Saturday, October 17, 2020

Brandblack Tarantula Multi Tester Review: The Most Misunderstood of Spiders!

Article by Jeff Beck, Canice Harte and Sam Winebaum

Brandblack Tarantula ($225)


Jeff: The BrandBlack Tarantula is the first real running shoe from a brand that has been largely equated with fashion and street style sneakers. The brand founders come from Skechers Performance, and you’d have to be blind to miss the midsole comparison of their Supercritical Jetlon to Skechers Performance Hyperburst. They also have ties to Vibram, and the branded outsole bears the name in several places. 

Being the first performance shoe from the brand, it’s safe to assume there are going to be some issues, but the Tarantula comes out of the gate doing much more right than it gets wrong - making it a brand to keep an eye on going forward.

Michael: While this isn’t necessarily a shoe targeted at me - a city dweller! - I practically begged Sam to let me take his test pair because I was so curious to see how this shoe came together. Plus, having tested some true standouts from young brands like Atreyu and Enda, having never heard of Brandblack was a benefit, not a detriment. 

And, after taking my pair out for a few runs - including some light off-road stuff - I believe the Tarantula is fun, if slightly flawed option, and one that luckier runners than I (those who can truly go road-to-trail with regularity) will have a great time using to its maximum. 

Canice: Interestingly Michael says this shoe isn’t intended for him, “a city dweller”. For me, that’s exactly who I think this shoe is intended for. The Tarantula is a legit road running shoe and though some of our team have talked about it as a trail shoe, a $225 all white running shoe screams fashion meets city running. We’ll dive into the details below but I found the shoes to be fun to run in and somehow I felt like I was let into the cool kids club when I wore these around town.

Sam: Brandblack started in 2014 while the founders David and Billy were working at Skechers Performance and Skechers initially funded the company although it is now independent. While the guys had a deep background in performance running and basketball, the brand based in Southern California initially focused on wild, more technical “street sneakers” and fashion forward shoes and apparel garnering quite the buzz and was featured in this 2015 Los Angeles Times article.

Clearly there is a fashion forward way forward city vibe to the brand but… never judge a book by its cover I say. 

I first met David at Outdoor Retailer Show where Brandblack had a prominent place in the Vibram booth,, of all places, antipasto available every day of the show!   Brandblack has been acting as an informal design studio for Vibram and the Tarantula and Wrap Tech outsole shoes as shown below are early examples of their collaboration. 

When I saw the spectacular yellow version of the Tarantula I was definitely intrigued. 

I knew nothing about their fashion, athleisure, basketball and high style stuff but after talking to David could tell right away he really understood running, the latest super foams and technical upper fabrications and with Vibram as a partner I knew something was up! 

When you combine a supercritical foam such as their Jetlon (from essentially the same place as Skechers Hyperburst) with trail and mountain focused Vibram XS Trek rubber outsole in all an purpose pattern and a TPU fibers web reinforced mono mesh upper I immediately, like my colleagues,,, let’s just say thought “Yup City for Sure” as a do it all street sneaker that for sure can run.  

I also thought “mountain town” a/k/a Park City where just about any run or hike mixes everything from pavement, to gravel, dirt roads to smoother single tracks and then off to work, the gym, the store or coffee shop. Could the Tarantula be the ideal shoe for that world? And as an all around travel run shoe? Could it replace the ever popular not very practical or comfortable Speedcross in that world?


Michael/Sam: Broad stable platform (especially heel), copious all purpose outsole, very high rebound midsole foam.

Michael/Sam: Outsole provides more than sufficient rock protection while also quiet and smooth on road. Incredibly durable, zero wear for Sam at over 40 miles.

Michael/Sam: Highly versatile from road, to moderate trail, to casual with no big performance compromises for any use

Michael/Jeff: Great style, David Rose would rock this shoe

Sam: Very secure, comfortable, trail worthy upper that can also take you through an all day of more mellow pursuits including gym and work. Perfect fit for all for me.

