Friday, November 10, 2023

Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 Matryx Review: 10 Comparisons

Article by Mike Postaski

Merrell MTL Long Sky Matryx 2 ($160)


Mike P: This is the first Merrell trail shoe that I’ve ever run. In my mind, probably as for  many others, I’ve associated Merrell with hiking shoes, boots, and general outdoor gear that you would find at a retailer such as REI. 

I was aware that they offered trail run shoes , but I never really considered them as a serious “trail running” brand although we did review the 1st version of the Long Sky (RTR Review)

When Sam sent out the spec sheets for testing, the lineup of shoes also included the MTL Skyfire Matryx 2 and the Morphlite door to trai (RTR Reviews soonl. They featured some notable technologies and specs. And what does MTL stand for in the naming? Merrell Test Lab!

Low weights across the board, Vibram outsoles, and Matryx uppers seemed to indicate that these were not just your average run of the mill trail shoes.

I was very interested to test and see how Merrell stacked up against the more “traditional” trail run brands and similar fast and light shoes in the high performance and elite side of things which is where the Long Sky Matryx 2 clearly appears to belong.


  • light weight & well balanced Mike P

  • supportive under the foot / arch Mike P

  • fast & agile without an intrusive plate Mike P

  • Matryx upper is a hit - light, thin, & strong Mike P

  • “taut”, non-stretch laces match the feel and perfect the midfoot fit of the Matryx upper Mike P

  • Well placed lace holder loops Mike P

  • grippy, luggy Megagrip outsole Mike P


  • rear can feel a bit elevated - can feel higher drop than 4mm  Mike P

  • heel counter perhaps too rigid Mike P

  • heel cup, padding above & around heel could be a bit softer Mike P

Tester Profile

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.


Approx. Weight: men's 8.6 oz  / 244g (US9)   

Samples: men’s  8.8 oz  / 250 g (US 9.5)

Full Stack Height: men’s 30 mm heel (measured / 26 mm forefoot ( 4mm drop spec) 

Midsole Stack Height: men’s 23.5 mm heel / 19.5mm forefoot ( 4mm drop spec) 

$160  Available March/April 2024

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Mike P: Right out of the box - just, Wow - this is a great looking shoe. Perhaps you may not be a fan of the brand and model name printed so prominently along the sides, but the colors and design of the shoe are very striking. I’m a sucker for a white trail shoe, and mixing in the bright colors up front in an angular visual design orientation with contrasting orange back  and white front sections makes the shoe look very dynamic. 

Luckily, just handling the shoe, you get the same kind of vibe that its looks give. 

The super light weight is immediately noticeable. At 8.8 oz (250g in my US9.5, there’s not much on the market to match this light and airy feel. The only lighter shoes that I have in my rotation now are the very minimalistic NNormal Kjerag (8.2 oz, 232g) (RTR Review) and of course the S/Lab Pulsar SG (6.5 oz, 184g)  (RTR Review).

Much of that light weight can surely be attributed to the thin, single layer Matryx upper. I’ve seen different variations of Matryx uppers, but this one seems to be as minimalist as you could go - a single layer polyamide mesh with reinforcing Kevlar threads going across. The material itself is expectedly a bit more rigid than traditional (multi-layered, heavier) uppers. But I find the foot shape of the Long Sky 2 to be well formed and practically perfect for my foot. This makes the slightly more rigid Matryx upper material a non-factor.

[Gusseted tongue - wraps well, no bunching, adequately padded]

As with other Matryx uppers I’ve tested, one of the best attributes aside from the weight is the fact that you can get a very strong foothold without much lace tension. I have an average width forefoot, but I prefer a little space and definitely don’t like my forefoot being squeezed. With the Long Sky 2 I can leave the lower laces a bit looser and rely on the strong Matryx upper to keep my foot nice and secure - it works perfectly. Then I tighten up the upper laces and really lock down the heel as I like.

