Flat footed runners often get caught in the middle trying to transition to minimal shoes. Finding the right shoe, with a proper fit, is daunting. And, attempting to get used to a high arch is both frighting and a little painful.
The Midlander is Smaat’s entry shoe. Built with a gradual 8mm differential from heel to forefoot, the aim of the design is to ease consumers into minimalist running. Highlights include “SMAAT Flex Technology” (i.e. grooves in the sole that allow for natural foot movement), a Japanese crafted last, and a reflective heel tabs. Simple, right? Minimal style for minimal running. The brand, which offers two other models, has a stripped, almost throwback aesthetic. You’d be forgiven for thinking about Danish brand Hummel styling when first catching glimpse of the Midlander—Smaat’s Jasper logo (drawn from the Ostrich’s association with the Egyptian concept of truth and balance) takes form on the shoes much in the same fashion as Hummel’s branding. These shoes sure are not neck-breakers, but Smaat shoes aren’t ugly either.
On short, initial jogs two things became apparent: First, the shoes width allowed for a comfortable foot strike; and second the flat arch solved hotspot issues I’d typically associated with minimal runners. As I favor a forefoot strike stride, the Midlander required some adjustment. The first few outings proved adequate stability—I overpronate just a little—and suggested that the shoe could fulfill its promise. I was, at the very least, comfortably experiencing minimalist running for the first time. The width allows for toe splay, and the light weight encourages forward movement. The first step to minimal running is not thinking about the shoes at all.
In the beginning of the test period, I rarely thought about the Midlander. The basic lacing set up allowed for a fast “custom fit,” and I ran at low milage without any problems. Upping from 2 to 3 miles exposed some personal discomfort with the stability. I noticed the pronation and, essentially, that the shoe was not helping guide my gait. Having run in Newton’s happily for roughly a year and become accustomed to thinking critically about pace and pattern, it was somewhat disconcerting to feel off-put by footwear. However, it wasn’t detrimental. I figured, at most, the Midlander could function best as my short routine shoe of choice.
In that circumstance, the transitional runner provided excellent traction on road (most of my runs are on paved trail) both in dry and damp condition. Hot spots were minimized, though occasionally surfaced on the heel. The truth of Smaat, for this runner, is that while built to ease transition to minimal, the Midlander doesn’t inspire enough confidence to make a full-time switch.