Vasque Mindbender Review: Stability Meets Agility

Vasque FootwearFor Spring 2010, Vasque has introduced two all-new trail running shoes: the Transistor FS and the Mindbender. The Transistor is getting quite a bit of attention for its many innovative features. It’s also the shoe-of-choice for many, but not all, Vasque athletes, including Duncan Callahan, Bryan Dayton, and Dan Dehlin. (iRunFar’s overview of the Transistor’s technologies)

With its relatively traditional design, the Mindbender is sort of the “other new Vasque shoe” this spring even though it’s also a very capable shoe. Of course, the Mindbender does have at least one well-known supporter in Krissy Moehl, who began wearing pre-production versions of the shoe last summer. For example, Moehl was wearing Mindbenders when she placed second at the 2009 Western States 100 and when she set the women’s course record at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

Below I’ll describe how the Mindbender performs on the trail, break down the shoe’s design, tell you its ideal application, and [update] some comments from Krissy Moehl herself!

Mindbender Giveaway Winners: John H, Hickory, NC and Keith Knipling, Alexandria, VA. Congratulations. Enjoy your new Vasque Mindbenders!

Vasque Mindbender

The men's Mindbender in yellow/beluga.

Trail Manners
First, the less surprising of two strong impressions made by the Mindbender during real-world testing: this is a very stable shoe. The design characteristics that I most noticed as responsible for delivering this quality were the broad toe box and fairly low, flat (heel-to-toe) midsole. The instep posting may also contribute to the rock-steady feel of the Mindbender, but that wasn’t something I noticed on the trails where I put the Mindbender through its paces.

Krissy Moehl UTMB Vasque Mindbender

Krissy Moehl rocking the Vasque Mindbender at UTMB.

And now, the more surprising impression: the Mindbender is a nimble shoe. When you stop and think, it actually makes sense: yes, a low, flat midsole like the Mindbender’s improves stability, but it also discourages a heavy heel strike and provides good trail feedback. Also, despite its rock plate and medial posting, the Mindbender is a reasonably flexible, easy-riding shoe.

When I dropped the shoes on the scale, I found Vasque’s claimed weight of 11.5 oz. (men’s 9) to be spot-on. (Vasque claims a women’s 7 is 9.9 ounces.) A bit of comparison shows that this is pretty darned light for a traditional trail shoe – i.e. not fell, minimalist or race-specific – and it certainly contributes to the Mindbender’s agile feel on the trail.

The Mindbender’s rock protection is adequate, but on the less protective end of the spectrum (where the spectrum is traditional trail running shoes not road or other lightweight options). In testing, I didn’t feel like I was at risk of bruising, but I did notice the occasional sharp rock. Folks should know this is NOT a ‘protection’ shoe, it’s a ‘stability’ shoe. Really, it’s quite a ‘racy’ shoe, if your races are long and your feet are flat. In my size, the Mindbender and Montrail’s Mountain Masochist (iRF review) are the identical weight, for instance.

Bottom line: When the term “stability” is used in reference to a trail running shoe, it often implies “stiff” or “overbuilt.” Not so with the Mindbender.

Design: A Guided Tour

Midsole and Outsole
The midsole of the Mindbender is primarily dual-density EVA, which offers middle-of-the-road cushion and protection at a reasonable weight. Heel/toe midsole height is 21/11mm. The 10mm difference between the two heights is more akin to a racing shoes than a standard running shoe. The midsole also incorporates a textile rock plate in the forefoot and, consistent with its stability mission, medial posting.

Vasque Mindbender Midsole

Completing the design of the shoe’s bottom is the reliable Blur outsole.

Vasque Mindbender Outsole

Upper
The upper of the Mindbender continues the theme of balance. The combination of nylon mesh and synthetic leather is lightweight and breathable, yet reasonably protective. Where overlays are employed, it is in the service of anchoring the laces for a uniformly secure fit.

