Karhu Forward3 Shoes

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Manufacturer Description

For the neutral performance runner seeking efficient forward momentum and a responsive ride. Featuring our new, responsive Pebax fulcrum technology, the Forward fucrum_ride utilizes advanced lightweight design and composite materials to achieve superior performance. Breathable air mesh upper with a new, improved fit.

Features

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  • Open, air mesh in vamp and collar supported by a tight, single ply and lightweight mesh in the saddle.
  • Tongue is anatomically mapped around the instep and features a NEW soft touch logo top.
  • Eco camo synthetic fiber collar lining with rolled collar.
  • HF Weld/Mesh reinforced toe tip.
  • Reflective 3M lateral piping strip and heel logo.
  • EVA padded lasting board
  • Precision engineered compression molded EVA midsole with tuned durometers (hardness).
  • FF/heel at 55/57 durometer EVA Midsole
  • Injected molded composite Fulcrum made of Pebax– stiff geometry.
  • Anatomically designed, EVA forefoot insert with hourglass shape aligned to the metatarsal heads.
  • Combination PU foam and molded EVA heel pad breathable insole.
  • T lug compression molded rubber outsole with anatomic flex relief and backfilled EVA.
  • Textured synthetic fiber Lining
  • Measured size 9
    • Stack height – 24.5 mm (Heel), 10.5 mm (Toe), 14 mm (Drop)
    • Forefoot width – 96.5 mm (3.8 in)
    • Weight – 285 g (10.0 oz)
  • Retail $130

YMMV Review

Many people may not have heard of Karhu shoes, but they have been around a long time, 1916 to be exact.  Karhu is a Finnish company that has been building quality world-class running shoes since its inception.  The more recent technology by Karhu is the Fulcrum which helps transfer your foot strike into forward motion.  I had not tried any of the Karhu shoes but was intrigued by the technology.  Even though the shoes were much more built up than what I am used to, I was open to giving them a shot and set up a review of their newest Fulcrum technology.

Top View

Testing

The Forward3’s are road shoes, so I ran mainly roads during my testing.  I would say that of the 70 miles I have put in so far, 90% are on the road with some gravel trails for the other 10%.  My runs were through the spring and ranged from 4 – 23 miles.

Design ★★★☆☆

Appearance (20%) ★★★★☆

Construction (35%) ★★★½☆

Lacing (10%) ★★½☆☆

Sustainability (10%) ☆☆☆☆☆

Weight (25%) ★★½☆☆

The Karhu Forward3 has the newest Fulcrum Technology. First let’s talk about what Fulcrum Technology is.  Fulcrum helps the runner run more efficiently.  It helps transfer energy form the foot strike into forward motion. It reduces vertical and horizontal movement and puts the runner in a better forward leaning position. This all helps move the runner quicker through the gait cycle to run faster with less energy.  Karhu has done testing with the University of Jyväskylä in Finland and Iowa State University in the US. All the test results have shown that Karhu shoes produce less vertical and horizontal oscillation and a better midfoot landing position than both traditional running shoes and barefoot running. You can go to the Karhu website to get more information. Now the difference between the Forward3 and previous models of this shoe is the Pebax fulcrum.  Up until now, the Fulcrum has been created using different durometer (hardness) foams to create the fulcrum technology. The Forward3 is the first model by Karhu that uses a Pebax injection molded composite. Pebax is lighter, stiffer, and stronger than the foam it replaces.  The question is, how does it run?

Inside of the Shoes

The Karhu Forward3 Shoes are a performance model in the Karhu lineup.  The Forward3 is on the lighter side and is aimed more for the performance runner than some of the other models.  It is not as light or racy as their flow model.  The upper is made of an open mesh with a textured liner on the inside.  The mesh and liner both breathe well but do not offer much in the way of weather resistance.  The inner liner is soft against the skin and moves moisture away from the skin.  The insole is made of a molded EVA heel and PU foam forefoot for comfort and breathability.  It has been anatomically designed with an hourglass shape aligned to the metatarsal heads.  The midsole is also made of different materials for efficiency.  While we have already covered the Pebax Fulcrum, there is EVA cushioning in both the heel and forefoot.  This can best be seen in the main picture where the Fulcrum is blue, and the EVA cushioning is lime green.  The heel cushioning, however, has a 55 durometer compared to the forefoot which has a 57 durometer.  While these are not too different, the heel will have slightly softer foam.

The outsole is made of compression molded rubber with some small lugs for traction.  Since these are made for the road they do not require much in the way of traction.  There are sections of the sole that are not covered by the rubber but these are recessed, so they do not come in contact with the ground.  These open sections save weight while also providing flexibility.  The shoes have standard lacing with a tongue eyelet to better hold it in place.  Other features include a reinforced toe and reflective piping for low light visibility. The shoes come in both men’s and women’s in one color way each.  They both have the lime-green  ascent color, and to me look awesome.  If anything they are one of my favorite shoes to look at.

