Softstar Adult DASH RunAmoc Review
Cons: Less secure fit for aggressive or uneven terrain
Manufacturer: Softstar Shoes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Casual, simple, and comfortable, these supple shoes are unique and impressive in a variety of ways.
The DASH RunAmoc does not look like performance footwear. It looks more like a casual shoe or even a bowling shoe. In the minimalist category of shoes, however, it checks a lot of the boxes in our performance field tests. The standout feature that makes this pair shine as minimalist running shoes is the buttery soft and supple upper materials. SoftStar uses premium, responsibly-sourced leather for the uppers, which, not surprisingly, provides a pleasantly natural feel. It conforms well to almost any foot, which may be very appealing to anyone who struggles with shoe fit and blisters on their upper feet. It also allows the toes to raise, a critical component of barefoot running technique that we look for in all of our minimalist footwear. With adequately strengthened feet, raising your toes prior to a fore- or mid-foot landing pre-tensions the plantar fascia for landing, thereby providing a critical component of your body's natural shock-absorbing mechanics.
Keep in mind that the lacing system on the DASH RunAmoc is very minimal, so the shoe may not feel as secure on uneven terrain. Fit can make a difference here, where wider or higher volume feet that fill out more space in the shoe may get more of a secure fit than lower volume feet. Fortunately, SoftStar offers these in regular, wide, and narrow widths. The less restricting lacing makes the feel of the shoes excellent, but it does mean your foot can shift around on the footbed. The flat sole and footbed ensure a very simple and close-to-barefoot performance. The wide toe box additionally makes the shoe feel roomy and non-restricting, even with a relatively close fit.
The thin, 5mm Omniflex sole from Vibram is also one of our favorites. This is top-notch minimalist design: only one material, the whole way through, providing consistent flex and a zero-drop platform. The feet are free to move as naturally as possible when shod. The firmness of the rubber blunts sharper terrain features, like gravel and rocks, making these a great pair of shoes for those who want to feel most things underfoot — except pokey sharp things.
All of this means that this shoe is a great companion on casual walks where you want to enjoy our time on your feet (isn't that most of the time?), but also for running focused on form at a slower pace. We found that these shoes gave us the same "feetback" that we get when running completely barefoot. We learned that the skin irritation we feel after walking or running barefoot has to do with our gait mechanics. And when we learned this (or were reminded of it), we then were able to focus on balancing our stride to be gentler, and ultimately, much more efficient. Very empowering.
The RunAmoc is perhaps one of the most accurate-to-barefoot shoes we have tested. The simple design and use of natural leather uppers seems to be the driver of this accuracy. This sounds great, of course, but note that it does have a pitfall, as mentioned above — you may get some hard "feetback" about your gait or running economy, which you're going to have to troubleshoot and may have to work on some strengthening or running mechanics. The up-side? The learning. Learning is cool.
As for the checklist of items that make these shoes feel almost like walking without shoes, let's check:
- Zero drop from heel-to-toe? Check.
- Sole made of one material? Yep.
- Soft and flexible sole? Reasonably.
- Thin sole, less than 10mm thick? Yep, just 5mm from heel-to-toe.
- Non-restricting but secure lacing? Fairly secure, very non-restricting.
- No arch support? Check.
- Breathable uppers? Natural leather, fairly so!
- Straight axis, no in-flared shape or curve? Check.
- No forefoot concavity? Check.
- Wide toe box? So lovely.
When we inspected the sole of the DASH RunAmoc in our bend-and-twist tests, we found the Vibram Ominflex 5mm sole to be on the stiffer side for its minimal thickness, but this may be precisely what you're looking for. These shoes blunted sharp gravel and rocks better than other soles of a similar thickness, so they may be a go-to for those of you wanting a little more blunting of sharp surfaces without requiring a thicker sole underfoot.
At just 12.5 ounces for a size 9U, The RunAmoc is on the lighter side of shoes in the minimalist category. They are not made of particularly lightweight materials — the sole is quite sturdy, and the leather uppers are not some specialized ultralight fabric. But the minimal design and simplicity keep these shoes at a remarkably lightweight, especially for the durability they offer.
The Omniflex 5mm sole has a zig-zag pattern with deep enough grooves to grip off-road and a smooth enough surface for running on wet roads.
The stiffness of the rubber blunts sharp surfaces better than soles of similar thickness, but this comes at a small cost to ground feel. With softer and more supple soles, your feet are able to grip the ground easier through the shoe. The Omniflex sole is just thick enough that it doesn't quite offer that kind of dexterity. You can bend and flex the sole easily, but any gripping toe motions will not transfer through the sole of the shoe.
The DASH RunAmoc are highly versatile with a lean toward casual footwear. These are a great pair of simple running flats for even or smooth terrain, notably trails and gravel paths. They are easily dressed up for a day around town as well. We particularly enjoy the minimalist design as it allows us to move our feet and keep them strong without making it obvious by actually walking around barefoot.
The sleek, elegant look of the RunAmoc did not immediately flag these shoes as an impressively durable option. And the smooth and supple leather makes them look more like dress shoes than running shoes. However, we have observed these shoes through a year of rigorous use, through many seasons, and it took that amount of time for the leather at the toe to finally split and separate from the sole. When you put these shoes on, you can see that there is more strain at the toe when you lift your toes.
We do not want SoftStar to change this, however, because it is unique to have a truly flat pair of shoes. Minimalist footwear aims to eliminate toe-spring (that curve from the sole underfoot to the tip of the toes purported to "spring" you forward, but which actually weakens your toes), and most shoes still have some gentle upward curve. The DASH RunAmoc, however, is impeccably flat.
The DASH RunAmoc are an excellent value for a variety of reasons. The first is the durability — these shoes hold up to a lot of miles due to the simple, durable materials and excellent quality control. They are also a shoe that can be dressed up but will keep up with you on more rigorous outings, from urban parkour to trail running. If we were to have only one shoe, this is the closest thing to it.
The SoftStar DASH RunAmoc is an excellent minimalist running and casual shoe that takes home a Top Pick Award for its brilliant simplicity. It looks nice enough for a day around town, yet is burly enough to log a lot of miles running on- and off-road. We loved donning these shoes on rest days around town — they look good and feel good due to the soft, supple leather uppers, and the feet can move freely, which feels great when you tire yourself out and really don't feel like putting on shoes at all. The minimal feel also ensures you enjoy adventuring even on milder terrain, as your feet will still get stimulation on smoother surfaces. And finally, the slightly stiffer sole, compared to other 5mm soles we've tested, allows you to tackle sharper surfaces with a little more confidence, such as angular gravel paths or trails with those annoying intermittent and irregular gravel sections. Overall, an excellent shoe from SoftStar in Oregon!
— Lyra Pierotti