Here it is - the long-awaited review of the much-hyped Vitruvians! I only had time for a quick four miles, but I think that's enough for a good first cut.
The ugliness of the uppers doesn't stop them from being really well-fitting. They were snug without being tight and flexible without being stretchy. The tongue is very long, which looks a little goofy, but doesn't have any ill effects on the way they run. I also noticed that the shoes felt really, really light - not racing flat light, but lighter than any trainer I've worn before.
I started relatively slow just to get a feel for them - around 9:30/mile. I've been trying to forefoot-strike for a couple weeks now, and I was pretty sure I was getting the hang of leaning forward and taking short strides. The Vitruvians weren't what I expected, which is not at all a bad thing. I expected a shoe that was good for people who already knew how to forefoot-strike - I got a shoe that's hard to run any other way in. In a sense, the shoes don't accomodate that style of running - they force it.
Speeding up to my 5K pace (7:00/mile) made them feel even more natural. With a higher leg turnover, I really noticed the shorter amount of time my feet spent on the ground and how much nimbler I felt. I watch fast runners and they look like they're gliding - I clearly didn't look like that, but I felt it a little bit.
I tried to heel-strike to see what it would feel like - because there's no big heel wedge, my heels crashed down and my forefoot flopped down noisily in front of them. It was awkward, loud, and felt unnatural. Forefoot-striking, on the other hand, is clearly what these shoes were designed for.
The lowers are stiff, but not so unflexible that I couldn't roll off my toes comfortably. I think they'll be even better after a couple dozen miles when they break in. This, I think, is one of the key differences between the Vitruvians and the Nike Frees - the latter have a very, very flexible forefoot.
I realized, though, that I must not have been forefoot-striking the last couple weeks as well or as much as I thought I was. After the Vitruvians forced me to do it, I found some heretofore-undiscovered arch and calf flexibility and strength issues. From everything I've read, my body will adapt in a couple more weeks - it was just a surprise. I must have been striking my heels more than I thought in my Mizunos - it's troubling to think that I couldn't run like I wanted to in those shoes even when I was trying to.