Tuesday, January 17, 2017

InStinct Evolution Trail Vest - Light 7 liter Race Vest

By Jeff Valliere

Instinct Evolution Trail Vest
Volume: 7 Liters
Weight: 7.4oz (210g)
Pockets: 9

The Evolution Instinct is a 7 liter, lightweight trail vest, great for runs ranging from ~1 hour up to an all day outing.  I had never before heard of the French company Instinct, but was recently contacted by Adam at their US distributor, Rocky Mountain Ultra and asked if I would like to test this vest.

(photo from Instinct web page)

The Evolution is a fairly minimal pack with a performance oriented fit, consisting of 9 pockets, 5 on the front and 4 in the back.  This is a one size fits all pack, but that claim seems like a bit of a stretch to me.  I am 5'10", 145 lbs and the Evolution fits me very well, but it seems like it would be a bit of a stretch for it to fit a person 200+ lbs.  I would suggest trying on first, but am not sure how one would do so considering their limited availability in the US.

This is a high quality pack, with breathable mesh, ample adjustments and adequate capacity to carry plenty of water, food, a jacket, phone, hat, gloves, poles and other essentials.

The 5 front pocket consist of 2 pockets for soft flasks (bottles fit, but are annoying), 2 larger stuff pockets, and a smaller pocket that can hold a gel or two.

The small pocket can hold a gel or two and also houses a whistle.  Unfortunately, this pocket only flaps shut with no zipper, cinch or fastener, so I would not put anything of value there unless tethered.

The cinch-able bottle pockets on either side comfortably hold a soft flask (I used 500ml Salomon flasks, but I am not sure I would go larger even though Instinct claims a 650ml will work).

The front stuff pockets on either side easily hold a handful of gels each, a beanie, gloves or a smartphone.  I do however wish they cinched at the top, as I dropped my iPhone on the ground the very first time I pulled off the pack to dig inside and almost did not notice.  I do have a lanyard on my case, so quickly learned to secure the lanyard to the pack with a key biner.

The back of the pack has 4 semi stretch mesh pockets.  The main compartment, the hydration bladder compartment (that can double as another main pocket for organization), a smaller pocket near the top, and a lower exterior pocket.

(photo from Instinct web page)

The rear lower pocket seems handy at first, but there is a large hole on either side, which made me nervous that whatever I put in there would work its way out.  There is an adjustable bungee cord around the perimeter of this pocket, but found that it was difficult to operate and was not particularly effective.  I was unable to reach any of these rear pockets while wearing the vest, much less access anything out of them.  I had to remove the pack to access any of the rear pockets (not entirely uncommon though).

The main compartment is roomy and can easily hold a jacket and a variety of other items.

The bladder pocket has a velcro strap at the top to secure the bladder.  This pocket can also be used as a second pocket to organize gear.

(Photo from Instinct web page)

The main compartment closes with one simple clip as shown below.  The yellow mesh in this photo is actually the smaller upper pocket just behind the main pocket.  This pocket does not secure in any way, so I would also not feel comfortable putting anything there.

Two bungees in the back to hold a set of folding poles.

The sternum straps are great, easy to adjust, clip easily even when wearing gloves and they slide up and down on a flexible rail (which also provides a bit of structure to the front of the pack.

Overall Impressions/Performance:

I have mixed opinions on this pack.  On one hand, it fits well, is high quality and can carry a fair bit of gear very comfortably with little bounce, is very adjustable and breathable.  It would make a good race pack due to it's snug performance fit and capacity.  The side adjustment bungees are particularly nice, as they conform well and easily adjust.

However, it rides quite high on the torso.  While this may help a bit in minimizing bounce, the front flasks ride so high, that the nozzles smack against my face when they are full and I am running downhill, or leaning forward on steep uphills.  I guess you could get around this by using a bladder and using the bottle pockets for storage, but access seems a bit awkward when they ride so high.  I also found that all of the straps in the front are hard to tuck out of the way and flap around when running.  Not a huge deal, but kind of visually distracting.

