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. Teri

    I have been searching for months for the perfect trail shoe. I need to find something soon. I have had too many bad falls – tripping over rocks and tree roots.

    I would love to try the Mindbender.

  2. Chris Luck

    A great looking and performing shoe that offers stability! Cool! I've happily used Vasque for hiking, so it's anatural transition to trail racing. Count me in as a "ME ME ME' for this give away….

  3. Eddy

    I have been running in the mindbender for the last 3 months. I really like the shoe. Light, responsive, cushioning is perfect for me, not too hard, not too soft. The shoe is pretty roomy in the toe box, so if you have medium-low volume feet like me you want you use a thicker sock. The ride is very smooth and the shoe feels light and airy. But what I like the most is that after long hard runs my feet feel as good as before the run. Overall a 4.5 out of 5. The half point is only for the roomy toe box….my feet would like it a little more snug…..but that's what thicker socks are for. Great shoe!

  4. 14er Runner

    Just picked up my second pair of Mindbenders, couldn't be happier. Finally a shoe that is low enough to feel the trail but gives just enough stability for a pronator like me to get in long runs. I have missed on several trail shoes in the last 2 years. Loved the feel of the Inov-8's but after only 100 miles they were squished stamp thin on the inside. This is the shoe for someone who likes the idea of the minimalist shoe but genetically isn't built to wear them.

  5. Travis

    Ater putting several hundred miles on this shoe I have very few complaints but I do have one. This shoe needs to have the loop for the laces to go through on the tounge to keep it from falling to the side. I am constantly pulling the tounge out of one side of my shoe or the other after it has fallen down.

    I've even considered either cutting a hole or having my wife sew a loop on to the tounge to thread the laces through.

  6. Forrest T.

    This is a great shoe and I have been running in it for a few months all around Minnesota. Great on trails and does very well in deep snow, which is plentiful lately. I really like the fit in the toe box, and that is often a problem with me in road shoes. Only problem came up when I was running a 50 mile ultra this fall where the course was totally flooded. The shoe really retained a lot of water and was quite heavy. I switched around mile 30 into my regular road shoes and found they stayed much much lighter even after being totally soaked for a long time. Both shoes were about the same dry weight. Overall, very good shoe, though.

    1. Eddy

      Good shoe indeed. I ran in a lot of rain and water for the past two weeks and I noticed It drains well for me, but it stays a little heavy until it dries.

  7. TobyP

    Agree Stacy, Great comparison between the two shoes. In particular the last of the shoe. Currently on my second pair of Mindbenders. The fit of the Montrail had my little toe in pain after an hour of running. No problems with the Vasque. Has been a great shoe.

  8. Paul

    Just picked up q pair and LOVE them! Light, stable, low to ground and fell perfect for my feet. Coming from Brooks ASR5 which were just to high and SOLID- and then to Brooks Cascadias- these are somewhere in the middle. A solid- low- but soft where needed. STUNNING!

    How can so many otehr companies get it wrong with heavy bloated rubbish. After two years looking i think i've found "THE ONE". Now i best buy a few pairs before they change the design!

    10/10

  9. bames

    these look promising

    but i really wish they wouldn't have disc the aether tech ss

    best trail shoe i have ran in to date.

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