Sam: The style, durability and versatility actually make the steep price a decent value

Jeff: Upper dimensions are atypical, but they work

Jeff: Smooth ride with good amount of bounce

Jeff/Sam: One of the best platforms in both width and solid, firm cushioning

Canice: Comfortable, stylish and a nice pop or bounce when running


Michael/Jeff/Sam: Very expensive

Michael/Sam: Weight at 10.75 ounces. Too much rubber in the mix?

Sam: A bit heel heavy on road

Sam: A few more millimeters of forefoot stack and/or softer rubber up front would be soften the road ride

Michael/Jeff: Sizing/fit is a little odd

Jeff: Heavy for the amount of cushion, especially in forefoot

Jeff: Can’t quite figure out where to fit it in the run rotation.

Tester Profiles

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 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 just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 163 lbs.

Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as in traditional road races and triathlons.

Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39. In December he raced his first 50 mile trail ultra. 

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 


Approx Weight:: men's 10.75 oz/ 305g (US9)   

  Samples: men’s:10.5 oz  / 298g  (US8.5) 11.3 oz /329g (US10.5)

Stack Height: 18mm (forefoot) / 25mm (heel), 7mm drop

Available now at Brandblack for men and women.  $225

First Impressions and Fit

Sam: Brandblack told us the Tarantula is the most misunderstood of spiders often featured in horror movies but is actually a gentle creature.  Brandblack also  said it too sees itself as “misunderstood”. By this I think they mean pigeon holed as a street style fashion brand and not a performance brand. I will say my somewhat menacing looking black Tarantula with its spider web of stout welded on TPU cord structures does indeed look a bit menacing, classy, and serious in purpose.

The shoe is long and broad in its silhouette, somewhat pointy up front in form but not in actual fit.  The design says all business and big presence.

The fit, despite the seemingly exaggerated silhouette length and breadth is a perfect true to size with superb and secure foothold from the seemingly low heel counter through mid foot to the toe box for any running I have done with a generous all day comfort fit as well. A very unique combination of near total any surface upper security and all day comfort in my experience. This is a shoe I want to, and have worn all day, for all kinds of activities since I received them.

The spider web of structure cords, the non stretch mesh, tongue, molded rear midsole as heel counter and a fairly stout toe bumper work in perfect harmony  for comfort and hold. 

I have extensively trail run, road run, hiked rocky trails and worn all day and this is one of the best fitting comfortable and secure uppers ever for me, of the “all around” variety. The only place fit lags, if you will, is on very steep more technical terrain downhills at the heel counter as while secure everywhere else the heel pocket is bit low and unstructured on the super steep. 


Jeff: Like so many running shoes, the midsole is everything - and this new one seems to be not-so-distantly related to one of the most exciting ones out there, Skechers Performance Hyperburst. Right away it’s very clear it isn’t quite the same, and it has a much firmer feel than HB. For the elephant in the room, whew, that is one striking shoe. I had only seen the yellow/white/pink colorway, so when the black and white pair showed up, all I could see was David Rose (if you haven’t watched Schitt’s Creek, you really should as long as you have a sense of humor) and a few weeks later, yup, still there. Fit is a little trickier. 

Because the length of my standard size 10.5 seems very long with nearly two full thumb’s widths in front of the big toe - but somehow it works? The extra length doesn’t lead to a sloppy feel, which is a testament to just how good this upper holds the foot. The toebox is very good, with no width concerns whatsoever. In some shoes I need a 2E not so here.

Michael: Undoubtedly the Tarantula is a cool looking shoe; Brandblack has roots in fashion and streetwear and that’s clear in all three colors offered here. Each is sharp enough to wear around town on the weekend, but none look out of place on the Lakefront path. Like Jeff, I had some issues with fit - my 8.5 was at least a half-size too large, but when I offered them to my brother who wears a 9.5, they were markedly too small. I think the issue is that, while the midfoot of the shoe is properly sized, the toebox narrows too early and tapers too long to provide a really proper fit. The “benefit” is that, even in a shoe that’s too big, you shouldn’t be sliding around like crazy… but a more dialed in ride would certainly be appreciated. 

