Of course, besides the color, the first thing I noticed was the unique sole, with the outrageously prominent flap extending downward from the front of the shoe. Before I attempted my first run in the Amplas, I wore them around the house, immediately noticing the springy sensation. I got used to the bouncy feeling pretty quickly, but I was glad I don’t have any ceiling fans.
I waited for a dry day to test them out on the roads, partly to avoid the possibility of getting crud under the “flap”, but mostly (I admit it) to keep from getting my nice new vermilion-colored shoes dirty. As I walked to the corner, the buoyant sensation continued, and as I eased into my run I had to suppress the urge to yell “Boing!” with every step. But as I ramped up to my normal training pace, the unusual feeling subsided, and all I really noticed was a subtle “assist” at toe-off.
I also wondered how the shoes would feel on foot strike, and if there would be any sensation of instability, given the unusual forefoot. But as a midfoot striker, I didn’t notice any real difference compared to my “conventional” training shoes. The Fly forefoot seems well-designed to land and compress efficiently, without any elements catching the pavement awkwardly, and without any side-to-side instability.
Having successfully completed a short training run in my new Amplas, I decided to give them a real test in a 3-mile race on New Year’s morning. (One thing to note about the Ampla Fly: They are not ideal for driving, so I brought a pair of “normal” running shoes to wear before and after the race.) Again, as I walked over to sign up, I had to hold back on the comic book sound effects. But once the race began, the Amplas felt very much like any other comfortable, high quality running shoe, the only difference being a very slight forward propulsion on toe-off.
Fellow Run Oregon blogger Matt Rasmussen had joked that I could finish a 5k in 10 steps with these unique shoes, but in reality it took me at least 15 😉 My time was around 20 seconds faster than a week before on the same course, though. I’d like to think that was due to increased effort on my part, and not merely because of cutting edge shoe technology (or worse yet, a change in the turnaround marker.)
I still worry about debris finding its way under the cantilevered forefoot, but the streamlined design probably reduces the risk. Still, these are definitely not trail shoes. Besides, you wouldn’t want to get any dirt on these cherry-red beauties, would you?
Technical notes: The sole is carbon fiber, and dual density EVA adds cushioning. There is a 4mm drop from heel (20mm) to toe (16mm). The Ampla Fly comes in red or black, in men’s and women’s models, and retails for $180.
My only slight quibbles are with the weight (well over 10 ounces according to my scale, compared to the 9.5 ounces of my Saucony Kinvaras), and the tendency of the Amplas to make you want to belt out The Police’s “Walking On The Moon” while walking or running slowly.
But in the grand tradition of “Air”, “Gel”, the “Wave”, “Springblade”, the “Pump”, “ZigTech”, and those shoes with the springs in the heel, the Ampla Fly are the latest running shoes to push the envelope in the quest to make running more fun and take a little pressure off your feet, and in that they succeed. And, like scissor doors on a Lamborghini, the eye-catching soles are just plain cool!