Fit is perfectly true to size for me at US 9.5. There’s enough space up in front of the toes for all but extreme long ultras. I’d say the shoe is generally on the narrow-ish side through the midfoot, but forefoot width is plenty adequate with a nice rounded, non-pointy toebox. As mentioned earlier, the Matryx upper allows you to relax lacing up front to your preference.

The black gusset tongue edges and rear lining of the shoe are treated with 37.5 a thermoregulating, sustainable mineral based material we have found to be very effective in apparel. 

Perhaps the one area that can be improved is the heel. The heel counter itself is a bit rigid, and its interior also rigid against the back of the heel. There’s a ring of padding around the top of the heel bone, but I also feel like this could be both increased and softened up a bit. 

[The black & white area of padding could probably be beefed up a tad. And the black area below where the heel sits - could be softened a bit]

Overall a bit more comfort in the heel area would be welcome. I did not have any issues on the run, no blisters or hotspots, but it’s something that I’d worry about over longer distances.

Side note - I love the location of the lace loop. Lace loops are a great and simple addition to trail shoes. But most of the time I find them located a bit too low - the laces can still hang down too much or the flexing of the shoe causes the laces to be pulled up out of the loop. This lace loop is slightly higher and I’m able to tuck the laces over & back under securely. This leaves them basically in the same spot where the knot would be - but still out of the way. Oh and not in the way if you use a foot pod - well done.

[Stryd pod - check, laces secure and out of the way - check]


Mike P: Stack is listed very precisely at 23.5/19.5mm (4mm).  That struck me as low after running in them, so I manually measured 30mm at the heel. So I’m assuming they are not including the 5mm lugs and possibly the insole in their stack spec. Essentially you have an effective stack height of 30/26mm for the Long Sky 2 - if you wanted to compare against other shoe models.

The midsole foam is Merrell’s FloatPro, which is used across many of their models, including hiking and casual use. We don’t have any details as to whether or not they develop different flavors for different usages, but I assume that would be the case. 

The FloatPro foam in the Long Sky 2 does feel like it is  lightweight,  matching the overall feel of the shoe and especially the upper. I.e. it does not feel like a heavy slab of foam attached to a feathery upper. The Sky has a consistent, well-balanced feel from the foam below the foot to the upper wrapping above. 

I’d say in terms of density, it has a mid-range feel to it. It’s definitely not a soft & squishy foam, but also it is  not firm either. I’d say it lands somewhere in the middle, perhaps leaning more towards the firm end. 

The diagram above shows a small “insert” around the arch of the midsole (I’ve circled it in yellow) above . I would not call this a “plate” by any means and I do not feel or notice it at all. If we had not received the spec diagram, I would not have even mentioned it at all. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Adidas’ torsion inserts (a la Speed Ultra) - but the Adidas insert is far more noticeable whereas here you would not even know there is one on board. Perhaps it keeps the shoe from twisting too much under the midfoot?

It may be the case that the FloatPro foam is indeed on the firmer side, but that firmness is dampened by the use of a thoughtfully integrated TPU insole. I’m a big fan of TPU insoles, and I can see more and more - especially trail shoes - moving towards using these. This version is notable due to its “thin-ness”.  

Most TPU insoles that I’ve come across (Inov-8, Saucony, Craft) have been more on the “beady” side and tend to be thicker and heavier than standard insoles. I love the feel and durability of them, and sometimes I love to reuse them in other shoes. But oftentimes they add too much volume or they can change the feel of the shoe too much. I always wondered if a thin TPU insole could be a perfect happy medium. Well, wonder no more - Merrell’s insole is the perfect mix of softness, durability, weight, and thickness. Please can they be sold separately?

[Long Sky - 22g, Saucony - 34g (and thickest), Craft/Inov-8 Boomerang - 36g]


Mike P: The Long Sky 2 features a quite aggressive pattern of Vibram Megagrip rubber. The lugs are deep at 5mm, chevron-shaped, and directionally oriented for grip up front and braking/control under the heel. The rubber is not full coverage, with some minor cutouts perhaps to save a bit of weight which likely keeps my US 9.5 under the 9 oz mark (8.8 oz).  

