Thursday, April 18, 2019

Enda Sportswear Lapatet Review: Stepping Proudly Into the Big Leagues

Article by Michael Ellenberger with Sam Winebaum

Enda Lapatet ($120) - Kickstarter live now here at $100 per pair

Update: Enda successfully reached their initial Kickstarter goal! Fortunately, the Lapatet will continue to be offered at the discounted ($100) price through the life of the Kickstarter campaign, so those seeking a discount would be wise to back it!

Michael: Enda is a brand we’ve quickly become fond of here at RoadTrailRun; their first-generation, made-in-Kenya running shoe (the $95 lightweight trainer, the Enda Iten was one of my surprise favorites of 2018 (RTR Review). 
I did a large portion of my marathon build up in the Iten before my marathon PR in Austin (2:31), and the wider toebox and low-drop profile allowed it to function as aggressively as you wanted. Sure, it was a little too rigid for those really easy days, but for the vast majority of my runs, the lightweight trainer was the perfect class of shoe, and the Iten a strong example.

Sam: There is much more to Enda than just fine run shoes. The company was founded to, and is focused on, bringing as much as possible of its production to Kenya, arguably the heart and heart beat of running. Enda seeks to help grow the local economy through making high value added state of the art products while training workers for the skills required to build and market a globally distributed running product. So the mission is more than just creating great running shoes.

Michael: Enter the Lapatet, now on Kickstarter here and almost fully subscribed, so head on over ASAP.  Where the Iten was simple, stripped down, and clearly a first-generation product (the upper being comfortable but, in my pre-production pair, clearly affixed by glue), the Lapatet could be, absent the logo, the newest offering from Brooks, Saucony or Nike. And it will feature an ever increasing portion of the production costs (40%) to be Kenyan, when few shoes assembled in the US even come close.

The ribbed-knit upper is unlike any we’ve found (and knit uppers have become the craze around the running world of late).

Sprinkled throughout are Enda’s nods to their Kenyan heritage (and present-day life!)  - flag-colored eyelets, a fabric-accented tongue, the Iten’s Kenyan-inspired outsole, and more. It’s hard to open lace the shoe and not be impressed, even in comparison to the Iten.

Sam: co-founders Weldon Kennedy and Navalayo Osembo present the technical and cultural details of the Lapatet in the YouTube below (will embed full video in Blogger)
The Lapatet incorporates multiple subtle Kenyan cultural hints from nature, heritage and everyday life.

The shoe name, Lapatet comes from one of Kenya’s 40 languages and means Run. The upper’s wave pattern reminds of Kenya’s  landscapes: ocean, clouds, and wind on the savannah.
The handmade tongue fabric and the pull tab remind of everyday Kikoi fabric used to carry babies and other loads.
Underfoot we see the word Harambee which means: “All Pull Together”.
The deep decoupling groove has a topographical map of the Rift Valley, home to some many great runners.

The darker gray version features red and green eyelets reminding of the Kenyan flag. All the eyelets are stitched in Kenya.
Michael: Enda has pulled out all the stops for the Lapatet. As much is apparent from the Kickstarter pages alone - whereas the Enda Kickstarter was more about the company than the product (and rightfully so), the Lapatet’s page highlights the best-in-class specifications of the trainer, the build quality, and the design choices to make it competitive in the marketplace. This is less of a prototype and more of a flagship. But looks - and advertisements - aren’t everything, so Sam and I gave the Lapatet a thorough test to see if this Kenyan-made runner could live up to the hype!

  • Extremely premium feeling (and looking) trainer, build-quality is high
  • Very well but cushioned with a 30mm/24mm stack without feeling clunky or mushy or weighing much (9.2 oz.!)
  • Very easy to transition and toe off.
  • Knit upper is slightly too thick, may be hot in the summer months
  • Sam: the end of the seam running from the toe to the first lace on medial side is thick and irritates a bit where seam meets laces.
Tester Profiles
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 61 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.