Vasque Mindbender upper

Last
The Mindbender features Vasque’s Perpetuum last, which is based on the shape of flatter feet. The Perpetuum last has a lower volume heel, broader toe box, and generally straighter orientation from heel to toe, as compared with lasts based on neutral or high arched feet. It’s worth noting that Vasque has a women specific Perpetuum last, rather than simply reusing men’s lasts for women’s shoes. (Learn more about the Perpetuum last here.)

Mindbender Perpetuum last

Ideal Application
The ideal match for the Mindbender is the trail runner who values stability, but does not want a stiff, heavy shoe. This is a confidence-inspiring shoe but not a tank. Runners with flatter feet will get especially good results, although this is not an absolute requirement. I spent a little over 100 miles in the shoe (including two runs of 20+ miles) with good results despite having normally arched feet (my footprint).

The Mindbender is plenty of shoe for ultra-length runs – the broad toe box is an especially welcome feature for swelling feet – but with no significant weight penalty.

A Testimonial From Vasque Runner Krissy Moehl
We were fortunate enough to have Krissy Moehl stop by the review and leave a comment! As her comment fell a couple dozen (!) comments down, we thought it best to add her words to the post. However, take this as a reminder to look at iRunFar’s comments, as you’ll often find great wisdom from insightful folks. In another example, Vasque Product manager Brian Hall answered some question of reader Will T’s questions about the differences better Vasque’s Blur and Mindbender!

Ok, enough of that, here are Krissy’s words:

I love to be a tester for new products, and and love, love when everything works from the first time you slip them on. I knew when I ran a 15 mile road/trail run in these blue beauties right out of the box that they would be my shoe for Western [States]. Start to finish in the crazy heat and through the river I never touched the laces till well after the finish. Eight weeks later, in a brand new pair, I toed the line for UTMB and thankfully didn’t have to worry about my feet for the next 25 hours. Give them a try… I encourage you to give them a try even if you don’t win a freebie. :)

Availability
Both the men’s and women’s Mindbender are currently available from the Wilderness Running Company.

BONUS! As an iRunFar reader, we can now hook you up with 10% off all Wilderness Running Company orders. Just enter the code iRunFar10 at checkout. You’ll also get free shipping AND help support iRunFar.com. It’s a win-win-win!

[Bryon Powell of iRunFar here for a minute. I’m going to take a second to note that I’m excited to be collaborating with the Wilderness Running Company. WRC is a trail running-focused online store with handpicked merchandise. As with all the companies, entities, or individuals with which iRunFar partners, we have chosen to work with the Wilderness Running Company because we believe in what they are doing. It was with a long appreciation WRC’s trail running focus and insightful reviews that I approached Stacy about working together. In the future, you’ll see more reviews and other great content on iRunFar courtesy of the WRC!]

Call for Comments and Questions
If you’ve worn the Vasque Mindbender, let us know what you think!

Thinking about giving the Mindbender a go, but have some unanswered questions? Ask away and we’ll get the answers you need!

[Stacy Young is a trail runner based in St. George, Utah. He also heads the Wilderness Running Company, an online retailer that specializes in trail running shoes, apparel, and accessories.]

[Disclosure: iRunFar.com is an affiliate of the Wilderness Running Company. Purchasing the Mindbender through the above WRC links helps support our efforts. We’ve also received support from Vasque in the past; however, the entirety of this review was written independently by Stacy.]

There are 122 comments

  1. Travis

    Great review! I wore the Blur for a while but was a little turned off by the weight of the shoe. Seems like this slimmed down Blur could be a great long distance option.

  2. Paige T.

    So I am curious, how might this shoe hold up for someone with relatively rigid feet and high arches?

    I tried them on recently and loved the feel, but it's hard to tell without running in them a few times.

    Thanks for posting this!

  3. SaraM

    Thanks for the great review. I just got my Mindbenders in the mail and am looking forward to hitting the trails in them. I was also turned off my the older version of the Blurs so I am hoping these work out.

  4. Michael Helton

    I want to vouch for Wilderness Running Company. I have ordered quite a few things from them and have always received everything quickly and exactly the way I ordered them.

