THOMAS: Adidas has produced some of my favorite running trainers. I have run marathons, daily miles, and tempo runs in everything from the Adios Boost to the Ultraboost. When the BOOST foam hit the market, the weight was offset by the energy return. Adidas leaned in hard, and like a guest that lingers too long, the initial excitement of their visit turns sour after 8 beers, or 8 years, the latter applying specifically to BOOST. Competitors’ foams became lighter and just as responsive.
In the last year or so, adidas has started transitioning away from BOOST. Enter Lightstrike, supposedly lighter and more responsive and to be honest, we have yet to meet someone who really likes the stuff, including ourselves. But, Lightstrike Pro? I love that stuff, even though I may not love how it’s been implemented so far in shoes like the Adios Pro 2 (I did enjoy the Pro 1, however) and Boston 10. While I am still testing the adidas Prime X, I have more than enough thoughts on the Takumi Sen 8, and I have to say– it is not only my favorite shoe using Lightstrike Pro, it might be my favorite adidas trainer of all time.
ROBBE: Full disclosure, I have not been one that’s enjoyed adidas running, for years at this point. Outside of the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra trail shoe and maybe the Boston 8, it’s just been a real lackluster experience for me. Maybe it’s because I came at the end of the Boost life cycle, maybe it’s because Lightstrike is a terrible midsole, maybe it’s because Lightstrike Pro never seemed to find the right balance. Until now.
Because I have to tell you, adidas finally took a bunch of dissonant notes and brought them together into a sweet symphony of a shoe with the Takumi Sen 8. The overbuilt Boston 10 was a bust (it did look great, though), the Adios Pro 2 was just super squirrely, but the Takumi Sen is that do-it-all shoe you find yourself reaching for again and again.
A quick rundown of the shoe: it’s a lightweight shoe that adidas says is meant for the 5K to half marathon distance (though we think it can go beyond, more on that later). Featuring a breathable Celermesh upper of recycled materials, the shoe is meant to go fast and is assisted by TPU energyRODs in the midsole to assist in that endeavor. All of that comes together with a full Lightstrike Pro midsole which is super bouncy, somewhat soft, definitely lightweight, and offers a ride that fans of Pebax-based shoes like the Nike Vaporfly Next% will love. Oh, and a smooth-yet-grippy Continental rubber outsole. One last note: the sockliner is not removable for those who care about that sort of thing.
Let’s get onto the review.
BEN: Well, the fellas above covered pretty much everything. It’s been awhile since I jumped in a review, but let’s make like the Avengers and bring the team together. Anyway, like them, I was super excited to try this shoe. Lightstrike Pro is a fantastic midsole compound when used correctly, so I had high hopes for this shoe. In many ways, it didn’t disappoint. That said, there are a few things to look out for if you don’t have the same narrow feet has
ROBBE: There’s a lot here, so let’s start with the upper. The breathable Celermesh upper is a lot of what you want in a racing shoe. It’s simple but has structure in all the right places. What’s interesting in this shoe is that the perforated tongue is not gusseted, but is also not loose; in fact, it’s actually stitched into the shoe halfway up on the medial side, and molded onto the shoe towards the top of the tongue on the lateral side so it’s just… there. And it ain’t moving. I’m sure this has occurred in a shoe before, but I can’t recall seeing it at any point (totally possible I missed it).
The heel counter offers a touch of padding and a wraparound overlay that gives just enough support with a minimal weight addition. I found no issues with heel slip or movement. Strategic graphic overlays and a toe bumper provide additional structure, at least as much as you would need or want in a racing shoe.
I found the fit of the upper to be spot on, much like lacing up a soccer/football cleat. Very secure throughout the throat and definitely offers a locked-in “racing” feeling. I think a lot of racing super shoes struggle with uppers; at the very least, it’s typically the weak point in everything from the Next% to the Metaspeed Sky. The Takumi Sen 8 upper reveals no apparent weaknesses.
Then there’s the midsole and the ride. With a lower stack (can’t believe 33mm in the heel, 27 in the toe is a lower stack, but here we are), the Lightstrike Pro seems to have finally found its sweet spot. The Adios Pro 2 and its 39mm stack height was just super unstable and maybe even too soft for my liking, even at faster speeds. The Takumi Sen 8 brings that all down a notch to where it comes alive without sacrificing stability, control, and ground feel. It feels like a viable racer. Speaking of racing, adidas pegs this as a 5K to half marathon shoe, but this shoe can easily take on the burden of a full 26.2 miles if you want it too.
