Friday, October 22, 2021

adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 7 Multi Tester Review: A Modern, Versatile and Stable Race Flat Masterpiece!

Article by Ryan Eiler, Michael Ellenberger and Sam Winebaum

adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 7 ($160)


Introduction

Ryan: Choosing a shoe for a race of 10k or less isn’t exactly a no-brainer these days. In the high-stacked corner we have the likes of the Alphafly and Adios Pros, which promise to reduce muscle fatigue and return energy. In the opposing corner, we have shoes like the Takumi Sen 7, which make the case that weight savings and inertia minimization are paramount. So, what is the ‘breakeven’ distance at which a tall-stacked super shoe becomes superior to a minimalist, feather-light racing flat? While it clearly depends on the type of runner you are, my (unscientific) guess is that the average distance is somewhere around 10k.


The Takumi Sen 7 is billed as a high performance, albeit slightly forgiving racing flat, focused on delivering speed above all else. In an era where speed comes as less and less of a tradeoff to comfort, I was eager to find out how friendly a racing flat born in 2021 could be.

Michael: Like the others, I think I was more excited for the Takumi Sen 7 than almost any other racer this year - for the simple fact that it’s a true racing flat! In 2021! 


Pros:

Highly secure, yet comfortable race fit upper: Sam / Ryan / Michael

Highly secure upper with roomy forefoot area: Cheng (Sen 6)

Dense Lightstrike midsole (and outsole) is highly responsive yet leg friendly (after); Sam

Surprisingly well cushioned if firm for such a low stack: Sam / Ryan / Cheng

Lugged outsole/ secure upper: non spike XC and track, short non tech trails race option: Sam / Cheng / Michael

Fantastic feedback underfoot, although not abusive: Ryan / Cheng / Michael


Cons:

Superb materials, performance and construction but pricey for a race flat: Sam / Michael

In a era of super shoes a more niche shoe than it would have been 5 years ago: Sam / Cheng

A tiny touch more soft bounce fun closer to Lightstrike Pro would be appreciated,: Sam / Michael

Aggressive lugs, flexible forefoot, and low stack make it a highly specific shoe: Ryan

Midsole/ride is a bit simplistic given the price and technologies available: Ryan


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 6.4 oz / 182g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s  6.28 oz / 178g US 8.5,  6.5 oz / 185g (US9.5)

Stack Height: heel 25 mm / forefoot 16mm  (measured), 9 mm drop

Available now. $160

 

Tester Profiles 

Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.  More recently he has solo time trialed the 2020 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K and in 2021 and set a marathon PR of 2:27 at the 2021 Maine Marathon.

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. 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,.. He has a 2:23 marathon PR (2nd place) from the 2021 Lakefront Marathon in Wisconsin

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 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 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA.


First Impressions and Fit

Ryan: These look and feel every part of a racing flat, with a thin, dense midsole that feels ridiculously lightweight. Will these do to my calves what my track spikes of yore used to; leaving me at least three days to recover after a workout? My size M9.5 fit me true to size, like a glove, and it was easy to find an inspiring lockdown on the first lace up. Not only do they feel fast, but they look  fast -- no way I was going to saunter around my usual route at my usual pace with these on.

Their distinctly minimalist feel on your foot inspires confidence and makes you want to skip the warmup and go straight to game time.

Michael: I have to admit (and I’ll cover this more in the immediately following section), I was hooked from first try on - the lock-in on the TK7 is absolutely awesome. It just feels fast, and I would say it even has to be worn to be believed. Nike’s Flyknit has great lockdown, so does the Adidas Adios Pro… but this is next-level in its security. The fit here is absolutely dialed in.

Sam: A stunning looking shoe that screams speed. Low slung bright and fast looking, I was scared it would be to little shoe for much beyond a 5K with its 25/19 stack of quite firm Lightstrike.

I was happy to see and feel walking around that front insert of softer more pliable Boost up front reminding me right away of the construction of one of my all time favorites, the XT Boost.


My pair is at my true to size 8.5 and fits like a dream. The most notable element of the fit is the extended tongue of a rubbery material similar to the adios Pro. Unlike the Pro where the tongue is tacked to the top of the upper, the tongue here wraps the entire midfoot with just a small stretch gusset down near the midsole on both sides. Total, comfortable lockdown which is so good I would call it trail shoe worthy. The rest of the Celermesh upper is totally see-through and roomy enough for the fast purposes with the priority a totally secure all of a piece, join the foot to platform fit. 


Upper

Sam: The upper is adidas Celermesh, a mono mesh, as seen on all adidas 2021 performance shoe with an elaborate array of underlays which are melted through the thin non stretch to the outer surface.