Canice: I alluded to this before but when you receive a $225 all white running shoe to test you’re instantly skeptical and it’s easy to be overly critical. One of the many nice things about not having to pay for shoes when you test them is your relief of any self imposed burden one may place on themselves to justify the money they spent on their new kicks. As a tester you’re free to just run and let the shoes speak for themselves. And that’s what I did with the BrandBlack Tarantulas. I found the fit to be a little snug around the balls of my feet but they were still comfortable. They have a nice wide platform under your forefoot  and good heel cushion and have a nice bounce to them when you run.


Jeff: BrandBlack calls the upper construction “monofilament upper with fused TPU structural support web” and the reality is even more complicated. The upper has multiple layers, and you can slip your finger in between the two layers around the heel collar. The outer layer has the reinforced “web” over it, while the inside is really plush, but still very thin. 

The result is interesting, and I don’t mean that as a euphemism for being bad. It’s just unique, and the dimensions of the upper are equally unique. I don’t think I’ve ever run in a shoe that was so low around the ankle, yet there’s not even a hint of slip in the heel. The midfoot has such a deathgrip on the foot, a long toe box or low heel can’t induce heel slip. That said, the hold isn’t uncomfortable, it just takes a few runs to get used to. 

The tongue is very thin and very soft, and for me it’s the best giveaway that it is a fashion brand - the top of the tongue looks almost unfinished. Luckily, that doesn’t really matter during the run, and the gusseted sides keep the tongue in place. I wouldn’t mind a slightly thicker tongue, if you lace them even a little too tight you’ll feel it on the top of the foot - and it isn’t like this is a super light racer that an extra tenth of an ounce will make much of a difference.

Michael: I touched on the fit in the section above, so won’t retread there (pun intended), but it’s worth reiterating that the upper, even if slightly large, does provide genuinely excellent lockdown. I think a large part of that is due to the midfoot “wrap,” and specifically the exterior spider’s-web-like material that keeps your foot snug underneath the laces without any undue pressure. Silky!

Around back, Jeff’s right on that the heel is low, and while I did have some light irritation off my first run, a pair of longer socks alleviated any future concerns. Length aside, I think everything here is well-done and (gasp) somewhat unspectacular. It looks good, it feels good, and it works extremely well. 

Canice: I think Jeff’s description of the upper being interesting and that not being a bad thing is spot on. They are literally interesting and the end result is an upper that works very well yet looks, well, interesting. In today's world we expect to see welded overlays and laser cut edges, yet the Tarantula looks more like a knitting project on the surface with NASA fibers underneath. This manifests itself in a very functional upper that is breathable and secure.

You will find the toe box to be reinforced as are the eyelets. The heel pocket is a bit low but still comfortable. The upper is flexible and has a soft feel across the foot and the tongue as called out by Jeff and Michael is thin but I too found it to work well. 

Sam: The upper is pretty special here. Somehow by combining a non stretch mono mesh with those TPU cords Brandblack has for me achieved the best of all worlds, a comfortable fit that is roomy and easy on the foot yet totally secure everywhere I took it including trails.

Not visible in my black version the white shows the toe bumper which seemingly is massive and might press on the toes. Not so at all. 

While extending far back it is, it seems, “held up” by the cord structure on the outer mesh and if you will also pulled back so despite what appears, and is a pointy profile, the combination of this design element and the almost immediate broadening delivers a supremely comfortable toe box. That extra length some noted is not a factor at all beyond I think giving the toes room just behind while not leading to a sloppy front fit and lack of lock down as “big, rounded,  and obviously wide” toe boxes often deliver unless accompanied by a rigid toe bumper.. 

The heel counter is the other very distinctive upper construction element. The outer mesh and its overlay TPU cords essentially float around an inner rear padded layer, the smoother no cord textured material seen above at the top edges of the collars. Both come together at the very rear stitched together and at the lace up where they also connect. The result creates a sort of rear of the shoe bootie but not a compressive one.  There is no plastic heel counter with the midsole foam wrapping up around the heel. The hold at the achilles is relatively low but comfortable, secure irritation free and I found effective for all but very steep downhills.

The laces are thin and flimsy in feel, sometimes tangled and hard to unlace but seem to work well enough. I do think a bit broader laces would match better with the un padded tongue especially for lower volume feet to prevent any bite.