And that right there is why I love this shoe. It’s versatile enough to be used as a lightweight daily trainer if you want it to, but it can handle speed work, tempo days, and pretty much any race distance.
The engergyRODs in the shoe give it a touch of pop off the toe, though not as pronounced as more rigid carbon plates. In fact, I really didn’t notice it much. I suppose I’d put it in the realm of the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2, though that shoe has a quicker turnover thanks to its impeccable speedroll geometry.
Lastly, we can’t forget about the outsole. The Continental rubber, though smooth in appearance, offers one of the tackiest grips you’ll find in a racing shoe. In fact, I’d say this is the grippiest racing shoe out there. Cornering with the Takumi Sen 8 is a dream– no matter your speed, you can pivot at will around corners without a forethought as to whether you’ll make it through alive.
All in all, this is just a fantastic shoe, especially for you mid-to-forefoot strikers. Oh, and yes, it’s a beautiful design.
THOMAS: Robbe covered the details well. I’ll give you my take on why this shoe is a strong “hell yes” from my perspective. As shoes continue to try to be democratic, companies are struggling to fit the average foot. There’s this weird middle ground on a lot of shoes where narrow feet struggle with baggy uppers and wide foot runners make compromises to slide into moderately wider lasts. The Takumi Sen 8 doesn’t try to be a universal fit. It is a dart. A sculpted sports car-like fit that reminds us that racing flats should fit like a glove. The Celermesh breathes extremely well. I recently ran a half marathon in 85º F swampy Florida heat and I never thought about the upper.
The Lightstrike Pro is set up with just the right amount of softness that still returns propulsive energy return. The feeling lasts in the midsole over the miles too. The energyRODs provide some stability, but I didn’t feel the snappiness from the TPU plastic that you feel in the carbon energy rods in the Pro or Prime X. This isn’t a bad thing. The Takumi Sen 8 is flexible and nimble. The carbon might make the shoe too rigid. While adidas recommends the Takumi Sen as a 5K to half marathon trainer, the 33mm stack is only 7mm less than the Vaporfly Next%, and a hell of a lot more stack than marathon shoes that were being produced five years ago. An efficient runner could crush a marathon in the Takumi Sen 8.
The lower stack paired with the streamlined upper makes for a fast snappy ride, but like a sports car, the right tires can make a big difference. The Continental rubber that Ferrari uses makes for an insanely tacky outsole. The grip is next level. While cornering and accelerating you may find yourself making motor noises like a kid.
The sum of the parts comes together as a masterpiece. Not only is the ride fantastic, the shoe is pleasing to the eye.
BEN: The Takumi Sen 8 is really one of the first “super shoes” to try and tweak the formula away from the World Athletics limit of 40mm. Adidas took a lot of the recent technological advances and packaged them into a more nimble package. And it works! As Thomas and Robbe already mentioned, the other models (like the Adios Pro 2 and Prime X) have tried to go taller and taller, with soft, bouncy foam, and keep the weight down. It can end up feeling like walking on J-E-L-L-O. With the Takumi Sen 8, Adidas went with a slimmer stack height and the geometry really clicks. It ends up having the Goldilocks level of cushion vs. agility.
For me the story here is the midsole. Lightstrike Pro is a fantastic compound that rivals all of the other top-of-the-line options from other manufacturers. In the Takumi Sen 8 it’s 8mm thick in the heel and the embedded Energy Rods are a much more flexible variety and the carbon rods in the Adios Pro 2 and Prime X. This allows for the shoe to be incredibly versatile. Overly stiff shoes tend to feel really harsh at lower paces, but the Takumi Sen 8 can handle whatever you throw at it. Somewhat reminiscent of the Saucony Endorphin Speed (Pebax midsole with a more flexible polymer plate). Despite the Takumi Sen 8 being marketed as a short-distance road racer, for the right person I think it can do it all, from daily training to marathon.