I like the fact that they did not go with too many cutouts and left substantial patches of rubber between the lugs. 

This adds a level of protection underfoot since the overall stack is not high, especially up front at 19.5mm of midsole. The rubber does a good job of blunting most impacts and the shoe was more protective in rocky terrain that I expected. Comparing this outsole to the Skyfire (RTR Review soon)  - which is a sibling of the Long Sky, we see that  Skyfire features much larger outsole cutouts, but in turn needs a rockplate for protection. 

The Megagrip rubber is very grippy - I found no issues in anyl terrain. Traction in loose sand, mud, and wet rocks was excellent. Two factors are in play here. The flexibility of the shoe itself - while not flexible to an extreme extent, it f is just flexible enough to allow the outsole to flex directionally - giving a nice, “grabby” sensation underfoot. Secondly - the rubber itself does feel quite soft and tacky, so much so that they seemed a bit sticky when running on some pavement sections. I wouldn’t recommend these for extended road sections, but the 5mm lugs will probably tell you that anyway!

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Mike P: The ride of the Long Sky 2 Matryx is a pure joy on the trails. Right away during my first run I had the inkling that this could be one of my favorite trail shoes ever. This feeling was only made more clear during subsequent runts. I love a lightweight shoe with cushion slightly leaning firm, a comfortable forefoot width, and a secure, well-fitting upper. The Long Sky 2 checks all the boxes for me.

The 4mm spec drop feels a bit more than that to me - there’s quite a bit of support under the arch which extends/carries back towards the rear of the shoe under the heel. It feels closer to the 5-6mm range, but that could be just due to the aforementioned underfoot support in the back half of the shoe. 

The feeling of the somewhat raised rear of the shoe in conjunction with the platform being more on the narrow side can make the shoe’s ride feel a bit “tall”. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it unstable, but it will make you aware that your heel is still 30mm (measured) off the ground. I have no problem with this at all and prefer it in fact. Meaning - I prefer to have a lighter weight, narrower platform on the ground as opposed to a heavier, wider tracking shoe. This makes the shoe feel quite agile, allowing the runner to have more control in technical terrain.

As far speed - it’s one of the lightest trail shoes in my quiver, and it absolutely feels like it. Transition is quick-feeling although not in a plate-enhanced, or rocker activated manner.  I’d say it’s a perfect feel for an uptempo trail trainer, or even an everyday trail shoe if you don’t need or prefer so much cushion for your everyday miles. 

Honestly I feel like I could do all of my trail runs in these. They’re easy to pick up the pace in, but also “easy to run easy” in them. Some plated/rockered fast shoes urge you to go faster, making them not suitable for easy days. But the Long Sky 2 is comfortable across all pace ranges, and you can absolutely activate them when you need to. They’re also a very capable SG (soft ground) shoe as the 5mm lugs really dig in. 

As far as racing, they could surely be a good pick - especially for shorter distances up into the lower ultra range. You could also certainly take them longer but I’d say that would be based on feel and if you like a lighter, less substantial feel underfoot, or if you’re a lighter runner. 

Merrell is a serious brand to pay attention to in the trail running world. Merrell has knocked it out of the park with this model. Surely it will make its way onto my “Best of 2023” list, and it’s really one of my all-time favorite trail shoes

Mike P’s Score:  9.8 / 10

Ride: 10 - Amazing - light, fast, agile, comfortable, one of the best rides out

Fit: 9.5 - Needs just a touch softening in the heel area

Value: 10 - This is really a borderline super shoe minus the fancy plates

Style: 10 - Gorgeous color design on top of the Matryx upper

Traction: 10 - Megagrip + 5mm lugs + flexibility

Rock Protection: 9.5 - Not bombproof, but totally acceptable, this is nitpicking

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊

10 Comparisons 

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): These are quite similar shoes. As mentioned in the review, both have midfoot inserts. The Adidas Torsion “plate” is quite noticeable whereas the Long Sky insert is not at all felt. The Speed Ultra is a bit wider and also feels lower to the ground, more like an all mountain shoe. The Merrell feels a bit higher, quicker, and more agile, but perhaps not as stable. The Adidas has much denser, shallower lugs so traction cannot match the Merrel’s Megagrip. Merrel’s Matryx upper is superior, but Adidas has a more comfortable heel cup. Kind of a toss up here, but I personally give the edge to the Long Sky.

Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10): A matchup of two of my all-time favorite shoes here. Stacks are very similar with the Cat 2 coming in at a measured 32/26mm while I measure the Long Sky at 30/26mm. The Cat 2 is wider on the ground, especially up front, but also through the mid and rear. It definitely feels more stable, and a better pick for longer distances. The toebox is wider and gives more space and comfort compared to the dialed in Matyx upper of the Long Sky. The Cat 2 feels quick on the run, but with the Merrell also feeling quick, the lighter weight of the Long Sky makes it a faster shoe. The Cat 2’s outsole is very good, but a cut below the Long Sky, especially in loose or soft ground. I really like both - I’d go Long Sky for short-mid, and Cat 2 for mid-long. 

NNormal Kjerag (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Kjerag is one of the very few shoes that’s lighter than the Long Sky. It has a much more minimalistic feel to it, and you definitely feel more of the ground. It also has a much roomier toebox, with space to spare. The wider platform up front makes it feel more stable, as long as you can manage the impact from the minimal cushion. When going straight ahead, the Long Sky feels faster - the 4mm drop feels higher than the Kjerag’s listed 6mm. I think the Long Sky is a much more appealing shoe for most runners, unless you have wide feet.

TNF Vectiv Sky (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): TNF’s latest carbon plated shoe. This one is clearly an example where the carbon plate is both effective and quite noticeable. A very dynamic ride with plate action, the Vectiv Sky also does well with its forked plate design to remain decently stable. But the carbon plate under the midfoot feels very noticeable and even blocky. The TNF heel is also firmer, bordering on harsh. I prefer the much more natural, non-assisted fast ride of the Long Sky 2. Long Sky 2 also has a better fitting and well shaped upper.

Norda 002 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10): Clear difference here with the Norda being much wider, especially at the forefoot. Sizing is a bit off too - you definitely should go up a ½ size, and even then I found them to be a bit stubby. The Norda is much softer underfoot, wider on the ground yet still extremely flexible. You feel more of the ground under the Norda, they’re definitely less protective. Grip is adequate, also Megagrip, but the Long Sky’s lugs are better and the outsole is just as flexible. The Matryx upper is also a clear win for the Merrell. Norda’s Dyneema upper retains heat, and is somewhat loose, despite the shoe being a bit short. Save the cash and go with the Merrell all day.

ON Cloudventure Peak 3 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The ON Cloudventure Peak 3 is listed at the same 4mm drop - but it feels much lower than the Long Sky. I’d say it runs more like 2mm where as the Long Sky feels somewhat like 5mm with its good underfoot support. The CVP3 is a much stiffer shoe with very little flex under the forefoot. It rides much firmer, and you have a bit better ground feel. The Long Sky’s softer feel is noticeable throughout, but especially under the heel. It also rides quicker and overall is more comfortable at most paces. Both uppers are well fitted and secure, although the ON seems to use more layers and the Merrel’s Matryx does the same with surely less weight.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 1 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): I’ve only tested the OG V1 (gray) Pulsar. Sam and others have run the SG. The Pulsar also uses a Matryx upper, but it’s a bit thicker than that of the Long Sky. The weight difference is likely minimal. Both have excellent foothold but the Pulsar I’d say has a bit tighter squeeze all around. The forefoot is tighter in the Pulsar, but again, with the Matryx you can relax the tension a bit up front and get a secure fit. The Pulsar is the lightest trail shoe out, uses a rocker design, so it feels super racy and likely should be reserved for racing only. The Long Sky feels almost as fast, but is a bit more relaxed at lower speeds. It is  generally a more versatile shoe, except for the very top end.