    Keep an eye out for their special deals; for example I got a rechargeable battery pack free($30) with a headlamp I purchased and a 100oz Camelback free with a pack.

    It's an awesome store for trail runners.

  5. Will T

    In contrast to Travis & SaraM. I'm a big fan of the Vasque Blur. I don't mind the weight and like the protection. Just finished my 1st 100 miler in the Blur, with no bruises, blisters, black toe nails, or achy/sore feet.

    Can someone who has ran in both the Blur and the Mindbender explain the differences that they have noticed between these two shoes?

    1. Brian Hall

      Will T,

      The difference between the Blur and the Mindbender is mostly in weight and the flex of the upper. The Blur is definitely a more "built" upper. The ride between the two shoes is very similar, but the more minimal upper overlays in the Mindbender allow for a much more natural forefoot flex. In designing the Mindbender, we focused on stripping away as much of the upper as possible while still being supportive and durable enough for training and running ultra distances. All of the weight savings in the Mindbender comes from the upper. To be honest, I was suprised when I dropped the prototype on the scale and saw the big drop in weight from the Blur. Usually this kind of weight savings involves tweaks to the bottom package. Personally, I like the Mindbender a lot better than the Blur.

      Anyway, hope that helps,

      Brian

      1. Will T.

        Thanks Brian for the Vasque insight. Your description of the difference between the Blur & Mindbender make me want to go slip my feet into the Mindbender and take them for a test run. I'm at peace knowing the weight was removed from the upper but not the bottom.

  6. Brian Myers

    Hi there, I am interested in trying out the mindbender shoes. I think they would be a blast on the Northern California trails!

  7. TrailClown, Arlingto

    Well, I've been loving the Vasque Transistors, but my dogs got a bit tired at the H.A.T. 50K–probably because I hadn't trained enough in what is a pretty minimalist shoe. No, I'm not injured, but I'm right on the edge, and I think these mindbenders would not only blow my mind away (what's left of it anyway), but would let my feet and ankles cheat a bit and not have to be so totally strong all the time. Throw me a bone for my weary dogs!

  8. David Kennedy

    Sounds like a great shoe. One thing I am always looking for in trail shoes is flexibility with grip. I don't mind feeling some rock, I'd rather have the flexibility than running with what feels like an unforgiving plate under it. It's hard to make a real stable shoe that doesn't weigh alot, I'd love to give them a try!

    David Kennedy

    Honesdale, PA

  9. Deanna D

    I would love to check out the Vasque Mindbenders. I am in desperate need of a light weight, good functioning stability trail shoe. I have been running in a mix of more neutral trail shoes but as I increase my mileage, I am finding I need a bit more stability on my flat (and I mean FLAT) feet as I am beginning to develop a mix of knee and hip issues. Help me find a shoe that will keep me blister free and running pain free as I train for my first 100.

    Deanna D

    Oak Park (just west of Chicago), IL

  10. Eric M

    Had a pair of the old Blurs which I more mostly for hiking — loved them despite the weight (lighter than boots at least). Looking forward to trying out the Mindbenders on a partial AT thru-hike this summer!

    Eric

    Pittsburgh, PA

  11. Clinton Morse

    Vasque runner Deb Livingston has been trying to get me to try Vasque shoes for a while now and was telling me about the Transistor a couple weeks ago. But the Mindbender sounds more like the shoe for my off-trail and orienteering needs.

    I'd love to give these a try!!

    Clint

    Tolland, CT

  12. Cathy

    I would be so psyched to try these shoes! I am still searching for that "perfect" shoe and well… I have just signed up for a 50K in October –

    Thanks!

    -Cathy

    Gainesville, Florida

  13. Tom

    Ship me a pair, and I'll try them out. I tried on a pair of Transistors, and had to go up a 1/2 size, but the new foot bed felt good. I have not tried on the Mindbenders, but would like to give them a try.