Unlike the adios Pro 1 and 2, the Takumi Sen has a much more substantial real heel counter that wraps the back of the heel and comes forward a short ways. Heel lock down is super secure.

The tongue is made of a rubbery soft material with plenty of padding for the thin laces.

Instead of a stretch gusset attaching near the top of the tongue, the tongue material wraps almost all the way to the midsole where there is a very narrow stretch section just above the midsole. The adios Pro 1 and 2 tongues are made of a similar rubbery material but are attached to the top of the upper, no gusset. You can see the wrap in the photo below as the white areas with my dark socks contrasting. I hope adidas implements this tongue on all their future race shoes.

This approach leads to an incredibly secure smooth fitting mid foot hold. So secure that I would not hesitate to be confident in this minimal upper for shorter trail races on smoother terrain and certainly for XC or rail trail, dirt road racing as I did during my testing.  

We have a toe bumper that goes beyond a mere overlay. It does not wrap over the toes, a good thing with the low overhead there but it is real and not a mere minor stiffener of overlay.


I raced them 10K on a rail trail in wet conditions with puddles that couldn’t be avoided and they drained instantly with the shoe absorbing no moisture as other than the Celermesh mono mesh the rubbery tongue is the only other main component and it does not absorb water.

Ryan: Not only does the Celermesh look amazing, but its lockdown is second to none among road shoes. I fell in love with the similar upper of the Adios Pro, and the Takumi Sen continued my strong feelings for the Celermesh anatomy. While it feels plasticky to the touch, it is so nicely sculpted that comfort is not corrupted by the strength of the material. The bright colored striations that you can see surrounding the forefoot even have somewhat of a brushed feeling on the inside of the shoe. This seemed to provide friction to prevent any forefoot slippage, as well as to complement the gusseted tongue in delivering a non-abrasive feel.


Because of how seriously this shoe treats lockdown, it isn’t the easiest to slip on. But once it is on and any minor adjustments to the tongue are made, it fits like a glove, as a racing flat should. I won’t hesitate to say that this is the most secure shoe in my arsenal right now.


As Sam mentions, the heel counter means business and does a fine job of keeping things quiet at speed. 

The toe box has slightly less height than average, but wasn’t an issue thanks to a toe bumper which holds the front end’s shape with a Goldilocks amount of stiffness.


I decided to give the Takumi Sen a comprehensive test right out of the box, tackling a Tracksmith-sponsored, 3 mile FKT challenge along the Charles River. They showed up for the job, performing superbly around sharp turns, on cinder footpaths, and over bridges and elevated walkways, even at sub-5’minute mile  pace. I’m confident that I would have had a lot of trouble navigating such sharp turns in a taller, bouncier shoe.


Michael: I’ll echo the others in saying that the upper here - and the lockdown, specifically - is legitimately second to none. There’s no wasted material here, and nothing unnecessary. 

The upper isn’t as harsh as something like the Skechers Speed Freek (which is minimal and snug, but to a fault) - it’s just so well-constructed that you can tell your foot is locked in, ready to run fast. 

I know I’m hyping this up a lot, but… really, it’s the standout component of the shoe, and absolutely among the best uppers I’ve worn on a racer, ever. 


Midsole


Sam: The midsole is Lightstrike with a forefoot insert of Boost.  


The midsole is firm but forgiving. There is clear rebound of a dense very short amplitude with the shock reduction from the very low 25mm heel remarkably good. You will not mistake the ride here for the EVA in a classic race flat of similar stack height and it for sure this is not an airy bouncy foam such as Fuel Cell or Zoom X and it is similar but denser and firmer than Lightstrike Pro as in adios Pro 1 and 2. Such "super foams" would undoubtedly bottom out a great deal in such a low stack. 


The Takumi has a stout mid foot Torsion plate. Classic adidas race flat construction.  The plate is plastic not carbon and does not extend forward of the midfoot. The plate stabilizes the shoe in concert with that wrap around upper.


Further forward the outsole plays the role of a plate of sorts as its lugs are a firm material injected into a surface, similar it seems to the RC Elite 1 but here with more substantial lugs which I found provide not only a stable responsive toe off platform, and one with some flex but some gravel rock protection as well. At the very front the combination of Boost and Continental rubber make that area yet a bit more flexible for final toe off.  


The forefoot “midsole” and we must include the outsole in the mix here is remarkably well cushioned, stable, protected and dynamic for such a low front stack of 16.5mm.


