Home > Reviews > Review: Ryka Studio Flex Mid

Review: Ryka Studio Flex Mid

After having such a fantastic win with the Ryka Assist XT, I decided to also try out the Ryka Studio Flex Mid.  Most of my calorie burn comes from doing Cathe Friedrich exercise DVDs at home, whether it’s Step Blast or STS, so a good indoor studio shoe is a must for me.  This role had been filled by my excellent N-gage Studio Mid shoes from Ryka, but from doing high impact aerobics for two years straight, the shoes have really begun to show wear and tear.  They’re not dead, but they’re clearly d-y-i-n-g (shh!  not too loudly or my shoe’s feelings may get hurt!!).  Sears was having such a great shoe sale that I went ahead and bought two pairs of shoes.  One was the Assist XT and the other was the Studio Flex Mid.  The Studio Flex series is touted by Ryka to be their ultimate studio shoe for “the fitness enthusiast who does it all.”  Alrighty, I’m game.

Ryka Studio Flex Mid

Ryka Studio Flex Mid

What are studio shoes? Studio shoes are best made for aerobic classes.  These shoes are designed to be lightweight, provide a spring-like action for jumping, along with excellent lateral support.  They are not meant for running at all, as they do not provide support for the toe-heel strike that comes from a forward running gait.  The shoes are designed for traction against gym floors, but not for much else.  I don’t take my studio shoes outside of the house — the only ground they’ve known is carpet or hardwood.   The best part about studio shoes is that they provide excellent cushioning and shock absorption.  These shoes are best put to the test of great high-impact workouts like Imax 2 or 4DS: Bootcamp.  Given how much I adore high-impact step aerobics, a good studio shoe is a must for me.

Did you get the right size? I’ve been a Ryka 9 for a while now.  (To learn more about the the Ryka company, you can read my previous post, where I describe their company in some detail.)  When I got my Assist XTs, I ordered a 9 and fell in love with its fit.  I ordered the same for the Studio Flex and was completely weirded out.  It just felt so wrong.  It bothered me so much that I quickly exchanged it for a 8.5.  This decision proved to be a good one.  The smaller size was a much better fit, which meant that I could give it a more complete review.  This was just another lesson that each shoe may require a different size.

How does the shoe look and feel? I have to admit, after Ryka started a relationship with Kelly Ripa, the designs of the shoes got much cuter.  I got the white and silver Studio Flex Mid, and it looks pretty slick.  My only real issue with it is that there is this shiny plastic material — that’s common with Nike shoes — and that just looks cheap to me.  The shoe, no doubt, is cool-looking, but that cheap element is an unnecessary negative.  I’m heading on 30, not in my teens.  In any case, the shoe is definitely light.  I compared it to the weight of my Assist XTs without the insoles in, and they both came out to 9oz.  At first, I was puzzled, because how could the shoe be the same weight, but one feel lighter than the other?  Then I had a great “duh” moment, when I realized that the distribution of the 9oz on the studio shoe was over a larger, mid-cut shoe, versus a smaller, low-cut shoe.

What was the shape of shoe? The whole changing of size thing threw me for a bit of loop.  I stared for a while at all my Ryka shoes to see what was going on.  Finally, when I compared the Assist XTs and the Studio Flex, something became very apparent (even to my husband!).  The Assist got wider a lot faster as you went from the heel to the forefoot.  Just by looking at the two, the Assist exhibits the Ryka classic characteristic better: narrow heel, wide forefoot.  This was not so obvious in the Studio Flex, even with the smaller size.  I couldn’t quite figure out the room in the toe box, either, because the size 9 was a wee bit longer than the size 8.5.  The Assist XT has a curve that goes up where the Studio Flex is completely flat at the top of the shoe where your toes reside.   The curve is probably better for forward motion like running, but not as necessary when you’re mostly going side-to-side like in studio classes.  I was glad to have figured out the differences before trying them out.

How was the cushioning? If you’re jumping side-to-side or doing a lot of pivoting, ankle support is key.  In the N-gage Mid Studio shoes, there was this fantastic padding in the ankle area keeping the whole foot secure and cushioned.  Though Ryka kept SOME cushioning, they clearly cut most of it out.  The main reason to why I opted for a mid shoe as opposed to a low-cut one was to have excellent ankle cushioning.  Perhaps some people complained about getting their foot in and out of the shoe quickly due to the padding, but it was always worth it to me.  Also, whereas I could feel the lateral support in the middle part of my foot in the Assist XTs cushioning me at rest, I barely felt anything in that department with the Studio Flexes.  That shocked me.  It wasn’t that it felt bad, and it wasn’t that I didn’t feel secure in the shoe — I just didn’t feel that cushioning I was expecting.  I did lateral shuffles and hops in the shoes, and I felt that they were indeed flexible and did not hurt.  They did not feel as great as the Assist XT, but this may be due to the shape of my foot.  It came as an unpleasant shock that the lateral support I enjoyed on the cross trainers were absent on the studio shoe.  I only felt support in about 80% of my midfoot — the rest of it was out to hang in the wider toe box.  Nothing hurt, but it hardly felt like an ultimate studio shoe.

