At times, it does become difficult to anticipate how a shoe is going to be “new” or “different” underfoot with so many different tweaks and adjustments out there. And, this is made much more difficult when one begins to develop specific stereotypes for specific brands. We all do it… “Oh, I don’t run in those because X model 4 years ago totally didn’t fit my foot.” Soon, you have brands that you remain quite ambivalent towards because (1) history has taught you to be thus, and (2) the tweaks they are putting out just don’t seem that much different.
Guilty as charged. I’ve struggled to find a pair of Vasque’s that work well with my high-arch and low-volume feet. While the Transistors were a very appealing model, technologically-speaking, I just couldn’t get the support I needed from the FluxFoam footbed. However, I did covet the low ride and moldable foam design.
Enter the Vasque Pendulum ($110). The Pendulum is scheduled to break into the market after the new year (January 2013). At first glance, it appears that Vasque has just made a few adjustments to previous models to produce the Pendulum (or just melded a couple together). However, I was delighted to find that the Pendulum presents a significantly different (read: better) feel underfoot.
The samples I was provided by Vasque were in a screamingly-bright shade of red. It must be noted (again) that I love bright colors in my shoes and these certainly qualified. The upper is largely constructed of single-piece mesh. It is reinforced with substantial vinyl around the toes and heels. The upper caused no hot-spots for me and wore well against our common trail-foes of rocks and sticks. The mesh did allow a good amount of trail dust through, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary for this kind of shoe.
The upper’s construction is thin. There isn’t much in the way of padding around the ankle or in the tongue. Sometimes I rely on that additional padding to help a shoe conform to my skinny heels. However, in this case, the thinness of the upper did a fine job of staying close.
The fit of the Pendulum is tight in the heel and opens up generously into the toe box. I am becoming an increasingly bigger fan of ample toe room and this model provided that. I found the shoes were spot-on in sizing for me, no need to adjust up or down.
Insole and Midsole
This is where Vasque really got into an odd “tweak.” The FluxFoam of the Transistor has been removed (best I can tell) from the footbed and into the insole. This adjustment to design seems surprising. Most shoe companies either provide $0.10 insoles with their shoes or some (Vasque included) have offered models that dump them all together. Moving a crucial piece of technology to the insole seemed odd. However, it works. I am uncertain how much the underlying last of the shoe changed from the Transistor, but the arch support and curve of the last feels more substantial and much more form-fitting.
The Pendulum also sports a 6mm drop height and a low over-all ride. While it is not the lowest-rider out there, it is a great choice for someone coming from a larger and higher-drop shoe.
The sole and traction on the Pendulum is pretty straightforward. The rubber is solid and has worn very well with time. Down the middle of the sole is a rigid rockplate. I find these become very nasty looking very quickly, as the rigid plastic scratches and remains scratched. However, the protection that the sole provides is top-notch. And, there are no problems with traction. It provided great footing in the late summer weather and should wear well into the shoulder season of fall (although the thin upper will prevent it from being a great winter shoe).
The Pendulum should provide a surprisingly good fit for many folks who have, perhaps, tried Vasque’s in the past and found the fit to be wanting. This model is an excellent all-around trail shoe that should be able to handle some light road work without too much unnecessary wear (or tripping). While the wetness of winter will shelve these for me in about a month, they are a solid three-season shoe. No doubt that Vasque makes a well-built shoe and it is good to have the opportunity to finally put quite a few miles into a pair of theirs.