I also think the outer surface of the front edges of the toe bumper could use a thin protective overlay as after a rocky 12 mile hike I see some wear of the overlay cords there. 


Jeff: If you were to creatively tape off most of this shoe, and only show the midsole, I’m willing to bet virtually every running shoe geek would call this a new model from Skechers Performance. The look of the <<<SUPERCRITICAL JETLON>>> is very close to Hyperburst, yet it has a firmness that the Skechers Performance hasn’t shown. More than 50 miles in, I’m still wondering if they will soften up any, but I think it is ultimately just a firm cushion. They are structurally much more rigid than any Hyperburst model, and even though the midsole isn’t that thick, there isn’t that much flexibility in the forefoot. If you grab the shoe in both hands and try to twist, there isn’t much give - which is why Sam’s point of taking it onto the trails isn’t too crazy. The firm cushioning provides lots of protection, though most of it is in the midfoot to heel, with the front half feeling just a little sparse for the weight. An extra 2-3mm of stack up front and this shoe would be much more suitable for long slow days, but as it is, by the time I reach 8-10 miles I’m ready to be done. Not every shoe needs to be eligible for long slow days, but a shoe this heavy should be a little bit better cushioned.

Michael: Hyperburst by another name? In fact, I think Brandblack has struck an extremely nice balance here - it has the bounce of Hyperburst, but a little more firmness, landing it just firmer than Skechers midsole composition and Brook’s DNA Flash, but considerably bouncier than, say, Brooks’s DNA Zero or something in an ASICS Cumulus.

Of course, the composition of the “Supercritical Jetlon” isn’t the entire story. I wish there was a little more flexibility to it (as Jeff alludes to) - maybe it’s lack of grooving to the outsole, but I found the Tarantula overly stiff for just regular ‘ol road miles, and that distinct Nitrogen-infused “bounce” was a bit overlooked in view of the substantial heft of the shoe. It’s not unpleasant, but it could be tuned to be a little more fun, I think.

Canice: Jeff and Michael have covered this very well. The midsole is well cushioned and leans towards the firmer side and for this is a good thing.

Sam: While masked by  the thick outsole rubber to a certain extent, the midsole clearly feels alot like Hyperburst a supercritical infused EVA. Springy, quite dense, and even considering the outsole a touch firmer than say the foam in a Skechers Razor, but close.

The very broad heel landing is very stable and well cushioned while the forefoot is on the thin side as after all the stack there is only 18mm thick while the heel is 25mm. So this is not a super cushion more maximal type stack but a very broad platform lower stack shoe.  The midsole outsole combination felt best on dirt road and smooth single track, really good,.as the lowish stack, lively foam and protective midsole combined for a lively, agile, and stable ride 


Jeff: Usually road shoe outsoles are pretty nondescript. They’re like a long snapper in the NFL. Don’t do anything wrong, and that’s just fine - if nobody knows your name, that’s a good thing. But the Tarantula outsole is a really good performer. They used four individual pieces of Vibram rubber, with a few segmented gaps to not hinder the shoe’s flexibility (the midsole does that enough), and the result is a shoe with incredible traction and perceived durability. Thus far I’ve seen virtually zero wear on the rubber, and it covers enough of the midsole, I don’t think midsole wear is going to be an issue - even if you decide to turn the Tarantula into a full-time trail shoe. The rubber is shaped into dozens of rectangular pods, and while it isn’t the flashiest design, it’s a very effective one.

Michael: Here’s another interesting part of the Tarantula: the Vibram outsole. What it lacks in flexibility, I think it makes up for in traction and useability; the amount of rubber here does not suggest an agile performer, to be sure, but that same bulk does make the Tarantula an extremely viable road-to-trail shoe (as I took it on one recent route that eventually reaches a few miles of crushed gravel, before I needed to head back). I’m carefully optimistic it will also be an excellent winter snow and slush option, even if that dooms my slick white upper. But really, for those runners who are able to reach any sort of soft surface from their backyard, I think the Tarantula’s viability on moderately technical trails should not be discounted.

