“Wait, what brand are these? Puma? Hmm…well I guess…..wait a second… really? PUMA??” Yeah, that was me, about 350 miles ago when I first laid eyes on the new Puma Faas 500 at my local running store here in St. Louis, MO. I had pretty much only seen Pumas rounding out a really preppy pick-up-game-in-the-park ensemble, or finishing off a ‘yeah I lift weights and I match my Pumas to my shorts when I’m at the gym getting YOLKED for the ladies’ gettup. They are cool, catchy, sporty, and for the most part they are sold in nearly every shoe store in America, at least to some degree…or so I thought.
But I personally had never truly paid attention to any ‘Performance’ running shoe out of the Puma line and certainly never trusted that any Puma fresh on the market was realistic or functional. (How cynical and careless of me!) “Not for me…” I would say. Maybe it was that I was stuck in the peer-glow of the fab-5, or sweet-six (or whatever) of shoe brands considered to be a legitimate option by runners in general. Maybe I had only seen them on the bird-legged, exoskeletons of pure striated international GLORY of our lead marathoners. Who KNOWS. All I know is that at the time I first saw them, I was battling some pretty serious IT Band issues, was discouraged, and was desperate for a shoe that would get me back on track. Little did I know, I was about to buy the shoe that would go down in MY personal history as the absolute BEST pair of shoes I’ve ever run in. EVER.
A bit about me, so you know what angle (some may say, “slant”) I am coming from with this review. I have been running for about 13 years, and I ran my first marathon when I was 15. I’ve run 6 more since then and have been obsessed with this awesome-crazy-sport-lifestyle ever since. I am tall and lean, with neutral biomechanics….nothing crazy, and no crazy pronation issues. My pace in training varies, and ranges from 6:15/mi tempo runs to upwards of 9/mi on recovery runs.
I’ve been a fairly loyal shoe-buyer, but I’ve gone in many cycles just trying to figure out what worked best for me as my performance changed over the years and as ‘performance’ shoes evolved. So 4 months ago I had just retired (prematurely, due to injury) a pair of performance trainers that had a nice healthy dose of some sort of “ethylene” (plastic) built into the instep and heel. They were light, but generally just bulky and stiff. Somehow in the course of not being thrilled with the shoes, and having crippling IT pain I realized that the shoes were fitting a little bit big and the plastic ‘stability’ instep was forcing my feet to fall in a way that was NOT good for me. I figured that one out a little too late…they should just go ahead and change the saying to, “Hindsight is 20 /20…or crippling IT Band Issues that feel like hot daggers being inserted in and around all areas of your knee, SUCKER”. It should be EASY and your shoe should simply be a natural extension of your body and stride and should act as a conduit for the flow of ‘electricity’ that is the motion of your stride.
Ok, hold on for a second…I KNOW you’re thinking that I’m about to go into some sort of bark-loving hippie-speech about Mother Earth, minimalism, double-rainbows and grass-fed nutrition notions. I most certainly am not. This is about a SHOE, not a really ‘great’ looking beard. Anyway, I’m simply trying to say that I love/crave a shoe that gives a fast-ride, and I love the way it feels to get that effortless, fluid spring off the ground, whether I’m running 6 minute miles or 10’s. It’s not often that you find a shoe with incredible cushioning that removes the weighty physical frills and concentrates on the biomechanics of only giving you exactly what you need during foot-fall and push-off. And with that, for the second time, (sorry about the tangent) I give you….the Puma Faas 500.
I bought these shoes in May of this year and took them out for a spin on the track first, just to see how they felt and to gauge exactly what was going on. First off, this shoe uses a new Puma technology called, “BioRide”, and this comes into play most prominently in the forefoot of the shoe in what Puma is dubbing, the “Rocker”. When I put these shoes on and started taking steps, I almost felt like the shoe was slowly rolling me forward, by itself. Magical. They weren’t forcing me to lean, but when I did lean they easily encouraged the motion forward. The Faas’ have a smooth arc that naturally mimics every inch of roll that your foot takes from the ground during push-off. When you start into your stride and begin to pick up speed you realize that this shoe allows your foot to be on the ground for the minimum amount of time needed to propel you forward. That definitely reduces the “pounding” your legs feel, and it helps increase your turnover for faster paces at easier effort. Who doesn’t want that?!?!
