I have to say, I was a skeptical person as well from the get-go. I ended up getting my hands on a pair of the newly-designed Stinger 2's back in December however, and I have to say; it's a well-crafted shoe.
I was skeptic for two reasons at first;
Reason 1: Spira - who are they? Let's be honest, Spira isn't some massive-sized New Balance, Saucony, etc. Having said that, I hadn't heard of them before December. People are almost always skeptic of shoe companies they haven't seen in a plethora of stores, etc.
Reason 2: Mechanical insole. "Say what?" was the first thing that came to my mind. The overwhelming majority of folks who run, do so in a solid, spenco-foam padded shoe, with the boldest of runners trying out most some sort of a spring-like foam or plastic-assisted technology built in (enter the Mizuno Wave plate (plastic) technology, Newton's forefoot Pod (rubber / plastic) technology, and On Running's CloutTek (Rubber) technology).
And then I ran in the shoes...........
These aren't shoes where you literally feel the springs as you go along. You're not going to feel like you're on some sort of a moon jump, or a takeoff launchpad. What I personally felt, however, was this:
- My legs feel as if I just went on a 6 or 7-mile run after I did 10. Reason being (at least in my belief) that the WaveSpring technology Spira uses aids in foot landing (by softening the landing) and helps push you off (although you don't directly feel it, it IS pushing your heel and forefoot off the ground a small fraction of a second quicker per step).
- You'll feel as if you can run slightly faster, especially if you're used to using a slightly heavier shoe (I'm talking about Mizuno Wave Rider, Nike Pegasus, Asics Noosa, etc. folks here). Reason being that these shoes are padded, although they're lighter than the overwhelming majority of shoes with the same build, due to the fact that you're pressing down on a single lightweight spring in the heel rather than a massive chunk of foam.
- The shoes feel great on the mid-foot and fore-foot. I haven't seen or noticed any area of the shoe which felt odd / rubbed my feet the wrong way / was too tight. The fit on these are ideal.
- I've tested roughly 20 shoes for Runner's World now as a part of their wear testing program, and the Stinger 2 comes in as my 3rd or 4th favorite that I've tested in roughly 2.5 years.
All in all -
Spira Stinger 2's - these are great for any runners less than 160 lbs in my opinion. The heavier you are however, the quicker these will wear out. I'd rate this shoe for 250-300 miles of great / heavy usage, before the sole wears down a bit too much. You're buying an extremely lightweight trainer, or a better-cusioned / supported raceday shoe if you buy these. This is my personal favorite model that Spira makes
XLT's - these are great for the every-man runner. I'm talking runners between 100lbs - 225lbs (in my opinion, once again). Why? Because they seem to have a bit stronger spring in the sole, and they're built up slightly more. They're heavier than the Stinger 2's, yet will last you longer (say, 300-400 miles?). These are great trainer shoes and raceday shoes. They're also lighter than the overwhelming majority of shoes that have a similar build as they do.
Scorpius - I don't have any personal experience with this model, although from my understanding, this is moreso for the Clydesdale runner. If you want the maximum-support, heaviest-"padded" shoe possible, this would be their "Brooks" version of that model.
In summation - don't let the brand name scare you off. Spira has come nothing short of an entire makeover, and I feel like this might be the beginning of an all new shoe company for that matter. They're making a great shoe these days, and I think it will show. Runner's World is testing both the XLT and the Stinger 2 for their upcoming September, 2013 issue shoe guide. If you want additional proof of their quality, keep an eye peeled for this issue in stores (or in your mail if you're a subscriber). If either the XLT or the Stinger 2 really holds their weight (at least in the shoe tester feedback), you may see one of these show up in the issue.