We should clear the air of one item right away: The BIOM A shoes from ECCO, a Danish company known for its high-end footwear, cost an astounding $220. The shoes, an esoteric design created in collaboration with a professional triathlete, are among the most pricey running shoes ever made.
Further intrigue: The BIOM A shoes are made with leather from Himalayan yaks. A splay of neon-green foam spreads web-like across the uppers. Indeed, these are not your average Nikes. The company's design process for its BIOM line of shoes, which come in various builds, included an exhaustive and multi-year project involving physically scanning the feet of thousands of runners to better understand the anatomy of the human foot.
The BIOM shoes, including the $220 BIOM A model, are touted as having construction that allows the foot to move "as nature intended." The natural stride ECCO refers to is commonly called a "barefoot stride" in the running world. It is a quicker stride where runners land on their midfoot or forefoot with each step instead of pounding on their heels.
As the speediest shoe in the line, the BIOM A is low profile and lightweight. Its minimal construction includes firm cushioning and design tweaks to promote midfoot or forefoot running. I gave the shoes a test this summer to see if they lived up to their hype.
The company (www.eccousa.com) recommends its BIOM A for advanced runners only. I agree. The shoe is made for marathoners and triathletes who have mastered their stride. The BIOM A will not put up with sloppy running. It will feel harsh and under-padded to anyone who lands on their heel.
To aid in the adaption to the BIOM shoes, ECCO offers its customers a multi-week training guide. The do-it-yourself program helps runners build their muscles and change their style slowly to adapt in a healthy manner to the new type of shoe.
As a fairly experienced runner, my favorite shoes are now "barefoot-style" models like the BIOM A. ECCO offers an interesting new take in this genre. The BIOM A weigh 11.9 ounces per foot in my size 12 shoe, and are a few ounces heavier than other similar models I wear.
But with yak leather uppers and a substantial build, the ECCO A will undoubtedly last longer than other barefoot-style shoes. The leather is tough and thin. It breathes adequately and sheds moisture. The shoes' sole and overall construction is stout, though still flexible and good-fitting on the run.
Are they worth $220? To me, the answer is no. The shoes are nice, to be sure. But despite the special design and the fancy features, the BIOM A shoes run like many others I have worn -- many which cost half as much or even less.
Affluent shoe geeks might get a kick out of the BIOM A. If durability is a concern, the yak-leather runners are built to last for hundreds of miles on the road. If you can, try the ECCO shoes on and see for yourself. If nothing else, the white leather shoes with neon-green accents are a fun ride underfoot.
--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.