Rounding out the rest of the shoe is the upper and the outsole. The outsole features Continental rubber and has good coverage throughout. The grip is great and I expect the durability to be good as well. Lastly, onto the upper. It’s a very open mesh and it’s extremely breathable, probably my most breathable shoe. I agree with Thomas that the shoe looks excellent, especially in the Legacy Indigo color that I have!Shop Takumi Sen 8 – Unisex
ROBBE: Honestly, it’s really hard to find anything here. I usually just put caveats in here for anyone who may have problems with certain shoes. As this is a sleek racing shoe with a fairly high stack and a full slab of bouncy super foam underneath, it can still be somewhat unstable, especially at slower paces. Of course, this is meant to be a fast shoe, so it pretty much evens out when you pick it up.
Now, the only unknown here is the lifespan of Lightstrike Pro and whether it’ll offer that magical energy balance once you start getting over 100 miles. I hope we can get to that point in this shoe, and if we do, we’ll be sure to report back.
I really can’t think of anything else. This is just a great shoe.
THOMAS: The shoe is near perfect. My only complaint would be the lacing. Every time I put the shoe on I have to adjust the lacing from top to bottom. With so many eyelets and laces that don’t slide easily, you’ll find yourself micro-adjusting the fit.
BEN: For me the challenge on this shoe is the fit. Like the Adios Pro 2 and Prime X I find it to run long and narrow, and this shoe especially has a “race fit”. Unfortunately I don’t have a long and narrow foot so I sized down to get the length closer to what it should be, and ended up with an extra snug midfoot. The Adios Pro 2 has great pads in the rear of the shoe that help with heel hold and makes the fitment a bit more flexible. Sadly these are absent in the Takumi Sen 8. Additionally, the shoe has basically zero stretch in the upper so it’s a bit of an “all-or-nothing” on the fit.
Compounding this is the lacing. It’s a super thin lace, many tiny eyelets, and it comes laced “over-under”. The benefit of this configuration is you can really dial in the tension on every part of the foot to be exactly how you want it, and it stays how you set it. The downside, like Thomas mentioned, is that it’s really finicky to get your foot in and get the lacing correct. For me, this meant foot pain through my arch and bottom of my foot on a couple of my runs. It really does take some care to get the pressure evenly applied because it stays locked in exactly how you lace it up.
The only other watch out is the stability. While this shoe is lower to the ground, it’s still a soft foam, and has a significant cutout under the arch of the midfoot. This is really cool looking (shows off the Energy Rods) and saves weight, but it results in a very limited amount of support for the medial side of the foot. If you have issues with overpronation, this could be a concern.Shop Takumi Sen 8 – Unisex
ROBBE: At $180, I’m going to call this shoe a steal, especially as daily trainers and pretty much every shoe are spiking in prices going into 2022. I mean, the low end of Hoka shoes will be $150 next year, so you’re gonna be cracking that wallet either way you cut it. I always thought the Endorphin series offered a ton of value at those prices compared to other shoes in that target range, and I’d have to put the Takumi Sen 8 into that same bucket.
Drop some of your Christmas come-up on this guy– you won’t regret it.
THOMAS: The adidas Takumi Sen 8 transcends our normal reviews and joins a small fraternity of ALL TIME FAVORITES. This club is for the shoes that at the time of the review stood apart from their contemporaries. Shoes in the club include the Saucony Kinvara 1, Hoka Clifton 1, Nike Lunar Epic 1, Nike Streak 6, Nike Vaporfly 4%, Nike Alphafly, and the New Balance Rebel v2 to name a few. If you have the right foot shape, this shoe is a dream. Takumi Sen 8 is a strong buy from me. Robbe said he liked the shoe for all paces, while you can run daily miles in the Takumi Sen 8, I would save them for days where you want to heat the pace up. You’re going to want to Ricky Bobby in these.
BEN: The Takumi Sen 8 is a really fun ride. It’s the leading edge of the upcoming wave of “lower” stack height super shoes, and it does it well. The 33mm of Lightstrike Pro does well paired with a more flexible variety of energyRODs. It’s a fast, light, and bouncy shoe that’s dialed enough for a 5K world record, but also adaptable enough for a variety of paces. If you like the fit, it’s a great option, and will have you wanting to crank up the speed!
You can pick up the adidas Takumi Sen 8 for $180 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Takumi Sen 8 – Unisex
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