My primary concern however is the inability to confidently secure items in 5 of the 9 pockets.  This pack would be greatly improved with cinches on the front stash pockets, eliminate the large holes on the rear lower stash pocket, put a zipper on the whistle pocket and do away with the small rear upper stash pocket, or put some zippers there.  A lot of caution and planning needs to be employed to not lose valuable items.  Overall a comfortable, high quality, performance oriented running vest, but I think it has a lot of room for improvement with a few simple fixes.

Jeff's Score 7.3/10

-1.5 for lack of pocket security, too easy to have thinks fall out.
-1 for riding too high, particularly the hydration pockets in the front
-.2 for tabs, flaps and straps bouncing in the front

The InStinct Evolution was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Shop Rocky Mountain Ultra's great selection of European trail running gear from Raidlight, WAA, and Instinct including the InStinct Evolution Trail Vest here

Use Code roadtrailrun10 to take 10% of any purchase at Rocky Mountain Ultra including WAA and Raidlight. 

(photo from Instinct web page)

(photo from Instinct web page)

(photo from Instinct web page)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Outdoor Retailer: adidas Terrex Leads the Way in Repurposing Ocean Plastic Pollution into High Tech Footwear and Tees

Article by Dominique Winebaum

In partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental organization with a mission to end the cycle of ocean plastic pollution, adidas Terrex, is charting a new course by transforming intercepted ocean plastic into high-tech footwear and tees inviting customers to play their part in saving oceans. 
adidas also plans to make a minimum 1,000,000 Ultra Boost shoe uppers from intercepted ocean plastic by the end of 2017
At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2017 (OR), adidas Terrex featured its partnership with Parley for the Oceans with a new line of unisex footwear:  the knit uppers Terrex  Parley Climacool Boat  ($140) with drains through the sole and the Terrex Boat DLX Parley ($130), along with high tech tees. The shoe uppers and tee fabric are made with the recycled ocean plastic.  Designed for water sports, such as boating and paddle boarding, but also fit “for every day outdoor activities,” both shoes provide stability, grip, and ultimate comfort.    
The Terrex Parley Climacool Boat shoe will be available April 2017. Unisex sizing. 

As a testimony to the innovative approach in sustainability and product design, the adidas Terrex Parley Cimacool Boat, won a Best New Gear Award at the Winter OR from Gear Institute.  It also made the list of Men’s Health’s editorial picks as a Best New Gear For Outdoor Adventures (OR 2017). 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Outdoor Retailer: Brooks Running Fall 2017 Previews-PureGrit 6,Adrenaline ASR 14, Glycerin 15, Ghost 10, Revel

Pure Grit 6
Available 6/1/17
The 4mm drop Pure Grit drops 0.3 oz to 9.6 oz and gets a very cool 3D printed upper with 10% rubber in the printed overlay materials. The idea is that the rubber component provides stretch and thus a better fit while also providing structure and durability. We tried a pair on and the upper felt very secure and comfortable. The midfoot strap of the Pure Grit 5 is eliminated. A lace keeper pocket is added.
Brooks Running PureGrit 6

Brooks Running PureGrit 6
The upper construction is noticeably more streamlined and we think will be more accommodating to different foot shapes when compared to the PureGrit 5 below.
Pure Grit 5 with heavy dense rubber overlays

The underfoot platform remains the same with the 3D Hex lugs reinforced for added durability and the flexibility enhanced. 
Brooks Running Pure Grit 6

Adrenaline ASR 14
10.9 oz, 12mm drop
Available 7/1/17
The stable rugged trail runner looked real sharp. The key changes are softer side wall geometries for a smoother softer feel underfoot, 

Glycerin 15
10.6 oz, 10mm offset
Available 6/1/17
A key focus of the presentation was the update to the Glycerin premium neutral trainer. It will have a softer top stack (the purple layer) and it now a full top stack, a softer lateral side, and the entire upper now has 3D stretch print.
Brooks Running Glycerin 15

Brooks Running Glycerin 15
Significant changes come to the outsole geometry with greater segmentation, more sculpting out of the center of midsole and less of flat edge to edge platform at mid foot. We might expect that landings and transitions will be far smoother than in the 14 and that the Glyerin will feel more like a neutral shoe than something between neutral and support. Brooks has the Transcend 4 for that.

