To appropriately stay on the dirt course — the Vimazi Trail Z2 ($170) will be the focus of this review, but with warranted discussion of the Vimazi Trail Z3 and comments about Vimazi’s road collection.
Vimazi running shoes are most definitely a unique experience. Anyone newly venturing into the pace-tuned running shoe realm may want to hop down a rabbit hole to wholly understand why each shoe’s midsole is constructed differently based on an individual’s pace. Even though the claims are novel, new, and big, they may be on to something — and this something may work for you as a runner.
Vimazi currently offers two pace-based best trail running shoe models, which are both gender specific — Trail Z2 and Trail Z3, respectively designed for 8:00 to 12:00 minutes/mile pace and 10:00 to 16:00 minutes/mile pace. The Trail Z1 will be launched in 2024 and will be the fastest tuned trail model. Regarding the pace ranges for each shoe, I gathered that the paces are calibrated for moderate trail running conditions and a practical running average given the variety of trails that trail runners experience across the globe.
For comparison, Vimazi’s more expansive road running department markets six models — the Vimazi Z20 to the Vimazi Z70 — ranging from a 4:30 minutes/mile pace to 13:00 minutes/mile pace, with either a 1:30 minutes/mile or 2 minutes/mile increment for each Z level. I am currently running in the women’s Vimazi Z40 road shoes, designed for paces between 6:00 and 8:00 minutes/mile.
Both the women’s Vimazi Trail Z2 and Trail Z3 are true to size, cost the same, and have the same specifications — a claimed 31-millimeter stack height at the heel and 26-millimeter stack height at the forefoot, 5-millimeter drop, and the Trail Z2 has an actual weight of 12.3 ounces (348 grams) for a men’s U.S. size 9.
Even though it looks like a lot of shoe and it does tip the scales, it affords substantial stability, control, and responsiveness across terrains. The main differences between the Trail Z2 and Trail Z3 stem from the midsole design and construction although there are minor upper and aesthetic variations predicated upon the use and pace tune of the shoe.
Vimazi Trail Z2 Upper
Most of the research leading to the development of the Vimazi Trail Z2 and its other sibling models was largely focused on midsole foam density and compression force modeling. This is the selling point, but the upper construction is of tremendous import when it comes to comfort and overall ride. I am not suggesting that designers overlooked the upper. However, if Vimazi is onto something with their paced-tuned running, then really dialing in their uppers could potentially give the shoes an extra edge against an already overwhelming shoe market.
First, I will concede to personal preference and the spectrum of subjectivity when it comes to certain upper design elements. Runners are indeed highly individualistic creatures.
The upper is a well-designed and integral unit from examination of the stitching, seams, welded overlays, and added heel stabilizer. It is solidly constructed with a smooth and inviting feel. The bulk of the upper material is a soft engineered mesh — it is both breathable and warm. Above the toes is a simple welded rubber toe bumper — a feature more suitable for swift, soft, dusty, and untechnical types of trails.
Vimazi claims the toebox is wide. As a frequent Topo and Altra runner, I feel it is not. Both the road and trail shoes are tapered, but thankfully the mesh and toe bumper are pliable enough to not be restricting or gait-impacting.
As mentioned, there are a series of welded overlays, eight in total. This construction provides midfoot comfort and lockdown, which definitely fortifies the upper’s integrity.
Interestingly, the heel collar is a unique soft molded foam that is smooth and flexible, but not overly tight. The material doesn’t aggravate and may be ideal for any sock height. It may be one of my favorite aspects of the upper. I enjoy the slip on feel, but of import, the heel feels secure. Below the collar is a plastic stabilizer, both for stability and security if and when the trail comes at you on all sides, for running tight switchbacks, or for mildly technical downhill running.
An almost major deal breaker for me on both the Vimazi Trail Z2 and the Vimazi Z40 are the metal eyelets on the upper three shoelace holes — lateral and medial. The aggravating culprit is the top eyelet on the medial side. In order to keep running without serious chafing, I had to place thick kinesiology tape over the eyelet and also add a strip just below my medial malleolus.
Vimazi Trail Z2 Midsole
The signature component of the Vimazi Trail Z2 and Vimazi’s other pace-tuned shoes is the differential construction of the midsole from heel to toe.
