Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Review - S-Lab Race Performance Now Comes With Ample Cushion

by Jeff Valliere

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra
9.7 oz./275g US Men's Size 9
26mm heel/18mm forefoot, 8mm drop
$180. Available now

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 
I started off with very high expectations for the new S-Lab Sense Ultra, as I have really enjoyed the S-Lab shoes I have worn in the past, featuring the most precise, comfortable, locked in high performance uppers on the market, combined with a reasonable weight and great traction.  Not to mention, they just have a fast and race ready look to them, like a high end supercar.  I owned the S-Lab Sense Ultra SG 4 and the S-Lab Wings SG most recently, but have to admit that on rocky runs, runs with a lot of hardpack, long, fast downhills, etc..., they kind of beat me up.  Protection is good, but cushioning is somewhat minimal in the Ultra SG and very firm in the Wings.  Neither are all that plush or forgiving.

Enter the S-Lab Sense Ultra, which maintains all of the awesomeness previously listed, but with just the right amount of soft cushioning to really smooth out the ride and essentially eliminate the harsh feel I noticed in previous models, but did it meet my expectations?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Saucony Ride 10 Review: What a Daily Trainer Should Be! Comparisons to Ride 9

Saucony will release the Ride 10 on May 1st. The Ride 10 is a fantastic update to an already fine, lively daily trainer. The Ride 9 was my 2016 daily trainer of the year. (review here). 

Saucony Ride 10  www.roadtrailrun.com
The 10th edition's changes make the "ride"
  • softer and more flexible 
  • a touch less snappy and responsive 
  • more smoothly cushioned and comfortable underfoot
  • with a more comfortable, well held and slightly more relaxed engineered mesh upper
Ride 10 features a new and conservatively energetic (i.e. not a bouncy soft such as Boost or Saucony's own Everun) "new" midsole material, PowerFoam. PowerFoam was previously used in other Saucony shoes such as the Triumph ISO 1, Zealot ISO 1, and Hurricane ISO 1with a grid pattern to dissipate shock just under the sock liner.
The result, likely mostly attributable to the new midsole, is a slightly heavier shoe coming in at 9.5 oz/269 grams vs. 9.2/ for the Ride 9. Catalog weights may not include the sock liner. My size 9 early sample weighs 10 oz with sock liner. The Ride 10 has a 27mm heel/19mm forefoot with an 8mm drop.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Running/Trekking Poles Review - Leki Micro Trail and Komperdell Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 Compact

by Jeff Valliere

RoadTrailRun was offered the opportunity to review poles from two different companies, Komperdell and  Leki.  We could have done an apples to apples comparison of their most similar poles, but we ultimately decided that it would be more interesting to review different poles, with some overlap, but designed for slightly different usage.  Why poles for running?  I have often wondered the same thing, as I had never used them for anything outside of skiing or snowshoe hiking.

It is claimed that, when used properly, poles can aid in efficiency, relieve stress on your core and provide balance and stability.

Do they really make a difference?  With huge advancements in carbon fiber engineering and overall design, poles have become incredibly lightweight, fold quite compact and are easily accommodated on the majority of running vests/packs.  Wildly popular in Europe, they have been slow to catch on here in the US.  I am not entirely sure why, but if I had to guess, would say that it may have to do with tradition, combined with our more manicured, lesser gradient trails, vs. the steep, no nonsense, (what the heck is a switchback?) trails more often found in Europe.

I find myself a bit torn on the benefits of poles, at least preferential as to when and where it works best for me to use them.  On steeper, loose terrain, scree, snow, sidehilling, snowshoeing or any scenarios where an extra point of contact might be needed, I find poles to be helpful.  With a little practice, I find poles to aid in efficiency ascending steep terrain, where I may otherwise be leaned over with my hands on my knees.  My back is a little more relaxed and less strained which is a clear advantage on long climbs and certainly on long days with lots of climbing.

For actual running at faster paces however, I found myself carrying them almost always, or stowing them on my pack.  I also found that using/carrying poles interferes with simple tasks much more than I realized.  Of course eating and drinking come to mind, but then all the little things, messing with the watch, adjusting clothing, snot rockets, cleaning glasses, taking a picture on the move, etc..., the poles were a factor.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and I find having a high quality set of poles in the arsenal to be an asset depending on the day.

KOMPERDELL CARBON ULTRALITE VARIO 4 COMPACT

Packed Size: 41cm (46cm for non "compact" version)
Adjustable from 105-125cm (120-145cm for non "compact" version)
14 1/4 oz./404 grams per pair (measured on my own scale)
$239.95

Komperdell is an Austrian company focused on poles for all mountain activities as well protective gear for skiing, mountain biking, equestrian, and motorcycling. 