Outsole from the Side

While there is a lot of technology built into the shoes, I was not able to find any information on green or sustainable materials being used.  Furthermore, Karhu’s website is devoid of any information regarding social or sustainable initiatives by the company.  For this reason, I gave them a  zero in sustainability, but I will update this if new information becomes available.

Fit ★★★½☆

Comfort Next to Skin (25%) ★★★☆☆

Foot Length (15%) ★★★½☆

Foot Volume(15%) ★★★½☆

Heel Width (15%) ★★★½☆

Midfoot Width (15%) ★★★½☆

Toe Box Width (15%) ★★★☆☆

The Fordward3’s fit my feet well.  I am normally a size 9 in shoes, and that is what I tested in these.  The length was good with about a ½ inch of room in the toe box.  I felt like the shoes were snug but not tight.  The toe box even had a little of room in them to wiggle my toes around.  They did not have as much as some of the barefoot type shoes I have tested.  To me, the shoes felt like they have a larger amount of volume to them.  The inside liner is lime green and has a textured feel to it.  This helps it move moisture away from the foot and keep you drier.  I thought the inner liner was very comfortable, and the micro climate in the shoes was right on.  I did not test these without socks on as I did not see that as something that would normally be done due to their weight.  I would not bill them as a speed shoe.  The lacing on these is standard, and the tongue has an eyelet to keep it in place.  I never had any issues with it moving on my runs.  The insole is comfortable and made of several materials for a cushioned fit.  If you do not like it, it can be removed.

Wear from the Fulcrum after 70 miles

Performance ★★½☆☆

Breathability (15%) ★★★½☆

Cushioning (20%) ★★★½☆

Durability (25%) ★☆☆☆☆

Flexibility (15%) ★½☆☆☆

Support (15%) ★★★½☆

Traction (10%) ★★★☆☆

The Karhu Forward3 Shoes are a good shoe except for a couple of things that brought my rating down.  I will first start with the positive aspects of the shoes and then address my concerns.  The mesh upper and inner liners keep the internal micro climate just right.  I felt like the shoes breathed well, and my feet did not get overly sweaty on the inside.  Here is Bend, we do not have to deal with much rain so weather resistance was not a concern.  The Forward3’s have ample cushioning in the heel and the toe which made it a great shoe for my spring running.  I somehow bruised the bottom of my right foot during the spring, and the Karhu’s were one of the couple shoes I could run in for a 3-week period while it healed.  They offered good support and felt like they were neutral and smooth.  These are road shoes, so they do not have any excess lugging.  I did run some wet roads and even some dirt roads and no issues with traction.

My concern with the Karhu Forward3’s is with the new Fulcrum.  You can see by the pictures that the Fulcrum is wearing through the rubber sole where it is at its thinnest point.  I am a midfoot runner so that is pretty close to the spot where I land in my gait cycle.  It has occurred on both shoes, which is worrisome to me.  The Pebax Fulcrum is a really stiff piece of plastic, which is not very flexible to help transition you through the foot strike.  The front third of the shoe is flexible while the back 2/3 is completely stiff. By me landing more in the midfoot I wonder if this throws off this transition.  When running in these, they felt comfortable, and I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. I have not been able to find any information of anyone else having these issues so if you have, please leave a comment below.

Close-Up of the Sole Wear

The Forward3’s have quite a bit of heel toe drop.  Much more than I am used to.  Karhu does this to help the runner have more of a forward lean. This in conjunction with the Fulcrum technology for a faster gait cycle.  According to Karhu and some testing they did,  the Fulcrum technology helps reduce vertical oscillation, put the runner in a better position, and reduce pronation.  This should all help reduce chances of injury and help the runner use less energy when running.  I felt like the shoes ran well, but it was hard to tell any noticeable difference in my gait.  That does not mean that it was not working because I am not sure if I would notice the difference.

Overall ★★★☆☆

Overall, I liked running in the Karhu Forward3’s but am worried by the durability of the sole.  They are  medium weigh shoes that fit well.  I really appreciated the cushioning when I was getting over my bruised foot.  I know it is not the main reason to buy shoes but these also look really cool.  If you are looking for a minimalist shoe, this is not what you want.  They have more drop than most other shoes I have tested and are very stiff in the back 2/3 of shoes.  I was not able to notice much noticeable difference with the Fulcrum technology.  I would be curious what others have experienced with Karhu’s shoes, leave a comment if you have an opinion.  The Karhu Forward3 Shoes retail for $130.  They are on the expensive side.  As always, your mileage may vary.

Pros [field name=iframe]

  • Great colors
  • Appreciated the cushioning
  • Comfortable upper
  • Sizing seemed right on

Cons  

  • A bit expensive
  • Durability may be an issue
  • Stiff in the back 2/3

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About the Author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

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