The heel of this shoe, much like a racing flat, is a bit lower than your traditional running shoe. But, unlike most flats, there is a TON of long-lasting cushioning in this shoe. There is easily more cushioning and responsive “RIDE” in this shoe than I’ve experienced in 10 different types of “Cushioning” shoes. I was absolutely blown away the first time I went out for a 5 mile run in these puppies to give them a test-drive. Immediately, I felt like my stride was corrected…I was no longer awkwardly pulling pavement underneath me in a forced gait of binding and counter-productive materials, but instead I felt light on my feet and my stride felt effortless. Something else I noticed right away was that my foot-fall was almost immediately transferred off of my heels and evenly distributed across my forefoot. It felt natural, and fast, and consistent. I had a habit of over striding and really striking hard on my heel and that was noticeably different in these shoes when I increased my stride length to run fast.
The fit of this shoe gives enough room in the forefoot but not so much that it makes it bulky, or wide. It features a mesh upper with synthetic suede that performs well under all conditions. (Rain, trails, heat, you name it) The OrthoLite dual-layer sock liner is a comfortable, snug fit and it seems to hold its shape really well. I haven’t experienced any hot spots or rub areas so far in these shoes and I always had these spots in other shoes.
The laces stay tied at ALL times and I’ve never once had to tie my shoe more than when I first put them on. I am stretching to find something negative about this shoe and I am having a VERY hard time doing it. The only thing I can think of that would make me NOT snuggle into bed with these shoes at night for some heavy petting is that I sweat like a pig, so these shoes don’t smell good at ALL after 4 months. But I think that’s very normal. The Ortholite liner did well for a long time but the hot summer months of 100+ temps definitely dried into these shoes and made them a force for my wife and our foyer to be reckoned with.
After 350 miles in these shoes so far, I STILL put them on every day, pitter patter around in them on the driveway before my run, look down and think, “MAN, I love these shoes….” I am not bored of them, tired of them, feeling uncomfortable in them…nothing. In fact, I just bought ANOTHER pair of the exact same shoe and have started getting them ready for my marathon in 6 weeks. This shoe is the perfect shoe for someone that wants a ridiculously effortless/fast ride for everyday training, or even a racing shoe that gives tons of cushioning but still is light enough to carry around for up to 26.2 miles. In fact, I’m excited about just getting a chance to run a marathon blister-free and in some sexy road-rockets that I know will treat me very well!
Here’s what Puma says about them:
Weight: 9.5 ounces
- Mesh and synthetic suede upper for breathability and reflective for safety
- OrthoLite® insole made from sustainable materials for cushioning support that’s good for you and the Earth
- Rubber outsole with EverRide and EverTrack components for durability and advanced cushioning
- Innovative midsole with BioRide technology, featuring three components that work together to create a naturally responsive ride:
1. Rocker: Incorporates a rocker shape for a centered heel strike and effortless toe-off.
2. Flex: Most sidewalls are raised to stabilize the foot but then restrict the flex. Our solution? We incorporated flex grooves in zones where it makes biomechanical sense to allow the foot to move naturally.
3. Groove: A groove on the side of the shoe gives the foot a feel for the ground, giving you a more responsive ride.
About the Author:
I’ve been enamored with this little sport/hobby/lifestyle we call “running” since I was about 13 years old. My dad always stayed in shape and I started running with him because there was something completely intriguing and invigorating about pushing myself to go farther and faster. I started reading everything I could get my hands on and by the time I was 14 I was completely hooked and headlong into fantasizing about what I wanted to do with it.
I’d say it was that year between ages 15 and 16 that changed my running life completely. I was in awe of the marathon distance, and I had a FIRE for competition, challenge, preparation, and perseverance. I so badly wanted to run one and my dad decided to train with me. So over the summer of 2000 we trained our hearts out and I followed my first Hal Higdon plan to completion. I finished my first marathon with my dad and uncle in 3:54, and that was it….I was a LIFER.
I ran through high school by myself, just training and racing and enjoying pushing myself to do new things. I couldn’t get enough. Between my first marathon in 2000 and my freshman year of College in 2004 I completed the marathon distance 7 times, including one 50K ultra. I also dabbled in sprint-distance triathlons and anything physically challenging I could get my hands on. In 2004 I ran Cross Country for Missouri Baptist University as a freshman, and loved every minute of it.
After I graduated, and as life picked up speed (marriage, parenthood, etc…!) I found that I still hung onto my love for running. The thrill was never gone, even as I went through several slow periods of hardly any training at all. I have recently felt renewed and invigorated with it and have been training harder than ever this past year. There are amazing people here in St. Louis and I am blessed to get to participate with them in something that I love so much. It is a part of my life that I KNOW will never go away.
Age: 26 / Stats: 6’2”, 170 / 50K PR: 6:15:06 (2002) / Marathon PR: 3:34:23 (2002) / Half Marathon PR: 1:28:47 (2005) / 10 Mile PR: 1:06:26 (2001) / 8K (5mi) PR: 29:39 (2004 – XC)