Friday August 8th, 2014

A jet engine propels itself in part by blasting air from high-pressure zones to low-pressure ones. What if engineers could put the same science in a running shoe to help propel you forward?

That’s the supposition behind the new Reebok ZJet, the latest Z-series running shoe from the footwear giant. True to its aeronautic namesake, the ZJet relies on mini air pods called “speed channels” that allegedly shuttle the pressure created by heel strike to your forefoot to help propel you forward more quickly. It’s a neat theory if you’re a serious runner or a science geek, but does the technology actually work?

Pros: The ZJet is well-cushioned, thanks to a layer of foam through its midsole and more than a dozen small air-pods that comprise the outsole. If you’ve been training in a super-minimal or barefoot-running shoe, a pair of these on your feet will feel delightfully comfortable. The ZJet is springy and relatively soft without being mushy, with enough responsiveness to handle a short pickup or sprint.

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Cons: Two nine-mile runs in the ZJet didn’t produce the blast we were hoping for—no faster turnover or feeling of forward propulsion. While the heel strike was cushy, it was almost too cushy and, at times, felt it incommensurate with the forefoot padding. At a weight of 13.6 ounces, the shoe is also heavy compared to many popular running shoes and can start to feel like a drag on the legs over longer distances.

Bottom line: The ZJet is worth trying if you want a comfortable, cushy shoe for short runs and gym workouts. The shoe is neutral, meaning it doesn’t have support through the midsole if you over-pronate—if that’s you, try the Reebok One Guide or other running shoe with medial support. Neutral runners logging lots of miles may want to save the ZJet for workouts on the Cybex Trainer or elliptical and stick to a snappier shoe with more flexibility and responsiveness for distance runs.

Price: $129.99

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