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Every so often something like this happens: a manufacturer discontinues a product that people love in the name of “progress,” only to come out with an ill-suited “replacement” or, worse, no replacement at all. It happened a lot with, say, British sports cars in the 1970s and 1980s (think Triumph TR6 and TR7, or MGB and MG Metro), and in later years with products like the Apple Newton.
Unfortunately, it happens with shoes as well.
Take the Puma H-Street, for example. This shoe was the absolute favorite of PoseTech runners, with its minimal weight (5.8 ounces!) and sock-like fit and comfort. Running with these shoes was like running barefoot—bio-mechanically speaking—but with the added protection of a shoe. Despite their minimal weight, I got well over 850 miles out of my pair last year while running the fastest and longest races of my life (including a 50- and 64-miler), and they still should be good for a few more hundred miles.
Alas, last year Puma discontinued them altogether. Once in awhile they pop up on eBay, but I’ve been outbid numerous times despite bidding $98 once. (I refused to bid higher than that considering their retail price was $69, and I got my pair of H-Streets for $37 on eBay in December 2006.)
So after researching suitable alternatives, I settled on this one: the Puma Saloh, which came out around December 2007 or January 2008.
Why the Puma Saloh? Well, for one thing it is advertised as the following:
The PUMA Saloh shoe is an update to the ever popular H-Street style. The PUMA Saloh gives the consumer a comfortable, breathable street shoe with the look of an original PUMA track spike.
Indeed, as you can see from the photo at the top, the Saloh even looks a lot like the old H-Street. It is also very light.
To date, I’ve run 206 miles in these since getting them 1.5 months ago, including six or so 20+ milers and a 6k race. Here are my impressions of the Saloh and comparison to the H-Street.
- The Saloh, while light, weighs 0.9 ounces more (6.7 vs. 5.8) than the H-Street. I can’t honestly tell the difference while wearing them, but a theoretical advantage goes to the H-Street.
- The Saloh actually has a slightly lower retail price than the H-Street ($65 vs. $69). I picked my pair up at the Puma Store in Boulder.
- Both shoes seem to share the same sole and tread pattern. The only difference is the Saloh’s sole is colored (dark blue on mine) instead of black like the H-Street. This suggests the Saloh’s sole contains less carbon black and, in theory, may be less grippy and not as long-lasting as the H-Street’s soles (if they are anything like tires—see Sheldon Brown’s article regarding carbon black). Honestly, though, so far I cannot tell a difference in traction, and there seems to be minimal wear on my Saloh’s soles after 206 miles.
- The Saloh has strips of synthetic “leather” at the front, rear, and top in front of the laces. The tongue is also made of this material. In contrast, the H-Street consisted of thinner, real leather for the tongue, and smaller strips of leather at the front and rear. The Saloh’s larger strips of synthetic leather is responsible for the weight difference.
- More significantly, the synthetic leather of the Saloh in front of the laces makes the shoe a tad less flexible than the H-Streets (I’d say the Saloh has 95% the flexibility of the H-Street).
- Also, the synthetic leather makes the Saloh slightly less breathable. The shoes also don’t compact down as much when, say, carrying them in your suitcase while traveling.
- The only advantage the extra synthetic leather provides, then, is perhaps better durability of the uppers and sides. The Salohs also look a little sharper to me, but that is subjective.
- The Saloh and H-Street both are comfortable shoes and seem to be sized exactly the same (I used size 9.5 for both).
Verdict: The Saloh is marginally heavier, less breathable, and less flexible than the H-Street. Therefore, the H-Street is a slightly better shoe for running.
I emphasize, though, that the difference is very slight. If you want me to speculate how this translates into time differences, I’d guess that the H-Street is 1-3 seconds/mile faster. This is pure speculation though and I haven’t done a controlled study on that.
Puma certainly could have done worse with this “update.” Since the shoes feel so much the same and my old H-Streets still have some life in them, I’ll probably use the H-Streets for some races but use the Salohs the rest of the time.
Let’s just hope Puma doesn’t discontinue the Saloh now. Hmmm, it may be a good idea for me to stock up on these.
Update July 23, 2008: Puma has brought back the H-Streets! Hooray! Thanks to Conrad for letting me know!