I selected the Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 Compact specifically to use as an all season pole, with the larger ice flex basket making it suitable for snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, yet is light enough and folds compact for multi season running.  Though initially I was somewhat indifferent on the ability to adjust the length of a pole, I found this to be a key feature.  Being able to quickly and easily vary the length made for more efficient and effective use of poles.  Personally, when encountering a steep and sustained climb, I found it most beneficial to drop the length of the pole from my normally preferred 120cm down to 115cm, where I could really take advantage of the added propulsion of using my arms.  I am also amazed at how much it relieved my core and especially my lower back.

On steep, loose, tricky downhills, I choose to lengthen the poles to 125cm and keep them out in front of me for added balance and stability.  I felt a little more confident leaning slightly more forward where I could maintain my center of balance and reduce the chances of my feet slipping out.

Varying the length on sustained and loose sidehills is quite handy as well, lengthening the downhill pole and shortening the uphill pole.  With the Ultralite Vario 4 Compact, it is super quick and easy to adjust while on the move.

The Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 Compact is, although quite thin and light, extremely sturdy and well constructed, utilizing carbon fiber and aluminum for the main shaft.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Saucony Kinvara 8 Review: Trying to Get Back to the Original K Shoe

Article by Peter Stuart and Sam Winebaum
Saucony Kinvara 8 www.roadtrailrun.com
Sam's pair of Kinvara 8, size 9 men's weighs 7.8 oz/221 g, exactly the same as the listed weight of the Kinvara 7 and 0.3 oz more than the weight listed at Running Warehouse here. Stack is 23mm heel/19 mm toe, 4mm drop so about the same as its predecessor. Retail is $110. 

The K Shoe Story
Peter: The Saucony Kinvara series, as many reading this know, has been an incredibly important shoe in helping usher “minimalism” into the mainstream of running shoes. When they were first introduced a few years ago (or 7 versions ago) they were a revelation. They were the first shoe, for me anyway, that had a seemingly unbelievable weight to cushioning ratio. They were light, more minimal than standard trainers and had a great deal of cushion. Since then we have seen lots of different shoes come into the same space: NB Zante, Hoka Clifton, Nike LunarTempo, Skechers GORun to name a few. So how does the Kinvara 8 do in the wake of this legacy? Well, read on to see. To cut to the chase though, the Saucony Freedom seems much more like what the natural evolution of the Kinvara should have been than the Kinvara 8 does. 

Sam: The Kinvara now in its 8th edition was the original low drop, light shoe from a major run company. Early versions were quite unstructured soft and agile. With the Kinvara 7,  the K shoe got a snug almost race fit, firmer midsole, and stiffer yet responsive ride. The Kinvara 8 attempts to dial back to earlier Kinvara with more upper comfort and a softer ride. Does it succeed? Read on. 

Key changes from Kinvara 7 to Kinvara 8:
  • a new upper design with removal of the annoying tongue Pro Lock tongue bridge, a more relaxed mid foot saddle with a more free floating design and fewer overlays in the toe box
  • substitution of the Everun heel insert for a full length Everun top sole
  • a softer SSL midsole foam than the Kinvara 7
  • somewhat more flexibility 

Initial Impressions
Sam: The result of the changes is a more comfortable fit, more agile forefoot, and a heel area which is softer and less responsive, has less rebound, so a shoe for me that rides more like the earlier Kinvara but with a more supportive upper.
While initially I thought the upgrade was good (see initial impressions review here), after more miles at various speeds I am concluding the mid sole foam is to soft for my preferences particularly in the heel where it seems to bottom out and then meet the firm outsole. This leads to less rebound and a more delayed rebound forward than I would like as a heel striker. This sensation could also be influenced by the vertical side walls of the medial side which might tend to keep my foot from pronating enough in the soft heel to rotate fast enough to what is actually a good final toe off much improved over the Kinvara 7 in its agility.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Nike Zoom Vapor Fly. Will it be the Breaking 2 Shoe? Initial Thoughts.

We are going to hear more about Nike #Breaking2 project and shoe named Zoom Vapor Fly today. The project will see some kind of half marathon time trial today on the Monaco Grand Prix race course, Cool!
Here is what I have been able to glean from Sweat Science over at Runner's World who are in on the action.

The Breaking 2  Zoom VaporFly race shoe, a version worn at the Olympics by Rupp, Cragg, and Flanagain, comes in at 185 gram/6.5 oz. It has a 20mm forefoot/31 mm heel so as with other top race shoe high drop may be an advantage. I certainly appreciate drop when I am tired late in a race, slow old me.
Photo Courtesy Nike via Competitor Magazine

Zoom Vapor Fly has a new high rebound foam claiming to return 85% of energy, I am assuming in combination with the wave like full length carbon plate. I assume the shoe will be stiff. I say not to worry as readers may remember how "perplexingly efficient" I thought the super stiff Nike All Out Flyknit with its almost violent spring action was. My All Out Flyknit review here

The plate dips down towards sole at the front at the ball of the foot then rises, shades of a track spike for push off? but also unlike a track spike puts cushion under the ball of the foot. Looking closely at the picture above from Sport Science I see what looks like a stabilizing element for soft light foam towards the heel. I am assuming on the medial side as in the adidas adios Boost, Boston, and Energy.

