The Vasque Pendulum (MSRP $110) are Vasque’s new lightweight, close-to-the-ground trail running shoes. I found that they strike the right balance between the hardcore, run-over-and-destroy-anything Vasque Mindbender and the barely-there Merrill Dash Glove.
Like the recently tested Patagonia Gamut, the Pendulums are light, fast and energetic with great responsive bounce. Agility is where I need it to be and they are very stable through technical sections. No ankles were turned or broken in the making of this review.
Up until this year, I’ve always been a recreational trail runner. I define “recreational trail runner” as, n. One who cares not about training, times and distance, but about the journey, the moment and the visceral connection with the natural world.
This year, I’m taking it the next level: Run four 5k’s and finish out the summer with one mighty, epic 7k. I bring up the racing element because training has increased my awareness of the guts and glory that make up the shoe: The last, upper, outsole and drop.
That’s exactly what Vasque envisioned when they designed the Pendulums.
A shoe last is the 360° mold upon which a shoe is constructed. The last affects the overall fit of a shoe including heel width, instep height, forefoot width, and toe box depth. The Pendulums are made with Vasque’s Immerse 360 last. The fit is snug in the heel and opens up to a wide toe box. The arch support and curve of the Immerse 360 feels substantial and form-fitting. This makes it ideal for runners with higher arches.
Compared to the Mindbender, the feel is completely different, because the Mindbender is built on a Perpetuum last. If you have flatter feet, the Mindbender is a better choice. The difference in feel, though, between the Pendulum and the Patagonia Gamut is negligible.
The upper is what holds the shoe onto your foot. In the Pendulum, it’s constructed of single-piece of mesh that is reinforced with vinyl around the toes and heels. This is a big weight-saver but the downside is that the padding around the ankles and in the tongue is meager. If you run outside in the winter in the Pendulums, you’ll freeze your wee piggies.
The Patagonia Gamuts have a synthetic leather upper that feels more substantial. They also have more padding on the tongue. If you feel like you need more padding, you can always wear a running sock with a bit more padding, like the Darn Tough Vermont Run/Bike cushion or the Fits Performance Trail sock.
When the barefoot running craze went mainstream, everyone obsessed about heel drop. It’s short for “heel to toe drop” and tells you how much taller the heel is than the forefoot. It matters because a shoe with a thick heel demands that you run on your heels. A shoe with a flat heel (or none at all) demands that you run on your midfoot (a la barefoot).
On the drop scale of 0mm to 16mm, the Pendulum strikes a semi-compromise zone of 6mm. A minimalist-inspired design that speaks to those who want ample cushioning but still want to feel close to the ground.
The outsole, a.k.a “the sole”, is the bottom part of the shoe that comes in direct contact with the ground. Vasque outsoles are synonymous with vicious dirt-and-rock-eating molars and the soles are where they proudly display their hiking boot roots. The Pendulums have pronounced, multi-directional lugs and a grippy rubber compound for excellent traction on just about any terrain. From gym treadmills, to spring mud and wet rocks and roots, the Pendulums got it going on.
The Pendulum is an excellent all-around running shoe. I’ve taken them on gym treadmills, asphalt running paths, and off-road trails. A solid three-season shoe, indeed. I have yet to mention weight so I will now. The Pendulums tip the scale at a meager 8.8 ounces. Which seem beefy compared to the 8.2 ounces of the Patagonia Gamuts. Did I feel the weight difference? Not at all.
Do I have a preference between the Pendulums and the Gamuts? Yes. But first, I got both as samples for testing from Vasque ($110) and Patagonia ($125) so price was not a factor.
My preference is the Vasques. My feet are between narrow and normal with higher (not high, just higher) arches and they feel snugger in a shoe with a narrow heel and wider toe box. I also noticed more support in the soles with the Vasques. Both the Pendulums and the Gamuts have a solid, confident feel on uneven terrain, but the Gamuts, compared to the Pendulums, feel too wide for my feet.