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 121 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. Toby Porter

    These Vasque are high on my want to try list. So if you would add me to the list. Sure would make an excellent birthday surprise (4/18/76).

    Toby Porter

    W. Columbia SC

  5. Mark Ryan

    These seem like they may be ideal for me. I love my sportiva fireblades but it seems they are a little narrow in the toes. I went for a 12km run in them last week and both pinky toes were huge blisters.

    If I can get a pair of 8.5s shipped to me prior to May 29 that would be awesome.

    Mark Ryan

    Edmonton, AB

  6. C Werner

    I would love to give the mindbender a spin. I'll be back and forth all summer between boulder, leadville, crested butte and the homebase in colorado/manitou springs. Would love to put them through the paces on a nice variety of terrain.

    Chris

    Colorado Springs, CO

  7. Kim

    After reading the excellent review, this over-50 gal would like to try the Mindbenders. I wore a Vasque trail shoe many years ago, and while a good shoe it was cut so high on the sides it hurt my ankles. The Mindbender looks like a good reason to return to wearing Vasque. Please put my name in the hat for this contest. THANKS!

    Kim

    Boise, ID

  8. Mike

    Nice shoes. Would have loved to have them during my recent running and riding vacation in Golden, CO.

    Nice review

    Mike

    Mechanicsburg, PA

  9. Ken

    would live to give these a try. I have HORRIBLY flat feet, and would love to see if they live up to billing.

    Ken, Little Rock, AR.

  10. Jeremy Hinshaw

    don't know if the give-away is still going but i'd love to compare them to the transistors. i'm all about a minimalist shoe but have noticed that on longer runs on rough AK terrain my feet tend to get beat up a bit. not literally but figuratively they feel much more tired than i'm used to. i attribute some of this to pre-season fitness (or lack thereof), but after reading the review i'd like to see how the mindbender compares for my flat feet.

    thanks.

    Anchorage, AK

  11. Tracy K

    I strongly recommend Wilderness Running Company. I've had only great experiences with WRC. I called WRC once when had some questions about Aether Tech but got the WRC answering machine. I was pleasantly surprised to get a quick call back from Stacy, the owner, who spent a good amount of time answering all of my questions and bringing up several other points I hadn't considered. As for Vasque shoes, I've had good experience with Aether Techs. I'm not sure that the Mindbender will be the best shoe for me, but I'd like it give it a try!

    Tracy – Alexandria, VA

  12. Keith Knipling

    Thanks for the informative review. I tend to prefer lightweight stability shoes and these look promising. Might give them a shot at MMT.

    Keith

    Alexandria, VA

  13. Beth

    I'd LOVE to try out the mindbenders! They sound ideal for me.

    Thanks for the review. I always take your advice.

    Beth

    Westfield, MA

  14. Eddy

    I'm running in a pair of mindbenders right now….and loving it….so I wouldn't mind having another pair for the near future.

    Keep up the good work!

  15. Bob Tucker

    I went love Vasque. I tore through 3 pairs of Celerator's last year. I would love to try out the Mindbenders.

    Thanks for the review… Bob

  16. Rob Lamborn

    I've got a pair of (tough as tanks) Vasque hiking boots but would love to try their shoes too.

    Rob Lamborn

    San Antonio, TX

  17. Kay Allen

    I've been training hard for my first trail half marathon, (coming up soon – yay!) and would love the chance to see what the Vasque Mindbender is like to run in please. Thanks. I'm in Charlotte, NC.

  18. Christy Jen

    Oooo…… if i win these, these would be my first trail shoes! and my first trail race is the Buckeye 50K in Ohio in July! me want to try these Mind blenders!

    Christy Jen

    Pittsburgh, PA

  19. Amiee

    Thanks for introducing me to the Wilderness Running Company and yeah my flat feet would love to test out the Mindbenders.

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