NoBull Runner Review

I know this review is a long time coming – I was one of the very first people to put a preorder in for them and they got to me in July. I’ve had these shoes for a solid year now, which is a LOT longer than I’d normally take to review something that isn’t embargoed because quite honestly, I didn’t know which direction I wanted to go with this review.

Straight up, from the initial video I did on Instagram TV, these were not the first pair of running shoes I’d ever want to reach for before going out on a run. All the reasons for that will be covered in this review, but I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. I know a lot of people out there think I dislike NoBull as a company, but in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, there are things I don’t like, but every review I’ve done on their previous shoes has been generally positive.

Trust me when I say this: I really, really wanted these shoes to be good. The general reception from the public was fairly negative and but I like to keep an open mind when it comes to new shoes, just because you can never really be sure until you try things out. And like NoBull as a whole, there are things I like, but in my opinion, there are plenty of things that I think need some work on.

Construction:

NoBull has made a name out of themselves by incorporating basic designs in their shoes, maybe tinkering with certain prints here or there, but for the most part there isn’t a ton of detail to their uppers. The first reaction I (&everyone else) had upon seeing the NoBull Runners for the first time were that they looked like a lovechild of Adidas Ultraboost Uncaged and New Balance’s Freshfoam. If you don’t know what those are, then you’ll probably like the design, but I just can’t get the sight out of  my head. That’s not to say they’re bad looking shoes or anything, but I guess you can only design a sock-like upper so many ways, right?

That’s not to say they’re complete rip-offs, there are a few differences. At the rear of the NoBull’s, you won’t find as big a TPU heel counter, just a small one donning the NoBull logo. Unfortunately, functionality is lost because of how small it is. It’ll work in stabilizing the heel during touchdown, but don’t count on it preventing any lateral roll over.

The upper fabric also has a waffle-knit design compared to the uniform Primeknit. The hand of the fabric is a little more sturdy than the Adidas’ shoe, which makes sense considering the only thing holding your foot in place is the upper materials (more on that later). Inside the shoe, the knit is lined with a fabric backing that only allows the knit to stretch so far. That lasts until the toebox, which is nice and stretchy for your toes to splay, but also goes against the shoes design because the toebox is narrow and pointy.

Actually, the whole platform is narrow, which is a same because the contact area actually has some width; where your foot sits is the issue. Every spot, from the heel to the toe, is much more narrow than comparable running shoes. I don’t consider my feet to be wide by any stretch of the word, but even my feet bleed out of the upper of the shoe over the midsole. The outsole design is tough and grippy enough; it uses a rubber layer that has a deep and coarse triangular design. Even that isn’t enough to keep the shoe from randomly tipping over on you though…

…Which leads to another problem with the design, it’s also tall. One could argue that there’s a good amount of midsole cushioning, which is true. Personally, I find the midsole material to be comfortable without being overly soft. I also think that making a tall, narrow, shoe without much lateral support, might not be the best design choices if it’s indeed meant for “multi-environment” use. Either way, despite being narrow, the upper and midsole of the shoe are comfortable for what it is.

Like most running shoes nowadays, the NoBull’s have a 10mm drop, which is indicative that they likely want you running on your heels. According to my scale, a size 10 measured in at 11oz even, which isn’t the lightest running/lifestyle shoe but it’s also not the worst. One thing I do quite like is the shoelaces – they’re beefy, reflective, and best of all they stay tied when you’re running.

Fit:

Let me reiterate this – these shoes run narrow! If you have a wide foot, you’re out of luck. I don’t think any amount of sizing these shoes up will account for how narrow they are. Even with my normal width feet, the upper feels very constricting; forget about wearing thick socks with these shoes. That’s not even mentioning the narrow foot bed – these shoes were not meant for wide feet.

At all.

Don’t even think about it. Ever.

Otherwise, the shoe fits true to size in length, a size 10 leaves me with about a quarter inch of space at the front of the shoe. These shoes are also very Morton’s toe friendly because of the pointy toebox, though I feel like it comes to a point a little too aggressively almost like how a dress shoe would.