One other nugget I picked up is that a short length light compression tight is supposed to be helpful. I tend to agree as long as the compression is light such as in the adidas Response short tight I have used and imagine Nike has equivalent ones.

Here is Competitor Magazine's article on the Zoom FlyVapor models with pictures

Here is Runner's World's excellent about what will be three Zoom VaporFly models with video

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Monday, March 06, 2017

1st Race of 2017 Gear Test-Mini Reviews Julbo Aerolite Zebra Light, Garmin Fenix 5X, Naked Running Band, S/Lab Sonic 2, adidas Terrex Agravic Alpha Hoodie, Compressport, OnRunning Pants

This past Sunday I ran my first race of 2017, the Half at the Hamptons on the New Hampshire Seacoast. With very bright clear skies,  temperatures of about 15 F/-9 C at the start( but it did warm up) and a very stiff breeze taking the "Feel" down to -18F  it was a perfect opportunity to put winter 2017 gear to the test.

My race performance was so so in the tough conditions a 1:43.28 but I was totally comfortable all the way even when the expected tailwind for the last 4 miles on the way back along the coast "miraculously" shifted to a headwind!
I can't wait to age up into a new decade age category next month. While I was 15 in my AG for the official 50-59 I would have finished 2nd in 55-59 and 3d in 60-69!To many "young" 50 year olds to duke it out with!

I "geared up" with
  • Salomon S/Lab Sonic 2 race shoes (RTR article here)
  • Julbo Aerolight Zebra Light sunglasses
  • adidas Terrex Agravic Alpha hoodie jacket (review here)
  • Compressport 3D Thermal thin base layer (RTR article here), gloves, and US compression sleeves
  • On Running Pants (RTR article here)
  • Naked Running Band
  • Garmin Fenix 5X
Everything worked to perfection except speed in the legs, my Whoop band (article here) warning me that morning that my recovery status was on the low side and it showed at race time.

Friday, March 03, 2017

UltrAspire Alpha 3.0 Hydration Vest Review

Article by Dom Layfield
Ultra Aspire Alpha 3.0 vest, shown UltraFlask bottles (included) and UA hydration reservoir (not included).

First thoughts

I must start by saying that I’m probably not the best person to review this pack.  I like to wear a hydration pack when I race, but I don’t like bottles, and the Ultraspire Alpha 3.0 hydration vest is mostly targeted at runners who use water bottles.

Two 550 ml “ultraflask” water bottles are supplied with the Alpha 3.0 vest.  These are semi-rigid. Not collapsible like a soft-flask, but certainly more squishy than most rigid bottles, and have a crescent-shaped cross-section.

The pack is generally well thought out, and represents an evolution of an already successful design.  Following the industry trend, there are no rigid parts to the vest.  Everything is soft, breathable, and lightweight.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2 - Stable, Well Cushioned Daily Trail Trainer

by Jeff Valliere
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
10.6 oz. US men's size 9/8.5 oz. women's size 8
26 mm heel/22 mm forefoot
$124.99 - Available now

The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2 has shed .6 ounces, while adding 3 more mm of cushioning over the v1, making it New Balance's most substantial trail running shoe.  The Hierro v2 feels light, reasonably responsive and is extremely well cushioned without feeling soft or sluggish.

Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0 Review - One Vest for Any Run with Amazing Gear Accessibility

by Jeff Valliere

Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0.
Color: Graphite or Canyon
Sizes: SM/MD/LG
$154.95
Canyon colorway (photo from UD website)




Specs:

  • Volume Capacity: 702 in/ 11.5L
  • Weight: 11.55 oz. (14 oz. with bottles) / 330 g (400 g with bottles)
  • Height: 15.7 in. / 40 cm
  • Width: 11.4 in. / 29 cm
  • Depth: 7.5 in. / 19 cm
The Ultimate Direction AK (Anton Krupicka) Mountain Vest 3.0 is a versatile, top quality, mid-high capacity running/hydration vest that is equally at home on an hour run, as it is on all day mountain adventures.  The AK 3.0 has significantly increased in capacity and function over the first two versions, aligning with Anton's shift to more gear intensive, unsupported full day outings.  With a capacity of 11.5 liters, spread throughout a whopping 14 pockets, this pack gobbles up gear in a very well thought out and organized fashion.  I appreciate that 10 of those pockets are within easy reach, either on the front straps or waist belt, which allows easy access to a multitude of necessities while on the move.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review Salomon S/Lab Sonic 2-Highly Responsive Long Racer with Vibration Attenuation.

Salomon recently introduced 3 road running shoes Sonic trainer (review here), Sonic Pro 2 performance trainer (review coming soon)  and S/Lab Sonic 2 long haul road racer.
Top to Bottom: Salomon S/Lab Sonic 2, Sonic Pro 2, Sonic