st version of the Crossover, but have similar findings listed above when comparing to the XA Alpine.  At about the same cost, it would hinge on intended use, all mountain/off trail (La Sportiva) or trails, groomed trails, winter road running, fast running, snowshoe racing (Razor Ice+).

Jeff's Score:  9.6 out of 10
-.2 ironically for traction, as this shoe could benefit greatly from deeper, more aggressive lugs
-.1 for thin neoprene outer shell, would like to see this be a bit more substantial for off trail use
-.1 for thin toe bumper

Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

The Razor Ice+ was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's

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