Official Weight: 9.2 oz /  261 g. (M 8.5)
Tested US M 8.5 early sample: 9.24 oz /  262g
Estimated Weight US M9: 9.6 oz / 272 g
30 mm heel / 24mm forefoot, 6mm drop
6 mm drop
Men's (6.5-13.5) and women's (4.5-10.5) sizing available in the Kickstarter
Arriving 2020.
Enda's Comparative Chart

First Impressions and Fit
Michael: The design of the shoe, as was the case with the Iten, is meticulous. Enda seems to care about the details, including homages to Kenya laced (no pun intended) throughout the shoe. On the grey model (though, unfortunately not on our lovely blue model), the eyelets reflect the colors of the Kenyan flag. There is a pull-tab (one of the most underrated shoe features, in my opinion) decorated in the style of Kitenge, an African fabric. The tongue includes a swatch of kikoi, a traditional rectangle of woven cloth. As before, the outsole is branded with “Harambee,” or “all pull together," in Swahili. These little features don’t necessarily make a running shoe better - one can imagine a case in which they could even make one worse - but they are a terrific touch and one that makes you feel as if you’re wearing both a daily trainer, and piece of a culture.

The Lapatet is built on the same last as the Iten, but pulling it on, with the more substantial knit upper and thicker heel counter, certainly makes it feel constrictive and more sock-like than the semi-flimsy Iten. It’s not so narrow that users would need to go up (the 8.5 test pair fit me just right), but it should alleviate some of the concerns I had with the Iten about a slightly too-wide toebox. The Lapatet runs true-to-size and should fit most feet out there.

Sam: Striking looking in their elegant simplicity with touches of Kenya they are truly beautiful looking shoes. The upper has no overlays and is as Michael says “substantial”. That it is and it holds my foot, after a struggle to get them on in what I would call a high performance “comfort” fit.
Michael: The Lapatet has a thick, knit upper - almost like a ribbed or cable-knit sweater in appearance and feel. On Kickstarter, Enda calls it “sock-like” … I don’t think I’ve ever worn a sock quite as thick (or three-dimensional), but it is quite comfortable. It’s also quite rigid; whereas other shoes run cables or plastic overlays to provide structure to the midfoot, the Lapatet rests entirely on its cabled knit upper. The cool colors don’t hurt, either - I like our sea-blue quite a bit, but may double-down and pick up a pair of the yellow Lapatets as well.
The issue with the upper that both Sam and I encountered to varying degrees was in the forefoot, where there is a noticeable “seam” extending diagonally from the toe box. I didn’t have major issues, but Sam experienced some rubbing at this spot on the top of his foot. I certainly could feel the seam when I was in the toe-off phase of my foot strike, or when walking in the Lapatet. Switching to a thicker sock, like the Balega Hidden Comfort, largely alleviated this issue - but it’s worth noting and as this is a prototype stitching can still be adjusted.

I also have mild concerns about how this upper will perform in the warmer months. In my runs across 40° and 50° days, I had no issues - it was pleasant and breathable - but when the temperature reaches, for example, 90° or higher, I do wonder how the shoe will breath. Presumably, the Enda team has tested the trainer in Kenya (the high temperature was 86° in Nairobi when I was writing this review) and didn’t experience any issues, so I am carefully optimistic. In the winter, I think this would be a terrific option, as well.

Largely, I came away impressed with the upper of the Lapatet. It’s unambiguously premium in look and feel, and quite unlike anything on the market today (even when more and more manufacturers are moving to knit uppers). The large cables knitted into the material provide more than adequate structure and support, and I quite like the visual appearance they create.
Sam: Part of the foot hold magic is the combination of that dense 3D mesh and a narrow lace throat with six laces holes and thick soft laces which allows the upper to truly completely wrap the foot snuggly with a very seamless feel with zero slop or lack of security anywhere and with one exception no pressure or binding, hard to do stuff. The toe box is notable in that, while “low” in character it has 2mm more width on the lateral side by the 5th met head than most shoes. I could feel this welcome width. I do think the diagonal seam ending at the laces on the medial side could be thinned out as I did feel some mild irritation there.