Canice: I have to imagine this is where the Tarantula’s are picking up weight, but in a world of disposable running shoes it’s nice to have a shoe where you know the outsole will outlast the midsole and just happens to have fantastic traction.

Sam: The outsole is made of Vibram’s XS Trek compound which is slightly softer and bouncier than MegaGrip. It is a  good choice for a shoe intended for all surfaces.

There is full full coverage here with a good flex point at the forefoot in the gap between outsole areas  which makes them fine climbers and also agile. While contributing to a somewhat firm feel masking the midsole’s excellent cushion, the rock protection is about as good as I have seen in a relatively low stack non rock plated trail shoe and the overall trail stability (with plenty of agility) of the underfoot platform is outstanding.

The outsole pattern speaks to street more than mud or snow but...on loose gravel and dirt both up and down the grip has proven stellar especially when combined with the broad contact area from the overall platform.

At 40 miles or road, smooth trail, and even 10 miles of quite rocky hiking there is absolutely zero wear. 

All fine grooves and details are visible and essentially untouched. This outsole should last many, many hundreds of miles of hard use and while it contributes to a firmer ride especially at the forefoot on pavement, on smoother trail the grip is sensational and the combination of versatility and durability clearly add value when considering the steep pricing here.


Jeff: I’m curious to see what my colleagues think, but for me this was the biggest disappointment of the shoe. It doesn’t ride badly, but it’s decent at best. It isn’t that smooth of a ride, and there isn’t the kind of bounce I was hoping for. What’s more, I didn’t ever feel like they had a great snap at toe off - they aren’t awful, just a little uninspired. Maybe my hopes were too high with a midsole that appears so similar to Hyperburst, but there was just a bit of a dull ride at slow or fast speeds. If they found a way to soften the midsole up just a bit, that might be enough to give the shoe a little more soul.

Michael: Unfortunately, I agree largely with Jeff - the Tarantula looks the part, is snug (enough) and bouncy (enough), but just doesn’t ever come off smooth on the run. I admit I didn’t dare take the beast to anything under about half-marathon pace (we’ll call that 5:15, for now), but at a whole range of other paces, from a slog to a jog to a… moderate pace, I just couldn’t quite get this in groove. It’s not a shoe I detest taking out - I’ve worn it a couple times since starting this review to try to lock in my thoughts - but it’s ultimately just slightly less than the sum of its parts.

And then again, I want to caveat - I was taking this primarily on the road, where I can readily get away with a 6 ounce Atreyu Voyager. Lugging this much shoe around, even for true recovery runs, is rarely going to feel spectacular, and I can’t help but think that if I was in a mountainous part of the world, I’d be using this shoe to its fullest. For pure road runners, I wouldn’t expect perfect, but I do think the Tarantula could slot in as a long run cruiser if you’re used to something like a Saucony Triumph or Brooks Levitate.

Canice: I like that the Tarantulas have good cushion and bounce. I too found they run a bit flat but as I have been recovering from an injury and am heavier than normal, I liked the supportive feel to the ride. Now when I’m back to race shape my comments will align with my counterparts, but as someone who has been in the gym and running has become part of that workout, the ride has been just what I need. So for most people who are working out in the gym and running in the same shoes, the ride is great. If you’re purely running, the ride is flat.

Sam: It is always tricky and rarely successful in the end to create a do anything shoe. The ride here is very stable front to back on all terrain including trails, well cushioned at the heel and a bit thin (stack and big outsole) at the front on longer pavement runs.  I would call it a Trail to Door ride that leans trail and dirt over pavement, especially for longer distances on pavement. 

On trail the ride is surprisingly agile and responsive with plenty of not only cushion but response and great stability that only slips a bit on very steep downhills due to the low achilles collar. Never foot turning stuff just a bit low with a bit too much rotation at the way back,  On road,, it’s more about response from the rubber with a muted nice rebound from the supercritical foam midsole.  

The Trantula is also super fun to hike in with one of our tests a decently rocky and rugged high 12 mile mountain trail hike.

It is not a “light” feeling ride but a purposeful and energetic ride on trail with plenty of stable rock protected trail feel with a ride which is somewhat more ponderous on road, heavier and firmer feeling.