How was the shock absorption? First off, the removable nitracel sockliner was just horrible for my flat feet.  I could have never done a single aerobic workout with the shoe virgin.  I have prescription orthotics and I breathed a sigh of relief as I received the arch support I desperately need.  The Studio Flex Mid is clearly a neutral shoe, not accommodating to those with flat feet.  Don’t expect even mild prontation support, as you might with the Ryka Assist XT.  When I pulled out the removable sockliner, it was pretty flimsy (but most are), so if you’re looking to have shock absorption on your arches, you may have to buy your own insoles.  I did some plyometric shoes with my prescription orthotics, and I have to say, the shoes absorbed the shock well.  No pain in the heel or the forefoot.  Plyo jack, air jack, tuck jump, jump rope  — nothing bothered me regarding shock.

Did you do a test run? I did 4DS: HIS cardio only with the new shoes.  This workout is a 30 minute interval step workout filled with pivots, turns, shuffles, and jumps. I was able to do the workout, but I certainly wasn’t flying off the step.  In fact, my feet felt funny most of the time because I could feel decent support in some places, and then I was out to dry in others.  The left shoe kept on squeaking oddly because of the way the plastic would bend in the workout.  The lack of ankle cushioning was sorely missed from my N-gage mid studios as I did power turns on the second blast.  The shock absorption was great when I did a power leap in the third blast and continued with box lunges.  It was an OK shoe for a a great workout.

Why aren’t you keeping it? The Ryka Studio Mid Flex is a good shoe, but it was not a great shoe for my foot.  With the design changes the company made, they prevented my foot from feeling the comfort I was so used to receiving.  When I do a high-impact workout, I want my feet to be totally secure and cushioned, and this shoe failed to do that.  I need to have the midfoot braced strongly without being too tight, which didn’t occur with this shoe.  The company cutting back on the ankle cushioning was also a sad, sad decision.  Lastly, if I got better lateral support from the Assist XTs, why would I wear an inferior shoe for my at-home workouts?  I really wanted to like these shoes — they looked so cute and adorable and Ryka hadn’t failed me before  — but I’m not putting money into a shoe that ins’t perfect for me.  Every foot has its own shoe, and this one just didn’t cut it.  I look forward to the next generation, though…

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  1. Susan
    August 18, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Hi there,

    My 2nd pair of Ryka Studio N-Gage mid-level shoes are wearing out and I need a new pair and am sad to hear that they no longer make the N-Gage. Yours is not the first review I’ve read that their new studio shoes basically stink.

    So, what shoe do you recommend? I’ve done a bunch of Google searches and I can’t even find another company that makes a high-impact studio aerobics shoe. Can you help me?

    I do high-impact aerobics 4-5 times a week.

    Thanks!!!

    • hottiescientist
      August 19, 2010 at 5:24 am

      Howdy Susan!

      You know, I haven’t regretted replacing the N-gage with the Assists at all (did you see my review here: https://hottiescientist.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/review/ ?). Are you just looking for high impact or do you want that mid cut shoe for floor aerobics? The Assist is a low cut shoe which at times annoys the heck out of me but has done right by me for my step, kickboxing, and plyo workouts about 90% of the time. I even bought a new assist on clearance for ~$25. I think the Assist has been popular as Ryka is releasing an Assist 2. If you want to look for other companies, you could consider Avia. Actually, Avia and Ryka are owned by the same parent company. Avia makes studio specific shoes (http://aviadirect.com/womens/studio.html) as well as cross training shoes (http://aviadirect.com/womens/xtrain.html) that I know a lot of women like for their high impact aerobics. I was very tempted to buy a pair myself but then I saw the Assists on clearance. (I may still buy from Avia for running shoes.) If Avia doesn’t float you boat, the Asics cross trainers has been touted by a couple women I know. After that, I’ve heard the Under Armour Proto Trainers have saved a couple women’s feet. Finding the right shoe can be such a painful journey, but when you found the right one, it’s certainly worth it! Let me know if I can help with anything else. 🙂

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