Disclaimer: We had a sample pair from Enda, and there will be changes coming from our units to the production version sometime in 2020. Namely, the Lapatet will gain a slightly firmer insole, and slightly adjust the slope of the heel in the rear third of the shoe - a move that Enda says will help improve durability for forefoot strikers. As is, I found the cushion and durability more than adequate in my testing, but I’m sure these changes will constitute improvements to the Lapatet.

Michael: The midsole of the Lapatet isn’t particularly interesting in material composition, but has a unique mix of near-maximalist proportions with a significant weight reduction. The main cushion comes from high-rebound EVA, with a firmer, abrasion-resistant firmer light blue variant capping the shoe on either end. We see EVA in most shoes in this class, and appreciate it for its durability, long-run cushion, and relative light weight. But here, Enda has done something special: it’s piled up between 24mm (toe) and 30mm (heel) of material while keeping the weight well below 10 ounces in a men’s 8.5, at 9.2 oz. That’s a substantial amount of underfoot cushion at a considerably discounted weight.

There was no significant “rocker” sensation in the Lapatet, but through runs of a variety of distances, I was impressed with the shoe’s ability to smoothly transition from landing to toe-off. The Lapatet is certainly further removed from the 1:1 groundfeel of the Iten, but didn’t create the sensation of being overly slappy or removed from the ground. Instead, the Lapatet generates a pleasant heel-to-toe rolloff that works at a wide variety of cadences and paces.
Sam The midsole has a softer mid foot strike area of white 53 C high rebound EVA foam. The heel and toe cap (blue) have slightly firmer 57C durable abrasion resistant EVA.  The stack is substantial, in the maximal category, given the 24mm forefoot and 30 mm heel. The result, in combination with the substantial coverage but thinner outsole, feels exactly as Enda describes in the video above, a stable heel area followed by a soft but not hesitating midfoot strke zone then an easy toe off. I think the outsole coverage and blue firmer toe EVA plays a big role in making toe off so smooth despite the softness of the rest of the midsole. There is no sense of collapse or instability up front.  The midsole feel given the very substantial stack is no question that of trainer, very well cushioned. quite soft but interestingly quite agile as well and easy to run as well.

Michael: Enda largely replicated the outsole from the Iten, of which I was a huge fan. The rubber is durable but isn’t overly thick; it’s a nice medium between the blown-rubber-less trainers of recent months (whose durability and wet-condition traction remains slightly suspect) and the over-the-top rubber outsoles of some daily trainers that simply tacks on weight with seemingly no added benefit.

I was fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough) to have no occasion to test these on a wet run, but if the Iten is any indication, the performance will almost certainly be impressive. I tested the Itens in the late autumn when conditions are about as nasty as can be, and came away impressed. One improvement over the Iten outsole (and also given the thicker midsoles) that is immediately appreciable is on rocky or uneven terrain; I had some issues “feeling” sharp rocks or debris with the Iten. Not so in the Lapatet. The considerable rubber and stack of the midsole contributed to a smooth and even ride

Sam: the outsole is outstanding in its coverage and functionality. I particularly appreciated the full coverage up front which stabilized the soft midsole and flexed as it should during my gait. Often one sees many small pods or narrow bars of front rubber or uninterrupted stretches of barely segmented rubber (many New Balance). Here we have large pads of relatively thin durable rubber in combination with the firmer blue midsole up front which worked like a charm together for plenty of grip, a soft yet stable front feel, and an easy toe off.

Michael: As previously mentioned, the Lapatet generates an exceptionally smooth heel-to-toe roll across nearly all paces. This is aided in part by the upper, which is snug enough to keep your foot locked down, and in part by the last, which provides toebox room for a wider (and more comfortable) toe splay. It’s certainly a comfortable trainer for runs of all distance - this wouldn’t be my choice for a marathon racer, of course, but I’m confident that pre-marathon long runs would go over well in the Lapatet.