Put together it is my current favorite heavy duty kind of smooth trails, dirt roads and some pavement ride of 2020 for its more than adequate cushion, broad stability, climbing ability, and upper security that never over constrains. This is absolutely not the kind of shoe I feel any need to take off after a run as I often do with trail and road shoes. 

In fact, Tarantula also stayed on my feet,, comfortable as can be, with no loosening or removing on a four hour plane flight and many hours of travel on either end.. What “secure” trail or road shoe can do that?

So ride on the rest of your day ready for whatever comes next, maybe even some hoops?

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff: An incredible looking shoe that has a lot going for it, but ultimately the midsole is too firm (and not enough under the forefoot) to make it a great shoe. The upper is top notch and the outsole punches above its weight class, but for me any time a shoe sells for above $200 it better be amazing, and this shoe is simply good at best. It’s an interesting first shoe from a new player in the running world, and I’m hopeful that they’ll get things better dialed in for the next model. They get enough right to lead me to believe there’s something there.

Jeff’s Score 7.4 out of 10

Ride: 6 Fit: 10 Value: 6 Style: 10

Michael: Lots of good here (upper, midsole composition, outsole design), lots of medium (fit concerns, weight, price), and not a lot of bad - but unfortunately the most lacking element of the Tarantula is the most important - the ride. I’m curious to see how this performs come wintertime, and I’m hopeful that those (like Sam!) who get to traverse more exciting terrain than I can find good use for this - but as a pure road runner, the Tarantula is hard to justify at $225. 

Michael’s Score: 8.0/10

Canice: If you’re looking to wear these shoes to the gym and run as part of your workout while looking stylish, then the Tarantulas are great. In fact, they’re awesome. If you’re looking for a pure running shoe then they’re a bit heavy and run flat. These shoes are perfect for an urban lifestyle runner.

Sam: My colleagues keep talking about urban and city when considering the Tarantula. For sure it is a high performance and for sure runnable and stylish “street sneaker”. 

So I will say I agree but change up the city. The Tarantula for me is the ideal “mountain city” shoe and travel shoe as it tackled everything from trail run, to road run, to travel to get there, to coffee shop, to dinner all in the same day in Park City where I tested with never a thought of having to change for something else for performance (mostly), comfort or style. 

While not specialized for any one “activity”  it does many activities about as well as any shoe I have ever worn with yes compromises for sure but relatively few as even its weight is right in the class of other premium heavy duty trail and road running shoes.

The pricing is clearly way up there and an issue but so is the quality of materials and construction, superb fit, style, multi use functionality, and expected long long durability.

I do agree that the forefoot is thinner and firmer than I prefer. I think a softer formulation of the midsole and/or a little less and softer coverage of the excellent XS Trek would reduce weight and improve that aspect of the ride 

Sam’s Score: 9.16/10

Ride:8.9(30%) Fit:9.7(30%) Value:8.3(10%) Style:10(5%) Traction:9(15%) Rock Protection:9 (10%)

I deduct for the firm forefoot and ultimately for the pricing. I score the ride not based on either trail, road, other sports or daily wear but as a blend ultimately classifying the Tarantula as more a trail shoe than road shoe,



Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Pegasus Trail 2  (RTR Review)

Sam: The Peg Trail is just a shade lighter and far less expensive at $130. It has a liviller, more cushioned forefoot and a bouncier and far less stable trail and road ride. It’s upper is less secure than the spider’s. It barely outperforms the Tarantula on road for me and lags significantly on trails where it is just too shaky for all but smooth trails for me. 

Jeff: Sam sums it up well. The Peg Trail 2 upper hold isn’t amazing, while the Tarantula upper is a deathlock. But it’s hard to ignore the nearly $100 difference, and the more fun ride of the Pegasus Trail 2. It isn’t the best technical shoe, but for everything else, I like the Peg Trail 2 more.