Vimazi has dedicated tons of research to optimizing the density of its Z-Foam — a proprietary EVA foam — to attenuate and aid the necessary forces required respectively for repeated compression and propulsion. The foam density — based on lab research — is tuned to the biomechanical forces for a given pace range and associated biomechanics. The company uses a traditional EVA midsole over currently popular softer and lighter foams, because EVA foam density can be honed with more precision.
Simply, a Vimazi midsole is softer at the heel to optimally absorb landing forces. It then transitions into a firmer forefoot foam called Forefoot FastPod to generate greater propulsive forces and to provide more overall stability.
The idea is to minimize energy loss through the gait cycle by appropriately tuning the midsole based on the biomechanics of certain paces. Generally, faster runners generate greater forces at foot strike and at lift-off. Thus, the Trail Z2 midsoles are firmer from heel to toe than the Trail Z3 midsoles designed for slower paces, which have slightly more cushion from back to front.
Certainly, there are many variables that have been assumed — weight and cadence — and there are also variables that are different across the runner spectrum that may be difficult to model — such as, the interplay of cadence and stride length and ground contact time. Again, every runner is biomechanically unique.
Overall, I was impressed with both the performance and midsole experience. The differences in density, firmness, and cushion can be felt from heel to toe. The firmer Forefoot FastPod has been much appreciated on extended ascents. Where I live in Southern Oregon, it is mostly long ups and then longs downs. It is relieving to have a firm platform that can reliably stabilize and aid in continued forward and upward movement.
In the heel, the midsole is moderately cushioned and pliable with a nice degree of stiffness for a responsive feel on the trail. I did experience some energy dissipation while running on pavement after a long trail run, but that is also down to overall body fatigue.
I am mostly a midfoot striker during my early miles, but as I tire and take on long descents, I tend to heel strike more frequently. These long runs gave me a great opportunity to test the shoe’s responsiveness and capabilities.
The midsole foam and overall ride was reliable, comfortable, and — in combination with the outsole — stable. I also appreciated the fact that my post-run recovery and body scan wasn’t impacted by shoe choice except for the need to wear my toe spacers post-run. In sum, the feet and the lower legs felt decent and ready for the next activity.
Vimazi Trail Z2 Outsole
The outsole of the Vimazi Trail Z2 is comprised of carbon rubber on a wide rocker platform.
Vimazi’s research on lift-off forces indicated that arch compression forces are highest at the point of propulsion. Therefore, instead of notching out the outsole under the arch, Vimazi kept a full-contact outsole to accommodate more stability and to harness the energy and support necessary for push-off. Counter to the science for not carving out typical arch space, I also like the added base support for downhill running where I am substantially slower and more of a heel striker.
The outsole isn’t overly aggressive, but it is durable and reliable. It performs well on slick granitic soils and on moderate singletrack trail and forest road terrain.
It isn’t a fast shoe, but the weight and rigidity are slightly lessened with four lines of exposed midsole Z-Foam running longitudinally down the shoe.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the outsole in snow, slick conditions, or across really technical terrain, but based on my experience, the Vimazi Trail Z2 and Trail Z3 are suitable for soft surfaces and mildly technical trails — they definitely climbed well and were dependable on the downs.
Vimazi Trail Z2 Overall Impressions
There is more to a running shoe like the Vimazi Trail Z2 than just the midsole — the sole focus of many reviews of this shoe, but nonetheless the soul of the shoe.
The other components definitely influence the overall feeling of the midsole. That is why it is important to see the forest from the trees, especially with a Vimazi running shoe. The novelty of a pace-tuned shoe is both bold and brilliant. The main adjustments are realized in the density of the midsoles, but the designers realize the art of the shoe and performance efficiencies are undoubtedly experienced across all elements.
It took me a couple of runs in the Trail Z2 to fully sink in to the shoe’s construction and overall ride. From a scientific standpoint, my interest in pace-tuned running shoe models has been piqued, and I see and feel their benefits.
Our local running store owner commented on how well Vimazi shoes have been selling within our running community. He added that the responsiveness is probably the number one reason why runners are excited to purchase a Vimazi shoe.
I will continue wearing the Trail Z2. Even though I am not a super elite runner, my pace ranges fit squarely with these models. But for my biomechanics, gait, cadence, stride length, and weight, I am interested to see if the Vimazi Trail Z1 and the Vimazi Z30 would be a better fit overall.
Call for Comments
- Have you tried the Vimazi Trail Z2, or any of the other shoes in this range?
- What are your thoughts on pace-tuned running shoes?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
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