Ryan: In the heel and up into the midfoot, the Lightstrike foam is about as forgiving as you could reasonably expect, given its low stack height; but this isn’t a shoe for heel striking, anyway. This grade of Lightstrike dampens much of the impact, but doesn’t return nearly as much energy as its Lightstrike Pro relative found in the Adios Pro. In the midfoot, the torsion plate is fairly stiff, although not carbon stiff, and forces most of the flex to occur in the forefoot.

The lugs have a touch of flex at toe off, but not so much as to feel mushy. I especially like how the lugs are bonded onto the midsole, as they feel very determined to give you the best traction possible without sacrificing road feel.

The pelletized Boost foam you can see in the photos supports the majority of the forefoot, and is perhaps one of the biggest departures from the classic racing flat design but one that has been used in adidas race flats before. Instead of a jarring, punishing impact, it generates a comparatively welcoming and flexible experience at the end of each stride. Make no mistake, you still sit very low to the ground and receive much more feedback than that of a traditional trainer.


Michael: Every component of this shoe - upper, midsole, outsole - is different from a “regular” shoe. And while the midsole here is great (for what it’s designed for), it really is a vast departure from what we tend to see in 2021. There is not a lot of cushion here - and the midsole that there is, isn’t exactly… plush. But, to Adidas’s credit, I do think the Lightstrike Boost combination punches beyond its pay grade here - it’s not overly soft or bouncy, but it’s amply cushioned for most road racing. I’d certainly race in it for 5K-10K, and think those familiar with traditional racing flats could get away with it for a half (my current half PR was in another flat-flat, the Reebok Run Fast Pro, though my legs were sore for a week!).


Outsole

Sam: The outsole has a firm heel plug of hard rubber then a mostly full expanse of 2-3mmlugs with only an interruption at midfoot where we find coverage mostly from the Torsion plate and finally a softer front Continental rubber. 

Grip on wet and dry pavement, hard packed dirt, and leaves over dirt or pavement is superb. So the Takumi Sen 7 becomes a great option for cross country and track races, short fast smooth trail races, and for me 5K on road and 10K or even more on dirt roads and light trails.


Grip on the polished tile/stone at a Five Guys Burger place was downright hazardous. I could barely stand in places where the floor was a touch greasy or maybe waxed.

Ryan: The lugs caught my attention right away, as they were clearly very purposefully engineered, and not merely an afterthought. From toe to heel, we move from a patch of Continental brand rubber, followed by an abundance of diamond shaped 2.75mm tall lugs, a hard, plastic ‘torsion’ plate, another field of lugs, and finally a small section of traditional rubber at the heel. It’s definitely not boring, as far as outsoles are concerned.

On a porous surface, the grip is fantastic. I ran a hard series of half-mile repeats on wet asphalt, adorned with bits of the season’s first foliage, and I felt sure footed during the entire workout. The lugs work hard to bite onto whatever surface you’re on, as long as there’s some texture to it.

I have to agree with Sam, in that these will be right at home on tame trails, grass, and cinder given the prominence and abundance of lugs underfoot. I have to admit that I was surprised by how stable this outsole proved to be at speed and on asphalt.

Michael: Awesome. Adidas has done such a cool job in bringing forth a truly durable, usable, grippy outsole into a high-end flat (in fact, the outsole of this and the Adios Pro could hardly be more different!). I’ve tested these on grass, wet pavement, gravel, and a treadmill belt, and I don’t think I’ve felt a slip - at any pace - underneath me. If I had more opportunity for cross-country racing, I’d be wearing these every time I wasn’t wearing spikes (a wish I’ve had before).


Ride

Sam: The ride is low, stable, quite firm but not punishingly so and fast. Unlike a modern carbon plated super shoe, the combination of a more mid foot focused plastic plate and front flexibility allows a rapid turnover with confident speed and directions change agility. The low stack and superb upper hold make the platform confidence inspiring on uneven surfaces with great ground/road feel and surprising protection. If you miss the classic race flat ride in your rotation this is the shoe to consider.


I raced them in a flat 10K which combined about 1.5 miles of road and a very wet, hard packed gravel rail trail. They were the ideal shoe for the terrain and distance although truth be told a super shoe would have also been able to handle this course but with more noise and wobbles. I was surprised that the next day I had zero soreness despite the low stack and firm low ride. This tells me that Lightstrike is way more than EVA in its dynamism and leg friendly outcome.