Topo Ultraventure (RTR Review)

Jeff: It’s a Topo, so you know the toe box is great. The upper holds the foot fine, and there’s pretty good cushioning and great traction, but for the weight and stack height the forefoot rock protection is lacking. If you run mostly smooth trails with some road, go Topo. If you run mostly roads with a sprinkling of any type of trails, the Tarantula might be the better, but much more expensive pick.

Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review)

Sam: Yet heavier with a bouncier midsole and more traction, the Xodus 10 is one of my all time do anything trail or road shoes. On tired legs, go easy road days or on rough terrain it is still the Xodus otherwise, and when the trails lean easy and the road distances shorter hands down the Tarantula.

Jeff: Sam’s repeated compliments of the Xodus 10 made me pick up a pair, and it was money well spent. I’m with him, it’s one of the best shoes out there. Nothing against the Tarantula, the Xodus 10 wins most comparisons. If I had to reduce my shoes to one pair, it would almost certainly be the Xodus 10.

Saucony Canyon TR  (RTR Review)

Sam: The somewhat heavier door to trail Canyon TR has one of the best and most secure trail uppers of 2020 but if your foot is broader the Tarantula’s will fit better.and be almost as equally secure and more comfortable. 

Off the trail or road you will appreciate the spider’s more relaxed fit for sure. The Canyon TR is quite a bit less stable on trail due to its giant fairly firm stack height and largely unnecessary rock plate. While a bit less cushioned in the forefoot on road, the Tarantula’s road ride is more dynamic and its trail feel superior while very rock protected from its lower profile (than Canyon’s) outsole pattern. There is huge difference in price here…$100 but if you want a stylish do it all and quite well all shoe and can swing it Tarantula. 

Salomon Sonic 3 Balance (RTR Review)

Sam: A road shoe with a similar full coverage front outsole for stability the Balance can be taken on lighter duty trails but not where the Tarantula will take you. It’s upper is fine but not one you will want to leave on your feet the rest of the day no matter what you just tackled. It is for sure far lighter and less expensive.  

Salomon Sense Ride 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: The classic door to trail shoe the very light Sense Ride 2 is at home on roads and up to non technical trails. It overall has less cushion than the Tarantula and not as secure an upper but it is faster and more fun.

New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail (RTR Review)

Sam: Bouncy and fun, the very light for its stack, More Trail is polar opposites of the Tarantula in just about every way but both are intended for largely the same door to trail and more mellow trail purposes. The big knock on the spider in this comparison is its weight for me and to a lesser extent its firmer more minimal cushion stack at the forefoot. This said the Tarantula is more stable especially at the forefoot, more trail worthy when things get rougher and I expect far, far more durable and More is not a budget shoe at $165 

Jeff: While Sam’s breakdown is accurate, I ultimately would favor the More Trail. I enjoy the ride much more, appreciate the forefoot cushioning, and while it is expensive, it’s substantially less than the Tarantula.

adidas Ultraboost 20 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size, the adidas has a tighter but stretchier upper. Both branded outsoles (Vibram vs Continental) provide lots of grip, and in both cases I’d love just a little more cush under the forefoot. While I called the Tarantula ride a little dull, vs Boost it has a noticeably nicer ride. It does carry a sizable cost increase over the already pricy UltraBoost, I’d favor the Tarantula.

ASICS Novablast (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. There’s a number of aspects where these two shoes are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Novablast is notoriously unstable, the Tarantula might be the most stable platform out there. The Novablast is soft and springy, the Tarantula is firm and dull. Then there’s cost, and the Novablast comes in $85 cheaper. You will have to deal with the unstable platform, but the Novablast is a no-brainer here.

Michael: NovaBlast doesn’t have the same Nitrogen-infused midsole as the Tarantula, but its FlyteFoam Blast is still plenty bouncy. I’d take the ASICS even before considering the price difference. 

Atreyu Voyager (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. I know, how can I possibly compare these two shoes. The Tarantula costs more than double (and if you’ve subscribed the Atreyu dropping the price to $55, it’s actually ~¼ the cost of the Tarantula), and it also weighs close to double of the Atreyu. But they are both new entrants into the running space, both have the outline of an insect on the tongue, and both have a near identical stack height. The Tarantula upper is softer and more engineered, and the Atreyu effectively doesn’t have an outsole, it’s all exposed midsole, but the ride favors the lighter and cheaper Atreyu with a little more cushioning and definitely more pop. I have plenty of minor quibbles about the Atreyu, but in this case, definitely favor it.