The Lapatet’s ride is also considerably more stable than I had imagined when I read the specs (part of the reason you need to run in the shoe to get the whole story!). While this isn’t a classic “stability” shoe, and does not claim to be, the upper and midsole provide an adequate amount of support throughout the midsole. There are several knit-upper runners that feel “sloppy” in the midfoot for lack of support (in the general, not technical, sense). The Lapatet is, fortunately, not one of them. Even without any vertical cables or sewn overlays, I was pleased with just how stable my foot felt running in the Enda, even atop a significant amount of cushion.

Sam: Sadly I had only limited runs in Lapatet, slow easy ones on tired legs before I handed off our single pair to Michael. They were delightful as the shoe just flowed along without hesitation, hitches, plodding feel or slapping as often seen in max cushion type trainers, especially when run slow. Much of the ride credit must go to the combination of light weight, the well designed midsole outsole combination and the secure upper. A sloppy upper is never good I say for a recovery day and here the upper and platform kept me well aligned and stable. I only regret I had to hand them off before I could take them up to speed but Michael is the one to test the limits!

Conclusions and Recommendations
Michael: The Lapatet is a markedly different shoe from Enda’s Iten, but continues the company’s progress of well-constructed, Kenyan-made running shoes. While the Iten was clearly a first-generation product (albeit a loveable one), the Lapatet is a competent, polished trainer. The upper is the standout feature here; while it isn’t perfect, it is both unique in construction and effective as an element of the shoe. The shoe itself, while well padded and sitting at a comfortable 6mm drop, is a svelte 9.2 ounces in a size 8.5, undercutting the competition. Little details like the Kikoi fabric, “Harambee” marking, and inset Rift-Valley topographic map show that the design of the Lapatet was undoubtedly a project of love.

There are a lot of excellent light neutral trainers on the market; it is perhaps the running industry’s most competitive category right now. And with the Lapatet not set for full rollout until 2020, the competition will undoubtedly only be stronger. But Enda’s new flagship holds its own against the titans of trainers like the Brooks Ghost, Saucony Ride, or Nike Pegasus. The Lapatet is undoubtedly worthy of your consideration, especially if you’re looking for a shoe not only competent on the roads, but sprinkled with Kenyan cultural heritage and unique design features
Michael's Score: 9.7/10
-0.2 for slight irritation at the forefoot seam
-0.1 for an overly thick upper that may get hot

Sam: Bold and elegant from an innovative Kenyan company with a true soul and great mission, the Lapatet is a highly cushioned light, performance daily trainer and is a great new legitimate option which stands tall facing its competition. It incorporates and executes all elements of the genre well: high cushion to weight ratio, a lively ride, secure comfortable upper and expected strong durability. Runners whose tastes and needs are satisfied by our review's take should seriously consider signing up for a pair via Enda's Kickstarter which ends April 25. Our sample was immaculately built with my only concern that end of lace area seam, something I hope can be adjusted. 
Sam's Score: 9.6/10
-0.2 for slight irritation at the forefoot seam
-0.2 for thick, hard to pull on upper (also part of the shoe's strength) that may get hot

Enda Iten (RTR Review)
Michael; Enda’s initial offering was a surprise favorite of 2018, and a strong start for the Kenyan company. While I’d still recommend the Iten to some in 2019, unless you’re looking for a stripped back, lightweight trainer for speedwork or racing, the Lapatet is a more robust option for daily miles. With a vastly improved upper and softer, more forgiving cushion, the Lapatet should help bring Enda to a wider swath of runners.

