I was thrilled to be given a chance to review shoes from Scott, courtesy of Scott & RunRepeat. Scott was a brand I was familiar with through skiing but whose running product I had never had the opportunity to try.
Palani is also unique in that it is the first road-specific offering from a company known more for mountain and trail heritage.
Palani is billed by Scott as "performance shoe for fast training sessions." It has 11mm drop and weighs in at 280g, which is about average for daily trainers but heavier than the 220g of Palani RC racing shoes.
Styling – the shoes don't look like your regular running shoes. I had recently reviewed Brooks Revel for RunRepeat, shoes which were billed as "lifestyle" in that they suited casual wear as well as running.
Well, Palani actually trumps Revel in the casual look stakes. The all-black colorway certainly helps, or perhaps it's the one-piece outsole in black rubber, with no hint of flex grooves or guides, or maybe the non-mesh upper material.
The upper is made of "woven quarters" according to Scott website.
I'm not sure entirely what that is but it helps to visualize the upper on, say, canvas sneakers, so nothing like the soft breathable mesh (or even knitted) upper more commonly used. Even the tongue is made of a thin filmy material with minimal padding, contributing to the casual look.
Street-style: love it!
Rocker midsole – the midsole is quite striking in the way it tapers towards the toebox from a fairly generous rearfoot.
This is accentuated by the way the midsole has been oversized in the heel area, not so much in terms of stack height but the way it protrudes beyond the upper. For those that are familiar, think more Under Armour Fat Tire than Hoka Clifton.
The chevron etchings on the side are a nice design touch and I think looks great.
Oversized heel and woven quarter
Both the looks and rocker midsole caught the attention of running friends when they saw me wearing Palani for the first time.
"They look like street shoes," said one. "Whoa – what's going on here?" Said the other when he put them on and stood up.
The shoe rock – literally – but more on that later.
The fit – When I initially put them on I thought I had the wrong size. They were too loose, especially in the front part of midfoot.
Now, I don't have the narrowest feet – in fact, I am on the wider side of average. Using thicker socks and adjusting with the laces made the shoes just about snug enough to run in. Thankfully, the heels locked in fine.
A bit of research revealed that Palani uses the "Road" last which is shared with Palani SPT and is designed to "support the rear foot while allowing for mid and forefoot stability." The Palani RC, on the other hand, uses the "RC" last which is "race specific for faster running."
My take on this is that the Road last used on Palani is cut more generously for comfort over longer distances and daily training. But – the use of thinner, non-plush material for upper and tongue means the shoe lacks that foot-hugging feeling we are used to and the shoes end up feeling too loose.
Wide forefoot and thin tongue
Oh yes – the tongue. It seems a minor point and almost trite to comment on running shoe tongues since for the most part they remain hidden and barely noticeable, but at the same time when you do notice it, it's because something isn't right.
I didn't like the tongue on the Palani: too short, too little padding, too much thin PVC and not enough plush cloth.
Not a biggie, but I also found the woven upper to breathe less and tend towards hot on warmer days.
At any rate, the shoes had arrived a few days before a local half marathon, which was going to be the occasion to properly test them out, but now in the wake of the loose fit, I began questioning that decision. Partly because of a sense of duty and partly because a couple of short test runs actually went OK, using the chunkiest socks I had, I did end up using the Palani for the half.
This leads me to the one thing I like most about Palani – the ride.
Although not broadcast as such on the shoe itself, Palani makes use of the eRide rocker sole, which Scott has used since 2010. Scott had in fact added Running to their Cycling and Winter sports line-up way back in 2006.
I suppose a benefit of being a latecomer, particularly from different disciplines, is a fresh perspective and willingness to innovate. In fact, other relative newcomers to running shoes, Pearl Izumi and Hoka in particular, have used rocker soles to success.
On feet, the Palani are firm. Probably the firmest I've come across. But once running, they don't feel hard at all as the sole smoothly helps transition from heel to forefoot through the gait cycle.
Although I can't back it up empirically, I actually felt as if my cadence had increased as well. I found the ride (or eRide, to be specific), a real pleasure, almost addictive. Despite having at least another half dozen shoes at hand at any one time to choose from, I found myself reaching for the Palani time and time again.
This is despite having suffered a small blister on the bottom of my left big toe at the half marathon. The blister could have been due to the loose forefoot or simply because the shoes were pretty much fresh out of the box. Or because the route included several downhills hard to tell, but I know that I do love the ride, and the blister/hotspot hasn't recurred.
Scott describes Palani as a "performance shoe for fast training sessions" and that the "eRide midsole geometry combined with the Aerofoam Infinity foam increases running efficiency for heel strikers, midfoot and forefoot runners alike." I would very much second those comments.
Rocking on rocker soles
In summary, although slightly disappointed by the fit and couple of other minor points such as the tongue, the amazing ride wins out and for me, the shoe is a keeper.
The rocker sole, great for running but a bit cumbersome when walking, actually don't stop me from using the shoes casually as well, thanks to the street-style design. The woven upper, while running a little hot, actually accentuates the street style.
I've since used Palani for other shorter races, including a 5k and a 10k, and it's not failed to seemingly help me run better, if not actually faster.
I also have a pair of Kinabalu RC (which fit much better) and can't wait to start testing those, as well as other offerings from Scott, including Supertrac RC and Palani RC. If the Palani is anything to go by, I think the company is onto something.