Michael: I’m nearing 900 miles across my 3 pair of Atreyu base models, and would take it in nearly all cases, but I will chime in here only to add that in my limited time taking the Atreyu on the same railway bed where I tested the Tarantula, I had a bit of an uncomfortable ride - the larger rock chunks chewed at the exposed outsole, and I could feel the stones with each stride. The Tarantula is much more robust in that case, and if you’re going to frequent trails, the Brandblack may be worth a look.

Mizuno Wave Rider 24 (RTR Review)

Jef: Both fit true-to-size. Mizuno’s standard daily trainer, it was a massive step forward from the clunky ride of recent years. These shoes have similar stack heights, but the Mizuno (a brand known for having a firm ride) has a softer ride than the Tarantula. The upper of the Mizuno is a little more common, but common doesn’t mean bad. The Mizuno comes in roughly $100 less and boasts a better ride, so that’s definitely what I’d favor.

Mizuno Wave Rider Neo (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. Mizuno’s daily trainer from across the pond, the Neo cuts the weight, uses their new midsole material Enerzy in every element of the shoe, and upped the price from the standard Wave Rider 24. In comparison, the Neo is $65 less, an ounce lighter, and substantially more comfortable. The Tarantula will likely have better durability with the entire outsole covered in rubber, but it will be much more enjoyable in the Mizuno. Take the Neo.

Mizuno Wave Sky Neo (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. One of the few comparison shoes that tips the scales heavier than the Tarantula, the Sky Neo is Mizuno’s premium daily trainer that is unlikely to come to the US, and it’s one of my favorite shoes I’ve ever run in. Both shoes have a premium feel, while the Mizuno upper and midsole both have a plusher feel to them. The Tarantula outsole holds the advantage, but in every other aspect the Mizuno is better. Save a little bit of money, go with the Mizuno.

Nike Zoom Pegasus 37 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The Tarantula upper and outsole are much better than the longtime Nike daily trainer, but the React and Zoom Air pillow in the forefoot are a big step up from the Tarantula midsole - even as divisive as the Peg37 midsole has been. If you are thinking of casual wear and you can stomach the price tag, go Tarantula, but as a running shoe, the Pegasus is the better shoe.

Michael: I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Peg 37 (even with some improvements, like the jump to React foam), but I do think it handles a little more smoothly than the Tarantula, especially after breaking in. I don’t think I took the Nike on anything remotely technical, but it has a reasonably durable outsole that should handle light trails (like dirt and limestone) without issue.

Sam: The Peg 37 can clearly handle light trails about as well as the Tarantula due to its lugged outsole and secure upper but is a bit less stable at the rear due to its narrower platform. The Peg is also a clearly superior if awkward feeling (unless you get the softer women’s) road shoe. Leave them on all day to do everything else no way for me and for sure Tarantula.

Saucony Triumph 18 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. Saucony’s most premium neutral daily trainer, the Triumph has a similar weight with a very good outsole and an upper that is more comfortable than the Tarantula, while the Tarantula upper holds the foot much better. If you’ve read these reviews, you might know I’ve been a major Triumph fan for the last few years, and it’s no difference here - try the Triumph.

Sam: Similar heavy duty rides with the T18 clearly is more cushioned, flatter feeling and less trail worthy. No contest for me as far as the uppers the Tarantula’s is lighter on the foot and more secure. 

Saucony Ride 13 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. Saucony’s latest update to their standard daily trainer was a big upgrade, and in this comparison it shines way above the Tarantula. The Saucony brings a smoother ride, lighter weight, and much lower cost - while the Tarantula has a more durable and sticky outsole and a better look. No hesitation, take the Ride.

Sam: Agree with Jeff about the Ride 13 as a road shoe. It is superb and versatile. The Ride 13 upper is a bit suffocating and dense up front so Tarantula wins on comfort on the run and after. 

The Tarantula is available from Brandblack HERE

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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