Periodically we ask our staff, who are on the front lines both in running and in fitting our customers, to provide editorial reviews of products in an effort to provide a better understanding of how a particular shoe fits into its category. This piece was written by staffer Aaron U after a few weeks of wear testing.
The Virrata is Saucony’s newest entry into the zero-drop footwear category, but not its first. The Hattori, which was released in 2011, represented Saucony’s first effort to design and produce a shoe that delivered a truly “natural” running experience.
Weighing in at 6.7oz (2.3 more than the Hattori) and sporting a stack height of 18mm to the Hattori’s 10, the Virrata is designed with the recognition that many runners looking for a more natural running experience don’t want to sacrifice underfoot protection or cushioning. The fact that the Virrata and Hattori are so different indicates how competitive and crowded this category has become, and how much it has evolved in just a few short years.
With the Viratta, unlike a stability shoe, runners should expect a torsionally flexible platform that moves with their foot. Moderate to severe over-pronators—those runners that need their footwear to provide some measure of mechanical correction —should be wary of the Virrata and similarly designed shoes, at least until they address the mechanical issues that cause their over-pronation, making an effort to improve their running efficiency.
As a zero-drop shoe, the Virrata joins the ranks of the Altra Instinct 1.5, New Balance Minimus Zero Road, Mizuno Wave Cursoris, and Brooks Pure Drift (sans insole), to name a few. Of these shoes, only the Instinct approaches the Viratta’s ample cushioning. (More on cushioning below).
You may be wondering how the Viratta compares to its wildly popular cousin, the Kinvara. Those who run with some frequency in the Kinvara should have little trouble making the transition from its 4mm offset to the Virrata’s 0mm drop. We feel that this simply isn’t enough of a difference to cause any major complications. Of course, you should always use caution when making the transition between running shoes, especially if you are moving to a lower offset.
We don’t mean to suggest that the two shoes are functionally or qualitatively equivalent; the Kinvara does offer a distinctly different ride.
The Virrata fits narrower in the toe box than competitors in the same category, but because its seamless upper has few overlays, it has plenty of give and should accommodate moderately shaped to slightly wider feet. The length is fairly standard but may be on the small side compared to the shoe you are currently using. Width is comparable to the Kinvara 2.
The Virrata has a plush, pliable underfoot feel. Although it feels plush, it doesn’t cross over into the realm of the squishy-soft Cortana. Runners accustomed to shoes like the New Balance Minimus Road will find the Virrata soft by comparison. If the Minimus Zero Road allows the foot to feel out the contours of the pavement; the Virrata allows the foot to gregariously greet it.
Deep flex grooves form Y patterns into the sole of the shoe allowing for the foot to bend and twist at will. These grooves segment the shoe into 24 pods. The deep grooves also seem to lend the shoe some added traction, which is good considering that there isn’t much carbon rubber coating the outsole. Slipping shouldn’t be an issue, but you can expect the outsole to deteriorate more easily because of this weight-saving measure.
The bottom line is that lovers of the Kinvara should find much to like about the Virrata. Different runners will inevitably prefer one to the other, but both are worth trying. Those new to zero-drop footwear should strongly consider the Virrata because of its abundant cushioning and jolt-free ride. Due to its exposed outsole and yoga-like flexibility, its life expectancy is somewhere at the bottom end of the normal range of 300-500 miles.