Brooks Running Glycerin 14 PC: Brooks
Ghost 10
10.4 oz, 12mm offset
Available 7/1/17

The Ghost drops 0.2 oz from the 9th edition.  We like the "ghostly" colorway below. A Gore-Tex version at $150 will be available in August 2017. Brooks told us the Ghost 9 is the #1 selling shoe in speciality running stores. We look forward to testing the Ghost 10. 
Brooks Running Ghost 10
Brooks Running Ghost 10
Brooks Running Ghost 9 PC:Brooks Running
As illustrated below many Brooks neutral shoes share a similar outsole geometry of what Brooks calls a Plush Transition Zone at mid foot and a Segmented Crash Pad to promote "soft and smooth transitions."
Left to Right: Brooks Running Revel, Ghost 10, Glycerin 15


10.3 oz 12mm offset
Available 7/1/17

A new shoe the Revel features an engineered flat knit upper with internal booty. Also available in various combinations of white, gray and black it joins the trend for high performance running shoes with street every day style, At $100 it is very fairly priced.
Brooks Running Revel
Brooks Running Revel
Launch 4 
The Launch 4 which will "launch" imminently and which Road Trail Run has reviewed here and which comes in at 9 oz will see a heathered circular knit version in May 2017

The GTS 17 will also come in a heathered circular knit editipn.

See our Spring 2017 Brooks Preview bere
And reviews of Spring 2017 Brooks shoes:
   Launch 4 here
   Neuro 2 here
   Pure Flow 6 here

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Topo Athletic Terraventure Review - Bridging the Gap Between "Normal" and "Natural"

Article by Jeff Valliere

Topo Athletic Terraventure
10.4 oz/295 g. (US Men's Size 9); 8.8 oz/249 g (US Women's Size 8)
25mm heel/22mm forefoot (3mm drop)
Available now.

I'll confess that I am not a runner who typically seeks or desires a natural style running shoe, but was admittedly caught a bit off guard by the Topo Terraventure.  The Terraventure rides the line between "normal" and the wide toe box/minimal drop natural running shoe, serving as a great introduction for anybody wanting to ease into a natural style trail runner.

I have tested several pairs of Altra in the past and while I found them to be very nice shoes and could recognize the appeal for so many, they just did not work for me from a fit/control standpoint.  Enter the Topo Terraventure, with a wider, but not excessively wide toe box, a low (but not flat) 3mm stack and a very secure fit.

From the Topo Athletic website:

"The Terraventure features our classic Topo fit, roomy in the toes but snug in the waist and heel. Like the MT-2 and Runventure, it also features a fully gusseted tongue and a 3mm heel-to-toe drop. However, the Terraventure was designed as a more rugged evolution of the Runventure: it offers more protection and cushioning, we isolated the rock plate to the forefoot, and it features a more aggressive outsole with deeper lugs and a wider base platform to insure stability and durability. It’s the most rugged Topo we’ve ever built, but a real value at just $110"


The upper of the Terraventure comprises of an effective array of seamless overlays, integrated with what Topo refers to as a "ghillie" lacing system.  I have no idea what ghillie means, but am quite impressed with how well the laces/lacing system effectively secures the midfoot on the the first try, without any need for further adjustments.

Very secure and effective lacing/overlay integration.

The dual mesh upper is both well ventilated, durable and does a fine job keeping out dirt and debris. The sturdy rubber toe bumper wraps around the entirety of the toe box and does an effective job of protecting the toes without being the least bit obtrusive.