Ryan: The ride is a modern day take on the ruthless racing flats of years past. While it’s unquestionably fast and tests your lower leg, it won’t leave you feeling broken the day after use. Over the past two years, I’ve leaned-in hard to the tall-stacked super shoe trend, so this Takumi Sen flat definitely took some getting used to, and served as a reminder of what true responsiveness and road feedback feels like. It somehow feels forgiving yet heavily connected to the road in the forefoot, which is where it wants you to spend most of your time. There isn’t a whole lot of fanfare in the heel to toe transition, since it expects that you’ll be leaning forward a bit more than usual.


It’s worth reiterating how stable the shoe is, given its impressive lockdown. This shines through when it comes to delivering a confidence inspiring ride.


I’d recommend using these sparingly, as the ride probably won’t do any favors to your ligaments, but for raw speed on a variety of tarmac, grass, or fine gravel, it’s an appropriate choice.

MIchael: I think Sam has nailed it - if you’re missing that racing flat feel, this is your best option in 2021. It’s not as harsh as the Run Fast Pro, with that extra little Boost in the mix, but it’s still nowhere near as forgiving as the Next%, RC Elite, or Adios Pro, but it does have a little spring in the toe-off. As the others mention, I think that’s the benefit of the Lightstrike compound, and having a little more underfoot than, say, the ASICS Piranha of old. I wouldn’t dare take these past 13.1 (or even a run of 13 miles, most likely) - but I’d be more than happy to rip some 10Ks or hard track sessions (or, even better - cross-country sessions!) in ‘um.

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: The question is “Do you need a Takumi Sen 7, a state of the art masterpiece of the flat genre?” The answer of course depends. 


If you miss the classic race flat feel in your rotation this beauty takes the concept into the future with an incredible upper, a thin, firmer but effectively forgiving layer of cushion, unbeatable traction and even some more old school mid foot plate propulsion. 


In a sea of super cushioned high stack carbon plated race shoes you may want to also give your feet a workout now and then and actually feel the road or ground but with not so much punishment that you will be left regretting the fast low to the ground snappy fun. 


If you run XC or light trails fast or head to the track for intervals the Takumi Sen 7 is clearly a better choice than those super shoes. Finally it is a great choice as a 5K to 10K shoe and for me particularly 5K. 


It is $160 and flats are generally far less.  Some might argue it is “dated” in design and not on trend with a rumored Takumi Sen 8 with more stack and Energy Rods on the way. Yet at 6.4 oz with its great combination of upper hold, fast feeling and relatively forgiving cushion, snappy response and great traction why not take a run on the wild side!

Sam’s Score: 9.38 /10

Ride: 9.4 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 8 (15%) Style: 9.7 (5%)


Ryan: I’m going to assume that many folks reading this haven’t seriously tried a racing flat, which is both perfectly understandable, but also a bit of a shame. While there isn’t quite a feeling like being completely in control of the surface you’re running on, there’s also no feeling like having sore calves the following day. In the era of 40mm stack midsoles, these Takumi Sen almost seem nostalgic. But for some running, under 10k, and on any sort of surface in between smooth concrete and rock-laden trail, these shoes absolutely have their place. Their sense of stability and raw, unadulterated speed will put any super shoe to shame.


Between the Celermesh upper, a thoughtful blend of midsole foams, and the multi-faceted outer, it’s a sophisticated and welcome upgrade to the racing flats of yesteryear.


Ryan’s Score: 9.0 — My only gripe is that while it shines on surfaces that reward maximum traction and stability, for many common use cases there are other high-performance, more friendly alternatives at a comparable price point. But for what it sets out to do, it does well.


Michael: As the others acknowledge, I don’t know that many of our readers will be rushing out to buy a non-max-stack, non-carbon-plated, non-marathon-focused racer in 2021. And that’s okay! But for purists who are looking for something more traditional, or those who run shorter races and want to try a truly awesome upper, should absolutely look at the TS7. The price is going to scare off even more - oh, how I wish this was a $110 or $120 shoe! - but if you can clear those hurdles, you’re in for a treat.

Michael’s Score: 9.4/10


Comparisons


Adidas Adios 3,4,5 (RTR Review)

Michael: A much more accomodating fit - wider upper, with somehow still better lockdown - make the TK7 an obvious choice over the Adios of old.


Adidas Sub 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: A very light (5.6 oz vs 6.4 oz for TS) race flat with afar harsh rider in comparison with not nearly the grip, and a sloppy transition to toe off as no Torsion plastic so a far less dynamic feel. 


Puma Liberate Nitro (RTR Review)

Sam: A clear comparison. They weigh the same with Liberate, slightly higher stack and with a softer bouncier super foam and $110 price tag. The Liberate is also a “flat” but can very easily range over into training for many while the Takumi is all about speed days and races.  The Liberate has notably more mid foot flex as there is no plate and has a mini lug outsole but not quite the TS7’s in capabilities. It’s upper is fine but runs a bit long and is quite frankly no comparison. 


Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro (RTR Review)

Sam: Barely 4 oz the Fast Pro has a similar injected lugs outsole which gives it grip and great road feel. I have raced up to 5 miles in them with no big ssues as there is a surprising amount of cushion for such a featherweight.  The TS 7 is a more versatile option with a more secure upper, more cushion stack, and a yet more aggressive outsole.


Michael: If you’re putting it all on the line, I think the Run Fast Pro is the faster shoe. But (especially given the hefty MSRP), I think most should pickup the more usable, more well-rounded TK7. 


Nike Zoom Streak (RTR Review)

Michael: Nike is rumored to be working on something carbon plated to fill the gap from the now-abandoned Zoom Streak, but for now, both the LT4 and Streak 7 exist as Nike’s “classic” racing flat options. I’ll run them both together here, and say that while both the LT4 and S7 are really strong options, the Takumi Sen 7 is just modern enough to represent an improvement over the field. Of course its superior upper and tacky outsole are better, but even the midsole - traditional as it is - will leave your legs feeling better than either of the Nike offerings.


Skechers Horizon Vanish (RTR Review)

Michael: The Horizon Vanish is a traditional racer (plateless, lower stack), but still feels a little more modern underfoot than the TK7. Still, the Adidas has a better outsole and a way better upper, and is worth your pick, unless you’re on a strict budget. The Skechers will do, but the Adidas is better.


Skechers Speed Elite (RTR Review)

Michael: This is the closest plated racer to a traditional flat that I can think of - and as a review, I think all of us panned it as being not-marathon-ready, at a time when the VaporFly 4% was still the absolute shoe to beat. The shoe wars have evened a bit, and Skechers has put out its Speed Free, so I think the Speed Elite has more of a place in the lineup. Between the two here, it’s close - the Adidas has a better upper, and a more fun profile - but I think the Skechers, assuming you can get it for cheaper, has probably a slightly better range.


New Balance 1400 (RTR Review)

Sam: Take the 1400, make it lighter by close to an ounce, give it a more effective foam for speed and comfort and of course top it with a vastly superior upper and you get the Takumi Sen 7. But.. the fine 1400 is $100 vs $160 here.

Adizero Takumi Sen 7 Video Review (12:40)

The Takumi Sen 7 is available from adidas HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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7 comments:

Michael said...

Following!

Jim said...

Spec-wise, these actually seem closer to the non-Pro Reebok Floatride Run Fast than the Pro (both in stack height and weight)...of which I still have two pair of v1s I've been carefully savoring since the v2 and v3 when in the wrong direction IMHO.

I'm definitely of the same mindset that having a lower stack shoe with some decent foam (PEBA in the case of the Run Fast) that still keep you from getting too pummeled are a fantastic change of pace from other workout/race shoes.

-Jim

Mikael Koskinen said...

These look interesting, thank you for the review. I run a cross country competition this spring and the race used the official shoe stack rules, meaning we had to use shoes with <=25mm stack. Only legal pair I could find from my closet was NB Hanzo v2. Something like NB 1400v6 was a no-go as it had too much stack.

Hanzo is a great shoe with great traction but I would have preferred something to soften the ride. Takumi Sen 7 looks like a good choice for the next year's race :)

(Still wondering how almost all the Hoka shoes are approved for cross country and for track races up from 800m. Mach 4, Clifton 7, Evo Carbot Rocket are all <= 25mm in the official stats. They look much bigger.)

Anonymous said...

It's crazy that the Hokas are allowed. The official stack heights, from Hoka themselves, are all over 30mm.

And yes, I have the Takumi Send, she can confirm that it's incredible. Make sure to grab the 7 while you can, as the upcoming 8 is a huge letdown. Big stack, smooth outsole. It drastically reduces what you can do with it on a track or trail, while making it a little better at 10k, where most people will rightfully ignore it for the Adios.

Anon said...

Hmmm... I'm interested in this for my local parkrun, but that is raced on a gravel course. The reviewers do suggest that it works OK on gravel, but man, I look at that thin stack and wince a little at the thought landing square on a stone.

Anonymous said...

Great review. Sad to see that TS8 seems to follow the high-stack trend. Any comments on how TS7 compares to Asics Meta Racer?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for kind words! The Meta Racer and for that matter Adizero Pro tried to put a carbon plate in a race flat. I just don't think it works that well in either case as the shoes end up firm and harsher than either high stack carbon plate or the TS7. At least for me that is!
Sam, Editor