I got the Runners in a size 10, which falls in line with all of my other running and training shoes.

Performance:

(It’s a running shoe, so we’re going to lump flexibility/stability into one.)

Since the shoes are a dedicated runner with a knit upper, it’s easy to confirm that the shoe is fairly flexible. Though the midsole feels noticeably stiffer than Reebok’s Floatride, Nike’s React and Adidas’ Boost, it’s still fairly flexible in it’s own right. The midsole does a great job in cushioning the foot, but not overly so to the point where it could be fatiguing to wear the shoes for long periods of time. Response is excellent due to the harder durometer of the midsole, which I personally prefer over the Boost models that I own.

NoBull’s runners are a neutral type running shoe but they do have a rocker design to the outsole. I like that they don’t make your feet run in any certain way, but I don’t see the benefit personally from the rocker outsole because I tend to run more on my midfoot and toes. The drop of the shoes, though 10mm, feels flatter than it actually is which I also think NoBull did a great job with as well.

When it comes to running on paved ground, the NoBulls are at their best. Grip, response and easy proprioception all work together to make the Runners a pretty good shoe to hit the asphalt with. All of that begins to fall apart the moment you hit a rough patch though. The combination of the knit upper, height and the narrow foot-bed rear their ugly heads when you face more uneven terrain. On multiple occasions, my foot has tipped over sideways nearly rolling my ankle going over driveways; sometimes not even running. I’ve run on park trails before without much issue, but I would never risk running a mountain trail like they did in the promotional videos.

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Sprinting is another area I’d stay away from – I just never felt 100% confident that when my foot hit the ground, it would be where I wanted it to be. At a controlled pace, proprioception is fine, but when you’re going balls to the wall, it’s much less sure. Since there is virtually no lateral stability, one wrong step and you’re donezo. Don’t even think about lateral agility work if you value the health of your ankles.

My experience running on the Assault Air Runner were on the positive side. The suspension adds a little bit more dampening while running in the NoBulls and the curved track works well with the rocker design. The shoe’s traction design pulls the track effortlessly making it easy enough to keep it moving at a consistent pace. When you amp up the speed, you’ll run into the same troubles that you would on solid ground; the NoBull Runner’s just aren’t very reassuring for running fast on the AirRunner.

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Value:

NoBull charges $150 for their running shoe, which is directly aimed at the likes of Nike’s React and undercuts Adidas’ Ultraboost. You can easily find the competition on sale for far less than what NoBull is charging, but don’t expect the Runner’s to ever drop in price as NoBull’s prices are fixed. So then, what’s the benefit of picking the more expensive NoBull over the big dogs?

To use for running, they’re all not my favorite. I find running in UltraBoost’s tiring and unstable because the upper doesn’t hold your foot in place well; though some might prefer cushiness and style to hang out in. Nike’s React is great for both walking around and some light running, but the outsole has questionable durability; not to mention it’s traction is only suited for roads. NoBull’s are just narrow and precarious to run in over mixed terrain.

In reality, you’re picking whichever shoe you’d rather walk around town in.

To be completely honest, the majority of my time spent in the NoBull Runner’s has been spent casually putting around town. I don’t think they’re a bad looking pair of shoes and for me, they’re more comfortable than walking around all day in UltraBoost’s; though you will get more street cred wearing the latter. Personally, my pick would be the React’s for both walking around but just know theres a shelf life. But if what you’re looking for in a pair of shoes is something a little different to hang out in and you don’t mind the price and narrrow-ness, I think you’ll really enjoy the NoBull’s. As a running shoe, you can do much better for much cheaper.

The Good:

  • The midsole isn’t fatiguing but provides good cushioning.
  • Laces are pretty cool.
  • Some decent colorways.

The Bad:

  • NARROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.
  • TALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.
  • Not suitable for real running sessions.

The Ugly:

  • $150? You’re probably better off spending less on Reacts or UltraBoosts to walk in.
  • Did I mention they’re tall and narrow?
  • Your ankles when they break.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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