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The PTP2 has a much stiffer ride. Its Energy Blade plate really limits flexibility both front-to-back and laterally. A quick, levered impulse is noticeable, but the inflexibility really limits the shoe in technical terrain. The Long Sky feels just as quick and is definitely more agile. I really like the wide forefoot of the PTP2. The Long Sky forefoot is narrower, but fine enough. I like the more natural “speed” feel of Long Sky over the firm, plated Salomon.

Saucony Endorphin Edge (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Endo Edge nearly matches the Long Sky in weight (9.2 oz vs 8.8 oz), but it also adds a very active carbon plate to the mix. The Edge plate is very fast, and in combination with a super-bouncy PWRRUN PB foam - it’s still probably the flat-out fastest trail shoe out. But you have to be very aware of the bounciness and dynamism of the shoe, and be ready to keep it under control. It’s easy to let the shoe take you for a ride if you’re not careful. I like the Edge in very specific race scenarios, but the Long Sky is much more versatile for most runners. It could also be just a good of a racer if you’re not into the super bouncy, plated ride of the Edge.

Saucony Endorphin Rift (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Rift is another well-received trail shoe from Saucony. It’s essentially the same bouncy, energetic foam of the Edge, minus the carbon plate. The ride is more accessible than that of the Edge for most runners, but you still have to like a very bouncy ride to enjoy the Rift. I’d say if you want a quick ride, but a bit more stable, the Long Sky would be a better pick. I found the rift upper to be a weak point - the toebox was too tapered and the laces didn’t really allow you to customize the fit too much. The Long Sky upper is clearly superior. These are close comps in terms of usage and versatility, but I prefer the Long Sky 2’s ride and clearly better upper.

The MTL Long Sky 2 Matryx launches March-April 2024

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Karl said...

WoW this looks like a winner! Thanks for putting this shoe on our radar. I know I am asking for a lot here… but I am surprised you did not compare this shoe to the VJ XTRM2 or the VJ Spark. I have very narrow feet and love the Terrex Speed Ultras for smooth trails. I am also a fan of the Salomon Pulsar (regular and SG) but their narrowness hurts my toes on more technical terrain. For that I have just switched from the VJ Spark to the VJ Ultra… which I find a little harsh in terms of ride so far. The Merrell seems to be a little softer, lighter, with a comparable foothold (reading between the lines of your review…). I never run longer than 12-13 miles… so I care more about lightness than cushion. Seems like these would be better than the VJs… maybe except for the grip. Am I right?

Karl said...

Sorry… above I meant to write that I just switched from the VJ Spark to the XTRM2… not the Ultra. I’d love to know how you would compare the Merrell to the XTRM2.

Mike P said...

Hello Karl, good observations there. We were thinking about a VJ comp, but I just didn't think any of them matched up as much as the other comps - mainly in terms of weight and pure (fast) runnability. I'll give a quick rundown here-

VJ Spark - Very flexible and agile shoe, great traction, but feels a bit flat underfoot, and doesn't have a pure running ride. They seem better for OCR than actual running.

VJ XTRM2 - Really great off trail, extreme rough terrain. They're firmer underfoot, more protective than the Long Sky. But again, there a bit stiff underfoot, and don't have that pure running ride and turnover. Definitely narrower than the Spark - which has a nice rounded out toebox.

VJ Ultra 2 - For sure more protective with a bit higher stack and a rock plate. More running-oriented than the previous two shoes, but heavier and clunkier in comparison to the Long Sky.

VJ's have the best and tackiest outsoles for sure, but the Long Sky Megagrip outsole is very, very close. It's likely a tossup in 99% of conditions. You're not losing anything with the Long Sky rubber.

All of the VJ uppers are way less refined than that of the Long Sky. The Spark has the best shape, but the materials are a bit rough and feel overbuilt.

Based on your comments, I think the Long Sky would be a great fit for you. The Pulsar is narrower as you say at the toes. The XTRM2 is generally narrower and the upper material is a bit rough so I can understand your fit issue there. The XTRM2 shape is similar to the Long Sky, but the Long Sky is a touch more spacious at the forefoot and toes, and the Matryx material is just awesome for security.

