'Is it the shoes?' Spring Boost sneakers put to the test.

We put a new athletic shoe through its paces to discover its heeling power.

"Is it the shoes?" Spike Lee shot the question at Michael Jordan in those old Nike commercials, and now a dog-walking partner asks it, insisting that I've upped the standard pace while testing a pair of B-Trains from Spring Boost.

The Swiss company claims design advances based on studies of foot inclination – "dorsiflexion" – that point to increased comfort and performance when the front of the foot is slightly elevated relative to the heel. (Hard to believe all the masters of the athletic-shoe universe would have missed that until now.) In fact, fit and comfort duly impress, and workmanship seems on par with major makers (the firm says it monitors its Chinese subcontractors on labor conditions). Glossy black rubberized trim cheapens the look a little.

We preferred the B-Walk shoes – less aggressive looking and with solid support. Spring Boost sells footwear for uses as specific as Nordic walking and volleyball. Whether its shoes will earn the kind of devotion like those from New Balance and Asics depends on the usual intangibles (and celebrity endorsement). They're sold at chains including Foot Solutions and from online retailers like Zappos. MSRP: $140, though we saw them for less.

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