I found fit to be true to size and as mentioned earlier, the Terraventure has a very accommodating toe box that will satisfy a wide range of feet, especially those who prefer some extra room for splay and swelling.  In the past I have found shoes with a wide toe box to be comfortable, but when the terrain became technical, I found my foot swimming in the shoe and losing my sense of security and control. However, that is not at all the case with the Terraventure, as they feel secure and controlled no matter the terrain or speed.

The heel counter is well padded, just the right height and secure.

The gusseted tongue is well padded and comfortable.


The midsole of the Terraventure is slightly on the firm side, but provides ample and adequate cushioning for all day adventures.  I found response to be middle of the road, not the fastest shoe out there, but can certainly handle bursts of speed when pushed.  Protection is excellent with the in molded ESS rock plate, as I found the Terraventure to be impervious to even the sharpest rocks, while still maintaining good flexibility and ground feel.
(Screen grab from Topo Athletic video)


The outsole of the Terraventure is a mix of mostly sticky rubber with some foam sections in the midfoot for reduced weight and flexibility.  The 6mm lugs are relatively closely spaced, but offer good traction in most circumstances.  The rubber compound is notably sticky and grabs rock with great confidence.  Durability is excellent as well, as throughout the test period I have not yet observed any appreciable wear and predict above average outsole longevity.

Though the 6mm lugs are deep and substantial, they are configured in a way that adds to the versatility of the shoe, making the Terraventure a shoe that is equally at home in technical terrain, as it is on more buffed out singletrack, dirt roads and even runs well on paved roads.  A great door to trail shoe without compromising on the trail.  The width of the forefoot also aids in stability.


The Terraventure is a great pick for anyone looking for an all day, protective, well cushioned ultra distance racer/trainer, especially so for those seeking a wider toe box and more minimal drop, but just can't quite make the fit of an Altra work or is reluctant to take the complete leap to a 0 drop natural running shoe.  
The Terraventure is a reasonable weight (my size 10 weighs in at 10 3/4 oz.) but they don't feel particularly light, springy, nor do they beg to go fast.  Response is on the middle of the spectrum and best suited toward longer, more relaxed pace running, yet can certainly handle faster paces when pushed, it just takes a bit of effort to get there.  
What I liked most about the Terraventure is that I do not really even think about them on my feet.  No discomfort, not too stiff or too flexible, no sliding inside the shoe, they have very good grip on a variety of terrain and great versatility be it dirt roads, short stretches of pavement or technical mountain trails.  These also work very well as a an everyday casual shoe, with their subtle styling and comfort.  
Overall quality is excellent and with a retail price of $110, the Topo Terraventure is a true bargain.


Topo Athletic Terraventure vs. Altra Lone Peak - (my RTR review here) The Terraventure has a more firm midsole, slightly more traditional fit, more true to size length, a more secure upper, stickier outsole, better outsole durability and cost $10 less.  The Lone Peak 3.0 has a softer, more plush ride, is a bit more responsive and feels lighter on the foot, but is better suited for mellow trails and those with a short, wide, high volume foot.

Topo Athletic Terraventure vs. Brooks Cascadia - (my RTR review here) Both are rock solid, protective all days shoes for a wide variety of terrain.  The Terraventure has a more generous fit in the toe box, is much more flexible with better ground feel and has superior traction.

Topo Athletic Terraventure vs. Saucony Xodus ISO - (my RTR review here) The Xodus has softer cushion, but is less responsive and a slightly less secure upper.  Weight feels similar.  Traction is comparable on loose terrain, off trail, in snow, but the Terraventure has superior grip on rock. 

Score 9.2 out of 10
-.5 for not feeling particularly responsive
-.3 for weight

Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
The Terraventure was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Jeff Valliere's Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

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Topo Athletic is at Running Warehouse!
Men's here Women's here
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Shop for Topo and the Terraventure below