Mike P said...

Btw, at one point the Speed Ultras were my favorite trail shoe. But I kind of moved away from them in favor of shoes like the Catamount 2 for longer stuff and the Pulsar for smoother stuff. Now with the Long Sky 2 in the mix, they probably won't get much usage.

The mini-lugs are just a bummer with that shoe. If it just had a decent mountain outsole, it would be so much better.

Zak said...

Great review. Seeing as my two favorite shoes are the Kjerag and the Speed Ultra this sounds like a shoe I need to try. I love that my kjerags are going strong with over 400 miles on them, i wonder if the MTL would be as durable.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Mike for the feedback. Because I use orthopedic insoles, I tend to remove the manufacturer’s insoles. In the Terrex Speed Ultra the 9.5 without insoles fits me like a glove. The VJ XTRM2 in size 10 without their insole is perfect. I know I loose cushion but my longest runs are 10 miles-ish. Should I go with 9.5 in the Merrell?

Mike P said...

Zak- 400 miles is pretty solid, I typically don't get that far with most shoes. The one big exception has been the S/LAB Genesis - I'm at 356 in those and they still feel great.

I think the durability of the Long Sky outsole shouldn't be any concern. It's Megagrip, and you have a full 5mm of lugs to wear through. I've never had an issue with a Matryx upper either. This one is super thin, but still, they seem to be quite abrasion resistant the material is tough in terms of creasing. Again, I've never had a Matryx upper break down. Actually come to think of it - the Genesis is Matryx single layer in the toebox and they're going strong.

The only question would be the Floatpro foam and I can't answer that yet since it's my first Merrell shoe. I'll definitely be using these a lot so I can update on durability when they're closer to release.

Mike P said...

Anon- I've had Speed Ultra in both 9.5 and 10. 9.5 was totally fine for shorter runs, and I did a 50 miler in the 10's. I have XTRM 2 in 10.5, but I find VJ to be an anomaly with sizing. They're a bit tapered at the toes, and narrow as others have found. But in terms of length in front of the toes I'd be find in a 10. So I'd say 9.5 in the Merrell would be appropriate. The toebox of the Merrell has the best shape of those 3 shoes - secure, not overly narrow nor wide, and no bothersome taper near the front.

Scott said...

This looks like a great shoe. I had both the OG Longsky and the Longsky 2. Loved them both until the upper blew out prematurely on both generations. I swore off of Merrell at that point, but this Matrix upper might give me more confidence in their durability.

Ryan said...

How do the Long Sky's compare to the Peregrine 13 and/or Hoka Torrent 3, from a midsole perspective? Do the Long Sky's have ok ankle stability (I'm a bad ankle guy)? Thanks and great review!

Mike P said...


I found the Peregrine 13 to be much softer underfoot in comparison - it was a big change from the Peregrine 12. It made them more of a daily run kind of shoe than a stable, technical shoe. LS2's FloatPro foam is much more responsive and faster.

I haven't tried Torrent 3, but had V1 & 2. I'd say the midsole firmness is about the same between the shoes, but the Hoka feels different because it's wider on the ground. The LS2 feels quicker than my Torrent 2's, but the Torrent 2 is wider and does feel a bit more stable.

Anonymous said...

The Merrell Long Sky is WAY more flexible and comfortable, allowing you to run with your feet. I found the XTRM2 way too rigid and like a brick compared to Long Sky. Also based on your comments, the Skyfire 2 is amazing. So light and a lot wider than Pulsar.

Mike P said...


Absolutely, the LS2 is way more adept at actual running, especially fast. I really see the XTRM2 as a great option for really extreme terrain, especially off trail. They do have more of a rigid feel (especially comparatively) once you get on firmer, runnable ground.

I'm still working through my testing of the Skyfire 2. It's not a lot wider than the Pulsar, but it does round out more around the ball of the foot, which is a bit more comfortable and just as locked in.