Nike Pegasus Turbo (RTR Review)
Michael: The Pegasus Turbo is one of the most polarizing trainers of the last several years. Incredibly cushy and packed with technology, it’s undoubtedly a unique shoe. Unlike the Lapatet’s knit upper, the Peg Turbo has Flywire coils laced throughout the midfoot, adhering a two-layered upper that was not the most breathable. For true recovery days, the Pegasus Turbo is about as soft a ride as they come. For logging more miles - or for runs at a variety of paces - the Lapatet may be a better choice. Sure, it’s not as flashy nor tech-laden as the Nike, but it’s a comfortable and responsive ride (and is sure to be less polarizing in its feedback!).
Sam: Agreeing with Michael here. The Peg Turbo is a highly specialized, very soft shoe which gives strong sensations of softness and bounce right on the edge of being a hazard to certain runners and on any kind of rougher surfaces. It is not nearly as stable as the Lapatet, has a plasticky upper, but it is light and fun to run slow on its clouds of Zoom X. Soft with added versatility and a secure upper no question chose Lapatet,

Nike Pegasus 35 (RTR Review)
The “regular” Pegasus matches up more directly with the Lapatet, and in many ways the performances are similar. The upper on the Peg’ is thinner and more breathable, but less structured and slightly floppy. Where the Pegasus has a 10mm drop, the Lapatet has 6mm. The Lapatet also has a considerably wider toebox than the Nike. That said, the Pegasus 35 was a well-reviewed and well-respected shoe, and a runner would be wise to try both before deciding. Between these two, you can’t go wrong.  
Sam: The Pegasus is dated. I find them firm, with a dull ride, but very long lasting, a responsive work horse and trail worthy. At 9.4 oz the Pegasus is a touch lighter than the Lapatet but Lapatet has 6mm more forefoot stack and 1mm more at the heel delivering a softer, more cushioned daily training experience that while not having the firm pop of the Peg can move along. Both have snugger performance oriented uppers with Lapatet clearly more comfortable and broader in the toe box if denser and less breathable

Salming Greyhound (RTR Review)
Weighing a few tenths of an ounce more, the Greyhound has a similar but softer and a touch bouncier midsole and a similar full coverage front outsole in a stack 2mm lower front and back that Lapatet. The Greyhound's Vibram outsole is over done extending all the way into the mid foot and doesn't doesn't allow nearly as smooth transitions and toe offs as Lapatet. The uppers are a big study in contrasts with the Greyhound having a voluminous non stretch upper which will work best for higher volume feet and the Lapatet a snug lower volume fit with that extra lateral toe box width so a better narrower lower volume foot match.

Reebok Sweet Road 2 (RTR Review)
Sam: The Sweet Road weighs a few tenths of an ounce more than Lapatet. At $20 less the Sweet Road is a great value and there is for sure there is also a story behind Sweet Road, a famous uphill run in Syracuse, NY. Its upper is softer and thinner for sure up front and easier fitting with no overlays in the mix. Lapatet's upper is a touch more secure and denser and likely less breathable, They both share an 8mm drop and a similar more flexible forefoot and stable heel with a firmer rear EVA insert contrasting with a softer balance of the midsole. The Lapatet is softer overall. Their forefoot outsoles are quite similar in their copious full coverage, proper flex, and contribution to stability, Both are very attractive shoes which perform quite similarly with the Lapatet having a slightly more continuous smooth softer ride feel with less of an abrupt sense of difference between firmer very stable heel area and softer forefoot.

Hoka One One Clifton 5 and 6 (RTR Review)
Real simple for me. The Clifton and Lapatet share almost the same weight, stack height and very highly cushioned forefoot. The Clifton is stiff and relies on a rocker to toe off the Lapatet is not nearly as stiff and is easier to toe off. So if rockers are not your thing but you want lots of forefoot cushion and cushion overall Lapatet.

The Lapatet is now on Kickstarter HERE at $100 a pair!
Men's (6.5-13.5) and women's (4.5-10.5) sizing available in the Kickstarter
Ending April 25 so please head on over ASAP.  
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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