  14. Dan Evans

    i just picked up a pair of the transistors. so far so good. i feel that the toe box is pretty roomy (compared to my older hardrocks). only 6 miles in them so time will tell.

    dan

  15. Turi

    Those LOOK right. It's weird how important that is in a shoe for me. If they look a little to thin, or overbuilt, they won't feel right on my feet. Having never tried Vasque other than their hiking boots, I'd love to give them a shot…

    Turi

    Reno, NV

  16. Mark

    I'd love to try the mindbender. I've been looking at Vasque and almost bought the Blur which felt good, but the store did not have my size and I moved on to another shoe.

    Mark

    Lees Summit, MO

  17. Brian Followell

    I have been looking around quite a bit for my first pair of trail running shoes. I just finished my first 50M race, which was a road race. Now I'm ready to tackle the trails as I continue 50s and work toward my first 100. I would love to give the Mindbender's a try as my first trail running shoe.

    Brian

    Upper Arlington, OH

  18. Will

    Great article on the Mindbender. I'd love to get a pair in your giveaway. The larger toe box sounds like exactly what I need. I can surely put them to good use at Bighorn in June. I wear men's size US 12. Thanks a million!

  19. Julie L

    I would love to try the Mindbender–I currently run in the Blur and like them very much on both trail & road. Read your excellent review today, and recommended the Mindbender to a friend looking for trail shoes.

    Julie L

    Sunnyvale, CA

  20. Glenn S

    Great write-up…

    I spoke with Duncan at last year's Leadville training camp about the Mindbender and it sounds like they would be perfect for my ultra-flat feet and my style of running. I would be very interested in trying the Mindbender!

    Thanks,

    Glenn S

    Telluride, CO

  21. Krissy Moehl

    Bryon pretty much covered my testimony for this model. I love to be a tester for new products, and and love, love when everything works from the first time you slip them on. I knew when I ran a 15 mile road/trail run in these blue beauties right out of the box that they would be my shoe for Western. Start to finish in the crazy heat and through the river I never touched the laces till well after the finish. Eight weeks later in a brand new pair I toed the line for UTMB and thankfully didn't have to worry about my feet for the next 25 hours. Give them a try… I encourage you to give them a try even if you don't win a freebie :)

  22. Bob Crowley (Fair Oa

    I've run multiple 100s in Vasques (VSTs) for over a year including Western and will never go back to another trail shoe. The Mind Bender sounds ideal so I'm game for trying a pair! Wilderness is a great outlet and provides excellent service. In fact it was Stacy that originally turned me onto Vasque.

  23. Michael Helton

    I have been following Duncan Callahan's write-ups on these and would like to give them a try.

    Michael Helton

    Reno, Nevada

  24. Chris G

    Bryon,

    You mention in the article that the weight is comparable to Mountain Masochist. From the photos, the Mindbender has a more aggressive tread. Any other differences worth noting? I love the Masochist but I'm a shoe junkie. I cannot help trying different shoes.

    Chris G

    Colorado Springs, CO

    1. Stacy Young

      Chris

      The comparison with the Masochist is pretty interesting. In addition to being the same weight, they have nearly identical midsole specs. Yet they feel quite different on the trail. Notable design differences (besides the outsole tread) which create the performance difference:

      – The Masochist is built on a last based on normally-arched feet, whereas the Mindbender's last is based on flatter feet. So the Masochist has that slight "banana" shape to it, compared with the Mindbender, and more support in the arch.

      – The sole of the Masochist seems to my eye to be slightly rounded in the heel compared with the Mindbender. This is one of the few other concrete differences I can figure out as being the reason the Mindbender feels so much more stable than the Masochist.

      – The midsole of the Mindbender is dual density EVA; the Masochist's is single density. In real terms, it means the bottom of the Masochist is slightly lighter and more cushioned, and will also collapse a bit more easily as the miles add up. On the trail, the difference (in this case) is very hard (for me) to perceive.

      – The upper of the Masochist is a bit more protective.

      – The Mindbender is a bit more flexible at the junction of toes and metatarsals.

      I really like both shoes and have had good results with them both. The only caveat with the Mindbender is that if you have normal or high arches – and don't use orthotics – you may not get the amount of support from this shoe that you may need over time. Hope this helps.

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